Off campus party contributes to COVID-19 case spike on campus

Administrators on alert following highest positive case count this semester


An off-campus party in Bristol hosted and attended by student athletes the weekend of March 20 contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases at Roger Williams University last week, according to an investigation by university officials.

The party accounted for 33% of the recorded positive cases from last week. Approximately 41 student athletes and one roommate attended the party or lived at the property in Bristol where it occurred. 

RWU’s COVID Testing Data Hub shows 43 positive test results, the highest count of the semester, from tests administered between Sunday, March 21 and Saturday, March 27 on the Bristol campus. The seven-day positivity rate increased to 0.71% last week.

“We must do everything possible to reverse this trend… What we do the next two weeks, especially by those who go home for the long weekend or live off-campus, will determine how we end the semester,” wrote Vice President of Student Life John King in an all-student email on March 27.

The Hawks’ Herald initially reported about the gathering on March 26 after speaking to King, who said the investigation was ongoing and contact tracing and quarantine were the priority to prevent further infection. King sent out a campus-wide email the following day addressing the situation, saying more than half of those in attendance had already been identified as positive or close contacts and were in isolation or quarantine situations earlier that week.

King, Athletic Director Kiki Jacobs and several coaches met with spring sport team captains the night of March 25 to discuss safety concerns and positive test results among athletes across teams. Gathering hosts and team captains were required to provide lists of all who attended the party by noon the next day, otherwise the matter would be turned into local and state authorities for a full investigation in collaboration with RWU.

“…comprehensive lists provided by the hosts, teams and individuals were provided allowing our contact tracing efforts, herculean to be honest, given how much energy and time those staff members have been providing this week to complete the interview and quarantine process,” King said.

All spring student athletes will begin testing three times per week for the month of April. Some teams, including men’s and women’s lacrosse and men’s basketball, had to pause scrimmages due to positive cases or quarantines.

According to King, softball, co-ed sailing, men’s tennis and golf and men’s and women’s track and field were not part of the case spike, with only one positive case combined between those six teams this semester as of March 27.

Assistant Athletic Director and Head Softball Coach Joyce Maudie said the softball team has not seen any positive cases among its players this semester. She said players have not attended any parties and that they are working hard to follow COVID-19 safety protocols to protect their season.

“We are trying to control what we can control, social contacts, mask wearing, hand washing, remaining on campus but the tricky part is there’s some of this that we can’t control like other’s behaviors that impact us, such as roommates or other campus community members and the nature of the COVID variants,” Maudie said.

King said the uptick in cases is mostly driven by students who are living off campus. Student Conduct, Public Safety and Bristol Police will conduct neighborhood visits to off-campus houses this week.