RWU indoor masking policy receives update

The topic of mask-wearing has been subject to much debate, especially regarding vaccinated students, but in a Sept. 22 email, Roger Williams University President Ioannis Miaoulis announced that the university will continue with indoor masking for the remainder of the semester for all community members. The indoor masking policy had two updates made effective today that are “subject to change by the university.” Fully vaccinated students are not required to wear masks inside of housing facilities or while utilizing the fitness center.

This announcement comes in the wake of two meetings the Reopening Roger Steering Committee had last week as well as a meeting of the President’s Cabinet yesterday discussing the Steering Committee’s recommendations presented by Provost Margaret Everett and Vice President John King.

Miaoulis said the RWU community’s vaccination rates have improved with student’s near 96% and 98% for employees in Bristol and Providence. According to Miaoulis at the end of last week, a total of 12,580 testing samples were collected over the course of the semester resulting in 10 students, 1 staff member and 0 faculty positive cases.

“As a community, we are grateful for the incredible work of our employees involved in testing administration, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation across the University, and our health services staff,” wrote Miaoulis in the email.

While RWU has improved in vaccination rates and had low numbers for positive cases, Miaoulis said the COVID situation regionally has not improved in the last month since classes started.

“Rhode Island is experiencing strong community spread and for the past month has been among the top 5 U.S. states with the highest case counts per 100K population,” wrote Miaoulis in the email. “While Rhode Island is currently testing more than any other state and is in the top 5 for vaccination rates, there remains cause for concern and the need for every member of our community to practice prevention – especially when off-campus, in indoor venues, or at crowded outdoor events.”

Miaoulis said the Cabinet believes indoor masking is helping RWU keep its positivity rate low and it is “the safest and most responsible path forward to ensure a full semester of in-person teaching, learning and co-curricular life.”

Testing participation needs to improve for all students, but especially among off-campus students and commuters, said Miaoulis. Guest visitation privileges will be allowed in residence areas once that community reaches an 85% testing compliance rate which no residence area currently has according to Miaoulis.

Each housing area will receive weekly updates regarding their testing participation rate.
Testing participation at the individual level “will be used to determine eligibility to attend senior and other student events, participation in club or intramural sports, and access to the Fitness Center,” wrote Miaoulis.

Students that repeatedly fail to be COVID tested will face interim or full suspension said Miaoulis. The suspension would take students out of class as an unexcused absence and deny access to activities and campus facilities.

Miaoulis said on the weekends when the testing center is not open several students, faculty and staff when they have had COVID-like symptoms have been tested off campus which should be applauded, but students should immediately report any positive test result to [email protected] so “staff can respond with guidance.”

The Reopening Roger Steering Committee will continue to meet regularly this semester and monitor the effectiveness of their protocols, said Miaoulis.

“We appreciate that students need the mental and physical break to be able to take off their masks within their residence areas and the fitness center, and we are trusting you to do this safely, only if fully vaccinated and never when experiencing symptoms,” Miaoulis wrote in the email.