The president of Providence College announced that the school is moving to remote-only learning for at least two weeks after a surge of new coronavirus cases among students, saying “we are out of options.”
The private Catholic university’s president, Father Kenneth Sicard, wrote to the school community Thursday that more than 80 students tested positive for the virus in just two days, but the state Department of Health said Friday that the number was actually 120.
School spokesperson Steven Maurano explained the discrepancy in an email Friday. The school reported just the people who had tested positive at a campus testing site, he said, but some students were tested at off-campus sites and the school was not made aware of them.
Most students who tested positive live off campus. The school has about 4,800 students.
The state Department of Health is responding to the outbreak through investigations of each case and aggressive contact tracing, the agency said in an email Friday. It is also working with the school to support students in quarantine and isolation.
The agency also suggested that residents of the neighborhood around the school and people who work at businesses frequented by Providence College students monitor themselves for symptoms and gets tested.
Students who live off campus cannot leave their apartments, and students who live on campus will be tested either Friday or Saturday and are not allowed to leave campus, Sicard said. Gatherings of any kind are banned.
Students who violate the rules face suspensions, Sicard said, and if things get worse, campus may be shut down for the semester.
“We recognize how serious and difficult these directives are, but this is our last chance to remain together in person for the fall semester,” Sicard said. “Between these actions and the serious steps we already have taken – especially in the past few days – we have used virtually every tool at our disposal. We are out of options.”
Rhode Island health officials reported 124 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three additional virus-related deaths on Friday.
The new cases were out of almost 8,500 tests conducted, for a positivity rate of about 1.5 percent.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in the state has risen slightly over the past two weeks from 1.07 percent on Sept. 3 to 1.2 percent on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from more than 79 on Sept. 3 to almost 101 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins statistics.
Rhode Island has now had more than 23,600 confirmed cases and 1,088 fatalities, according to the state Department of Health.
The daily count of residents in the hospital with the disease has remained roughly the same for several days and was 85 as of Wednesday, the latest day for which the information was available. Seven of those patients were in intensive care.
Rhode Island’s unemployment rate was 12.8% in August, up 1.5 percentage points from the revised July rate of 11.3 percent, giving the state the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, state and federal labor officials announced Friday.
Only Nevada had a higher rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of unemployed Rhode Island residents — those classified as available for and actively seeking employment — was up 6,400 in August to 69,500 as the state continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the state Department of Labor and Training.
The accommodation and food services sector added 1,700 jobs in August after shedding more than 34,000 jobs between March and April when the state’s economy was virtually shut down. The sector has recovered nearly 64 percent of the lost jobs.