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COVID-19 Updates, News, University News

Brown converts some dorms to temporary housing for emergency personnel, first responders

Beginning as early as this afternoon, personnel isolating from families will be housed in Andrews, Miller, Metcalf

By
University News Editor
Friday, April 17, 2020

Medical personnel will initially be housed on Pembroke Campus in Andrews, Miller and Metcalf halls, said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey.

The University will open up unoccupied residence halls as temporary housing for front-line personnel isolating from their families in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an April 17 Today@Brown announcement from Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey. 

“Local health care providers, members of the National Guard and other city and state emergency personnel and first responders” will begin occupying the dorms as soon as the afternoon following the announcement, Carey wrote. 

“Being an effective and productive neighbor with our city and state colleagues is really important to us,” Carey told The Herald, noting that many of those healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic are University faculty members. He added that he hopes the decision will relieve front-line workers of concern about infecting their families. “If they’re worried about their exposure affecting their families, then they’re less likely to do the work that they’re trying to do.”

Medical personnel will initially be housed on Pembroke Campus in Andrews, Miller and Metcalf halls, Carey said. The University intends to minimize occupant density in the residence halls by limiting the number of people per bathroom and assigning only one person to each room, regardless of the room’s capacity.

Carey does not expect that there will be much interaction and potential for transmission of the virus between healthcare workers and students who remain on campus. “Their ability to do anything other than just sleep in those facilities is going to be pretty limited, given the demands on their time,” he said. “That’s part of this, to make what’s obviously incredibly hard work for them a little bit easier.” 

The Rhode Island National Guard will oversee the occupancies and “provide all support required for managing these housing arrangements,” according to the announcement. Per the terms of the arrangement, no individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be eligible for occupancy in the residence halls, given a shortage of private bathrooms and kitchens that would be needed to best accommodate complete isolation. All housing will adhere to social distancing and health guidelines. 

Outside workers contracted by the state rather than workers for the University’s Department of Facilities Management will oversee the maintenance of the housing facilities, including trash removal and cleaning, Carey said. The temporary residents can opt in to the “grab and go” dining option afforded to students remaining on campus, but Carey does not anticipate that many will choose to do so. 

The decision comes as part of ongoing partnerships with the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island to commit University resources to providing community support throughout the pandemic. In an April 3 community-wide email, President Christina Paxson P’19 detailed commitments to Providence and Rhode Island through a community meal service, a COVID-19 research seed fund and demonstrated support for local businesses and non-profit organizations. 

The University joins a number of neighboring peer institutions that have opened their residence halls to provide for housing in light of the pandemic. Tufts University recently made housing available to medical personnel and patients, including those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are recovering in isolation. Northeastern University and Emerson College have similarly committed to opening up their residence facilities for the occupancy of first responders and medical personnel. 

“We’re pleased to add the use of campus residence halls to the many ways in which we’re collectively supporting Providence and Rhode Island in this ongoing public health crisis,” Carey concluded in the announcement. 

The number of occupants and the length of their stay on campus remains uncertain for now as the pandemic develops in the coming weeks and months, Carey said. 

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