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COVID-19 Updates, News, University News

Brown classes shift back to online due to rising COVID-19 cases

With the exception med school, all classes to go remote as campus returns to Level 1 activity

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Main Green of Brown Campus

All undergraduate and graduate classes, with the exception of Warren Alpert Medical School classes, will resume online instruction effective Nov. 18, a week earlier than the scheduled end to in-person classes Nov. 25, according to an email this morning from President Christina Paxson P’19. 

This change comes as the University will return to Level 1 activity status tomorrow, requiring students, faculty and staff to follow stricter guidelines on socializing and mask wearing and some facilities will close, according to the email.

This announcement follows a recent surge in positive COVID-19 cases at state, national and global levels, as well as an increase of asymptomatic cases at Brown.

Over the past week, Rhode Island has averaged 845 new cases per day, which is a 91 percent increase from the average two weeks ago, according to the New York Times. The increase in statewide cases is the “primary” factor driving the decision to return to Level 1, Paxson wrote.

 In the last seven days, 32 people tested positive COVID-19 in the University’s asymptomatic testing program, with 106 positive results in the program since Aug. 24, The Herald previously reported. 

“Although infections rates at Brown are still quite low, and we have ample space for quarantine and isolation, these increases are nevertheless concerning,” Paxson wrote.

Many of those testing positive at Brown have reported a large number of contacts, according to the announcement, indicating that students have been socializing in larger groups than current health guidelines permit. 

Level 1 status is also being re-enacted to make sure that students can protect their families and friends when some students leave Providence and return home for Thanksgiving.

Medical School classes will remain in person until Thanksgiving break. While libraries will still be available to all students for in-person studying, this may change in the near future. Laboratories will continue operations, which includes undergraduate students that have received prior approval to work in labs.

In-person social gatherings and meetings are banned, and while students are permitted to interact with their pods of five or less without masks, socializing with students outside their pod without a mask and social distancing is not allowed. Students are still recommended to avoid non-essential travel within Providence, and are explicitly told not to dine in-person and visit bars.

Dining for undergraduates will return to grab-and-go status at the Sharpe Refectory, Verney-Woolley and Andrews Commons, with limited in-person dining options. University athletic and recreational facilities, such as outdoor fields, courts and the Nelson Fitness Center will also be closed. 

Brown had originally delayed the start of its in-person classes from early September to October, citing the public health situation and fears about the potential to spread COVID-19 among students and staff.

But when Brown did allow students to return to College Hill and while other schools were reversing in-person plans, the University’s positivity rate remained relatively low. 

Around the country, many universities have already returned to remote classes including Providence College, while others, including Harvard, decided to hold almost completely remote fall semesters. 

“I recognize that a vast number of our community members have done a superb job following public health guidance, and I understand we all are feeling levels of fatigue as the pandemic wears on, but every one of us shares the responsibility of taking the health protocols seriously,” Paxson wrote.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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  1. Anonymous ‘16 says:

    Paxson completely mishandled all of this from the moment she published that arrogant piece in the NYT. And then to try to blame students and staff for what was clearly her mistake… She should be ashamed and, frankly, embarrassed.

    • Ashamed of what exactly? Brown just pulled off several weeks of in person classes (you know, the entire point of college) while avoiding massive outbreaks that have shut down other schools in RI completely. Seems like given the circumstances it was the opposite of mishandled.

    • You are welcome to hide in your basement in fear until no one gets sick or dies anymore. The Brown administration should be commended for rational decision making and execution. Most of the value of college is the relationships you form, not Zoom struggle sessions for $50K/year. COVID has a 99.99% recovery rate for young, healthy adults despite what panic mongering from the media would have you believe. Testing for and measuring asymptomatic cases is a joke. Enjoy the Socialist Great Reset, peons…

      • I assume you’re some random troll and neither a student nor an alum, but just FYI, a lot of Brown professors are over 60.

        • The vulnerable can be protected without locking down healthy people. Disadvantaged students will suffer even more when their schools close like in NYC, even though it’s been proven that COVID is not dangerous to that population. And please give a justifications for why protests and riots are permitted while Thanksgiving with a large group of friends and family are not…

      • Oh, Karen, nice parody of a Trumpist fanatic! 260,000 Americans are dead of covid. 1.37 million worldwide. But Trumpists don’t care about human life. It’s their most distinctive characteristic!

        • Eugene, you are welcome to hide in your basement until no one dies anymore. Do you care about the hundreds of millions around the world thrown into poverty by lockdowns? 94% of the Americas we lost had other conditions (dying with COVID), leaving only 6% dying OF COVID. 99.99% of healthy young adults recover. This is all CDC data, trust the science. I’m sure Senile Biden and his corporate elite Great Reset will fix everything…

  2. Paxson was correct when she said that students need to be on campus. That’s a social necessity and I haven’t seen any science to contradict that. Right now Charlie Baker just reopened schools in MA despite the state having over 2000 cases/day, and he has support from the MA Academy of Pediatrics and the MA Association of Schools. More school-aged children are dying from suicide right now than from Covid, and children get sick from their parents, not from schools.

    Brown had a very successful fall semester with no known community spread, and for that Paxson should be praised. She brought kids to campus, to the extent that that is currently possible, while protecting profs.

    • Let’s see: to date, there are 117 cases of covid-19 positive cases among those tested without symptoms since August 24th. What do you mean by “no known community spread”? How many cases will it take before you acknowledge the problem? Or will it take people dying? How many? Will you need to personally attend the funerals before you face reality?

      • You replied to my comment where I mentioned children ACTUALLY DYING as a result of other schools’ failed policies, by getting angry at the LACK of deaths at Brown. How heartless can you get? Again, there was no known community spread on the Brown campus. Paxson’s plan was both careful and intelligent, based in science, and took a careful path between exposure to a dangerous virus and depriving students of needed interaction for their mental health.

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