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Three University students tested for COVID-19 as state precautions increase

Several U. classes prepare for cancellation of in-person lecture, transition to online classes

Three University students are currently being tested for COVID-19 coronavirus, according to an email sent by Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes and Executive Director of Health and Wellness Vanessa Britto to students and faculty Monday.

The students “traveled to a venue outside of Rhode Island where they may have been exposed to the virus,” Estes and Britto wrote in the email to the University community. While the students are currently in isolation, test results are pending.

Action on campus

Following recent developments last week, some classes are preparing or have decided to operate remotely. While Computer Science students were sent an email instructing them to prepare for online-only classes, one class, CSCI 0160: “Introduction to Algorithms and Data Structures”, has cancelled in-person lecture and moved their classes onto Zoom, an online teaching tool, effective today. The policy will be implemented “for the foreseeable future,” according to an email sent to students by the class’s Head Teaching Assistants Monday evening.

In an email to students enrolled in CS classes earlier Monday, Director of CS Undergraduate Studies Tom Doeppner wrote that the department is preparing for the possibility that classes and TA hours will need to be held online. “We already have significant resources and experience with the modern tools and practices required to deliver our classes online, and are actively working with other units at Brown to make sure we keep any disruption to your experience and goals minimal,” Doeppner wrote.

Outside of the classroom, some student organizations are reevaluating their policies in light of recent updates. Lillian Pickett ’22, a coordinator of the Housing Assistance Collaborative as a part of Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, said that in addition to keeping HAC members safe, the group is considering the risk University students could pose to those in the broader community.

“Being at this university specifically, where a lot of folks travel and especially for spring break come back from different locations, … I think that we are keeping in mind that we might pose a risk to the people we’re working with,” Pickett said, especially because “we often work with older folks and people experiencing homelessness who may not have access to great healthcare.”

HAC currently has no plans to cancel any of their activities, but that may change depending on what the University decides, Pickett added. “It depends on what they say, and whether or not the people that they currently are testing actually test positive,” she said. “But definitely it’s on our minds.”

News from the state

Governor Gina M. Raimondo declared a state of emergency in Rhode Island Monday, as the state tries to be proactive in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.

By easing certain regulations, the state of emergency allows state departments and agencies to better and more quickly coordinate their response. “It gives us more tools in our toolbox to take the necessary steps,” Raimondo said at a press conference Monday.

Specifically, declaring a state of emergency “will enable us to better tap into resources of the National Guard, if necessary,” Raimondo added. “It will make sure that we are first in line for any federal resources, and it gives us more degrees of freedom to address the virus if and as the need arises.”

Raimondo, the state’s Department of Labor and Training  and Department of Health also announced a collection of new COVID-19 preparedness measures to support nursing homes and employers and employees.

Lifespan, which operates five hospitals in Rhode Island, suspended all visits to patients Monday, effective immediately.

Despite recent news, Raimondo emphasized that the risk to the average Rhode Island resident remains low. “This is a time for action,” she said, “not panic.”


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