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Five 70 Ship Street workers have tested positive for COVID-19 over past four weeks

Cases not considered ‘cluster’ or outbreak by RIDOH

Five individuals working in University labs at 70 Ship Street, a multi-lab research building, have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past four weeks, according to a Sept. 19 email to workers, reviewed by The Herald, from Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey. 

Three of the five cases were identified in late August and early September, and the latter two were confirmed prior to the 19th, according to the email. 

The University's overall positivity rate remains low. A total of 30,572 tests have been completed since Aug. 24 with 16 positive cases, resulting in an overall positivity rate of 0.2 percent. In the past seven days, three cases have been confirmed positive of 8,294 tests for a positivity rate of less than 0.1 percent. 

The Rhode Island Department of Health does not consider this group of positive cases a cluster or an outbreak, Carey wrote, “given the time between the positive results, the lack of symptoms, and lack of connections — other than working in the same building — between the first set of positives” and the more recent cases

The more recent positive tests were both “from a different floor and different labs than the cases from two weeks prior,” Carey wrote. Additionally, none of the lab workers who tested positive have shown or reported symptoms of COVID-19. The first three cases involved "no additional contact exposures beyond their lab," while this week's two individuals have had "a very small number of confirmed contacts." 

All contacts have already been notified by University Human Resources or RIDOH, according to the email.

Usually, when someone in the University community tests positive for COVID-19, the administration “will not alert building occupants of a positive case or cases in their area,” Carey wrote. But because of the number of cases in this instance, the University felt it important to inform other occupants of 70 Ship Street, he wrote. 

It was not immediately clear if all workers who occupy 70 Ship Street received the email.

All “impacted areas” and common spaces were cleaned or closed, but the building as a whole remains open for workers, according to the email. The building has "a robust air handling system," Carey noted.

“We believe all appropriate measures are in place to ensure 70 Ship Street remains a safe and healthy building in which to work and conduct research,” Carey wrote. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


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