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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

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.



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