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VP Carey: Brown sees highest number of weekly positive cases in spring, but ‘not alarmed’ yet

U. to distribute mask kits per new CDC mask guidelines starting Monday, continues to monitor asymptomatic test results

The University saw its highest number of weekly positive COVID-19 cases for the spring semester so far from Feb. 21 to Feb. 28 after a steady decline in positive COVID-19 cases since students’ arrival this semester.

This week, 58 University community members tested positive, a jump from the seven positive cases the previous week, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard. The majority of cases came from undergraduate students living off-campus, followed by on-campus students, said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 in a Feb. 26 conversation with The Herald.

The Student Conduct Office is currently reviewing reports of social gatherings that would be of concern, Carey said. In addition to a long weekend earlier this month, “people may be letting down their guard a bit, seeing the positive numbers decline (locally) and nationally,” he said. There is “no evidence” that the increase in cases is related to the recent spike of cases at Providence College.

The University is “obviously paying very close attention to (the rise in cases) and monitoring carefully, (but) I would say I’m not alarmed by it,” Carey said, adding that the testing program is in place to ensure that cases are identified.

There have been prior weeks with elevated numbers of positive COVID-19 cases. “We’ve certainly had weeks (in) this range, including at the beginning of the term,” Carey said. From Jan. 7 to Jan. 13 — a period that encompassed move-in for the spring semester — the University saw 40 positive asymptomatic test results, according to that week’s community-wide COVID-19 Testing Update

Student Conduct will continue to hold students accountable to their COVID-19 campus commitment, Carey added. 

The University will remain at Campus Activity Level 2, which it phased into on Feb. 7, The Herald previously reported. “At this point, we don’t see the need to make any changes. But we want to continue to reinforce that people’s individual choices and behaviors will make all the difference,” Carey said. 

The University will begin distributing mask kits at testing sites starting Monday per new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to wear a single high-quality mask or to double mask. The kits will include surgical masks and KF94 masks, which can be used as a higher quality mask in addition to a reusable cotton mask when in certain higher-risk settings, Carey said. The kits were designed for “getting people through the remainder of the term,” and there will be enough for everyone who visits a testing site, he added. 

As Providence experiences the first signs of spring, the community will likely benefit from increased outdoor activities, which hold less risk of COVID-19 spread than indoor activities, Carey said. “Warmer weather, and people being outside — and this was certainly our experience in the early fall — is great for the campus,” Carey said. 

Still, Carey said positive local and national trends should not be interpreted “as license to be outdoors and in close proximity without a mask.”



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