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A timeline of COVID-19 vaccination and re-opening plans on College Hill

Amid nationwide vaccine rollout, U., City of Providence brace for gradual return to normalcy

Recent months for the University and Providence at large — entailing vaccine distribution, uncertain public health guidelines and a gradual re-opening of in-person activity — have proven to be a time of change, documented in an outpouring of new COVID-19 policies and plans. As College Hill approaches its return to normalcy, The Herald has compiled a list of key announcements and decisions that shaped the University since the turn of the new year.

Dec. 2020 to Jan. 2021. Adhering to Rhode Island’s phased COVID-19 vaccination plan, the first vaccines to arrive at College Hill were distributed among local health professionals, including many University community members. Doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine were distributed to members of Health Services, Emergency Medical Services and the Department of Public Safety, as well as medical students coming into contact with patients.

Jan. to March 2021. With differing timelines of vaccine eligibility across the nation, the University allows students to return to their home states to receive vaccines, provided they return within the same day and receive prior approval from the University.

Feb. 9. Rhode Island residents aged 75 years old or older become eligible to receive a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Walgreens and CVS locations across the state.

Feb 15. The University experiences the fewest weekly positive COVID-19 cases on campus since October.

Feb. and March. Students begin to receive surplus COVID-19 vaccines after volunteering at local vaccination clinics.

Mar. 2. The City of Providence announces it will expand vaccine eligibility to all residents 50 or older in the “neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19” as part of an effort by city legislators to prioritize at-risk neighborhoods in vaccine distribution.

Mar. 12. The Rhode Island Department of Health updates its vaccination rollout plan to allow “Pre K-12 teachers, school staff and licensed child care workers” to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in early to mid-March, reflecting a new prioritization of the state’s educators in vaccine distribution.

Mar. 18. Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee announces that all Rhode Island residents ages 16 or older will become eligible for COVID-19 vaccination April 19. The decision marks a significant shift in the RIDOH’s earlier estimated vaccination rollout timeline, which predicted that all adults would become eligible in June.

Mar. 22. Vaccine eligibility expands to residents ages 18 or older in the “hardest-hit” communities of Providence and Pawtucket.

April 2. Rhode Island residents ages 60 or older become eligible for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. With full vaccine eligibility for Rhode Island adults on the horizon, the University encourages students to get the vaccine “as soon as (they) can,” Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 told The Herald. But with the end of the semester roughly coinciding with the opening of eligibility requirements, the process of students receiving vaccines within Rhode Island posed challenges, he added.

April 6. The University announces that “all undergraduate, graduate and medical students on campus or participating in in-person instruction” are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for the fall 2021 semester, barring exemptions due to medical or religious reasons, in an email from President Christina Paxson P’19 to the Brown community. It joins other higher education institutions including Cornell and Rutgers University in the decision.

April 9. The University announces its decision to hold on-campus pre-college programs during the summer.

April 19. Rhode Island residents ages 16 or older become eligible for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

April 27. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announces that fully-vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear a mask while outdoors.

May 13. The CDC announces that fully-vaccinated individuals no longer must wear a mask in most indoor or outdoor settings, barring health care settings, public transportation and businesses that require them for entry.

May 15. At the start of the summer term, the University ends its Quiet Period three days early due to low positivity rates in the asymptomatic testing program. The seven day summer Quiet Period was already a shortened version of the original 14-day Quiet Period implemented during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.

May 20. The University announces that all employees and all students participating in on-campus activities will be required to receive and document their COVID-19 vaccination by July 1. The decision aims to fast-track the University’s goal of reaching “near universal levels of vaccination” within the Brown community, according to a letter from Paxson sent to community members.

May 27. The University announces changes to its COVID-19 guidelines, eliminating its outdoor mask-wearing requirement for vaccinated individuals and lifting restrictions on University-sponsored domestic travel. It announces additional plans to reduce its required COVID-19 testing frequency, as well as some restrictions on indoor communal spaces.

May 28. In a COVID-19 Testing Update, the University announces that a total of 40.6 percent of students and 59.7 percent of employees have documented their COVID-19 vaccinations with the University.

May 30. For the first time in the history of the University’s COVID-19 testing program, there are zero positive cases in one week, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard.

June 1. The routine COVID-19 testing requirement for on-campus students and faculty is reduced from once every four days to once weekly.

June 13. The University experiences a third consecutive week with zero positive COVID-19 cases in its testing program, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard.

June 19. High school students participating in pre-college summer programs arrive at the University, participating in asymptomatic COVID-19 testing twice weekly regardless of vaccination status.

July 7. Students and faculty on campus for the summer semester pass a 90 percent overall vaccination level. Fully-vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks indoors or outdoors while on campus, including during in-person classes. Additionally, the University announces fully-vaccinated individuals will be phased out of routine COVID-19 testing.

July 13. Fully-vaccinated community members are removed from the University’s routing testing program.

July 15. The University loosens restrictions on University-sponsored travel, allowing students to visit lower-risk international destinations, as well as some higher-risk international destinations with prior approval.

July 18. The University lifts restrictions on campus indoor density requirements, broadening access to library seating and other indoor facilities. The University experiences two consecutive weeks without any positive COVID-19 tests in its testing program, albeit with a significant reduction in participants due to eased testing requirements on campus.

July 20. The campus vaccination rate reaches 97.2 for students on campus for the summer 2021 term and 97 percent for faculty and staff on campus for the term. The total population of vaccinated students and faculty and staff members reaches 86 and 93.8 percent, respectively, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard.


Jack Walker

Jack Walker served as senior editor of multimedia, social media and post- magazine for The Herald’s 132nd Editorial Board. Jack is an archaeology and literary arts concentrator from Thurmont, Maryland who previously covered the Grad School and staff and student labor beats.

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