The University continues to watch public health conditions while preparing for changes leading up to the fall semester, including further reopening of campus dining halls.
The Blue Room opened for student in-person dining July 23 to give students more flexibility and options on campus, according to Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, The Herald previously reported.
This follows the July 12 opening of the Blue Room for faculty use, according to University Spokesperson Brian Clark.
Though Andrews Commons is currently open for students to select options in person for take-out, it does not have the dine-in option like the Sharpe Refectory or Blue Room. Carey said that while “Dining (Services) is trying to move as fast as they can” to return to normal, Andrews will likely remain under the same restrictions for the remainder of the summer semester as Dining Services has “to take into account staffing considerations and … moving deliberately so we don't take on too much too fast.”
Other dining halls on campus will also likely remain closed for the remainder of the summer semester “as we're into the last two to three weeks, and part of that is exams,” Carey added.
For the fall semester, the University will continue to encourage “many of the things that we learned through the pandemic in terms of health promotion and personal habits,” such as frequent hand washing, as this “is just as important for common cold and flu circulation as (it is) for COVID-19,” Carey said.
The University is “monitoring very closely what's happening, both locally and nationally with the Delta variant” and considering the need for other adjustments, Carey said. “If testing is deemed appropriate, we will communicate that as well.”
“Everything we're seeing so far is that vaccinations continue to be the most important thing people can do” since COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths “are largely connected to unvaccinated populations, Carey added.
As of July 22, the total population of vaccinated faculty and staff stands at 93.7 percent, while the total population of vaccinated students is 86.3 percent.
While the University asked that all students upload proof of vaccination by Aug. 1, The Herald previously reported, this does not necessarily mean that the total student population will reach 90 percent by this date, Carey said. “A significant population” of international students, who may not have access to vaccinations in their home countries, will need to be vaccinated once they arrive on campus for the fall semester, he added.
During the week of July 15 to July 21, the University conducted 33 symptomatic COVID-19 tests, less than five of which were positive for COVID-19, Carey said.
So far this month, there has been one positive asymptomatic COVID-19 case among on-campus students and faculty in the testing program, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard, which includes data from high school students in the Pre-College program.
“We're still doing symptomatic testing every week” for students who request a test from Health Services, Carey said. “I think one of the reasons (Health Services) has been doing a fair number of tests” is because “we've had quite a bit of respiratory illness over the course of the summer, some of which can present very similarly to COVID-19.”
Given the low numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and increasing percentages of students and faculty uploading proof of vaccination with the University, Carey said he is “very confident that we'll be where we want to be” by the fall semester in terms of COVID-19 vaccination rates on campus.
Gabriella is the Senior Science & Research Editor of The Brown Daily Herald. She is a junior from San Francisco studying neuroscience on the premedical track.