KINGSTON — The University of Rhode Island has identified 67 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the past week and placed hundreds of students into isolation or quarantine.
Over the course of eight days, beginning Sept. 27, the university has administered 2,128 tests. Of those, 3 percent came back positive. As of Oct. 4, there are 498 people in isolation or quarantine, according to the university’s online dashboard.
This number includes all students who’ve been tested through health services, according to Assistant Director of Communications Dave Lavallee, either living on campus, off campus or in Greek Life. These figures may also include some faculty and staff if they’ve tested positive.
Seventy-nine students are in isolation or being quarantined on campus, according to the COVID-19 tracker provided by health services. These students account for 14 percent of the university’s available beds, either on campus or in off-campus, contracted housing.
Like the Rhode Island Department of Health, the university has a rigorous contact tracing program, according to External Relations and Communications Executive Director Kelly Mahoney. Although the majority of people who’ve been ordered to quarantine or isolate as a result of possible exposure are COVID-19 negative, “they must quarantine for 14 days in accordance with State of Rhode Island requirements.”
“These individuals are students, faculty, or staff and live across the state of Rhode Island as well as in other states,” Mahoney wrote in an email response to a concerned community member.
Although the university was not able to provide a specific breakdown of where its off campus students are isolating or quarantining at this time, Lavallee stressed that the university is “paying close attention to [its] off campus residents as well — particularly those in concentrated areas like Narragansett.”
“We really are being watchful and working closely with local police,” Lavallee said. “We know the concern and we’re paying attention.”
“We take that very seriously,” he added.
According to Mahoney, the university contract tracers “communicate with quarantine and isolation individuals every two days to check on their health, ensure they are following quarantine or isolation requirements, and schedule them for follow up COVID tests.”
Over the past nine months, beginning on Jan. 22, the university has administered 10,086 tests, according to the online dashboard. Only 184 individuals, less than 2 percent, have tested positive.
Last week, South Kingstown Town Manager Robert Zarnetske said the university “has been a fairly bright spot” in terms of how they’ve been handling the pandemic, despite the recent uptick of new cases.
The week before, Providence College also began seeing an uptick in student case numbers. According to the most recent data available for the college, as of Oct. 5, the university has recently identified 233 new cases. As of Oct. 1, there are 84 students in isolation and 324 students in quarantine.
Both institutions of higher education have continued to heavily stress the importance of following the Rhode Island Department of Health’s safety guidelines — such as social distancing, small social circles and mask wearing.
On Wednesday, Setp. 30, Gov. Gina Raimondo highlighted that college age students, from 19 to 24, are testing positive for COVID-19 at much higher rates than any other age bracket.
"It's pretty crystal clear where we're struggling, and what age group isn't following the rules," she said, pointing to a slide that showed a much higher average number of cases among this age group than anyone else. "It's notable, it's obvious, it jumps off the page."
The numbers show that college students' social circles are too big, and mask compliance is too low, she said.
"I'm asking you to do better," she said. "You may be young and healthy, but you're spreading this to people who aren't young and healthy."
*This story has been updated with the most recent figures since appearing in print on Friday, Oct. 2. At the time, the University of Rhode Island had identified 59 new COVID-19 cases.