by Eileen Cooney ’23
A dip in the number of reported coronavirus cases across the country in recent days has compelled some states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, to ease up some restrictions. Rhode Island recently lifted its curfew for restaurants and bars, and Massachusetts announced a plan to allow restaurants and other indoor businesses to operate at higher capacity.
Additionally, Rhode Island has announced the closure of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center testing site and its transformation into a state-run vaccination site. This is part of the state’s efforts to ramp up vaccinations and to move the process along so that a majority of its population can get vaccinated.
On campus, however, the number of reported COVID-19 cases among Providence College students has remained high over the past few days. As of Feb. 3, there are 89 students in isolation and 121 students in quarantine. As of Feb. 9, PC’s positivity rate is 2.27 which is slightly below the Rhode Island state positivity rate of 2.7%. While the number of students testing positive looks higher this semester compared to last, an email from the College’s continuity task force sent out last Wednesday stressed the need to take this data seriously.
This semester, students are being tested much more frequently, and we are in an environment where the virus is much more widespread in the surrounding community.
Additionally, a number of the positive cases reported each day are from students who are already in quarantine as close contacts. Clearly, this subset of individuals is a group that has a higher probability of testing positive due to their status as close contacts, and most of these individuals had already been removed from the population by the time of their test.
Despite this relatively positive news, the College is still warning students to remain vigilant. The Office of Public Safety and Community Standards sent out an email on Feb. 6 warning students that they were aware of the reported behavior in violation of the student code of conduct that seems to be exacerbating the spread of the virus. Public Safety again warned students of the consequences of their actions. Public Safety’s concerns are certainly not unfounded—on February 8 and 9, PC reported 34 and 33 new cases, respectively.
The College also announced its plan to test students twice weekly instead of just once. The effects of this plan remain to be seen in the coming weeks.
Despite this, PC students remain resilient and determined to make the most of this rather strange semester. This winter, the College’s Office of Student Activities invested in fire pits to be placed on Slavin lawn. The fire pits seat up to six people and can be reserved for one-hour time blocks on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from 4 p.m.–midnight. Students can reserve them with their pods to safely and warmly enjoy a nice meal or banter session with friends.
On Friday and Saturday nights, students can be seen gathered around the fires with masks on, grateful for the opportunity to be on this beautiful campus. Additionally, the Office of Student Activities has reserved food trucks for every weekend this semester. Last weekend featured Ming’s Asian Street Food truck. These have been a major hit among students.
Gracie Cleaver ’23 says, “I love the new food truck Fridays. They are a great and safe way to get out of your dorm and enjoy some good food with friends. I’m really happy and appreciative that the College has invested so much time, money, and thought into resources for students during this very difficult time.” Although this semester has seen an unprecedented number of changes to daily life for students, the College’s commitment to its students’ well-being remains strong. The College is working hard and will need the support of the student body to avoid the same kind of outbreak that put a pause on the fall semester.