by Hannah Langley ’21
For almost a year, COVID-19 has affected everyone in a variety of ways. Although the virus is still very much present, cases in Rhode Island have been dropping in recent weeks as more people are getting vaccinated. Cases at Providence College have also been dropping, which is a good sign moving forward in this semester.
Over the past several months, nearly 300,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Rhode Island. The percentage of positive cases in the state has also been steadily declining, dropping from a positivity rate of 7.4 percent to 2.1 percent currently.
Government officials in Rhode Island are divided on whether the vaccine rollout is going smoothly or not. Governor Gina Raimondo argues that their strategy has been going well, targeting the state’s most vulnerable populations first and now transitioning to broader immunization. “The overall picture, as it relates to us, is that we’re in a good and stable place.”
Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee disagrees, however, saying, “Like most Rhode Islanders, I am not satisfied with the current administration’s progress on vaccine distribution, especially as we see our neighbors in Connecticut ranked among the top in the nation.” Vaccine rollout will continue under the direction of McKee following Raimondo’s departure to Washington, D.C., where she will be assuming the position of commerce secretary.
The PC community has also seen some success in recent weeks in combating the spread. During the week of Feb. 4, the College experienced a small outbreak with around 130 cases in a matter of five days. This forced the administration to set up temporary measures around campus, such as restricting non-essential travel, closing club offices, and making only to-go dining options available.
This past week, however, cases have been steadily decreasing, with only three positive cases reported on Thursday, Feb. 25 and five positive cases reported last Friday, Feb. 26.
On Friday, the Continuity Task Force sent an email listing a number of lifted restrictions, including the opening of in-person dining on campus; the ability to begin student teaching, practicums, and other placements again; extension of the Concannon Fitness Center’s hours; and 40 percent capacity of St. Dominic Chapel.
“Our sincerest hope is that this is just the beginning of our transition toward more opportunities for our students—and others in our community—to better enjoy more of the wonderful aspects of life on a campus,” stated the email. “The College is committed to trying to create more opportunities for socialization and collaboration, but the first responsibility is for health and safety. Our best bet is to redouble our collective commitment to doing all the things that we know are effective—especially avoiding large gatherings—so that our COVID-19 cases continue to decline.”
Dean Steven Sears, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, also sent an email that night, reiterating the email sent by the task force earlier. Sears’ email included the prospect of many other positive changes that could be occurring on-campus in the coming weeks, including attendance at outdoor sports games, visitation at other residence halls, more intramural opportunities, and the reopening of McPhail’s.
While these are just goals for what is to come during the remainder of this semester if case positivity rates remain low, it was a hopeful message to the PC community.