Amidst Pandemic, A Successful Semester: College Credits Community Protocols, Vaccines

by awakelin on January 10, 2022


The holiday season is a time when people throughout the world gather with those they love, finding joy in the comfort of others and reflecting on the various high and low points of another year that has passed. While the Providence College community disperses during the holidays, with members spending the month-long break from classes throughout different parts of the country and the world, this campus community has had the privilege to do what many extended families and friends haven’t for quite some time: spend each and every day together. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has kept many from comfortably spending time with their loved ones throughout the past year-and-a-half, PC’s COVID-19 guidelines, combined with the dedication of the students, faculty, and staff, has allowed for the successful completion of another semester amidst the unpredictable conditions of a global pandemic.

One important decision that allowed PC to confidently bring all students back to campus this fall was the College’s decision to require proof of vaccination for all returning full-time graduate and undergraduate students. 

The news of this decision was shared in an email from Providence College President, Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P., on May 27, 2021, wherein he stated, “With our students vaccinated, we will be able to return to on-campus living and learning much like it was before the pandemic.” Within his message, Father Sicard assured the PC community that “exemption requests made on medical or religious grounds” would most definitely be taken into consideration. 

As per the Coronavirus Information and Updates page of the PC Website, which was last updated on Dec. 3, 2021, the vaccination rates of the PC Community are as follows: 97% of full-time students, 89% of part-time students, and 97% of full-time faculty and staff are fully vaccinated.

In terms of numbers, PC has done a stellar job of controlling COVID-19 cases this semester. As of Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, the on-campus Asymptomatic Testing Center had administered 4,291 student COVID-19 tests and 1,501 faculty and staff COVID-19 tests since Aug. 29, 2021. Of those administered tests, 20 student results came back positive along with 8 faculty and staff positive tests; this data comes out to a 0.05% positivity rate for on-campus tests administered to both students and faculty and staff.

Outside of the on-campus testing data, this semester has seen 22 positive rapid test results among the student body along with 0 among the faculty and staff, as well as 12 self-reported positive tests among the student body and 0 among the faculty and staff.

Throughout the Fall 2021 semester, PC has upheld its promise to host in-person classes for all students, and the college has required masks to be worn inside all campus buildings for the entirety of the semester. 

The PC community has followed the indoor mask mandate diligently, looking out for the safety of all who call Friartown home. Students have, however, thoroughly enjoyed being able to remove their masks when outside on campus grounds, especially during the warmer weather, when the fire pits on Slavin Lawn were frequented and the Calabria, Martin, and Smith Pavilions were utilized for outdoor classes. 

Kathryn Kopcak ’25 shared her satisfaction with the plethora of outdoor activities she has experienced throughout her first semester at PC, stating, “I love how we have been able to sit around the fire pits with friends and catch up without having to wear our masks.”

Ultimately, the general opinion of the student body with how the College has handled COVID-19 this semester is one of satisfaction. Annie Bekkelund ’25 is one voice that corroborates this opinion. Bekkelund, who experienced a hybrid learning model through much of her senior year of high school, says, “It’s nice having in-person classes every day of the week because it’s been much easier to learn and meet people this way.” Bekkelund and Kopcak are two of the many voices that are grateful for the way PC has helped make student life feel as normal as possible this semester.

On Dec. 8, PC students received an email from Continuity providing an update on current conditions related to COVID-19 on campus and in the community. According to the email, PC is now experiencing a post-Thanksgiving uptick in cases. 

As of Dec. 8, 28 positive cases have been documented since Nov. 27. 17 students are currently in isolation. The email states that this uptick, while not surprising, is a cause for concern.

With a rise in cases, the Continuity Task Force reminds the PC community to continue its efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Namely, wearing masks inside campus buildings, washing hands, staying home while sick, and getting tested when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will be key to keeping this uptick at bay.

In addition, the email calls attention to PC’s vaccination rate of 96%. This high vaccination rate, it says, has been key to PC’s continued success in combating the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the fall semester. With this in mind, the College strongly encourages the PC community to schedule booster shots as soon as possible over the semester break.

Looking ahead, the College expects to maintain its indoor mask requirement and testing protocols. As always, the College will continue its collaboration with healthcare professionals and the Rhode Island Department of Health to assess the ever-changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and, if necessary, reinforce or modify existing protocols.

As the PC community prepares to leave campus for a month of relaxation and time spent with families, every member looks forward to a continued upward progression of the normality of campus life as Friartown takes the COVID-19 pandemic in stride.