Updates

On this page, keep up to date or catch up with the most recent updates to RWU's Reopening Roger website. We share the latest updates in a newsletter regularly, linking to relevant sections so you can easily stay current as the University's plan evolves.

Last Updated: 9/22/2021 

Sept. 22, 2021 Updates

To the RWU Community:

Last week the Reopening Roger Steering Committee, comprised of students, faculty and staff, met twice to review our current Covid-19 situation on campus, locally and regionally. The President’s Cabinet spent most of our meeting yesterday discussing the recommendations of the Steering Committee, presented by Provost Margaret Everett and Vice President John King.

As a community, we have continued to improve our vaccination rates and are near 96% for students and 98% for employees in Bristol and Providence! Our comprehensive arrival clearance testing and weekly on-campus testing results were a very encouraging start to the semester. As of the end of last week, a total of 12,850 testing samples have been collected this semester in our on campus testing program; resulting in 10 students, 1 staff member and 0 faculty positive cases. We continue to utilize rapid tests for all students presenting with symptoms to Health Services on the Bristol campus and follow up any negative rapid result with quarantine until a negative PCR test is resulted. As a community, we are grateful for the incredible work of our employees involved in testing administration, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation across the University, and our health services staff.

Regionally, the Covid situation has not improved since we started classes last month. Rhode Island is experiencing strong community spread and for the past month has been among the top 5 U.S. states with the highest case counts per 100K population. While Rhode Island is currently testing more than any other state and is in the top 5 for vaccination rates, there remains cause for concern and the need for every member of our community to practice prevention – especially when off-campus, in indoor venues, or at crowded outdoor events.

RWU Indoor Masking Policy

After careful consideration of this policy by the Steering Committee and Cabinet, and further consultation with the Rhode Island Department of Health, the University will continue with indoor masking for all community members for the remainder of the semester. 

Note: Two exceptions to the policy are that masking will no longer be required for fully vaccinated students when within university housing facilities and any fully vaccinated individuals utilizing the fitness center; both of these exceptions are effective today. These changes are subject to change by the university.

The Cabinet believes that indoor masking as outlined above is the safest and most responsible path forward to ensure a full semester of in-person teaching, learning and co-curricular life. It is important to note that indoor masking in non-residential facilities remains the norm at all the other higher education institutions in Rhode Island. In addition, it is important for every member of the community to wear their masks properly, to not to eat in the classroom during class, and to not wear single-layer masks, gaiter-style masks, or masks with vents – all are prohibited on campus.

Indoor masking has proven effective when masks are worn properly, is considered a best practice for preventing transmission when regional community spread exists, and it is helping RWU keep its positivity rate low. It also helps protect those we interact with at home from infection, as well as those who are immunocompromised, regardless of vaccination status.

Compliance with University Testing Program, and Off-Campus Testing

There are two issues we wish to highlight for the campus community regarding testing. 

First, we must improve our testing participation across all students but especially among off-campus students and commuters. Until we reach higher levels of compliance, the University will have to continue stronger safety measures.

With this in mind, the University will allow guest visitation privileges in residence areas once that community reaches an 85% testing compliance rate. Currently, none of our residence areas are at this level. Each area will receive updates weekly regarding their testing participation rate. Additionally, testing participation at the individual level will be used to determine eligibility to attend senior and other student events, participation in club or intramural sports, and access to the Fitness Center. Students who repeatedly fail to be Covid-tested – full-time undergraduates who are fully vaccinated test once per week and exemption-approved students test twice per week – will face interim or full suspension. This will take students out of class as an unexcused absence, and deny access to activities and campus facilities.

We also want to address off-campus testing. Several students, faculty and staff have taken the initiative, particularly on weekends when campus testing isn’t available, to be proactive when they may have Covid-like symptoms and seek Covid testing off-campus. This is to be applauded and is helpful to all of us. However, it is important for students to immediately report positive results from any off-campus testing to studentlife@rwu.edu so that staff can respond with guidance.

In Conclusion

We are making all of our decisions with the safety and health of our campus community in mind. We are empathetic to the fact that the Delta variant has required us to adapt our original operating plans for the fall. The Reopening Roger Steering Committee will continue to meet regularly this semester and monitor the effectiveness of our protocols. 

We appreciate that students need the mental and physical break to be able to take off their masks within their residence areas and the fitness center, and we are trusting you to do this safely, only if fully vaccinated and never when experiencing symptoms. If we all keep making smart choices for ourselves and for our campus community, we will continue to have a great year together. 

For questions, please contact us through covid19@rwu.edu.

Keep up the great work, Hawks!

Sincerely,
Yannis

This communication provides a revision to our fall COVID protocols shared in our July 15 campus communication in light of new regional trends with the Delta variant, as recommended by our Reopening Roger steering committee this week. 

Through the rest of August, we will welcome our students, faculty and staff back to campus and return to full operations and in-person experiences. We already have taken the ambitious step to be one of the most vaccinated communities in Rhode Island so that we can safely expand in-person learning and activities.I’m proud to say we are trending towards a 90% or greater community vaccination rate (with faculty and staff at a 97% vaccination rate). Our high vaccination rate is important as research and hospital data continue to confirm that fully vaccinated individuals are highly protected from serious illness and hospitalization and also less likely to become infected which will assist both of our campuses and the local community in the effort to reach herd immunity. 

We will implement the following safety protocols for the first three weeks of the semester and then reassess these protocols the week of September 15. Our internal university testing data from this clearance period, along with assessing the Covid cases in our surrounding communities and the state, will help us to determine whether to revise our testing frequency or masking policies at that time. 

Masking 

Beginning Monday, August 16, we will require indoor masking for all students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors regardless of vaccination status. Individuals may choose to remove masks when you are in an enclosed individual office, in your residence hall room, or when eating and drinking.

Per Centers for Disease Control and Rhode Island Department of Health guidance, masks outdoors are optional and not required for fully vaccinated individuals. However, those with vaccination exemptions will be required to wear masks outdoors unless you are able to maintain more than three feet of space from others. 

As a reminder, campus members with vaccination exemptions must always wear masks indoors, in classrooms, all campus buildings, dining areas, fitness center and common spaces, and especially when around others. 

Testing 

Regular surveillance testing will continue to be a critical measure for us to monitor for the presence of virus on our campus and allow us to act quickly to isolate any positive individuals from the community. This is proving to be essential for the Delta variant, which can be present among vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals. 

Clearance Testing 

All campus members must rapid-test when you return to campus for work or learning.  

Employees returning to campus work must receive a clearance test from now through Aug. 30. Faculty and staff who have been participating in our summer testing program may continue with their regular testing schedule and do not need to report for an additional clearance test. 

Clearance testing for employees will be held at the following locations and dates on the Bristol campus:  

Building #23 (the former English Language School Building, at the rear of the Recreation Center):  

Monday, Aug. 16 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Tuesday, Aug. 17 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.  

Wednesday, Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Monday, Aug. 23 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Tuesday, Aug. 24 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.  

Wednesday, Aug. 25 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Global Heritage Hall Atrium

Monday, Aug. 30 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
 

Residential students will receive a rapid test on their move-in day. This must be completed during the required check-in process you register for and will be held in Global Heritage Hall. Students will not be able to attend classes, move into residence halls, or enter campus facilities without this clearance test.  

  • Fully vaccinated residential students will be required to test once per week from their move-in date until further notice. 
  • Residential students with vaccine exemptions will be required to test twice per week from their move-in date until further notice. 
  • All students with vaccine exemptions are required to come to the campus check-in process with a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of arrival. 

Providence Campus testing will be held on the second floor and the hours will be Tuesdays, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and Wednesdays, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; testing signup is not required. You may come at any time for your weekly test during Providence testing hours.  

All other students, including commuters, off-campus students, graduate students and law students, must sign up for and receive a clearance test prior to the first day of classes. Keep an eye on your email for a communication regarding the check-in process required of all students coming soon. 

Regular Semester Testing 

Regular semester testing will begin the week of Aug. 30. Every person who is learning and working on our campuses will be required to receive regular COVID testing. Bristol campus members must sign up for their first regular testing day(s) and time(s), starting with this week. 

  • Fully vaccinated individuals will test once per week. 
  • Those with vaccine exemptions will test twice per week. 
  • Additional testing requirements for student athletes in season, if determined necessary, will be communicated by the Athletic Director. 

Regular semester testing will begin on Aug. 30 and will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday, for the rest of the semester. 

On Aug. 30, those who sign up for Monday regular testing will report to the GHH Atrium for that day only. 

Beginning, Aug. 31, testing will be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday, in the Recreation Center Conference Room, located on the second floor. 

Testing Sign Up 

Testing signup for the week of August 30 is now enabled in the Project Beacon testing web platform. You will log in to Beacon (app.beacontesting.com) to sign up: 1) Simply click on the black “Schedule Test” button 2) Select “RWU Surveillance Testing” and select a “Testing Site” and 3) Pick an available 20-minute appointment block for that week. Note: The day/time you select for the week of August 30 will be your scheduled testing time for the full semester.  

It is important that you register your Beacon account and sign the consent form on the platform before you show up for campus testing. This platform will be in use throughout fall semester and is the place where you can review your testing results. All community members will receive a registration email from support@beacontesting.com – this is not a spam or phishing message. A link in the email will bring you to their website, where you will digitally agree to the testing consent form and schedule your tests.  

The university will continue to communicate any changes in the frequency of testing required of individuals throughout the semester. Be sure to check your RWU email regularly.

Isolation and Quarantine Procedures 

Like last year, the university will provide isolation and quarantine spaces in Baypoint for residential students. Any student testing positive, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to isolate. Close contacts of positive students who are not vaccinated will be required to enter quarantine. Close contacts of positive students who are vaccinated will at this time not be assigned to quarantine, but must self-monitor for symptoms and test an additional time each week for two weeks.   

It is critical that every community member cooperate with contact tracers and provide accurate information. Additional information about Q&I protocols and procedures will be communicated prior to the start of classes. 

#MakeSmartChoices 

Even though the pandemic remains with us at a new level many had not anticipated due to the Delta variant, our community has a spirit that allows us to come together during challenging times – and we will do it again this year! It is the choices we each make to prioritize our safety and well-being that results in our continued success. We all have a shared responsibility to help reduce community spread and to protect each other. 

I ask you all to make smart choices in these weeks leading up to move-in or return to work by limiting your exposure to large crowds and indoor settings unless masked. There is uncertainty about what to expect from the virus and variants in the months ahead, but we will be guided in our operations and safety measures by what is happening around us and what our community testing data tells us. 

Continue to check your email regularly for updates and we will soon fully update the Reopening Roger website, where you can visit throughout the year for information on our campus safety protocols and to monitor Covid-19 testing and cases via our dashboard.  

We can make this another great year, with all the opportunities for learning and a vibrant campus life that we have planned. We’re so excited to welcome our new community members and have you all back for a terrific academic year. 

We will host two different zoom sessions for students next week to address your specific questions about the Bristol campus student experience. Check your email for the invitation links: 

  • Returning students on Tuesday, August 17 at 5:30 p.m.  
  • New first-time students on Thursday, August 19 at 5:00 p.m.  

For all other questions, please contact us through covid19@rwu.edu.

Sincerely,
Yannis