The University of Rhode Island’s Student Senate resumed for the first time this semester and got back to work in a virtual meeting.

Vice President Kathy Collins and Assistant Vice President for Student Health and Wellness Ellen Reynolds both spoke to Senate about the challenges of getting campus running again.

Collins noted, among other things, the importance of following guidelines set out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Rhode Island Department of Health, as well as the importance of wearing masks over one’s nose and mouth.

“As I tell people that are not covering their noses, that is where we test for COVID,” Collins said. “Please, when you wear your face coverings, please remember to cover your mouth and your nose.”

URI will possibly be giving out flu vaccines next week, according to Reynolds.

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“You hear on the national news and the local news that [the experts] are really concerned about COVID and the flu coming out at the same time and what that might do to our resources,” Reynolds said, encouraging students to get the flu vaccine. 

Collins also mentioned that the University is doing contact-tracing, and will be putting anyone potentially in close contact with someone who tested positive into quarantine.

Reynolds also said that the percentage of positive tests necessary to move URI to exclusively remote learning was a “moving target.” The University, according to Reynolds, plans to take extensive action if necessary to slow the spread of COVID while keeping everyone on campus.

“Say we start to see an increase of people on the second floor of [a residential hall],” Reynolds said. “We might have a strategy working with our partners at the Department of Health to look at how we might shelter in place or quarantine the second floor, do mass testing of everybody on the floor and give a period of 14 days to mitigate that and resume normal operations.”

Both Collins and Reynolds made a point of thanking URI’s staff members who have helped campus adjust throughout the pandemic.

“[Staff members] have done, across this University, tremendous work since March,” Collins said. “Thousands of hours, many working nights and weekends, with little to no time off preparing campus for your return.”

Collins also said that the tents seen around campus should now all be open, and the reason for the delay in opening them was getting them certified by the state.

“The tents at URI are now the first tents in the State of Rhode Island to have a certification of occupancy, because we will be using them for an extended period of time,” Collins said.

Among the first orders of business for the new Senate was to appoint a new Director of Information and Director of Operations, which were left vacant over the summer. They found both in Sarah Margolin and Mariama Diallo, respectively.

Both Margolin and Diallo were appointed by President Austyn Ramsay and confirmed by the Senate.

Student Senate meets again next Wednesday over WebEx.