In this week’s COVID-19 update, The Good Five-Cent Cigar will discuss the University of Rhode Island’s decision to end in-person classes early, testing plans before and during the upcoming break, post-Thanksgiving support for students staying on campus and what students should continue doing to ensure return in the spring. 

Classes move online-only early

The University announced via email Wednesday night that almost all in-person classes will transition to an online format beginning Monday, Nov. 23 rather than after Thanksgiving break.

According to the email, rising cases of COVID-19 were the reason why in-person classes this semester will end prematurely.

“We understand that this change on short notice may pose some challenges to students, staff and faculty, but we believe it is the most prudent option to safeguard our community and reduce the potential for transmission over the weekend and next week,” the email said. 

The email explained that nursing, physical therapy and music students may still have certain classes in-person after Nov. 23.

Additionally, the University warned students against hosting “a farewell party or ‘Friendsgiving.’” The email also encouraged students to stay home once they get there for the holiday break, in an effort to not spread the virus on campus when they return for the spring semester.

How much testing is URI expecting before students leave for break? 

According to Kathy Collins, vice president for Student Affairs, the University is preparing for an increased number of students to receive a COVID-19 test before returning home for Thanksgiving break. 

“Some states require a negative test before coming in the state and all students, particularly students from out of state, should be following their home state department of health travel requirements before traveling,” said Collins. “We do anticipate an increase [in students testing], and that’s the best thing we all can do together: to be aware and to know our status.”

Collins said the University will continue offering testing to URI community members after the break, and many on-campus services will continue as well. 

“We want to strongly encourage students to know before you go: Please get tested before your departure plans,” she said “I think over the last seven days, we’ve tested 6,200 people, which is a lot. We’ll continue to test in our testing center, and it will remain open through the week, and then we’ll be open Monday and Tuesday of next week as well.”

Collins wants to remind students that even if you test negative for coronavirus, you should constantly be monitoring any symptoms you may be experiencing. 

Students with no symptoms who wish to get tested may visit the Memorial Union Atrium for a walk-in rapid test. Hours are available at the University’s Health Services website. Students experiencing symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, headache or loss of taste and smell can schedule a symptomatic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing appointment by calling 401-874-2246

Testing and support for students living on campus during break 

Testing will continue after the Thanksgiving holiday, and students can expect information about new hours, locations and testing sites, in order to consolidate the number of staff and volenteers, sometime before the break. 

Students planning on living on campus after Thanksgiving break and during winter vacation will still have access to university services like dining and counseling. 

“All of our services will continue to be offered,” said Collins. “A lot of our services have been both in person, but more virtual and that’s we think the safest way to go. Certainly counseling services will be available. Disability services will be available.”

The Academic Enhancement Center (AEC), tutoring services and other academic support services will also be available to students either in person or virutally. 

“The University continues to run; we’ve just moved to more of a virtual format, and we’ll continue to do that,” Collins said. 

Looking forward, ways to continue limiting the spread of coronavirus 

According to Collins, the University is beginning to hear information about students planning social gatherings due to the near departure of many from Rhode Island. 

“We just want people to be aware and to please follow the Rhode Island guidelines,” she said. “Please be safe. We’re seeing it spread in small groups, family settings and groups of friends.”

Collins clearly emphasized that URI strongly discourages any pre-holiday festivities like “Friendsgiving” this year. 

“No parties, No Friendsgivings, no farewell parties, no ‘I’m-going-to-miss-you-for-two-months parties,’” Collins said. “We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize people’s holidays or to jeopardize what we do in the spring.”

Collins said the University is starting to schedule meetings with the Rhode Island Department of Health about potential plans of distributing a vaccine in the future, and that students experiencing “COVID-19 fatigue” should remain hopeful and continue following safety guidelines.

“Let’s get through now,” she said. “Lets get through this together.”

Resources

Health Services can be reached at 401-873-2246. Students can call the Counseling Center at 401-874-2288. The center’s normal business hours are Monday, Thursday and Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Outside of operating hours, students will be connected to ProtoCall, which provides behavioral health services over the phone. The Psychological Consultation Center can be reached at 401-874-4264, and the Couple and Family Therapy Clinic can be reached at 401-874-5956. For more information and stories in the coming days, check our website and Twitter @rhodycigar.