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Providence College discovers another 41 COVID-19 cases among students, bringing the total to 165 in the past week

School and state health officials are scrambling to contain the outbreak on and around the Providence campus

An entrance to Providence College.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Another 41 Providence College students have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 165 students who have contracted the virus over the past a week, a college spokesman said Monday.

On Friday, the college tested 1,411 students, and 19 were positive, an infection rate of 1.34 percent. On Saturday, the college tested another 1,080 students, and 15 were positive, an infection rate of 1.39 percent.

Seven more students tested positive on Sunday, Providence College spokesman Steven J. Maurano said.

The college had completed testing most of the student body by the end of Saturday, but it conducted a small number of tests on Sunday for those who had been missed or who had problems with test results, he said. The college will begin retesting all students over three days beginning Tuesday.


The 41 new cases add to the 124 confirmed cases that the state Department of Health reported on Friday. In all, 175 students have tested positive over a two-week time frame, which would match the incubation period, Maurano said.

None of the students who tested positive have been hospitalized, he said.

The outbreak came to light when Providence College announced late Thursday that it had issued a stay-at-home order to all students — those living in on-campus housing as well as those renting apartments in the nearby neighborhood — and will have full remote learning until at least Sept. 26 because 84 of its students had tested positive in just two days. Of those 84, 23 live on campus and the rest are off campus.

Maurano said it is still not clear how the outbreak began. He has said the college has not seen large gatherings like those seen at other campuses, but officials are hearing that there might have been a gathering at an off-campus house of 30 or 40 people.


“We have heard of talk about several different small gatherings,” he said.

A team of Providence College officials is doing contact tracing and trying to figure out how the virus spread, he said.

Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken said health officials have not pinpointed the cause of the outbreak yet.

“We are at a stage of community transmission of the virus, meaning that it can be very difficult to definitively say how someone got sick, or how an outbreak started," he said. "This is especially true when talking about a situation where people had many common exposures.”

Over the weekend, Providence police officers and Providence College personnel monitored off-campus housing areas, including the Eaton Street area, to see if students were avoiding large gatherings as ordered and complying with other public health protocols. Some of the college’s Dominican friars — the Catholic religious order that runs the school — also were out checking on students in nearby apartments, Maurano said.

“My understanding is the area was pretty quiet all weekend,” he said.

Right now, Maurano said, the focus is on getting all students tested — a process that should be completed later this week.

Providence College has more than 4,800 students, including undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education students. In all, 13 percent of students are from Rhode Island, and 54 percent are from other New England states.

The college also is focused on getting students into isolation if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or quarantine if they may have been exposed to the virus, Maurano said.


Students are being allowed to return home for quarantine and isolation if their families don’t live too far away, he said. But the students are not allowed to use public transportation, and their families must come pick them up. Also, students cannot return home if they would endanger family members with compromised immune systems or other health risk factors.

Students who do not return home can enter isolation and quarantine in designated areas on campus and off campus, Maurano said, but he declined to identify those locations.

He said the college will make a decision later this week on whether to extend remote learning beyond Sept. 26.

Dean of Students Steven A. Sears wrote to the campus community on Sunday, saying many of the students in isolation or quarantine have already returned home or have moved to the designated spaces provided by the college.

“Although the majority of our positive COVID-19 cases are off campus, we all must remain vigilant,” Sears wrote. “You must continue to take this matter seriously, and do all the right things to keep yourselves and those around you safe.”

He said large gatherings are prohibited in residence halls and outdoors.

“This is a critical juncture,” Sears wrote. “Let’s be disciplined and smart, so that we can work our way through this period as a community of people who care about each other. This is our chance to show what PC is made of and we need to take advantage of it.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.