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URI orders three Greek Life houses to quarantine as Rhode Island colleges cope with COVID-19 infections

Ten colleges and universities have positive cases, says Health Department

A statue of the ram mascot of the University of Rhode Island sits outside the school's Welcome Center in Kingston, R.I.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE -- More than 100 students at three Greek Life houses at the University of Rhode Island have been ordered to quarantine after several members tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week, one of 10 colleges or universities in the state with infections.

URI spokeswoman Linda Acciardo did not identify the fraternity and two sororities under quarantine because they are private residences. She said the new positive cases are not the result of large social gatherings, and there are no plans to close down Greek Life housing on the South Kingstown campus.

Two members of a sorority house and one member of a fraternity tested positive last week, and three members of another sorority house tested positive over the weekend, the university said. Those who tested positive were moved into isolation, and the remaining members -- dozens of students -- are being tested and ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days.

URI has tested 1,954 students and employees in the past week, and found infection in 61 of them. There are 451 people in isolation or quarantine, according to the university’s daily COVID-19 tracker.


The university has a 3 percent positivity rate, and 3 percent of its isolation or quarantine beds are occupied. Acciardo said in a statement that URI is conducting contact tracing and working with the state Department of Health.

Ten colleges and universities in Rhode Island have some positive cases of coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health.

The highest numbers are at Providence College, which the state said now has about 170 cases from an outbreak. (URI has the second-highest number of cases.)

Three incoming or current state legislators from Providence are urging Providence College to stick with virtual learning for the rest of the fall semester because of the outbreak.


Representative-Elect David Morales joined Senator Sam Bell and Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell in writing a letter to Providence College President Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, saying the outbreak is putting residents of the city’s Elmhurst, Mount Pleasant, Charles, and Wanskuck neighborhoods at risk.

“These are diverse communities with minority-owned small businesses, working families, senior citizens, children, and young adults,” they said. “Unfortunately, their health is now at risk as PC students naturally shop, socialize, and engage with our communities.”

They noted that the 02904 and 02908 zip codes had some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the state even before Providence College students returned for the fall semester. And neighbors have said they are worried that the area around the college has become the new epicenter of the highly contagious disease in Rhode Island.

“Please remember, there is a reason our neighbors were initially concerned with PC’s decision to resume in-person learning,” they wrote.

A spokesman for Providence College said the college understood and appreciated the concerns of the three legislators. The college is transitioning to full remote learning until at least Sept. 26. “We will re-evaluate the situation later this week and make a decision as to further classroom activity by weekend,” said Steve Maurano.

A summary of the situation at other colleges in Rhode Island:

Bryant University in Smithfield said a small number of its commuter students live in the neighborhood near Providence College that has the outbreak. The university said it is working with the students to make sure they have testing and will quarantine off-campus if necessary.


Bryant conducted 5,017 tests from Sept. 15 to 21 and found that eight people were infected. A university spokeswoman said there are 15 students currently quarantined on campus.

Since the campus reopened in August, there have been 25 COVID-19 cases, out of 24,612 tests. All students, faculty, and staff are tested at least weekly, with results reported in fewer than 24 hours. Those who are commuters or student-athletes, about 25 percent of the student population, are tested twice a week.

Brown University in Providence has had about 20 positive cases, according to the state Health Department. Brown is also conducting mandatory, routine tests of employees and students at least once a week. Three people have tested positive in the last week, out of 6,006 people tested, the university reported.

Rhode Island College in Providence has had about 10 cases, including seven students who tested positive for COVID-19 before the start of classes on Aug. 31. Three have tested positive after the start of the semester. The most recent case was reported Sept. 18, when one off-campus student tested positive. The college said that student is in isolation off campus and being provided with services.

Roger Williams University has had 16 positive cases, including two staff members, since the start of the school year, according to its COVID-19 data. (The Health Department has reported about 10 cases at the university.) There have been no new positive cases since Sept. 18, and its positivity rate is .05 percent.


The Community College of Rhode Island has had five positive cases so far this year. Johnson & Wales University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Salve Regina University have all had fewer than five positive cases this semester, according to the Health Department’s latest data.

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits. Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.