As we look forward to the start of our spring semester, we know many of you have questions about our plans given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases associated with the Omicron variant.
The University is planning for in-person classes to begin January 24, with courses offered as scheduled in e-campus according to their Faculty Senate approved modality. Our start date, compared to other institutions in the region, provides some additional time to evaluate conditions in Rhode Island and in our University community as we continue to monitor cases with the Rhode Island Department of Health.
To continue to safeguard the health and well-being of our entire community and to ensure the best in-person experience possible for our students, here is what you need to know:
The University is requiring all eligible faculty, staff, and students to provide proof that they are vaccinated and have also received their vaccine booster shots.
COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots are widely available, safe, greatly limit the transmission of the virus, and have been shown to nearly eliminate the chance of death or serious illness related to a COVID-19 infection. Please upload your proof of vaccination to Health Services via the patient portal by the start of classes. Instructions are available here.
Those who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine booster will have 30 days after eligibility to upload proof. We will offer vaccination clinics on campus on January 25 and February 1. It is our strongest recommendation that you receive your booster prior to your arrival on campus to ensure you are fully protected, given the limited number of vaccine appointments available. A list of vaccination clinics is available here.
The University understands that completion of a booster may have been affected by many issues, including a COVID diagnosis and access; therefore no student, faculty, or staff member will be denied access to campus at the start of the spring semester. The University will, however, be tracking compliance and will reach out to those individuals who remain non-compliant and work with them to meet the COVID-19 booster requirement. Students who remain out of compliance may be referred to student conduct and be prohibited from registering for courses for the fall semester. Employees will be referred to Human Resources.
Returning to campus
All returning students, regardless of vaccination status, must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 point-of-origin test no more than 72 hours prior to their arrival on campus or back to the community. Rapid and at-home tests will be accepted but need to be no more than 48 hours from arrival. Students must upload their point-of-origin test results showing name and date, including an image of a home test with name and date, to Health Services via the patient portal. Instructions are available here.
Students unable to obtain a test in their home community and who live within driving distance may visit the URI Testing Center in the Memorial Union, which will reopen Tuesday, January 18. Please check the Health Services website for the current testing schedule.
The University will continue to enforce a universal indoor mask mandate for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors on campus, regardless of vaccination status. All faculty, staff, students, and visitors are required to universally wear a mask indoors in all URI buildings and vehicles, except when eating/drinking or in a private office space. We strongly recommend surgical or higher grade masks in all indoor campus spaces. Masks should be properly worn, well-fitting, and high quality.
Symptomatic and surveillance testing on campus
Given the increased demand for testing and longer wait times both for tests and test results due to the spread of the Omicron variant, students and employees who are symptomatic will be prioritized for testing to ensure that anyone who is infectious can quickly be identified and isolated under the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Vaccinated faculty, staff, and students may, but are not required to, participate in the COVID-19 surveillance testing program on campus.
Those students and employees who have received an approved COVID-19 vaccine exemption are required to test once a week. Testing on campus is recommended and is available at no cost; however, those who test at an outside site can upload their test results to the patient portal. Any student who does not comply with the mandatory COVID-19 testing requirement will be immediately referred to the Dean of Students office and given ONE official WARNING about their missed test. Students who receive a warning must complete a COVID-19 test within 24 hours. Testing will be conducted in the Memorial Union, Atrium 1 beginning Tuesday, January 18. Please visit the Health Services website for the most up-to-date surveillance testing schedule. Any employee who does not comply with mandatory testing will be contacted by Human Resources.
Symptomatic testing will continue to be available 7 days a week at URI Health Services for students and employees. Students and employees who are experiencing symptoms should NOT go to class/work until they have received a negative test; or if they test positive, after they have completed the required isolation period. Those who test positive for COVID-19 should follow updated isolation guidelines from the Rhode Island Department of Health and CDC. Please visit the Health Services website for the most up-to-date symptomatic testing schedule.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19
We want to remind community members that four ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are: Get vaccinated; wear a well-fitting mask indoors even if you are vaccinated; do not come to campus if you are ill or exhibiting any of the symptoms of COVID-19; and maintain distance whenever possible in social settings and limit your number of personal contacts.
Thank you to all those community members who have been vaccinated for your commitment to a healthy and safe URI community. We will continue to provide updates and adjust these requirements and guidelines as conditions change and as we see new guidance from the CDC and the Rhode Island Department of Health.
We look forward to welcoming you later this month and to enjoying a productive spring semester!