PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — For emergency personnel and healthcare workers serving on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, increased exposure to the disease elevates the risk of infection not only for themselves, but for the family members they come home to after each shift.
To help reduce this risk of transmission between exposed workers and their households, Brown University has partnered with the State of Rhode Island to make several currently unoccupied student residence halls available to front-line personnel who need to isolate themselves from their families while they support the State’s COVID-19 response.
These workers — which include local healthcare providers, National Guard members and city and state emergency personnel — are being provided short-term housing in dorms on Brown’s Pembroke Campus. If additional need arises, the University is also prepared to provide space in Keeney Quad, one of Brown’s primary residences typically used for first-year students.
Both Pembroke Campus and Keeney Quad are currently vacant following the departure of students from campus in mid-March as part of Brown’s transition to remote learning to stem the spread of novel coronavirus.
Through the arrangement with the state, the University could provide housing to several hundred individuals, depending on need and how the temporary residents are spaced. The University has identified more than 700 beds based on one-person occupancy per room.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina M. Raimondo highlighted the partnership April 21 in a briefing on the state’s response to the pandemic. She thanked Brown for “for stepping up without hesitation in Rhode Island’s moment of need.” As of the time of the announcement, Brown had welcomed to campus 14 front-line personnel.
"I am tremendously grateful for Brown University's partnership and collaboration during this critical time," Raimondo said. "Providing these rooms to Rhode Island's frontline heroes at no charge is incredibly generous, and I cannot thank the university enough for their support."
Partnering with the state on this initiative provides the University with another opportunity to give back to community members playing critical roles in Rhode Island’s response to the current public health crisis, said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy at Brown.
Prior to this effort, the University marshaled resources to donate lab supplies and protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19, while Brown researchers continue to help track the spread of the disease, and medical students have graduated early to begin work in hospitals, among other efforts.
“With this partnership, Brown has an opportunity to help people who are helping everybody else,” Carey said. “It is our hope that providing these front-line personnel with a housing option that keeps their loved ones safer makes it a little bit easier for them to do the incredibly difficult job that has to be done.”
The State is working in conjunction with employers of front-line personnel — including the Lifespan and Care New England health systems— to identify the individuals who will occupy the residence halls. The National Guard is overseeing and providing all support required to manage these housing arrangements, including contracting with a third-party vendor to provide custodial services.
To maintain safety standards established by the State, all short-term campus residence hall occupants will adhere to social distancing and other health guidelines. Each occupant is being assigned to an individual room, with these assignments spaced out across floors to minimize the number of individuals using essential shared spaces. No individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be housed on campus.
This initiative joins earlier efforts by the University to support the local community during the global health crisis, including donating meals to Providence residents with limited food access, providing grants to local artists who have been impacted by the pandemic, and coordinating with charitable organizations, the city and the state to provide financial assistance to help residents hard hit by the pandemic.
"Our ongoing relationship and partnership with the city and state is critical from day to day — and even more so in a crisis like this,” Carey said. “The ability to continue to work together collaboratively continues to serve the broader community."
The National Guard is answering inquiries from front line personnel interested in utilizing residential housing at 401-265-6351 and 401-265-3301.