May 15, 2020: COVID-19 Update

For the latest updates visit COVID-19 Updates.

Dear Members of the RISD Community,

Tomorrow marks the end of the first week of Phase I of Rhode Island’s incremental reopening plan. Governor Gina Raimondo announced this week that the state has added two additional testing locations for diagnostic testing and serology testing on randomly selected Rhode Islanders to help gauge the prevalence of COVID-19 in the state. Rhode Island had 12,016 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, after adding 181 new cases; 468 residents have died; and 271 people are in the hospital. In consultation with government officials, we are paying close attention to the impact on the spread of the virus that the state’s reopening has as we continue our dedicated planning efforts for what might lie ahead for the fall semester.

Under the leadership of Provost Kleinman, the five fall planning working groups will submit draft recommendations to the Cabinet next week. Cabinet will then work to finalize a plan—and contingency plans—for the fall and inform the community by the established June 15 deadline.

Part of this plan will be how and when we bring employees back on campus and to what extent. As you know, most RISD employees will continue to work remotely until at least June 30. We anticipate that many will continue to work remotely through the summer, but as we prepare for the possible arrival of students, if we move in that direction, we will begin to bring back employees in specific functions to support our preparations. Work is already underway to develop comprehensive policies, protocols and checklists for when employees re-enter campus, and we will begin to reach out to individual departments to assess their specific requirements. As I have said before, all planning prioritizes the safety and well-being of our community and is being regularly informed by outside experts and government representatives to make sure that we have the latest information, reputable data and health guidelines.

I know many of you are eager to have final decisions made as you need to make your own plans for things like summer childcare or potential travel back to RISD. Because the state of the pandemic changes so rapidly, even our best conceived plans can and likely will need to be altered as the situation evolves, which is why we are creating backup plans with built-in flexibility. We will continue to keep you informed as much as possible as we approach the June deadline.

As engaged citizens in the world, each of us in the RISD community bears the responsibility of contributing to the common good, and this means protecting the public health by following all health and safety guidelines. As states around the US and countries around the world begin to reopen, I urge each of you to proceed with caution when going into public places, and to understand and follow the regulations for your region, which include continuing to wear a mask, washing your hands frequently and avoiding gathering in large groups. The more we learn about the effects of this virus, the clearer it becomes that diligence is paramount.

Stay safe and enjoy your weekend.

Rosanne Somerson

Information & Support Resources

If you are a student in need of any kind of assistance, please contact For staff and faculty, our 24/7 confidential employee assistance program (EAP) is available to you, your dependents and members of your household through our partner, AllOne Health (1-800-451-1834).

The Center for Student Involvement is organizing many virtual gatherings each week. Find out what is planned and subscribe to Word Out to stay up-to-date on events and resources.

Everyone on campus must wear a face covering when in all RISD facilities, except when you are alone in private offices or rooms. If you do not have one, please contact Public Safety Deputy Chief Anna Brookes at

For the latest information from RISD on COVID-19 and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit

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