May 18, 2020: COVID-19 Update

For the latest updates visit COVID-19 Updates.

Dear Members of the RISD Community,

Yesterday, the five working groups convened by the Office of the Provost submitted a draft report with findings and recommendations for how RISD might proceed in the fall amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This report is a study of the options ahead of us, and does not prescribe our actions or how we might implement them. Cabinet is analyzing the report internally before submitting a version to the State Department of Public Health and a fuller report to the Board of Trustees in advance of our board meeting next week. With feedback from both, we will have the information we need to define a plan and meet our commitment to announce its details by June 15. The report is well-researched and thorough, and as all good studies do, raises many new questions in addition to proposing solutions to other identified questions. I want to sincerely thank all of those who served on these working groups as well as the deans, faculty, department heads, graduate program directors, technicians, coordinators, staff and students who provided invaluable input.

Rhode Island continues to experience a declining positivity rate (rate of positive tests) and the infection rate within the state has remained under 10 percent for 10 straight days. The state also hit a daily record for total tests on Saturday with 4,070. While this data is promising for our region, we will continue to closely monitor the spread of the virus here and around the world as we make decisions for the future on behalf of both our local and global populations.

At the weekly meeting of the governor’s Saturday advisory group, we discussed Rhode Island’s plans for reinventing its economy as the state slowly begins to reopen. On Friday, Governor Raimondo announced that the state plans to allow summer camps and other youth summer programs to operate in person—under new, strict regulations—starting June 29. In addition, Rhode Island has authorized child care programs to reopen as of June 1, 2020 under new, emergency child care licensing regulations and has partnered with to increase childcare access, providing Rhode Islanders with 90 days of free, premium access to their website. I encourage those RISD employees that are currently facing the daily challenge of caring for young children while working remotely to consult the RI COVID Response website for more information as you make summer plans.

We are moving into a critical phase of planning over the next twelve weeks. Your role—as faculty, staff and students—will be essential in this phase as we work to implement the plan, whatever form it takes. The decisions we make in the near future will be difficult ones. There are no easy answers to the challenges we face and to the levels of uncertainty that will remain. We will all make sacrifices and at times will undoubtedly find ourselves in moments of frustration or anxiety over the changes that we must undertake. With so many questions and decisions ahead, we will best realize the future if we all commit to the health and wellbeing of both the individuals who define our institution as well as the institution itself. I continue to see the compassion, resilience and creativity that is so evident at RISD. I know that together we can achieve our priorities of protecting public health, academic integrity and long-term sustainability and emerge an even stronger institution—one that will help to shape the realities of our times.

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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