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The University of Rhode Island announced this week that students returning for the spring semester, as well as faculty and staff, will be required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot.

KINGSTON, R.I. — The University of Rhode Island will require students returning for the spring semester, as well as faculty and staff, to receive a COVID-19 booster shot.

URI made the announcement Monday.

Faculty, staff, and students must provide proof that they received their booster shots by the first day of classes, Jan. 24.

“The 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 chances of death or serious illness related to a COVID-19 infection,” URI said in its announcement. “The vaccines and the booster shots are a critical element in protecting public health locally and worldwide and will help the university return for a full in-person experience in the spring.”

Fall classes ended Dec. 13, and final exams concluded Tuesday. When students and faculty return from the mid-year break in January, the region could be contending with the fast-spreading omicron variant of COVID.

URI reports 95% of in-person students, faculty and non-classified staff are fully or partially vaccinated.

Among its 16,084 students, 5.2% or 831 are unvaccinated. Fifty-five are partially vaccinated.

The university said it has issued 972 exemptions, of which 948 are for religious reasons and 24 for medical reasons.

The school has had 1,750 positive COVID cases since Jan. 1, 2021.

URI required all its students to receive a vaccination before the start of the school year. Students had until Oct. 15 to show proof they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 or that they have an exemption.

The school in September extended the mandate to full and part-time faculty and non-classified staff. Due to the delta COVID variant’s spread, URI also instituted an indoor masking policy regardless of vaccination status, joining the state’s K-12 schools and other colleges.

Now, those groups must get a booster before returning for the spring semester.

Those who are not yet eligible to receive the booster will have 30 days after eligibility to upload proof.

Others who have approved exemptions must be tested twice weekly or risk disciplinary action such as suspension from the university.

Individuals are eligible for a booster six months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna two-shot series, or two months after the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

URI experienced a “near normal” fall, with more than 16,000 students by the time classes started on Sept. 8.

For Dec. 13-19, URI Health Services reported 101 unique positive tests among its students, faculty and staff. Of that number, 62 were students living off campus, 30 live on campus and nine were faculty or staff.

An additional two positives – students living off campus – were picked up using outside testing services.

Ninety are vaccinated, 11 unvaccinated and two partially vaccinated.

A total of 3,745 tests were administered for the Dec. 13-19 period. URI recorded a positivity rate of 3.07%.

URI isn’t the only university in the Ocean State to require boosters. Brown University students and employees must receive the booster shot by Jan. 26, and Salve Regina University students and staff by March 1.

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