Over the past few days I have seen a number of my neighbors posting images on Facebook and other platforms of large gatherings of young people, likely college students, who were not wearing face masks, not socially distancing, and gathering in groups far larger than they should.
As we see cases of the coronavirus decreasing across the State, our City is still seeing high infection rates. We have to be prepared for when this virus returns again in the fall, and that is why I am going to be holding a meeting in the coming weeks with stakeholders across the City to ensure that we keep our college population safe and that of our residents.
As the Councilor for much of the Elmhurst neighborhood, I was shocked to see photos of our local college students – who were still in their rental units – disregarding the orders put forth by Governor Raimondo. Moreover, I was disappointed while driving down Eaton Street recently and seeing it covered in trash from what looked like a party environment. I am concerned that these gatherings are not just happening in Elmhurst, but could be happening across the City where our several universities reside. That is why as a City we need to have a proactive approach to dealing with our college population when they return, as some off-campus students will be returning as early as June 1.
We have empathy for all of our college students whose lives were transformed in a day – the rites of passage of graduating, spending that last night with their friends at their favorite college bar, the chance to have those last moments of freedom before they end this chapter of their lives were taken away. Yet, we were all young and many of us thought we were invincible. What we know of this virus is that no one is invincible – not even young healthy college kids.
Like them, our lives have been turned upside down. Those lucky enough to have a job and work from home are doing so, those of us with school-aged children are now working as teachers aids, all while balancing the stress that this pandemic has caused for each of us.
Our colleges are vital parts of our economy, but we have to be vigilant for them and for our residents. We have to listen to scientists that believe the virus will return again and we are still months and months away from a cure or a vaccine.
As our younger residents wind down their time here in Providence, I ask them to think about their neighbors, the families they are returning home to, their futures, and their health. We are not out of the woods yet, and as Robert Frost once wrote – We have miles to go before we sleep.
Let’s take care of each other and ourselves. We all play a part – young and old alike.
David A. Salvatore
Providence City Council
Councilman – Ward 14