Testing and Isolation

Brown’s testing program for COVID-19 uses rapid antigen tests as part of a comprehensive strategy for supporting community health.

The University makes rapid antigen test kits and packs of KN95 masks available to all Brown students, faculty (including postdocs) and staff as part of its health and safety protocols.

Employees and students with approved exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination continue to be required to PCR test twice a week.

Collecting information on positive test results remains an important part of Brown’s COVID-19 response. The use of antigen tests for routine testing of vaccinated members of the community reflects emerging data that PCR tests are no longer the best available tool to reduce the risk of poor health outcomes from COVID-19 in a largely vaccinated and boosted population such as the Brown campus (which has achieved near-universal vaccination rates).

Since June 2020, the University had maintained an on-campus routine testing program utilizing PCR testing for asymptomatic people, which became largely optional for vaccinated community members in early October 2021. While that program served the campus well rapid antigen tests answer the most important question in the Omicron era: “Am I infectious now?” They do so by detecting proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19. While no test is perfect, a positive rapid test result means that the person is very likely infectious at that point and must take steps to isolate themselves from others.

PCR tests are designed to detect fragments of viral RNA, and while they are highly effective at doing so, they cannot determine who is actively infected and contagious; who might have transient colonization that never turns into an infection; or who might have been infected and recovered weeks ago. A PCR positive test result for any member of our community on any given date could potentially mean they were infectious many weeks or even months earlier, and does little to help the University reduce the risk of serious illness on campus in a current moment.

Testing Updates and Requirements

  • Testing is mandatory for all unvaccinated employees and students (those with approved exemptions and those who are in the process of getting vaccinated) from vaccination and optional for all other employees, undergraduate, graduate and medical students who are on campus. Testing requirements and frequency are detailed on the Testing and Tracing page.
  • Recommended testing with symptoms or exposure: With testing being optional for everyone who is up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, we encourage Brown community members to take a test:
    • when they have symptoms;
    • when they are in an elevated risk situation, such as due to recent travel, gatherings, or a known exposure to someone who has tested positive for Covid; or
    • when they plan to be in a situation that may expose others, such as before traveling, attending large gatherings, or interacting with those who are at elevated risk of severe Covid.
  • Rapid antigen test kits and KN95 mask are available to Brown community members (undergraduate, graduate and medical students, and faculty and staff) for pickup at the Alumnae Hall and (through Friday, April 1) One Davol Test Kit Pickup Sites (you must have your Brown ID card with you; operating hours can be found on the pick-up sites page of Healthy Brown).
  • Reporting requirements for all students: Undergraduate, graduate and medical students are required to report any positive test result to University Health Services via the Health and Wellness Patient Portal using your Brown username and password. Follow-up instructions from University Health Services will be provided to students. Those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory illness should stay home from class and other activities and contact University Health Services as they normally do, and University Health Services will continue conducting symptomatic testing of student patients as they determine is clinically necessary.      
  • Reporting requirements for all employees (faculty, staff, and post-docs): Employees with any positive test result are advised to contact their primary care provider and must report their positive test result to University Human Resources for follow-up instructions (send those results or a picture of your at-home test to leave_admin@health.brown.edu). Employees experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory illness must stay home and consult with their primary care provider.       
  • Testing of any type is not a substitute for monitoring and paying attention to the onset and development of symptoms. All Brown community members must stay home from work, class and/or other University events and functions if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • The COVID-19 dashboard stopped being updated after the final day of PCR testing (Jan. 14). Because of the decreased efficacy of the dashboard as a measure of COVID-19 prevalence on campus with shifts in testing and infections, University Health Services and University Human Resources will be collecting information on self-reported positive test results, and the University will share that and other campus public health conditions information with the community through reinstated weekly Today@Brown COVID-19 updates.

Required testing after Spring Break 2022 Travel

Individuals planning to travel over the spring recess (March 26 - April 3) must take a rapid antigen test on the first day you return to campus (day 1) and a second test two days later (day 3). During the weeks of March 21 and March 28, community members can pick-up four (4) tests each week. This is to ensure that individuals have access to sufficient tests during and after spring recess. See the Healthy Brown website for test pick-up sites and hours.

Last updated March 18, 2022. Information on this page may be updated as the University’s planning evolves and/or public health guidance prompts a shift in Brown’s operations and protocols.