Testing and Tracing

Effective Jan. 17, 2022, Brown’s testing program for COVID-19 will use rapid antigen tests as part of a comprehensive strategy for supporting community health.

The University is making rapid antigen test kits and packs of KN95 masks available to all Brown students, faculty (including postdocs) and staff for the opening of the Spring 2022 semester as part of its health and safety protocols. Friday, Jan. 14, is the final day any vaccinated asymptomatic community member can schedule an optional PCR test through Verily.

Employees and students with approved exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination will continue to be required to PCR test twice a week as they currently do, and they will receive further direct communication later this 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

  • Spring 2022 semester pre-return testing requirements for undergraduates: One concerning pattern Brown has seen during the pandemic is increased positive test results, especially among undergraduates, upon return to campus after a break. To reduce the health risks and academic disruptions posed by such increases, Brown is requiring that all undergraduate students take a COVID-19 test at home or wherever they may be two (2) days prior to returning to campus after the Winter Break.

    Testing is widely available and free in most areas. Students who may need assistance in obtaining a test can contact Student Support Services at [email protected] (but must do so well in advance of their scheduled return). Students who receive a negative result may return to campus as scheduled; students who receive a positive result must isolate at home and contact University Health Services before being authorized to return to campus.

  • Jan. 14 final date of optional PCR testing: The final day any vaccinated asymptomatic community member can schedule an optional PCR test through Verily is Jan. 14.
  • Jan. 17 start date of rapid antigen testing and KN95 mask distribution: Starting on Monday, Jan. 17, rapid antigen test kits and KN95 masks will be available to Brown community members (undergraduate, graduate and medical students, and faculty and staff) for pickup at the Alumnae Hall and 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). The test kits are similar to the at-home tests many members of the Brown community have likely used in recent weeks and include simple instructions on how to test yourself as needed.

    Initial distribution will be determined based on supply, and we will send an additional notice over the weekend to advise community members regarding how many tests they can pick up starting Monday. We will monitor conditions and distribute additional tests if necessary.

  • Re-entry and weekly testing requirement for undergraduates: Undergraduate students are required to take two rapid antigen tests upon return to campus (re-entry test requirement) and then to take two rapid antigen tests every week (weekly testing requirement) until health conditions reflect it is no longer necessary.
    • Re-entry test requirement: Take one test on the first day you return to campus or the first day tests are available to you if you are already here (day 1) and the second test two days later (day 3).
    • Weekly testing requirement: Take two rapid antigen tests each week, at least 24 hours apart. Undergraduates will be reminded to take their tests weekly and to report that they have done so.
    • As a reminder, undergraduate students are also required to take a COVID-19 test at home or wherever they may be two (2) days prior to returning to campus. Students who receive a negative result may return to campus as scheduled; students who receive a positive result must isolate at home and upload positive test results to the Health and Wellness Patient Portal using your Brown username and password. Students will be notified with authorization to return to campus.
  • 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.

  • Faculty, staff, graduate students and medical students: As has been the case with PCR testing since October, asymptomatic testing remains optional for fully vaccinated graduate and medical students and faculty and staff. We encourage you to pick up rapid antigen test kits and KN95 masks starting Monday, and use an antigen test if you are experiencing symptoms, concerned about a potential exposure, preparing to attend a large event, or for other reasons at your discretion.

    Faculty and staff 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 [email protected]). 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 will stop 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 [email protected] COVID-19 updates.

Spring 2022 Semester Pre-Return Testing Requirements

One concerning pattern Brown has seen during the pandemic is increased positive test results, especially among undergraduates, upon return to campus after a break. To reduce the health risks and academic disruptions posed by such increases, Brown is requiring that all undergraduate students take a COVID-19 test at home or wherever they may be two (2) days prior to returning to campus after the Winter Break. Testing is widely available and free in most areas. Students who may need assistance in obtaining a test can contact Student Support Services at [email protected] (but must do so well in advance of their scheduled return). Students who receive a negative result may return to campus as scheduled; students who receive a positive result must isolate at home and contact University Health Services before being authorized to return to campus.

Last updated Jan. 12, 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.