Testing, Masking and Isolation FAQ

The following is a list of frequently asked questions from students and employees on Brown’s COVID-19 testing, masking and isolation requirements.

If you have additional questions, please contact the appropriate group listed on the Contact Information page.

 

COVID-19 Tests and Testing Requirements

Brown ended optional PCR testing for vaccinated community members on Friday, Jan. 14, and began on Monday, Jan. 17, to make rapid antigen test kits and packs of KN95 masks available to all Brown students, faculty (including postdocs) and staff. Employees and students with approved exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination continue to be required to PCR test twice a week as they have since August 2021.

Current testing requirements are as follows:

  • Asymptomatic testing is optional for undergraduate, graduate and medical students and faculty and staff who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Members of the community with approved exemptions from vaccination must test twice per week (every 4 days) and wear masks indoors.

Rapid antigen test kits and KN95 masks are available to Brown community members for pickup at the Alumnae Hall and (through Friday, April 1) One Davol Test Kit Pick-up Sites (you must have your Brown ID card with you; operating hours can be found on the pick-up sites page of the Healthy Brown website). The test kits are similar to the at-home tests and include simple instructions on how to test yourself as needed.

When should I use a rapid antigen test?

With testing now 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.

Yes. Please go to the ID office to receive a new Brown ID in order to pick up your COVID-19 test kit.

Brown began making available rapid antigen test kits and packs of KN95 masks on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Since June 2020, the University had previously maintained an on-campus routine testing program utilizing PCR testing for asymptomatic people, which had been largely optional for vaccinated community members since early October 2021. While that program has served the campus well, it is clear from 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 Brown’s.

The University made the transition to rapid antigen tests based on the advice of our public health and medical experts. In fact, the CDC recommends against doing routine, asymptomatic testing in a vaccinated population. Here are the salient considerations:

  • 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 us reduce the risk of serious illness on campus now.
  • Rapid antigen tests answer the most important question in the Omicron era: “Am I infectious now?” The rapid antigen tests are extremely sensitive in determining if you are currently infectious. They do so by detecting proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19. As reference, please see a recent study from the University of California San Francisco, citing a 95% accuracy rate in infectious individuals. 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.

It’s important to emphasize that 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.

For our very small unvaccinated population (those who have received exemptions from the vaccination requirement), we continue to require PCR testing twice per week as part of an integrated reporting program, as we have since August 2021. Continuing this limited PCR testing program offers a structured — and uninterrupted — means of identifying coronavirus in the unvaccinated, whether or not symptoms are present. This allows the University to monitor for testing compliance and detect COVID-19 in this population as early as possible before they are symptomatic. Continuing the PCR testing and compliance program that we have maintained for the unvaccinated since the summer is one of many measures we have taken to safeguard the health of our campus community and is based on the advice of our medical experts.

Yes. Members of the community must continue to report positive test results to University Health Services (students) and University Human Resources (faculty, staff and post-docs).

No, negative tests do not need to be reported to the University for any member of the Brown community. Health Services does not require proof of negative tests; please do not upload a negative result to your Patient Portal records.

Health and Wellness recommends that students consider communicating with their families regarding a positive COVID-19 result, as Health Services cannot share this information without a student's consent in most instances. Internally, we do not share COVID-19 status or other protected health information with non-clinical staff, but we communicate which students need to relocate to temporary housing in order to coordinate care, dining and deliveries.

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 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.

Yes, on day 5 you can take a rapid antigen test and if the result is negative and you have no symptoms or improving symptoms, you are released from isolation. The results do not need to be reported. If the day 5 test is positive, you must continue to isolate until you have a negative result on a rapid test AND have no or improving symptoms OR reach day 10 (whichever is sooner). Students should communicate a day 5 positive test to University Health Services. If you are able to end isolation on day 5, it is important to wear a well-fitting mask around others for 5 additional days, even at home.

With a rapid antigen test there is no need to pause or stop testing after a positive test result. A rapid antigen test should be used on day 5 after isolation. In the weeks to months following a positive test result, rapid antigen testing can be used as necessary if you are re-experiencing symptoms, concerned about a potential exposure, preparing to attend a large event, or for other reasons at your discretion.

Any positive test result needs to be reported to University Health Services (students) or University Human Resources (employees), and appropriate follow-up instructions will be given at that time.

Testing of any type is not a substitute for monitoring and paying attention to the onset and development of symptoms. All Brown students must stay home from class and/or other University events and functions if they are experiencing potential symptoms of COVID-19. Students should contact Health Services by calling 401-863-3953 to speak with a nurse, and Health Services will continue conducting symptomatic testing of student patients as they determine is clinically necessary.

Employees experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory illness must stay home and consult with their primary care provider. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 or is diagnosed with COVID-19 by their primary care provider, they must report their positive test result to University Human Resources (leave_admin@health.brown.edu) for follow-up instructions.

The final updates to the COVID-19 dashboard were posted after the final day of PCR testing (Jan. 14, 2022). 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 are collecting information on self-reported positive test results. The University will share information on positive test results and other campus public health conditions with the community through reinstated weekly Today@Brown COVID-19 updates. The first of these messages in advance of the spring semester was distributed Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. All messages will be posted to Brown’s COVID-19 Testing Data page.

The University will utilize a variety of rapid antigen tests depending on supply and availability. All rapid antigen tests being distributed are approved by the FDA for home use.

Members of the Brown community (undergraduate, graduate and medical students, and faculty, including post-docs, and staff)  can pick-up two (2) rapid antigen tests each week.

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. As a reminder, individuals planning to travel over the spring recess (March 26 - April 3) must take a rapid antigen test on the first day they return to campus (day 1) and a second test two days later (day 3).

Rapid antigen tests are becoming increasingly available from the federal government supply as well. Insurance companies are now reimbursing the costs of tests, and tests will be available in the coming weeks at pharmacies and other locations with no out-of-pocket expense. Tests can also be ordered directly at https://www.covidtests.gov/. We encourage all members of the community to take advantage of these resources. Information for employees regarding options through participating insurance carriers can be found on the University Human Resources Benefits page, and information for students participating in the student health insurance plan can be found on the United Healthcare Student Resources website (see the Jan. 25, 2022, updated titled “COVID-19 Home Test Member Reimbursement).

No. Given the need to supply enough tests to students and others, Brown will limit distribution to two tests per week for undergraduates, the amount needed to comply with the undergraduate testing requirement.

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.

The University has a sufficient supply of tests to meet community needs throughout the spring semester. Rapid antigen tests are becoming increasingly available from the federal government supply as well.

If a long-term visitor has an appointment which involves the issuance of a Brown ID, they can pick up tests and masks.

Over the course of the pandemic, the University community has carefully and diligently established a culture of caring and compliance with public health guidelines and policies. The near-universal vaccination rate is one among many examples of a shared sense of responsibility, as is our recent experience (since October 2021) with optional testing among students, faculty and staff. We are confident that this strong culture and individual responsibility for the health of ourselves and others will continue to be effective this semester as it has been in the past.

No. There is no cost to any individual getting tested, and no insurance is required. The University is paying all expenses related to providing rapid antigen tests (or PCR tests for unvaccinated members of the community who have received an exemption and must comply with routine testing requirements).

Students can contact the student testing support team (studenttesting@brown.edu), and faculty and staff can contact the employee testing support team (employeetestinguhr@brown.edu).

Masking

Indoor mask wearing will be optional for individuals who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines in most settings on campus with the following exceptions, where masking will continue to be required:

  • Health care facilities, including the Health & Wellness Center and the Test Kit Pick-up Sites;
  • The Warren Alpert Medical School;
  • Brown University Shuttles;
  • Classes where the instructor requires students to wear masks; and
  • Meetings where the host requires attendees to wear masks (for example, a staff member meeting with a student in their office may require the student to wear a mask during the meeting).
  • Health care facilities, including the Health & Wellness Center and the Test Kit Pick-up Sites;
  • The Warren Alpert Medical School;
  • Brown University Shuttles;
  • Classes where the instructor requires students to wear masks; and
  • Meetings where the host requires attendees to wear masks (for example, a staff member meeting with a student in their office may require the student to wear a mask during the meeting).

The packs being distributed on campus include ten (10) KN95 masks, which for most members of the community will last approximately a month. Masks can continue to be worn until they are soiled or wet, and masks can be alternated in a rotation.

Whenever possible and appropriate, we encourage members of the community to remind each other of healthy safe best practices, including mask-wearing compliance in settings where masks are required. Members of the community can report behaviors inconsistent with or in violation of the University’s COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy to a supervisor, UHR (employees), Campus Life (students) or other University official. Additionally, Brown’s Anonymous Reporting Hotline allows anonymous and confidential reporting on matters of concern online or by phone (877-318-9184); however, please note this service does not generate an immediate response.

The University’s mask-wearing requirements as indicated on the Campus Activity Status Page apply to everyone on campus.

All visitors and guests must comply with all University COVID-19 policies and guidelines, including mask wearing in settings where required. Host departments are responsible for their visitors and guests, including ensuring that they are aware of and comply with the University’s COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy and all relevant health and safety protocols.

Isolation Protocols

For Students

Brown has updated its isolation policy in light of recent guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The University now requires that community members who test positive for COVID-19 self-isolate for a period of five (5) days. The 5-day period applies regardless of previous infection, vaccination or booster status, and regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms.

  • To calculate your 5-day isolation period, day 0 is your first day of symptoms OR your asymptomatic positive test date (whichever is earlier).
  • Day 1 is the first full day after your symptoms develop, or a positive test result.
  • On day 5 you can take a rapid antigen test, and if the result is negative and you have no symptoms or improving symptoms, you are released from isolation after a full 5 days of isolation (i.e. at the start of day 6).
  • If the day 5 test is positive, you must continue to isolate until you have a negative result on a rapid test AND have no or improving symptoms OR reach day 10 (whichever is sooner).
  • If you are able to end isolation on day 5, it is important to wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask around others for 5 additional days, even at home.

Given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, we know that we will likely experience periods of significant test positivity in our student community during the spring semester. Our primary focus, especially during surges in cases, will be to support students who test positive and experience significant illness. We will also provide appropriate support to all students who report positive test results.

You must follow safety protocols to limit the spread within your building. Wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask and forego socializing with others outside of your shared room. Please sanitize frequently if touching door handles, elevator buttons, or stairwell banisters. If you test positive, you are allowed to travel outside of your building only to a designated on-campus pick-up point where students can retrieve grab-and-go meals and essential supplies. Do not attend in-person classes or utilize shared campus spaces like lounges, dining halls, libraries, and gyms.

Undergraduate students who test positive and live on campus in private bedrooms (i.e., a single room, a single within a suite, or as the sole occupant of a multiple-occupancy room) will isolate in their residence hall room, as will students who live in shared bedrooms whose roommates have also tested positive.

Students who test positive and share a bedroom with another student(s) who also tests positive will be expected to isolate in their residence hall room. 

For students who test positive and share a bedroom with a student who tests negative, designated isolation housing (i.e. dorm rooms set aside by the University or in a hotel) will be a primary option. Health Services will coordinate with Residential Life to make the appropriate housing arrangements. Alternatively, your roommate/s may opt to stay in place or with a friend or with family in the area while you isolate in place in your residence hall room.

Students who wish to leave campus to isolate will be able to do so only if they can use a private vehicle to leave campus and travel to their isolation location. Their isolation location must be within driving distance of campus. You will be responsible for determining your transport, meals, and care.

Students who live off campus and test positive will continue to be expected to isolate at their off-campus residence. In the event your symptoms worsen, contact the Department of Public Safety at 401-863-4111. Notify dispatch that you are having symptoms of COVID-19 and request EMS be sent to your location.

In the event of emergency or severe symptoms, contact the Department of Public Safety at 401-863-4111. Notify dispatch that you are having symptoms of COVID-19 and request EMS be sent to your location. For non-emergent health-related questions or concerns, please call Health Services at 401-863-3953 to speak with a nurse 24/7.

Residential Life, in collaboration with University Health Services (UHS), has a system in place to ensure students can request and receive meals, course materials, essential mail, pharmacy items, and essential room supplies like toilet paper and soap while in isolation. More information will be made available to students who report a positive test result.

We encourage students to be mindful of their prescription needs and to have a refill on hand if possible. University Health Services and the pharmacy will work with students in on-campus isolation to ensure they are able to receive prescriptions. Off campus students are responsible for acquiring their own prescriptions. Students should contact nursing at 401-863-3953 if they have questions.

You will be prompted to provide information about your dietary restrictions when your isolation begins to support your dietary needs.

Student Support Services deans are available to assist with a wide range of issues and concerns that might arise during a student’s time at Brown. Meetings can be held in-person or via Zoom. To schedule a meeting with a Student Support Dean, call 401-863-3145 or email studentsupport@brown.edu. Chaplains in the Office of Religious Life are also a support resource. Chaplains can be reached at 401-863-2344 or email ocrl@brown.edu.

Students can access 24/7 remote counseling services through Counseling and Psychological Services’ CAPS On-Demand by calling 401-863-3476 and following the prompts to speak with a therapist. CAPS therapists can also provide scheduled virtual appointments. Students should call the on-demand number to discuss their needs. Brown has also partnered with HealthiestYou, a robust teleclinical service which offers students remote consultation with clinicians and mental health providers licensed throughout the country. Care provided by HealthiestYou providers is unlimited and there is no additional cost to students. Students can access telehealth and telemental health care via the HealthiestYou app 24/7 from any location by downloading the HealthiestYou app and creating an account today.

The Administrator On Call (AOC) system provides a mechanism for Brown students to seek assistance in emergency situations after business hours. To reach the AOC, call 401-863-3322 and ask to speak to the Administrator On Call.

Isolation for Faculty and Staff

Employees who have contracted COVID-19 should contact University Human Resources Leave Administration at leave_admin@health.brown.edu to discuss time off and/or request a paid special leave as soon as possible. A symptomatic staff member may work remotely without taking sick or leave time if their manager approves. Detailed leave and time off processes for staff affected by COVID-19 are posted on the UHR webpage dedicated to the COVID-19 leave administration process.

You must continue to isolate until you have a negative result on a rapid test AND have no or improving symptoms OR reach day 10 (whichever is sooner). When you are able to end isolation before day 10, it is important to wear a well-fitting mask around others until day 10, even at home.

Visitors and Events

Any new or updated guidance will be communicated broadly to the campus and available on the Campus Activity Status page.

All visitors and guests must comply with all University COVID-19 policies and guidelines and the Visitor & Guests Policies and Protocols. As with other COVID-19 campus safety policies and guidance, these policies will be updated and adjusted as necessary in light of public health conditions and expert guidance.

Last updated Jan. 26, 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.