September 25, 2020
Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey
Tags Undergraduates Grad and Medical Students Faculty and Staff

To the Brown Community: Campus COVID-19 Testing Update (09/25)


Members of the Brown Community:

I am writing to provide an update regarding Brown’s testing program for COVID-19, with additional information and context to complement the data shared via our public dashboard:

Today’s summary update will cover progress to date since we launched fall testing on Aug. 24. Moving forward, we plan to provide shorter, weekly updates every Friday in Today@Brown, each of which will cover the previous week (Thursday through Wednesday). Our hope is that in tandem with the COVID-19 dashboard, these updates will provide useful information to the Brown community as we work together to keep the campus healthy and safe.

Overall, the first month of fall testing and the phased return to additional in-person activity has gone very well, which is a testament to the commitment of everyone on campus to mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing and getting tested once or twice a week. We are grateful for everything each of you are doing every day to protect both individual and community health.

It is important to emphasize, however, that our success to date is not a license to relax our collective or individual efforts. A clear lesson from the opening of the academic year across the country is that seemingly small choices by a few individuals can very quickly have negative impacts on hundreds and thousands of people. Some universities, including in Rhode Island, have had to shift to remote instruction or stay-at-home orders or other actions due to marked increases in positive test results. We expect more from each other – and especially for the staff who are caring for and feeding students and our neighbors on College Hill and throughout Providence – to minimize the chance of the same happening at Brown.

With those important thoughts in mind, here are highlights of the testing program to date and over the past week:

-- We have conducted a total of 33,683 asymptomatic tests from Aug. 24 through Sept 23. A total of 6,904 individuals have been tested in that timeframe, and the total number of positive cases is 16, for a prevalence rate of 0.2%.

-- Over the past seven days (Thursday, Sept. 17, through Wednesday, Sept. 23), there has been 1 positive asymptomatic test result: 0 employees, 1 on-campus student and 0 off-campus students (which can include undergraduate, graduate and/or medical students).

-- Over the past seven days, the employee asymptomatic positivity rate has been 0.0%, and the student asymptomatic positivity rate has been 0.02%. The Rhode Island positivity rate during this same time period has been 1.92%.

-- The average turnaround time for asymptomatic test results over the past seven days has been 25 hours.

-- Since Aug. 24, University Health Services has conducted 51 symptomatic tests of students (which can include undergraduate, graduate and medical students). Of these, less than five have been positive for COVID-19. Exact results for symptomatic students who are tested by UHS are not reported (and do not appear on the public dashboard) to protect the confidentiality of the small numbers of students who are tested. We will report on ranges and any concerns regarding trends in these weekly summaries.

-- The University does not directly test symptomatic employees, as they receive health care from their individual providers. We do monitor employee absences due to COVID-19 – which can be for a range of reasons, including care of a child or family member or quarantine due to a known exposure – and the current number of such absences is between 1 and 5.

-- It is important to note that with regard to all positive cases, we have taken action in line with our contact tracing protocols, COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy, isolation and quarantine procedures, and other measures outlined in Brown’s Plan for a Healthy and Safe 2020-21.

A few important health and safety reminders:

-- Wear masks, wash your hands frequently, maintain social distancing and be certain to continue getting your COVID-19 tests regularly.

-- Stay home from work, class and/or other University events and functions if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to COVID-19 (identified contact) or otherwise are feeling sick. If any of these apply, faculty and staff must inform UHR ( and students must contact University Health Services (401-863-3953).

-- Avoid commercial establishments except for essentials like takeout food, groceries and medicine. Do not go to bars or indoor dining.

-- Get outside as much as possible, exercise and enjoy the campus but do so safely with masks and social distancing (students in the second Quiet Period need to continue to follow all Quiet Period rules and guidance). Stay in your pods or household, minimize and track your contacts with others daily, and do not attend or host social gatherings of more than five people.

-- A special note to off-campus students: All of the University’s protocols and requirements ( apply to you the same as on-campus students, including limiting social gatherings to no more than five people. On many campuses, the spread of COVID-19 has been traced to off-campus parties and events. We have seen very little of that risky behavior at Brown, and we implore you to continue being safe. Over the coming weeks we anticipate that more activities and events will take place on campus, but that will not mean free rein to do what you want off campus. Our ability to carry out the semester safely, and especially to resume in-person undergraduate classes on Oct. 5, depends on the choices you make now and will continue to make in the coming weeks.

-- As a reminder, if you are currently being tested once a week and would like to change to twice a week, you are welcome to do so. Faculty and staff can email, and students can email to make that change.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. For questions or support regarding the testing program, students can contact the student testing support team (401-863-6500,, and faculty and staff can contact the employee testing support team (


Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy