Dear Brown Community Members,
In early August, we announced a number of campus public health policies and requirements in response to the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19. These included mask wearing requirements, phased return of employees who had been working remotely, and increased routine asymptomatic testing requirements of community members who are fully vaccinated. As indicated in that announcement, we have and will continue to adjust health protocols in support of our primary guiding principle to protect the health of Brown’s students and employees.
Now, more than two months later, given the diligence of the Brown community in following public health guidance, we are in a position to reduce the frequency of required asymptomatic testing. As members of the community are well aware, we did experience an increase in positive COVID-19 tests among undergraduate students associated with the beginning of the semester. That increase declined rapidly by mid-September and has stayed very low since — around a tenth of a percent or less. During this time, we never saw an increase or any significant levels of positivity among faculty, staff, graduate or medical students, despite conducting tens of thousands of tests.
Across all constituencies testing positive, the general experience has been mild, if any, symptoms and no severe illness or hospitalization. Even with the increase in undergraduate student positivity during the first half of September, there was no evidence of widespread community transmission or adverse health consequences caused by spread (for example, no concerns of transmission between undergraduates and graduate or medical students or from undergraduates to faculty and staff). The experience of the past two months at Brown is what we expect in a community where vaccination levels are nearly universal — low positivity rates, mild symptomatic cases, no severe illness or hospitalization, and no widespread community transmission of the virus.
Given the current public health conditions on campus, we believe it is prudent to return to lower levels of routine asymptomatic testing. Effective immediately the following testing requirements are in effect:
- Fully vaccinated employees — faculty and staff — and graduate and medical students: Testing is optional. All community members in these groups will remain enrolled in the testing program and may take a test if necessary for travel, concern about a potential exposure, or other reasons, but being enrolled does not mean a requirement to continue testing. No individual in these groups should take an optional test more than once a week, and because testing is fully optional, there is no longer a required testing frequency or cadence with which you must comply. If you wish to take an optional test, you do need to schedule an appointment through the Verily Healthy at School web application, same as you have done over the past weeks and months.
- Fully vaccinated undergraduate students: Testing is required once a week (every seven days). This is a return to the testing frequency prior to the temporary measures put in place in mid-September.
- Unvaccinated employees and students (those with approved exemptions and those who are in the process of getting vaccinated): Testing is required twice a week (every four days). This remains unchanged since early August.
With these updates to testing frequency and requirements, the University continues to go beyond the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends that at institutions of higher education where everyone is vaccinated (which is the case at Brown) people who are fully vaccinated do not need to undergo asymptomatic COVID-19 screening testing.
This guidance is based on findings that show vaccinated people face a very low risk of serious disease; that even if vaccinated individuals get infected, they’re less likely to spread it to others; and infected vaccinated individuals have mild or no symptoms — all of which is consistent with our experience on campus over the past several months. We will continue to require testing of vaccinated undergraduates for now given the nature of living in a residential community and the need to monitor prevalence in our largest communal population.
All mask wearing policies and protocols and other measures detailed on the Campus Activity Status page of the Healthy Brown website remain in effect for now. We will require community members who travel away from Providence over the Thanksgiving break to be tested upon their return, and we will provide further information about the requirements as we get closer to that time. If there are additional changes, in any direction, those will be communicated on the Campus Activity Status page and directly to the Brown community at that time.
As always, thank you for the care and vigilance you practice every day to help keep our community safe.
Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy