June 17, 2020
Provost Richard M. Locke and Executive VP Barbara Chernow
Tags Undergraduates Grad and Medical Students Faculty and Staff

To Brown Community: COVID-19 Testing Pilot for Essential Employees (06/17)


Dear Members of the Brown Community,

We hope that you and your loved ones continue to remain safe and healthy. As you know, the University has initiated a gradual and controlled resumption of some on-campus activities this summer in accordance with the operations permitted under Governor Gina Raimondo’s multi-phase Reopening Rhode Island plan, and with the understanding that any plan is subject to change depending on the course of the pandemic.

As we have shared previously, the University is committed to the guiding principle of protecting the health of our students and employees this summer to the best extent practicable and in planning for the fall semester and beyond. Critical to maintaining a healthy and safe community during the pandemic is identifying and stopping the spread of novel coronavirus at the earliest possible stage. Routine testing — which tests individuals regardless of symptoms to monitor for the virus’s spread — will be essential to our success.

To do this most effectively, the University has contracted with Verily, a life sciences and health care company, to perform routine testing starting with a pilot this summer that will test all essential on-site and essential-special graduate students, faculty and staff. The pilot will test individuals at intervals with the goals of:

  • determining the incidence of COVID-19 in the population returning to campus for work;
  • identifying the rate of those who test positive, even without symptoms (asymptomatic positives);
  • and estimating a proportion who may test positive positive over time.

We anticipate that what we learn from this summer pilot will provide essential information that helps to inform our public health testing strategy for the coming academic year. The pilot will begin in phases and the first cohort of employees will be contacted directly this week.

Each day, employees in the pilot will conduct a web-based screening survey to record health conditions. After completing the survey, they will receive guidance to report to work on campus or instructions to remain at home and contact University Human Resources at 401-441-4765 or leave_admin@brown.edu; and a prompt to register for testing when needed. All tests will take place at the University’s testing site located at 205 Meeting Street. Employees will be asked to perform a self-administered nasal swab — the most reliable, accurate and non-invasive method available currently — and clinical personnel will guide participants as needed from a safe distance. All expenses related to testing will be covered by the University.

The summer pilot will be mandatory for all essential on-site and essential-special graduate students, faculty and staff. It will include initial baseline testing of all employees and then follow-up routine random sampling. After the pilot is initiated with employees in the first cohort, further instructions on how to enroll in the program will be forthcoming to additional employees approved to resume work on campus.

Brown has updated the University’s COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policy to  outline the parameters for mandatory COVID-19 testing. The University remains committed to protecting the privacy of individuals in accordance with applicable law.

Should an employee test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, a physician associated with Verily will contact them, and University Human Resources at Brown will be notified. The results will also be reported to local public health authorities as required by law to help track community spread. And the web-based tool used by all participants will provide specific instructions to help determine the next steps regarding care and return to work on campus.

You can find more information about the testing pilot in the FAQ. Additional questions may be directed to universityhr@brown.edu.

We are focused on developing sound, evidence-based public health plans for the gradual resumption of activities, and we are committed to using the findings of this testing pilot to refine approaches, as needed, for the coming year. Thank you again for your continued commitment to Brown and to the health and safety of our community as we continue to navigate this global pandemic together.


Richard M. Locke, Provost
Barbara Chernow, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration