February 26, 2021
Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey
Tags Undergraduates Grad and Medical Students Faculty and Staff

To the Brown Community: COVID-19 Testing Update: 02/18/21 - 02/24/21


Dear Brown Community Members,

Below, please find our weekly update on Brown’s testing program for COVID-19, with additional information and context to complement the data shared via our public dashboard:


Prior to reviewing the data from the past week, please read the following two updates with important information:

-- As you will see in the numbers reported below, we have seen a substantial number of positive test results this past week, primarily among undergraduate students living off-campus. We had seen a steady decline in positivity rates at Brown over the past month, and this week’s increase is quite concerning. While we do not at this time have a single explanation for the increase, nor is there a common relationship among all positive test results, we have received and are following up on reports of various social gatherings, travel and other instances where exposure to COVID-19 may have occurred. This week’s results offer an important reminder that we remain very much in the midst of a pandemic, and individual choices and behaviors have serious repercussions for the community at large — Brown, Providence and Rhode Island. While our primary approach to public health and campus safety continues to be educational, students who have been found responsible for serious violations of COVID-19 policies will continue to receive significant sanctions. These have included significant restrictions in terms of access to campus and/or immediate suspension and removal from campus. The most important ways for students to protect their own health and safety and that of others, as well as to enable the community to continue to return to more in-person activity, is to follow public health guidance at all times, including testing, mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing. Quarantining after travel and abiding by gathering size limits are also critical, as is being forthcoming with regard to your close contacts if you test positive for COVID-19. For additional details on the COVID-19 Student Conduct procedures in place for the current academic year, visit the Student Conduct and Community Standards website here:


-- With regard to mask wearing, as we noted in the guidance issued on Feb. 15, we have procured additional surgical masks and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved KN95 masks to distribute to the on-campus community. Kits containing these supplies will be available in the testing sites next week beginning on Monday, March 1. Please take one — and only one — kit as you check out from your testing appointment next week, and refer to the guidance communication linked below for information about how to ensure your mask fits well and when to double-mask:


At Brown, since launching our routine testing program for the fall term on Aug. 24, we have conducted 253,452 asymptomatic tests to date. A total of 10,416 individuals have been tested in that timeframe, and the total number of positive test results is 387 (up 44 this week from a total of 343 last week) — a prevalence rate of 3.6%.

Here are highlights of the testing program over the last seven days, Thursday, Feb. 18, through Wednesday, Feb. 24:

-- There have been 44 positive asymptomatic test results, 5 from employees, 15 from on-campus students and 24 from off-campus students. As a reminder, our student testing program includes undergraduate, graduate and medical students.

-- Over the past week, the employee asymptomatic positivity rate was 0.18%, and the student asymptomatic positivity rate was 0.33%. The Rhode Island positivity rate during this same time period was 2.45%.

-- The average turnaround time for asymptomatic test results during this period was 21 hours.

-- University Health Services conducted 40 symptomatic tests of students. Of these, between 5 and 10 were 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 number of such absences for the most recent full work week was 9.

-- It is important to note that with regard to all positive cases, we have taken action consistent 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.

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. Students can email studenttesting@brown.edu to make that change. Faculty and staff can email employeetestinguhr@brown.edu for guidance on how to increase their testing frequency.

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, studenttesting@brown.edu), and faculty and staff can contact the employee testing support team (401-368-4828, employeetestinguhr@brown.edu). 


Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy