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:
Not all of the tests from last week had been processed at the time of last Friday’s update. The total number of asymptomatic positive results last week ended up at 15 out of a total of 7,416 tests, for a positivity rate of 0.20%. This week, as of this writing, we have 41 asymptomatic positives out of a total of 12,323 tests, for a positivity rate of 0.33%. Some of the individuals testing positive this past week had previously had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and, following CDC guidance, should not have been tested during that time period (they will be removed from testing for the remainder of the 90 days).
The increase in positive asymptomatic test results is consistent with what we expected for the beginning of the semester given the transmissibility of the Delta variant, our significant increase in the number of tests conducted, and our returning student population. Similar to last week, the positivity rate on campus remains very low, and there continues to be no indication of community transmission, clusters or outbreaks on campus. We all need to be vigilant about testing, wearing masks indoors, and otherwise following public health guidance. We have reminded students this week -- but this advice pertains to all members of the community -- to limit the size of indoor gatherings on and off campus to small groups to start the semester and avoid densely populated indoor spaces, especially bars, off campus recognizing that the near universal vaccination rate of the Brown community provides greater safety. As an additional reminder, all members of the community are required to wear masks indoors. There are only two exceptions to this requirement: (1) fully vaccinated instructors may choose to remove their masks when they are speaking during the course of instruction (though they are not required to do so), and (2) a small number of courses that have received explicit approval from the Provost’s Office to allow individual students or groups of students to be unmasked for instructional reasons (in performing arts or music, for example).
Individuals who are testing positive generally remain asymptomatic, and we have not seen any indications of serious illness and no hospitalizations. That is also what we expected given the effectiveness of vaccination against COVID-19, including the Delta variant, and the most important thing we can do for our own health and the health of others is to get vaccinated. If you have not already done so, please upload your vaccination card. Detailed instructions are available on the Verify Your Vaccination page on the Healthy Brown website:
As members of the community are aware, we opened two new testing sites on College Hill this week -- Alumnae Hall and Andrews House. We understand that the shift from OMAC to these new facilities represents a transition and we have received some questions and concerns regarding the new sites, particularly from a health and safety perspective. We paid very close attention to the air circulation in both facilities. In Alumnae Hall, we worked with a ventilation engineer and complied with all applicable standards. We installed a portable heat pump system that delivers the air flow and filtration recommended by the engineer and the system, which meets the standards of the CDC and other agencies for COVID-19 protocols, has MERV 13 filtration, which is our highest standard on-campus. Andrews House also has portable air filtration units with MERV 13 filters.
The new testing sites, given their scale, do have a different feeling than OMAC. The Andrews House testing site has higher ceilings than Alumnae and may feel more comfortable to some testing participants -- you can schedule your test for either test site or at One Davol Square in the Jewelry District. I would also stress the importance of arriving at the testing site during your designated testing time window. Tests are scheduled in those 15-minute windows to limit lines and waiting. Further information regarding the testing sites and operating hours can be found online at:
The percentage of total employees (faculty and staff) who have uploaded their vaccination cards is 95.5% (up from 95.0% last week). The percentage of the total student population is 97.9% (up from 97.4% last week).
At Brown, since launching our routine testing program in August 2020, we have conducted 475,024 asymptomatic tests to date. A total of 16,731 individuals have been tested in that timeframe, and the total number of positive test results is 660 (up 41 this week from a corrected total of 619 last week) -- a prevalence rate of 3.9%.
This update includes the information available as of Thursday evening, and the public dashboard will continue to be updated with the most current data as tests are processed and the results returned. As of this writing, here are highlights of the testing program over the last seven days, Thursday, Sept. 2, through Wednesday, Sept. 8:
-- There have been 41 positive asymptomatic test results: 1 from employees and 40 from students. As a reminder, our student testing program includes undergraduate, graduate and medical students.
-- Over the past week, the employee asymptomatic positivity rate was 0.03%, and the student asymptomatic positivity rate was 0.42%. The Rhode Island positivity rate during this same time period was 2.97%.
-- The average turnaround time for asymptomatic test results during this period was approximately 22 hours.
-- University Health Services (UHS) conducted 110 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 0.
-- 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.
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 ([email protected]), and faculty and staff can contact the employee testing support team ([email protected]).
Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy