October 9, 2020
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: 10/01 - 10/07


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:


Since launching our routine testing program for the fall term on Aug. 24, we have conducted 54,983 asymptomatic tests to date. A total of 7,256 individuals have been tested in that timeframe, and the total number of positive test results is 26 (up six from last week’s update, but see below for important context regarding the total number) — a prevalence rate of 0.4%.

The community may benefit from some additional context regarding the total number of positive cases, because some most likely do not represent true positive results for COVID-19. Among that number are three positive tests results for individuals who previously had COVID-19. Once someone has had COVID-19, they can continue to shed virus for up to 90 days, and therefore test positive, but not be infectious. Those individuals are removed from the routine testing program once we are aware of their status. To that end, we encourage any students or employees who have tested positive outside of our routine testing program to notify us (see contact information below) of their positive result so we can ensure they are temporarily removed from the testing program.

In addition, 10 of the total number of positive test results are likely, based on additional and specific testing, the result of research laboratory derived contamination affecting the test results. At Brown and other research universities, this is most likely to occur with individuals who are conducting research related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The materials used in such research are not live virus and pose no health or safety risk but can, if present in the nasal passage, register as a positive result in the highly sensitive PCR test that we are using in our routine testing program. We have recently issued guidance to laboratories conducting this research to reduce the likelihood of research laboratory derived contamination. While we have included all 13 of these second positive results and research-related contamination cases in our total number of positive results in the campus dashboard, we wanted to provide this additional information and context because the actual number of true positive results for COVID-19 is less than these cases would make it appear.

Here are highlights of the testing program over the last seven days, Thursday, Oct. 1, through Wednesday, Oct. 7:

-- There have been 6 positive asymptomatic test results: 2 employees, 0 on-campus students and 4 off-campus students. As a reminder, our student testing program includes undergraduate, graduate and medical students.

-- The employee asymptomatic positivity rate has been 0.07%, and the student asymptomatic positivity rate has been 0.06%. The Rhode Island positivity rate during this same time period has been 1.83%.

-- The average turnaround time for asymptomatic test results during this period has been 25 hours.

-- University Health Services conducted 26 symptomatic tests of students. Of these, less than five 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 current number of such absences is 7.

-- 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.

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 employeetestinguhr@brown.edu, and students can email studenttesting@brown.edu 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, studenttesting@brown.edu), and faculty and staff can contact the employee testing support team (employeetestinguhr@brown.edu).


Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy