November 27, 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: 11/19 - 11/25


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:

While we continue to see people testing positive for the virus, the number of positive test results is considerably lower than each of the past two weeks. The total of 16 asymptomatic positives referenced below compares favorably to 37 last week, even with a similar number of tests conducted. This is a welcome trend that we can continue beyond the Thanksgiving break by remaining vigilant with mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and keeping our close contacts to as small a group as possible. 

As we informed testing program participants last Friday, the Broad Institute, which processes test samples for our routine testing program, experienced a slowdown late last week with regard to turnaround times. This was the result of an issue with one of its processing lines and a higher than normal test volume. We saw some delays in test results through the weekend, causing the longer average turnaround time in asymptomatic tests results for the week reported below. By the beginning of this week, those delays had been resolved; and over the past several days, we have returned to the usual turnaround of our tests in about 24 hours.

At Brown, since launching our routine testing program for the fall term on Aug. 24, we have conducted 132,402 asymptomatic tests to date. A total of 7,695 individuals have been tested in that timeframe, and the total number of positive test results is 132 (up 16 from last week’s update) — a prevalence rate of 1.7%.

Here are highlights of the testing program over the last seven days, Thursday, Nov. 19, through Wednesday, Nov. 25:

-- There have been 16 positive asymptomatic test results: 8 from employees, 2 from on-campus students and 6 from off-campus students. As a reminder, our student testing program includes undergraduate, graduate and medical students.

-- The employee asymptomatic positivity rate was 0.09%, and the student asymptomatic positivity rate was 0.09%. The Rhode Island positivity rate during this same time period was 6.74%.

-- The average turnaround time for asymptomatic test results during this period was 37 hours.

-- University Health Services conducted 30 symptomatic tests of students. Of these, fewer than 5 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 22.

-- 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 to make that change. Faculty and staff can email 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,, and faculty and staff can contact the employee testing support team (401-368-4828, 


Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President, Planning and Policy