September 13, 2021
Richard M. Locke, Russell C. Carey and Eric Estes
Tags Undergraduates Grad and Medical Students Faculty and Staff

To the Brown Community: New temporary COVID-19 restrictions


Dear Brown Community Members,

As Brown returns to significant on-site operations, the campus is experiencing an increase in positive asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, primarily among undergraduate students. To reverse this trend and ensure that Brown can continue the positive gains we have made in re-establishing in-person campus activities, the University is implementing a set of new short-term COVID-19 restrictions.

Other colleges and universities that have implemented temporary restrictions after experiencing increases in positive COVID-19 cases have seen their positive cases decrease quickly. A shared sense of community has kept Brown’s campus safe for the past 18 months, and if we continue the strong cooperation among students, staff and faculty to ensure the well-being of our community, we expect to be able to lift the short-term restrictions soon. In this message, we address the following:

1.     The recent increase in positive asymptomatic COVID-19 tests

2.     New short-term restrictions to reduce COVID-19 spread


Brown had 82 confirmed positive COVID-19 asymptomatic tests in the past seven days. The increase in cases is primarily among asymptomatic undergraduate students, which is why the temporary requirements we are implementing focus on our undergraduate population. To date, very few Brown employees have tested positive, and there is no evidence of spread in classrooms.

The increase in positive asymptomatic test results is a reflection of the transmissibility of the Delta variant, our significant increase in the number of tests conducted at Brown, and an increase in our student population, some of whom have been engaging with other students in multiple smaller groups outside the classroom, especially indoors without masks. Individuals who are testing positive generally remain asymptomatic, and we have seen no indications of serious illness and no hospitalizations.


After achieving a decrease in positive tests, we expect to be able to loosen the new limitations among the following requirements:

  • Increased Undergraduate Testing. Undergraduate student testing frequency will increase to two times per week, which is once every four days (whether students are vaccinated or unvaccinated).
  • Indoor Masking (Including On and Off Campus for Students). All community members — regardless of vaccination status — are required to wear masks indoors, unless in a private, non-shared space or when actively eating. This requirement applies to students' off-campus residences, except when students are alone or with those they immediately live with (roommate, suitemate or apartment mates).
  • Pause on In-Person Dining. Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 14, Brown Dining Services will pause in-person dining in all campus eateries and transition to a "Grab and Go” program for all meal periods. There will be no in-person dining in Brown facilities, including outside the Blue Room in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center.
  • Limit of 5 for Undergraduate Social Gatherings. Social gatherings for undergraduate students are limited to no more than five people — whether indoors or outdoors — except in instances in which students live in housing with more than five other students (roommates, suitemates or apartment mates). This restriction applies on campus and off campus. Most of the transmission we have seen is due to close social gatherings in which masks are not worn.
  • Refrain from Small-Group “Hopping.” Students are expected to consistently engage with the same small social group, rather than attending or “hopping” among multiple small-group gatherings over the course of a day or short period of time. They should not go to indoor bars or restaurants.
  • No Size Limits on University Gatherings. University-hosted events of any size — which are structured, staffed and supervised by academic or administrative units — may continue to be held in compliance with mask protocols.
  • Outdoor Masking Required in Mixed Brown/Non-Brown Groups. Masks are required at large outdoor gatherings that include individuals from outside the Brown community (who may or may not be vaccinated), including outdoor athletic events and campus admission tours.
  • Modified Masking for Course Instruction. Fully vaccinated instructors may continue to choose to remove their masks when they are speaking during the course of instruction (though they are not required to do so). Because of no current evidence of COVID-19 spread in classes, this remains aligned with guidance provided to faculty and graduate students in the second half of August. Only a very limited number of instructors have received approval for students to be un-masked (performing arts courses, or music, for example).

Please visit the Campus Activity Status page of the Healthy Brown website for more information about these requirements and protocols, as well as complete details about existing requirements and guidance on vaccinations, visitors to campus, etc.


By now, we all understand that we will live with the uncertainty of the pandemic for some time to come, and we must be prepared to adjust our behaviors as public health conditions shift. The University will necessarily continue to increase and decrease Brown’s activity protocols to align our requirements for indoor and outdoor settings with expert public health and medical guidance. Our ongoing monitoring of the health environment balances factors that include the near-universal vaccination rates of our campus, results of COVID-19 testing, and science regarding the transmissibility of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Because of the vigilance of members of the community over the past 18 months, we have been able to relax some of the strict limitations put in place earlier in the pandemic. As we embark on the first full week of classes — while also completing the phased transition to on-site operations for all employees — we want to thank all students, staff and faculty for your ongoing commitment to meeting the requirements that have kept our community safe.


Richard M. Locke

Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy

Eric Estes
Vice President for Campus Life