High school students enrolled in Brown’s Pre-College summer programs began moving into their on-campus dorms this past weekend in preparation for the first day of classes June 21. Students in the program are required to partake in asymptomatic testing, and the University has worked to keep the program’s testing and dining services separate from on-campus University students.
Each of the two program sessions will include approximately 400 students on campus, with the first session running for two weeks and the second session for three weeks, University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald.
Pre-college students and all staff helping to run the program are required to participate in asymptomatic COVID-19 testing on campus twice per week regardless of vaccination status. The testing site reserved specifically for pre-college students and faculty is located in the Vartan Gregorian Quad complex, according to Clark.
The program is “highly structured and heavily chaperoned,” said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06. Students are “living together, eating together, their events are together,” and “a lot of effort has gone into really keeping that program as insulated as possible,” he added.
If a student tests positive during the program session, they will be required to isolate, contact trace and, “given the short nature of the program, it is likely that they would go home, or leave the campus,” Carey said. Pre-college students who do not follow testing and other COVID-19 protocols “will be dismissed and required to depart from campus within 36 hours of that decision,” according to the Pre-College program’s Health and Safety Protocols.
But, due to the “relatively recent development” of vaccinations for people ages 12 to 15 and the lack of universal availability for this age group, the University is not requiring pre-college students to be vaccinated, Carey said.
The percentage of documented COVID-19 vaccinations increased to 87.9 percent and 75.4 percent for on-campus University students and employees, respectively, during the week of June 10 to June 16, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Testing Update.
Including students and employees not on campus, 67 percent and 74.1 percent, respectively, have uploaded proof of their vaccinations with the University.
“We really do need to get to 90 percent among students and 90 percent among faculty and staff in order to feel comfortable making more changes” to campus safety guidelines, Carey said.
He added that “we'll get there when we get there, so I can't say exactly what that timeline is going to be like in terms of what will begin to change.” The University's two “highest priorities” will be in-person dining and further reduction of mask-wearing indoors.
The testing program also reported zero positive asymptomatic COVID-19 cases during the week of June 10 to June 16, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard.
But the state governor’s briefing this week confirmed that the COVID-19 Delta variant, a highly contagious strain first identified in India and currently the dominant strain in the United Kingdom, was present in at least four cases in Rhode Island. In India, the severity of current health conditions is especially attributed to the Delta variant, Carey said.
But “there’s been no connection that we've been told of with the Brown campus, and we've had no positive cases for almost a month,” Carey said. The presence of the Delta variant “underscores the continued importance of researching and identifying variants … and (is) further incentive for people to get fully vaccinated,” he said.
Dean of the School of Public Health Ashish Jha tweeted June 16 that “everyone needs both shots of the mRNA vaccines to be protected” from the Delta variant.
Key feature of the Delta variant is everyone needs both shots of the mRNA vaccines to be protected
But national vaccination data suggests about 10% of people have missed their 2nd shot
That's about 18 million people
And those 18M aren't spread evenly across the US
— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) June 17, 2021
“People who aren't vaccinated are vulnerable given the permutations that continue to exist around COVID-19,” Carey said.
Gabriella is the Senior Science & Research Editor of The Brown Daily Herald. She is a junior from San Francisco studying neuroscience on the premedical track.