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U. reinstates masking, other protocols, citing Delta variant concerns

Weeks after removing vaccinated community members from testing program, mask-wearing protocols, U. brings back restrictions

The University has reinstated its mask-wearing requirement for vaccinated individuals in indoor facilities on campus, increased its required COVID-19 testing frequency for on-campus community members and revised its initial plan for employees to return to on-campus operations, citing the rapid spread of the Delta variant and ensuing rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide, President Christina Paxson P’19 and Russell Carey '91 MA'06, executive vice president for planning and policy, announced in an Tuesday email to the Brown community.

The decision to return to its previous guidelines comes just weeks after the University’s July 7 announcement that fully vaccinated individuals would no longer have to wear masks while inside campus facilities, as well as its July 11 removal of vaccinated community members from its asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program on campus. The University had later reinstated its COVID-19 testing program July 27 for all on-campus community members — requiring testing at a frequency of once per week for unvaccinated individuals and once every two weeks for vaccinated individuals — also in response to the increasing prevalence of variants.

Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University will now require all individuals to wear masks in all public or shared indoor spaces on campus, regardless of vaccination status, except when actively eating. Moreover, the University will require community members to maintain at least three feet of distance between one another when unmasked, and for unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

In reference to the increase in testing frequency for on-campus individuals, “a more regular schedule of testing is a safety measure to help us continue to understand the prevalence of COVID-19 in the population and how it changes over time,” Paxson and Carey wrote. “This supports our planning efforts as we continue to monitor conditions on campus.”

In addition, the University announced revisions for its phased return to in-person work for employees who have been working remotely. While most departments initially planned to have their employees return to in-person work beginning Aug. 16, some employees’ return to campus will be delayed.

On Aug. 16, “employees and offices actively engaged in supporting the student experience,” including through directing move-in, orientation and pre-season athletic programs, will still be expected to return to campus, the email read. On Sept. 1, “faculty and academic staff actively engaged in academic advising and support for new students during orientation,” will be expected to return to campus, followed by those involved in teaching on Sept. 8 and all other employees and administrative staff on Sept. 13.

Still, given high vaccination rates on campus, the University currently intends to move forward with its reopening plans for the fall semester, Paxson and Carey wrote, commending community members’ efforts that have allowed the University to begin its return to normalcy for the 2021-22 academic year.

“It remains clear that vaccination against COVID-19 remains highly effective, including against the Delta variant, and the most important thing we can do for our own health and the health of others is to get vaccinated,” they wrote. 

“Over the course of the pandemic Brown community members have time and again taken collective and individual action to help keep the campus and our surrounding Providence community healthy and safe,” they added. “We are confident that with the steps outlined above, and our personal commitment to practicing healthy behaviors to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, we can work together to overcome the Delta variant, as we have so many other challenges over the past year and a half.”



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