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Brown sees peak in asymptomatic, positive COVID-19 cases since Aug. 2020

Brown sees peak in asymptomatic, positive COVID-19 cases since Aug. 2020

The University reported 70 positive COVID-19 cases through the asymptomatic testing program from Sept. 5 to Sept. 11, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard  as of Sunday afternoon.

While the number of positive cases is a “significant increase,” “we’ve done a lot more tests” during this last week compared to the summer 2021 semester, said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 in an interview with The Herald Sept. 9. “We expect more cases when we do more tests,” he added.

The 70 positive cases came from a total of 13,067 tests conducted through the testing program during this period. Though the weekly number of tests conducted is comparable to that of spring 2021, Carey noted differences in this semester that contribute to a higher number of cases: the return of students from all graduation years, closer proximity of students and greater transmissibility of the Delta variant. These numbers are what “we expected with a highly vaccinated population,” Carey said.

“We’re seeing a microcosm on campus of what’s happening not just in Rhode Island but nationally,” Carey added. “Most of the country is in a high transmission category and that’s absolutely because of the Delta variant.”

“We’ve not seen any evidence of any serious illness … among these positives” within the Brown community, Carey said. There have been no hospitalizations due to COVID-19 or indication of a widespread outbreak on campus, he added.

Even with the increased numbers of positive-testing students, the University is “not anywhere near isolation capacity,” Carey said. The University has secured approximately 150 to 160 beds at the Courtyard by Marriott Providence Downtown hotel for student isolation housing and is at around 20 to 25% capacity as of last Thursday. Students who test positive are required to live in isolation housing for 10 days after the date of the positive test or the start of symptoms. Positive-testing students who live in a nearby state or off-campus may be approved to self-isolate instead of moving to isolation housing, according to Carey and a Sept. 9 email from the Health and Wellness Team at Brown.

Vaccinated individuals who have been exposed to someone who tested positive and were alerted by Health Services no longer need to quarantine but must get tested on the fourth day after exposure. But unvaccinated individuals who are exposed and test negative on day one and five will need to quarantine for seven days, according to the email. Carey defined exposure as “15 minutes or more in close proximity, less than six feet without a mask.”

The University also opened two new COVID-19 testing sites Sept. 7 in place of the site previously located at the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center, The Herald previously reported. The new sites are located at the lower level of Alumnae Hall and Andrews House. The testing site at One Davol Square in the Jewelry District is still operating.

Vaccinated individuals are required to get tested one time per week, while unvaccinated individuals are required to get tested two times per week or every four days. It is a “violation of the campus safety policy” to miss testing appointments, Carey said.

“I think people are taking it seriously and will continue to do so, but we are monitoring,” he said. “There will be follow-ups if people fall off of the cadence that we’ve asked them to stick to.”

The University has also initiated a mask mandate indoors regardless of vaccination status, “unless in a private, non-shared space or when actively eating,” according to a Sept. 4 email from the Office of Residential Life. Room occupancy should not exceed “three times the assigned occupancy.”

“We just want to support people in making good choices” to reduce risks of transmitting or contracting COVID-19,” Carey said.


Gabriella Vulakh

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. 

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