There have been 14 asymptomatic positive COVID-19 cases on campus during the week of Sept. 30 to Oct. 6, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard. Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 called this a “substantial decline” in COVID-19 cases and a “foundational element” of the recent reductions of COVID-19 restrictions on campus.
In an Oct. 6 email announcement, the University reduced testing frequency for vaccinated undergraduate students to once a week and made testing optional for vaccinated faculty, medical and graduate students. Unvaccinated employees and students must continue to get tested twice per week.
“We've seen really no evidence of any transmission between students and employees or (undergraduate) students to graduate students and medical students, because those numbers stay very low,” Carey said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages masking indoors in areas with high transmission. While this is “not the case on campus, (it) is the case in Rhode Island and we’re inextricably linked to the community around us,” Carey said. “We're monitoring everything every day and the sooner we can continue to remove restrictions to have a fully normal experience, we will,” he added.
The University has been taking a “more conservative approach” in terms of COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines than the CDC recommends, Carey said. The CDC currently does not require routine asymptomatic testing for vaccinated individuals. Though the University felt that “aligning with that is important,” required testing was not eliminated completely due to both the large proportion of students living in residence halls and the close quarters nature of off-campus housing, he said.
The remaining “most impactful restriction” is indoor masking for vaccinated individuals, Carey said. He added that “we're asking people to be patient and continue to (wear masks indoors) carefully and diligently, and we'll continue to monitor it, but we're not making any changes with that at this time.”
“Masking certainly helps with other illness prevention like (the) flu and cold,” he added, given the common sicknesses that spread on campus around this time. Carey also encouraged all students and faculty to receive a flu shot.
With Family Weekend beginning this Friday, the University will hold as many events as possible outdoors. Any indoor activity “would not have food or drink associated with it” and “would require masking, per regular campus COVID-19 guidelines,” Carey said.
The University has “encouraged” people coming for Family Weekend to be vaccinated and take a COVID-19 test before travel, given the large volume of people coming from many different locations, he said. But proof of vaccination is not required as the University cannot maintain “the same level of enforcement that we do with student vaccination requirements,” he added.
Visitors to campus for short term activities such as Family Weekend are not required to show proof of vaccination. Individuals visiting on a recurring basis for more than four days at a time must go through a specific COVID-19 attestation process with the University, according to Carey.
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.