Brown transitioned to self-administered COVID-19 testing at One Davol Square today, according to a Nov. 4 email announcement. The new method of testing allows students and faculty to conduct their own PCR test with staff on site to facilitate the process.
“We’re continuing to adapt and look for ways to make (testing) effective but easy for participants, and use less resources because testing is expensive,” said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06. “(Cost) is not the first or controlling driver, but if we can continue to reduce those costs and still meet our public health expectations, then we’re going to continue to look for ways to do that.”
The One Davol Square location was chosen as the site for the pilot program since there is a smaller volume of people who use the location for testing. Currently about 25% of students and faculty are participating in optional testing. The University will monitor how this new testing process goes before expanding the model to other testing locations.
Self-administered testing is also being used at other universities such as Harvard and Tufts, as well as in other countries around the world. At Harvard, “you pick up a kit, do everything yourself and drop it in a box,” Carey said. Tufts has created their own software program where people are able to scan their phone and print a label. The label is then attached to the self-administered COVID-19 test and then dropped in a box for processing, according to Carey.
Brown is continuing to work with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to process COVID-19 tests. The Broad Institute’s testing is categorized and approved under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization mechanism. Previously, their EUA was specifically for monitored or supervised COVID-19 tests, but recently they were approved to offer self-administered testing. This is why the University has decided to try this new model, according to Carey.
During the week of Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, four people tested positive for COVID-19 through the optional asymptomatic testing program, according to the Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard. This continues to be a “very consistent, low level of positivity … (expected) in a highly vaccinated population,” Carey said.
The public health conditions on campus, “are extraordinarily good and reflective of the high vaccination levels that Brown community members have attained, and that allows for loosening of restrictions in a safe manner,” he added.
The University will reopen the Andrews House testing site the week after Thanksgiving, when undergraduate students will be required to test on the first and fifth day after their return to campus. During this period, supervised testing will resume to facilitate the large amount of tests that will need to be conducted, according to Carey.
Many students and faculty are also eligible to get COVID-19 booster shots. The eligibility for boosters is not as strict as the initial vaccine roll out was in the spring, according to Carey.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises individuals to wait at least two months after their initial Johnson & Johnson shot or at least six months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccination series to recieve a booster.
Carey added that it is too early to know if boosters will be added to University vaccination requirements, or if an on-campus booster clinic will be offered in the future.
The next “logical” restriction to be lifted is the indoor masking mandate for vaccinated individuals. “It’s an ongoing conversation and discussion, but there’s no plan or timeline at this point,” 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.