PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Given new COVID-19 guidance from public health agencies, general concern about the Delta variant, and the current level of virus transmission in Rhode Island, Brown University has updated a series of health and safety protocols in advance of its Fall 2021 semester.
The University has reinstituted an indoor mask-wearing requirement for all individuals regardless of vaccination status, will increase routine COVID-19 testing frequency for community members on campus, and is implementing a phased schedule for the return of employees who have been working remotely.
Brown President Christina H. Paxson and Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell C. Carey outlined the updates in a Tuesday, Aug. 3, letter to the Brown campus.
“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 wrote. “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.”
Previously, the University had expected most employees working remotely to return to campus by Monday, Aug. 16, with routine COVID-19 testing requirements eliminated for vaccinated individuals. To facilitate a more gradual increase in the campus population, Brown will now stagger remote employee returns through Sept. 13 and increase the frequencies on which community members complete routine COVID-19 testing — once per week for vaccinated individuals and twice per week for those with vaccine requirement exemptions.
Even with the policy updates in the context of the Delta variant, Paxson and Carey said the University’s plans for generally normal operations for the fall semester will continue — the campus vaccination rate already exceeds 90%, and Brown has seen zero positive tests through its routing COVID-19 testing program over the last month.
The full text of the letter is included below and on the Healthy Brown website.
Important Updated Campus COVID-19 Guidance and Requirements
Dear Brown Community Members,
From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to adjust health protocols in support of our primary guiding principle to protect the health of Brown’s students and employees. In the context of understandably concerning information regarding the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is more highly transmissible than prior variants, we are writing with important campus updates regarding: (1) new mask wearing requirements, (2) revised and phased return to on-site work plans for employees who have been working remotely, and (3) increased frequency of routine asymptomatic testing requirements. Please read this information carefully as it has immediate implications for all members of the Brown community.
Due to our high rate of vaccination on campus, our plans for generally normal operations for the fall semester will continue as previously announced, with some modifications detailed below. 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. Brown community members have done so readily in response to the vaccination requirements we announced earlier this year, and as a result, the campus community is highly vaccinated.
However, we know students, faculty and staff have concerns regarding the return to campus and increased in-person activities over the coming weeks, especially in light of media reports regarding the Delta variant — many of which unfortunately have conflicting, contradictory and inaccurate information. We continue to monitor expert public health guidance and conditions on campus, consult with global experts regarding COVID-19, and make adjustments as needed in response to public health conditions.
As always, please check the Healthy Brown website if you have questions about the prevailing policies.
1. New Mask Wearing Requirements
Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidance for fully vaccinated individuals due to the Delta variant of COVID-19. The CDC recommends that everyone, including fully vaccinated individuals, wear masks indoors in public spaces when local conditions are at a “substantial” or “high” level of viral transmission. Rhode Island is currently at a “high” level of transmission.
Accordingly, effective immediately we are reinstituting the requirement that all individuals – regardless of vaccination status – must wear masks indoors, unless in a private, non-shared space (e.g., office or dorm room) or when actively eating. In addition, social distancing of at least three feet must be maintained when unmasked. Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear a mask outdoors when social distancing of at least three feet is not possible.
We will provide guidance regarding mask wearing by instructors in classrooms as we get closer to the first day of classes on September 8.
2. Revised and Phased Return to On-site Work for Employees Working Remotely
We had previously communicated the plan to return to significant on-site operations on August 16, with the goal of nearly all faculty, staff and students returning to campus in some capacity by the beginning of the fall semester. Most departments had planned to return employees who have been working remotely by Monday, August 16. In order to facilitate a more gradual increase in the campus population, the following phased schedule will be followed:
- Monday, August 16: Employees and offices actively engaged in supporting the student experience, student move-in, peer leader training, pre-orientation and orientation programs, varsity athletic pre-season activities, etc. will be expected to return in-person by this date.
- Wednesday, September 1: Faculty and academic staff actively engaged in academic advising and support for new students during orientation (Advising Day is Friday, September 3, 2021) will be expected to return in-person by this date.
- Wednesday, September 8: Faculty and academic staff actively engaged in teaching will be expected to return in-person by this date (first day of classes).
- Monday, September 13: All other employees and administrative offices will be expected to return in-person by this date.
We understand these are broad categories, and offices and individuals who are currently working remotely may have questions regarding when they should plan to return to campus. We are still encouraging a phased return to in-person operations for all units leading up to their scheduled full return date, and senior officers and deans will provide further detail and clarity specific to their areas and operational needs.
Please note that the date by which employees are expected to return to campus is separate and distinct from the Alternative Work Assignment (AWA) process. Employees with a pending AWA request will need to return to in-person work pursuant to the schedule detailed above. If an AWA has been approved in Workday, the staff member’s AWA schedule is expected to begin no later than the applicable start date above.
3. Increased Frequency of COVID-19 Routine Testing Requirements
As previously announced, we are continuing our COVID-19 routine asymptomatic testing program through at least the month of September. In light of concerns regarding the Delta variant, we are increasing the frequency of testing from what we announced last week. We will require vaccinated individuals to be tested once a week (every 7 days) and unvaccinated individuals to be tested twice per week (every 4 days).
We are working on resuming testing for vaccinated individuals (students, faculty and staff) already on campus earlier than the previously announced date of August 16. For all employees who are currently working remotely and will be returning to campus between August 16 and September 13, you will be expected to schedule your initial test during your first week back. For employees who have been remote, testing is not required in advance of or on the first day of your return, but rather as you are resuming campus activities and then with the frequency described above depending on your vaccination status. Students who are coming for the fall term in August and September will be instructed to test on arrival (day 1 on campus) and then with the frequency described above depending on their vaccination status.
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. This supports our planning efforts as we continue to monitor conditions on campus. Further information will be communicated directly to participants in the testing program in the coming days.
Members of the community with questions about this guidance may continue to email [email protected].
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. 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. Thank you for your patience and understanding, and for all that you do for Brown.
Christina H. Paxson
Russell C. Carey
Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy