PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Citing an uptick in COVID-19 cases both statewide and on campus linked to the omicron variant, Brown University is mandating all undergraduate students be tested twice weekly for the virus.
In an email sent to students, faculty and staff Wednesday, the university said students will be required to take two rapid antigen tests upon returning to campus: one on the first day and another two days later.
Students must also produce a negative rapid test prior to returning to campus, according to the university.
After that, the university said students will need to self-report the results of their two weekly tests, which must be taken at least 24 hours apart.
“Our focus will shift this semester from counting positive test results as an indicator of campus safety to actions that will further reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalization while maintaining our mission of teaching and research as a residential academic community,” the university said.
Asymptomatic testing for faculty, staff and graduate students will remain optional, according to the university, and those who are unvaccinated will still need to undergo PCR testing twice a week.
The university said rapid antigen tests and K-N95 masks will be made available to students, faculty and staff starting Jan. 17. In-person classes will begin on Jan. 26 as previously scheduled.
Brown University already requires students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, unless they have a valid exemption. The university also requires everyone to wear face masks while indoors.
The university also updated its isolation policy for students, faculty and staff who test positive for the virus. In line with the recently updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the university has shortened the isolation period to five days after testing positive or experiencing symptoms.
“The 5-day period applies regardless of previous infection, vaccination or booster status, and the presence or absence of symptoms,” the university said.
The university said if a person tests positive on the fifth day they must continue to isolate until they test negative or reach day 10 (whichever is sooner).
Students who live on campus in a shared bedroom will be required to spend their isolation in temporary housing provided by the university, such as a designated dorm room or hotel room off campus. Those who live off campus will be expected to isolate at their residence.
“We are confident regarding the health and safety measures in place on campus, though the next several weeks will nevertheless be challenging,” the university said. “We strongly urge all members of the Brown community to practice patience and understanding with each other and especially with the staff across the university who will be working diligently to support all of us during this time.”