Brown University has closed its dining halls and placed new restrictions on social gathering after an increase in positive, asymptomatic COVID-19 cases among its overwhelmingly vaccinated student population.
As of Sept. 16, Brown has performed 12,216 “routine asymptomatic tests” on 10,624 individuals over the past seven days, which returned 80 positive results, according to a COVID-19 dashboard on the Ivy League school’s website. With a vaccine mandate in place, nearly 98 percent of students and 96 percent of faculty and staff have been vaccinated.
In an interview with The Brown Daily Herald, Brown’s Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey told the student newspaper that there has not been “any evidence of any serious illness” among those tested positive. He added that neither anyone has been hospitalized due to COVID-19 nor there is any sign of a widespread outbreak on campus.
Despite all that, Brown officials announced a series of restrictive measures in response to what they see as a “significant increase” of COVID-19 cases on campus. Social gatherings for undergraduate students are limited to no more than five people—whether indoors or outdoors—except for those sharing living space with more than five other students. This restriction applies to both on- and off-campus activities.
All community members, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated, are required to wear masks indoors, unless when alone or eating. This requirement also applies to students who do not live on campus.
“Most of the transmission we have seen is due to close social gatherings in which masks are not worn,” university officials said in a statement announcing the changes.
Under the new policy, undergraduate students are required to get tested for COVID-19 twice per week, regardless of their vaccination status. Vaccinated students were previously required to be tested once per week, while those unvaccinated had to be tested twice weekly.
In-person dining services are also suspended, as dining facilities switch to take-out only. A Brown spokesperson told The Herald that the re-opening of dining halls will be dependent on “testing results and other health and safety indicators.”
In addition, the university specifically asks students to “refrain from small-group hopping,” meaning that students are expected to “consistently engage with the same small social group,” rather than joining multiple small-group gatherings over the course of a day or short period of time.
The Providence, Rhode Island-based university has been conducting routine asymptomatic testing of students, faculty, and staff since Aug. 24. About 17,500 individuals have been tested in more than 488,000 tests, returning 735 positive results, with a positivity rate of 4.3 percent.