We hope you are experiencing an exciting start to the fall semester. As we take joy in gathering in person again for classes, orientation activities, and other events, it’s important to be attentive to the expected elevation in cases of contagious respiratory infections caused by viruses that affect our community. These include COVID-19, influenza (“the flu”), and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). In order to promote a healthy environment as we work, study and live at Brown, we are writing to provide reminders regarding the public health preventative care measures, services and support available for managing these illnesses.
Now more than three years since COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency, and four months since the federal government declared the end of emergency status, we are all adjusting to our “return to normal” together. While continuing to follow the guidance of the CDC, Rhode Island Department of Health and other public health officials, we are learning how to manage COVID-19 as another seasonal respiratory infection, while helping our community understand key differences in treatment options and response.
PREVENTATIVE CARE MEASURES
As always, the best ways to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases include washing your hands regularly; covering your cough; avoiding sharing personal items such as eating or drinking utensils, toothbrushes and towels; maintaining a clean environment; and minimizing close contact with persons who have symptoms of respiratory illness.
Additional important preventative measures we want to highlight include masking and vaccinations:
--MASKING: At this time, masks remain optional on Brown’s campus. However, wearing a mask is always recommended when an individual has active respiratory symptoms (e.g. fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat), or if they are not up to date with vaccinations and have had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, the flu, or RSV. Please note that clinicians, faculty, staff, or student instructors may continue to require masking at their discretion; additional guidance for instructors can be found on the Provost’s website: https://go.brown.edu/FacultyFAQ_2023.
All faculty, staff and students are encouraged to maintain a personal supply of masks and COVID-19 tests, which are readily available at local markets and pharmacies. The University has high-quality KN95 masks and COVID-19 test kits available at no cost for all students at the Key Office in Grad Center E. The Health & Wellness Center has masks available for clinicians and students to wear during appointments.
--VACCINATIONS: Brown strongly recommends that individuals obtain the vaccines for which they are eligible, and the University strives to provide them whenever possible and appropriate to faculty, staff and students. Vaccination remains required for medical students. Health Services is working to obtain the updated COVID-19 vaccine for students as soon as it is available. More updated information should be available within a week. You can learn more on the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2023/p0912-COVID-19-Vaccine.html.
Students can obtain COVID-19 and flu vaccinations by making an appointment with Health Services or attending a flu vaccine clinic: https://healthservices.brown.edu/services/flu-shots-for-students. Faculty and staff should work with their primary care provider, local health clinic, or pharmacy to obtain their recommended vaccines, which may include the updated COVID-19, flu, and/or RSV vaccines. There will also be opportunities for faculty and staff to obtain the flu shot through an on-campus vaccination clinic. Read more on the University Human Resources (UHR) website: https://go.brown.edu/UHR.
The most comprehensive resource for information about Brown’s approach to COVID-19 remains Healthy.Brown.edu. While much of Brown’s public health guidance is consistent for all forms of respiratory illnesses, we still require some specific measures around COVID-19 testing, reporting and isolation:
--TESTING: When experiencing symptoms of contagious respiratory illness, individuals should not attend in-person classes or other activities, and should take an at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen test. If you test negative but have symptoms, we recommend that you “mask up” and continue to monitor symptoms.
--REPORTING: Undergraduate, graduate and medical students are required to report any positive COVID-19 test result via the Health and Wellness Patient Portal: https://patientportal.brown.edu/. Doing so will enable students to receive individual support and guidance. Brown does not require employees who test positive for COVID-19 to report results. Any staff member who tests positive and does not work for longer than five business days should contact email@example.com for guidance.
--ISOLATION: Any community member who tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for a period of five days, regardless of previous infection, vaccination or booster status, and regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. From day 6 to day 10, you may resume in-person activities if your symptoms are subsiding, and you should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others.
Brown does not relocate students who test positive for COVID-19 or other contagious respiratory diseases, so students should take appropriate safety precautions while cohabitating, such as masking and maintaining proper hygiene. Students who are on a meal plan can continue to access Dining Services by requesting the takeout option offered by all dining halls and wearing a tight-fitting mask to pick up their food. For more details about the isolation period, visit the Health Services website: https://healthservices.brown.edu/learn-more/covid-19.
Brown University provides a variety of resources to support faculty, staff and students. Some that may be particularly helpful for those who are experiencing illness and seeking support include:
* Student Support Services: https://go.brown.edu/StudentSupport or 401-863-3145 Administrator on Call (24/7 support for all students): https://go.brown.edu/Administrator-on-Call or call 401-863-3322 and ask to speak to the AOC
* Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): https://caps.brown.edu/ or 401-863-3476
While our approach to managing public health has evolved in keeping with changes in the public health environment over the last three years, the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students has always been, and remains, our top priority. We will continue to offer updates about public health guidance when it would be helpful, and we appreciate your ongoing support for the health and well-being of our Brown community. We wish you an excellent fall semester.
Marie Williams Vice President for Human Resources
Eric Estes Vice President for Campus Life
Vanessa Britto, MD, MSc Associate Vice President for Campus Life, Executive Director of Health and Wellness