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Brown University reinstates indoor mask policy, increases COVID-19 testing

Because of the highly contagious Delta variant, people on campus are also now asked to social distance by at least three feet when unmasked

People rest on grass while reading at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
People rest on grass while reading at Brown University in Providence, R.I.Steven Senne/Associated Press

PROVIDENCE — Due to the spread of the Delta variant, Brown University is asking students and employees to starting masking up indoors again.

In an email obtained by the Globe, Brown President Christina H. Paxson told community members that, effective immediately, masks will be required by all individuals — regardless of their vaccination status — indoors. The only exceptions are if a person is in a private, non-shared space such as a dorm room or office or when they are actively eating.

In addition, social distance of at least three feet must be maintained when unmasked.

Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear a mask outdoors, the email said, when social distancing of at least three feet is not possible on campus.


Brown will further increase the frequency of testing from what they announced just last week.

Paxson wrote that all vaccinated individuals will be required to be tested once a week and unvaccinated individuals will be tested twice per week, or every four days.

The university said last week that testing would resume Aug. 16, but said in Tuesday’s email that the university is working to resume testing ahead of that date.

The news comes as more than 91 percent of all students and more than 94 percent of employees at Brown have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Also, the university previously communicated with employees that all faculty and staff would likely return to campus on Aug. 16. However, in order to facilitate a more gradual increase in campus population, the university outlined a new schedule. Now employees and offices that “actively engage in supporting the student experience” such as move-in, peer leader training, orientation programs, and athletics will be the only ones to return by Aug. 16.

Faculty and academic staff will return for new students during orientation on Sept. 1, and faculty and staff actively teaching are expected for the first day of classes on Sept. 8.


All other employees and administrative offices will be expected to return by Sept. 13, according to Paxson’s email.

“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,” Paxson wrote in her email. “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.”

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.