Brandeis’ approach to COVID-19 in fall 2022

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As Brandeis begins its third fall semester of managing COVID-19, the university’s response is evolving even as it continues to rely on proven measures to limit the virus’ spread on campus. Collectively we have learned a great deal about living with COVID, and our experiences and understanding of our own data collected throughout the pandemic inform the university’s approach.

An emphasis on personal responsibility

Brandeis’ COVID-19 protocols have always emphasized social solidarity: in being thoughtful about our own health, we’re thoughtful of each others’ health and well being. Over the past two years, our solidarity was reinforced by mandatory asymptomatic surveillance testing and the now-retired Campus Passport. This fall, with vaccinations, widely-available rapid tests, and high-quality masks easily obtainable and affordable, individuals can continue to responsibly protect their own and our community’s health. Additionally, individuals are encouraged to make good choices about coming to campus if they are sick, even if COVID isn’t suspected. The university’s COVID Steering Committee and Project Management Team are continuing to observe conditions at Brandeis and in the surrounding communities, and will take steps as needed through the academic year.

Standardized color-coded status updates

Over the past two years, Brandeis has responded to waves and new variants by adjusting various restrictions over time. Often, several steps have been taken together, but have been communicated individually. Brandeis will now use a streamlined color-coded COVID Status Level system, which groups precautions according to the level of community spread.

We believe this system will give the community a clearer understanding of current COVID protocols, as well as how they might be adjusted in the future.

“We hope this will be particularly helpful for those planning events,” said Morgen Bergman, Associate Provost for Research Administration and COVID-19 Response team member. “We know the spread has been worse at certain times, such as after vacations, as the weather gets colder, and in the month of March. Those planning events for times that have typically seen more spread can look ahead and consider how they would prepare for a ‘plan B’ should we need to move to the next level.”

stacks of orange and white COVID test boxes that say "iHealth Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Test" "Self-Test at home results in 15 minutes"
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The role of testing

For the past two years, Brandeis along with many other colleges and universities, set up complex operations to frequently test asymptomatic community members. This approach was appropriate when tests were nearly impossible to obtain and expensive, and vaccinations weren’t widely available. Given the availability of rapid tests and free (or insurance-covered) PCR testing off campus ,along with a fully vaccinated population (more than 96 percent of the campus community), Brandeis has joined most other colleges and universities in shifting away from campus-wide surveillance testing.

“When students were required to test every 84 hours, we had more than 150 students working six days a week in our testing centers,” said Bergman, who ran the COVID-19 testing clinics. “Like most other colleges, we had to establish this program from scratch when students came back to campus in fall 2020, and then expand it again when more students returned in 2021.”

Campus partners, including Admissions, the Heller School, the Mandel Center for the Humanities, and the Shapiro Science Center, generously hosted the testing centers, but wide-scale testing isn’t practical or necessary for the long-term, endemic phase of COVID-19 that we are now entering.

Students who have COVID-19 symptoms like coughing, fever, and gastrointestinal distress can get tested by the Health Center, along with students identified as close contacts by the Brandeis Community Tracing Program. All students are encouraged to bring rapid tests with them from home in order to test if they are concerned about exposure; if they have just returned from travel; or if they aren’t feeling well and want to test sooner than they can get to the Health Center. Some event organizers on campus may also require a negative test result.

Brandeis will also be able to do intermittent surveillance testing if it appears that COVID is traveling through a specific group, such as a sports team or club.


The Brandeis Community Tracing Program will still be working to help guide the community in determining what to do about COVID-19 cases or exposures. Everyone should report any positives they receive to the BCTP. When contacted by the BCTP, all community members are expected to follow their instructions about testing and isolating.

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Vaccinations — still mandatory

The revolutionary mRNA vaccines — developed through technology originated in part by Brandeis alumnus Drew Weissman ’81, GSAS MA’81, P’15 — are extremely effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, though they don’t prevent all cases. Brandeis has had a vaccine mandate since the shots became available, and as a result has had very few cases of serious illness. Even as variants have spread, vaccines have remained one of the most important health measures individuals can take to protect themselves . Brandeis’ vaccine mandate remains in effect. Community members are required to have all vaccinations and boosters for which they are eligible (unless they have received a religious or medical exemption). Booster clinics and flu-shot clinics will be announced later in the semester.

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Masking as appropriate

High quality masks — N95s, KN95s, KF94s and even surgical masks — continue to offer significant protection against COVID-19 to those who wear them. Earlier in the pandemic, when there were shortages of such masks and cloth masks were the best available option, it was extremely important that all individuals be masked to provide protection. The now easily-available, high-quality masks offer more protection for individuals than cloth masks, even in the presence of others who are not masked. Masking will always be acceptable at Brandeis for anyone who wishes to.

Masks will also be required this fall in nearly all classes and in indoor gatherings with 20 or more people, as part of our current Yellow status level.

When you’re sick — stay home!

One COVID mitigation tactic that has not changed is the requirement for community members to stay in their residence hall rooms or off-campus homes when they don’t feel well. Outdoor grab-and-go meals are available for on-campus students to minimize exposure. Taking a rapid test, or a test at the Health Center (if you’re a student), or a PCR test obtained in the community can help determine if a bad cold is COVID. Even if a test is negative, community members should stay home while highly symptomatic, and consider retesting in 48 hours.

Julie Jette, assistant vice president for communications, has been the communications lead for the COVID-19 Project Management Team at Brandeis since 2020.

Categories: General, Student Life

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