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Oct. 23, 2020: URGENT: Increase in student positive cases

Posted by on Friday, October 23, 2020 in Community Messages.

Dear Vanderbilt students,

Since Wednesday, we have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases among students, primarily due to informal social interactions, especially in the past week and last weekend.

This rise includes both on-campus and off-campus students. We expect to see continued increased numbers over the next three to five days due to close contact exposures.

After several weeks of limited transmission, our numbers of cases are headed in the wrong direction. We must address the actions and behaviors that are driving the increase NOW.

What can you do to stop the spread? Our Public Health Command Center staff are reporting a number of situations where students are lowering their guard and not following the safety protocols. More specifically, contact tracers have identified some troubling patterns related to positive cases that involve a lack of physical distancing and mask wearing, including:

  • Having meals together while not physically distanced, especially in restaurants off campus
  • Having social gatherings, that might include less than 10, but that were not physically distanced and that lacked mask wearing
  • Interacting with visitors from out of town
  • Traveling to visit friends on other campuses

We continue to have no known transmissions of COVID-19 in classroom settings.

We know the challenges of this academic year have required a lot from all of us, but it is critically important that we all stay committed. The extraordinary efforts that many of you have made to date have already proven that following the university’s COVID-19 protocols can help slow the spread of this virus and keep our community as safe as possible.

When we returned to campus this year, we all made a commitment to protect one another – this includes adhering to the university’s no visitor policy, limiting trips away from campus to only those that are essential, such as seeking medical care or buying groceries, and other policies.

It is imperative that we address the current rise in our student positivity rate as we approach the final month of the fall semester. This is especially true as we are seeing a rise in cases around us in Nashville. We are responsible for protecting ourselves, each other, and especially those most vulnerable.

The university is taking a number of steps to help slow the spread. We have enhanced our testing efforts and are providing activities and programming for students that are consistent with our safety protocols.

Students should be aware that, while we have ample isolation and quarantine space, as the numbers of positive cases increase, we will have to begin using different satellite spaces. As opposed to the apartment style living currently being used for isolation and close contact quarantine, the off campus facility has single rooms with a private bath.

We urge you to take the following steps to help slow the spread:

  • Dine only under conditions that are as safe as possible – this means no meals with others unless there is proper physical distancing between all at the table.
  • Practice physical distancing and mask wearing for all gatherings, which should be limited to 10 people, and limit interactions with non-Vanderbilt community members.
  • Go out only for essentials, such as grocery or medical needs and voting.
  • Avoid restaurants and bars and do not host gatherings.
  • Participate in university activities and programs, which adhere to safety protocols.

We must stay strong to stay together.

Be well,

Susan R. Wente
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs