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Oct. 26, 2020 – Return to Campus Update

Posted by on Monday, October 26, 2020 in Community Messages.

Stay strong to stay together. This message is more important than ever as the end of in-person classes on Nov. 20 approaches. The Vanderbilt community has made a huge effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, but we are seeing worrying signs that our resolve is slackening, particularly among undergraduate students. We must continue to stay strong to stay together, and the coming weeks will be crucial if we want to avoid having to impose further restrictions. The university has varying levels of escalating restrictions planned if the positive rate continues to rise.

As Provost Wente wrote to undergraduate students on Friday, Vanderbilt’s positive case numbers are headed in the wrong direction. Since Wednesday, Oct. 21, there has been a significant rise in COVID-19 cases among students residing both on campus and off campus. For the week of Oct. 19–25, Vanderbilt had 100 total student cases, which translates to a 1.54 percent positivity rate for all students. This compares to 44 total student cases for the week of Oct. 12–18, which was a positivity rate of 0.67 percent. The increase in total student cases, from 44 to 100, represents a 127 percent change in just one week. While the university’s contact tracing program has capacity to manage larger case counts, and there is sufficient isolation and quarantine space for positives and close contacts, we may need to begin using different satellite locations for quarantine and isolation as the number of positive cases increases.

While the situation is serious, it remains under control. However, the informal social interactions and behaviors that are driving the increase must be addressed now.

This increase among students comes alongside a similar trend in positive cases in Nashville. Contact tracers have identified troubling patterns related to positive cases that involved social interactions with a lack of physical distancing and mask wearing, including:

  • Having meals together while not physically distanced, especially in restaurants off campus, results in exposures.
  • Having social gatherings that might include less than 10 people, but without physically distancing and lacking mask wearing, results in exposures.
  • Interacting with visitors from out of town results in exposures.
  • Traveling to visit friends on other campuses results in exposures.

There continues to be no known transmission of COVID-19 in classroom settings, and there is strong adherence to classroom safety protocols.

What can all members of the Vanderbilt community do to stop the spread NOW? When members of the Vanderbilt community returned to campus this year, each person 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, and other agreements among students, faculty, and staff.

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

Everyone should 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 face 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-sponsored activities and programs, all of which adhere to safety protocols.

Our students care about each other and about staying safe. Vanderbilt Student Government President Veer Shah and VSG Director of Human Resources Robby McCarthy met with Vanderbilt medical experts earlier this month to talk about why it is so important to maintain physical distancing measures and wear face masks, and about ways to stay connected to friends on campus. They are sharing what they learned with their fellow students.

Dr. Todd Callahan, professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine, discussed that the science of COVID-19 suggests that many young adults will have significant symptoms and some of those symptoms may last for weeks. Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventative medicine, reminded students that not everyone who is on campus has the same health profile. Peers may have chronic illnesses, and if they were to get the infection, despite their youth, are more likely to have a severe illness.

WHAT’S COMING UP

Halloween

Halloween is coming up this weekend. Although in normal years this would be a time for parties and large social events, this isn’t a typical year. Students must continue to follow campus protocols and be especially committed to staying strong to stay together. The health and safety of the Vanderbilt community requires everyone to think differently about Halloween choices this year. It also means everyone needs to have a plan to support each other as the Vanderbilt community looks forward to the rest of the semester.

The Dean of Students, the Residential Colleges, the Identity Centers and other university offices will provide a number of activities on Halloween weekend.

All university sponsored events deploy safety protocols with physical distancing and other measures designed to protect public health. A list of events and opportunities will be publicized throughout the week on social media and will also be sent to students in MyVU; students are encouraged to participate. The actions of students before and after university sponsored events are equally important in protecting each other’s health and safety.

Vanderbilt to decide Thursday about limited student attendance at Oct. 31 football game

Vanderbilt will announce on Thursday its decision whether to allow a limited number of students to attend the home football game this Saturday against Ole Miss. If a student wants to be considered to attend the game, they must have completed their weekly test and have a negative test result by Friday.

The university has prepared Vanderbilt Stadium to ensure physical distancing. Face masks will be required, and services such as concessions will not be available to limit movement within the stadium. Students must follow all campus protocols before, during and after the game, and all attendees will wear face masks/coverings and be in physically distanced seating.

Students will receive a message today stating that if the decision is made to have limited student attendance at the football game on Oct. 31, a subsequent message will be issued on Thursday, Oct. 29, to all students with details on how to get tickets. Ticket signup will be on a first-come, first-served basis until the available tickets have been distributed.

VandyRide adds new stop for Black Route, Point to Point service

Vanderbilt has added a new VandyRide stop near Zeppos College for students using the Black Route or the new Point to Point service. The stop is outside of the back entrance of the Zeppos College along 25th Avenue South.

The location was added to give students another pickup location option as previous stops near Carmichael Towers and Greek housing were phased out. The stop has lights, a camera and a shelter area. The addition will mean only minimal changes to the timing for the Black Route.

The new Point to Point service, which was announced earlier this month, allows undergraduate students who live off campus and are registered with the Dean of Students Office to get a free shuttle ride from a campus VandyRide stop or designated ridehail pickup location to their residence within a half-mile of the university. The service, available from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. seven days per week, is one-way and designed to deliver students safely to their off-campus residences. The program is being piloted this semester and is subject to change based on demand and available resources.

Learn more about the new Point to Point service>>

Student Care Network offers virtual and telehealth services to support students

Remote study students may experience additional challenges due to virtual learning away from campus. The Student Care Network seeks to ensure that students have access to well-being resources, regardless of their location. There are a variety of online wellness and academic support resources for students studying off campus, out of state and abroad. Students studying on campus can also take advantage of many of these resources.

Resources include the OSCC Guide to Off-Campus Referrals, The Shrink Space therapy database, the My SSP confidential support program, the Healthiest You telehealth platform, SilverCloud online behavioral health platform, the WellTrack self-help app, the Center for Student Wellbeing online resources and the center’s Weekly Wellbeing Practices.

Learn more about each of these resources>> 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

VandyRide to provide free shuttle to polling place on Nov. 3 for election day

VandyRide will provide a free shuttle to two voting locations, the Old Murrell School and Eakin School, for any student—undergraduate, graduate or professional—who would like to vote in person at their assigned polling location. Before signing up for a time slot, students should ensure they are registered to vote in Davidson County/Nashville and that they know their voting district.

Students must register to ride the shuttles by 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2. Shuttle capacity will be limited to seven passengers per trip, and all students must wear face masks/coverings and practice physical distancing.

Beginning at 8 a.m. on election day, the Old Murrell School shuttle will pick up at the VandyRide stops at Rand Student Center on the hour; at Highland Quad at five minutes past the hour; and at Hank Ingram House at 10 minutes past the hour. The shuttle will arrive at the Old Murrell School location at approximately 15 minutes past the hour and will leave the school to return to campus at approximately 20 minutes past the hour.

Beginning at 8 a.m. on election day, the Eakin School shuttle will pick up at the VandyRide stops at Rand Student Center at 30 minutes past the hour; at Highland Quad at 35 minutes past the hour; and at Hank Ingram House at 40 minutes past the hour. The shuttle will arrive at Eakin School location at approximately 45 minutes past the hour and will leave the school to return to campus at approximately 50 minutes past the hour.

When the shuttles return to the Rand Student Center, all passengers must disembark before the shuttle starts its next cycle.

Students can track the early voting shuttle by following PP#1 in the DoubleMap site available in the VandySafe app. In addition, students will be provided with the driver’s phone number to ensure that no one is left at the polling place. The shuttle will be wheelchair accessible.

A reminder about the Student Health Insurance Plan

The Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) currently provides access to COVID-19 testing free of charge as long as the test is ordered by a licensed medical provider and is FDA authorized. Free access to testing is currently being offered through Jan. 20, 2021. SHIP also provides access to COVID-19 treatment free of charge from in-network providers through Dec. 31, 2020.

As a reminder, SHIP had waived cost sharing for COVID-19 treatment from out-of-network providers until Oct. 22, 2020. If a student now visits an out-of-network provider, the out-of-network deductible and copays will apply.

If a student would like assistance finding an in-network provider who accepts the student health insurance plan, they may reach out to Vanderbilt’s on campus insurance liaison, Kristy Miller, at 615-343-4688 or Kristina.miller@vumc.org.

Vanderbilt to conclude asymptomatic testing programs the week of Nov. 16

As the end of in-person classes on Nov. 20 approaches, and with the interest of protecting public health as students prepare to leave campus and return to the homes of their parents and families, Vanderbilt will conduct mandatory undergraduate student “exit testing” and also will provide a final optional COVID-19 testing opportunity for undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

Final asymptomatic surveillance testing for graduate and professional students is currently planned for representative subgroups of the school/college cohorts during the week of Monday, Nov. 2, through Saturday, Nov. 7, with the optional testing opportunity available as indicated below from Monday, Nov. 16, to Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Final mandatory asymptomatic exit testing dates for undergraduate students are currently planned for Sunday, Nov. 8, through Tuesday, Nov. 10:

  • For undergraduates, these will be the final mandatory asymptomatic surveillance tests during the fall semester. The dates are subject to change, and students will be notified about any adjustments. The exit test plan gives undergraduate students the opportunity to test as they prepare to leave campus. Following the test, students should strictly adhere to all COVID-19 safety protocols during the period of time prior to returning home. As with other mandatory tests, undergraduate students are required to report to the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center for the exit test. Undergraduate students will receive further information on their schedule for exit testing.

Optional asymptomatic testing dates for all students will be offered on Monday, Nov. 16, through Wednesday, Nov. 18. 

  • Students will have the opportunity to take one test during the optional testing window. Students must sign up in advance to take this optional test, and they will receive further information on how to register before Nov. 7. All optional testing will be administered at the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center. Students should anticipate that if their test is positive, or if they are identified as a close contact to a positive case, it may affect their travel plans and they should plan accordingly. 

Quarantine and isolation options for students before leaving for the break>>

Undergraduate student exit testing and optional asymptomatic testing details>>

All students who are symptomatic should continue to contact the Student Health Center for evaluation and potential testing until they depart the campus or the city.

All faculty, staff and postdocs who are symptomatic should continue to contact Occupational Health. 

Periodic testing of asymptomatic faculty, staff and postdocs will end coincident with the student testing.

The university intends to announce testing protocols for the spring semester by Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Vanderbilt still offering flu shots for students, employees

Free flu shots continue to be available to all students at the Student Health Center on a drop-in basis—no appointment is necessary. Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this free opportunity and get a flu shot this year. The SHC has increased staffing to allow for proper physical distancing within the clinic and to minimize wait times. The SHC will continue to offer flu shots during regular weekday operating hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Employees working remotely are highly encouraged to obtain their vaccination at any Vanderbilt Health Walk-In Clinic or any of the walk-in clinics (not pharmacies) at Walgreens stores. Flu vaccinations are 100 percent covered as preventive care for all employees who are on a VU health plan.

Additionally, departments may contact Occupational Health to coordinate on-site flu vaccines for their employees. Requests can be made in the “Ask OHC to Come to You” section of the Flula-2-Uza webpage.

STORY SPOTLIGHT

UPCOMING EVENTS

Mindful Coping with COVID-19 Workshop, hosted by The Ingram Commons and Center for Student Wellbeing
6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, Online

VU in DC: From Advocacy to Policy, hosted by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities
4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, Online

Let’s Talk: 2020 Election, hosted by Student Center for Social Justice and Identity and the Office of Housing and Residential Experience
7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, Online

Cut the Craft: Halloween Edition, hosted by The Ingram Commons
2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, The Commons Center Room 233
RSVP required

iChats: Spooky Season, hosted by The Ingram Commons
8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, Online

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