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Jan. 13, 2022 – COVID-19 updates for faculty

Posted by on Friday, January 14, 2022 in Community Messages.

Dear Vanderbilt faculty,

As we approach the start of classes next week, I wanted to share some updates and reminders—including important reminders about faculty testing below. First, I am especially grateful to those of you who are preparing to teach classes, this spring—I know this is a busy time as you gear up for the beginning of the semester.

Many thanks, also to the 876 faculty members who registered for last week’s faculty town hall and posed such important questions to our panelists. (Click here if you’d like to watch the recording; key “takeaways” from campus protocols and supports for faculty are also listed below). We will also have answers to questions that arise during and after these Town Halls posted on the Health and Safety Protocols website by next week.

Like many of you, we have continued to actively monitor the data regarding COVID-19. Chancellor Diermeier and I have been meeting and working around the clock with key members of our health, operations, faculty and student teams to meet our highest priorities—namely to be able to offer the highest caliber in-person experiences for our students while also working to keep our campus as healthy and safe as possible.

Data continue to suggest that the omicron variant, though more infectious, is less virulent than the previous strains of COVID-19. That said (and if our experiences here in Nashville are to echo trends around the globe), we hope to see the beginning of a rapid decline in the number of positive cases by the end of this month.

There are certainly reasons to feel cautiously hopeful for our return to more typical operations this semester; there are also reasons to stay vigilant with heightened support for one another and for our common aims. A key step you can take is to make sure to get your booster vaccination if you are eligible to receive it. Over 1,000 faculty members have already submitted certification that they are boosted. We are grateful to all of them for taking this important step to support their own and others’ health. None of us can fully predict the course of this pandemic; it is up to all of us to protect our students, our colleagues and our broader community by following the protocols listed below.

TESTING

As a reminder, faculty must take a COVID-19 test by tomorrow, Jan. 14, regardless of your vaccination and booster status. You can test at home (a PCR or rapid antigen test is acceptable), at a community testing center or at Vanderbilt’s Testing Center, which is open until 5 p.m. today. Please do not eat or drink for 60 minutes prior to taking your test at the testing center.

The Vanderbilt Testing Center is on campus at the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center in the auxiliary gym. Individuals can park in lot 102 and will need to enter through the large doors at the back of the Recreation and Wellness Center, by the recreation fields and lot 102. Signs will direct you to the indoor testing center.

Additionally, a limited number of drive-up testing parking places are available in reserved locations in lot 102 for those with mobility challenges or who otherwise prefer to remain in their cars.

  • If your test result is negative, you need to indicate that within the survey tool. You will NOT need to upload a picture or a copy of the results if you have indicated a negative test result. With a negative test, you are cleared to continue campus activities.
    • Faculty who test at the Vanderbilt Testing Center in the Recreation and Wellness Center do not need to do anything further as the Command Center automatically receives the record of your positive or negative test result.
  • If your test result is positive, you need to upload a copy of your positive test in the survey tool and isolate at home in accordance with the latest CDC guidelines. You will receive further instructions.

We have expanded our ongoing testing programs: These different testing programs will continue after your “return to campus activities” test, and these programs include an asymptomatic testing program and a sentinel testing program based on your vaccination status. You can read about the expanded programs on the Health and Safety Protocols website. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days, read your instructions at the bottom of this FAQ.

Questions about testing should be directed to COVID-questions@vanderbilt.edu.

PROTOCOL REMINDERS

As an investment to help us get through this omicron surge, we will be providing three KN95 masks to our on-campus community members. Select groups working with children and facilities and those who are immunocompromised will receive masks directly; individuals working in schools and units can access masks through their main offices. Areas needing to order additional masks should work through their facilities liaison. Viewpoints differ on preferences for this type of mask over others—we leave it to your good judgement on what type of mask to use. Our bottom line:

  • Masks are always required indoors on campus, except when eating or drinking or alone in an enclosed office. Physical distancing should be practiced when possible, such as when eating or drinking, and when outdoors.
  • Meetings may continue to take place as long as masking protocols are followed. Please hold off on all in-person gatherings for students until after the Commodores Care period ends on Jan. 24.

SUPPORT

I know that the past two years have brought a range of challenges and hardships for every member of our community—our community (as have communities across the nation and the world) has experienced increased stress and loss but also greater resilience. During the faculty town hall, we discussed many support resources for faculty. Please take a moment to explore these different resources:

Employee Learning and Engagement

Mental health + well-being

  • Work-life harmony (mental health, boundaries and expectations, prioritization/time management strategies)
  • Telephonic behavioral health services

Work-Life Connections

  • Employee Assistance Program (resolving personal and workplace stresses; referrals for community resources for more specialized care)
  • Strategic Work Group Dynamic Support

As we start this semester, please know that I am immensely grateful for your creativity, resilience and engagement with our common purpose, our shared successes and our community’s well-being.

Thank you for your unwavering dedication to our mission.

C. Cybele Raver
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

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