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People based protocols for returning to campus

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Symptom Monitoring Requirement

Campuswide approaches to safety and the practice of physical/social distancing are important as individuals can be without symptoms and still be COVID-19 positive. Individuals who have been authorized to return to campus must conduct symptom monitoring every day before coming to campus to work. It is your responsibility to comply. It is our shared duty as a community to act responsibly. You must be free of ANY symptoms related to COVID-19 to be on campus. If faculty, staff or post-docs have any concerns regarding their status, they should contact the Vanderbilt Occupational Health Clinic and notify their supervisor/department chair that they are reviewing their health status prior to the start of any scheduled work period or time on campus; Occupational Health will instruct the individual on appropriate next steps (medical appointment, self-isolation, clearance to report, etc.). For staff, time spent in dialogue with Occupational Health is not considered working time. During Phase 1, if students authorized to be on campus have concerns regarding their status, they should contact the Vanderbilt Student Health Center and notify their mentor, course director or dean that they are reviewing their health status prior to the start of any scheduled time on campus; Student Health will instruct the individual on appropriate next steps. While use of an app is not required, several options to help gauge symptoms can be found in the technology section of this website.

For those who work in a higher-risk environment for infection with COVID-19 (e.g., some research facilities, VUPS, dining, child care, etc.), your department may require temperature monitoring upon arrival to work and symptom assessment. Your supervisor will advise you on this requirement prior to your return to campus, and on where to report when you arrive for screening. Temperature screening on campus allows the university to know immediately if someone is symptomatic so that they can be directed to an on-campus testing site to get tested. As with all other absences, faculty/staff/student is responsible for informing their supervisor/mentor/dean. All persons conducting temperature screening will be trained in advance and will be required to wear protective gear.

In order to ensure compliance with privacy laws, records of temperature screenings or symptom assessments should not be maintained by departments. Departments may note that a staff member was not able to work on a given day(s) because they could not be cleared to work.

According to the CDC, symptoms may appear 2–14 days after exposure to the virus. These symptoms or combinations of symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New GI symptoms
  • New loss of taste or smell

Faculty, staff member, or post-docs who have any symptoms, including a fever of 100 degrees or greater, must present to a VUMC COVID-19 assessment site. A student who has any symptoms, including a fever of 100 degrees or greater, must call Student Health (615-322-2427) for assessment and COVID-19 testing. Anyone with symptoms must self-isolate until the testing results are back. If the results are negative, the person may return to campus without any formal clearance. Any questions regarding the assessment process can be directed to Occupational Health (615-936-0955) or Student Health (615-322-2427).

Individuals with certain conditions may have a higher risk for COVID-19 infection. Those conditions include:

  • Age 65 years and older
  • HIV
  • Asthma (moderate to severe)
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Serious heart condition
  • Chronic kidney disease being treated with dialysis
  • Severe obesity
  • Immunocompromised
  • Pregnancy (while pregnant people seem to have the same risk as adults who are not pregnant, pregnancy can create changes that may increase the risk of some infections)

All faculty, staff and post-docs who return to campus will be asked to sign a statement that, among other things, acknowledges these high-risk conditions. Faculty, staff and post-docs who believe that they fall into the high-risk category may seek ADA accommodations related to returning to campus by contacting the Vanderbilt Equal Employment Opportunity office (615-343-9336) and requesting accommodation. Students who wish to seek ADA accommodations related to returning to campus should contact the Student Access Services office (1-615-343-9727) to request accommodation.

The Roadmap for Reopening Nashville acknowledges higher-risk groups as a specific subpopulation, and Vanderbilt acknowledges that we may need to make special contingency plans for the voluntary return to campus by members of those groups, for example, by allowing members of those groups to continue to work remotely when possible. If members of higher-risk groups return to campus voluntarily even when the Roadmap for Reopening suggests they may be safer at home, we will ask them to acknowledge the risk associated with being on campus.

COVID-19 Testing

Faculty, staff and post-docs who have symptoms related to COVID-19 or determine that they need to be tested based on potential exposure are encouraged to contact Occupational Health at 615-936-0955. Individuals who need emergency care should contact 911 for ambulance transport to the nearest Emergency Department.

Individuals who have symptoms or may have been exposed and are off campus may contact the campus resources noted above or may also contact their primary care provider for COVID-19 testing locations in their area.

If a faculty member, staff member, post-doc or student believes they have contracted COVID-19 after exposure to a known COVID-positive person on campus and/or while performing job duties, health care professionals may direct the individual to complete a First Report of Work Injury or Illness. If you have been exposed, you must stop work immediately and remove yourself from campus, even if you are not showing symptoms. Please notify your supervisor that you are leaving and notify Occupational Health (for faculty, staff and post-docs) or Student Health (for students) that you have have been exposed and/or developed symptoms. While you await test results, you must remain at home in self-isolation and keep your supervisor/mentor/dean informed of your return-to-campus status.

Positive Case and Contact Tracing

Faculty, staff, post-docs and students who test positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate at home until they have recovered. To help determine the risk of potential exposure to co-workers and others on campus, Occupational Health, Student Health, or Public Health officials will conduct a phone interview with the individual who has tested positive. Exposed individuals will be given the name of the individual who tested positive so that their risk can be assessed. Occupational Health or Public Health may contact the supervisor if further contact tracing of the COVID-19 positive individual is needed; however, the actual test result (and any other protected health information) will not be disclosed.

Individuals who have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive person are entered into Occupational Health’s symptom monitoring survey that is completed daily. The objective is to inform individuals of known exposures and to closely monitor each individual to ensure that any signs of infection are addressed early.

Vanderbilt is requiring a test-based recovery strategy. Recovery status (and clearance to return to work) is assigned when: 1) the individual remains fever-free without the use of fever reducers for 72 hours, 2) the individual shows improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), and 3) it has been at least 10 days since their symptoms first appeared. At this time, two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests are required to return to work. Testing and notification for return to on-campus activities are directed through Occupational Health and Student Health.

Phased Return

Vanderbilt will phase in a return of faculty, staff, post-docs and students in a coordinated process to ensure appropriate physical distancing, availability of protective gear and testing capabilities for COVID-19.  Individuals will return to campus based on the core activities they support and their demonstrated need to be on-campus. No one should return to campus without authorization.

These efforts will be tightly coordinated to mitigate potential risks and ensure the safety of our campus community and the other communities we serve. No unit or department should increase authorized levels beyond current needs to support critical on-site operations and activities without approval from the appropriate dean or vice chancellor. Once decisions to expand on-site levels of return in certain areas are made, individuals should follow the campuswide policies and protocols detailed in this guide for returning to work on campus.

Compliance with the policies and protocols outlined on this website, as well as those from your supervisor/mentor/dean, is required for continued access; violation (e.g., blatant disregard for infection prevention measures) may result in the immediate revocation of building access privileges, disciplinary action, and/or other interventions.

Staffing Options

Staff will be recalled to campus in an orderly fashion in support of core mission activities (on-campus research; on-campus instruction; undergraduate residential living and learning).  Staff will be informed by their supervisors when and under what circumstances they are to return to work on campus and should not return until authorized.

Remote Work

Those who can work remotely to fulfill their work responsibilities should continue to do so to limit the number of individuals on campus and the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Remote work arrangements must be approved by the immediate supervisor and can be accomplished on a full or partial day/week schedule as appropriate.

Alternating Days or Alternating Weeks

To limit the number of individuals and interactions on campus, departments should consider scheduling partial staffing on alternating days or weeks with staff who are required on campus (e.g., two weeks remote, two weeks on campus OR one week on campus, three weeks remote). Such scheduling will enable physical distancing, especially in areas with large common workspaces. To contain “germ circles,” it is best to schedule the same people on the same days to limit any one individual’s exposure to other individuals when possible.

Staggered Reporting/Departing

The beginning and end of the workday typically bring many people together at common entry/exit points of buildings. Staggering reporting and departure times by at least 15 minutes will reduce traffic in common areas to meet physical distancing requirements. (See Entry/Exit Controls for further details).

Health and Safety Guidance

Personal Safety Practices

Physical Distancing

Maintaining space between you and others is a best practice and required on the Vanderbilt campus to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus and slow its spread. Because people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay away from others whenever possible, even if you have no symptoms. Physical distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk. Individuals on campus should follow these physical distancing practices:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people
  • Do not gather in groups
  • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings

Face masks/coverings

Face masks/coverings (e.g., disposable masks or cloth face coverings) must be worn by all individuals working on campus at all times in public settings (e.g., common workspaces, public spaces, hallways, stairwells, elevators, meeting rooms, classrooms, break-rooms, campus outdoor spaces, restrooms, etc.). Faculty who are delivering on-campus instruction may remove their face mask to teach provided they are located within a delineated teaching area that is no less than 10 feet from students. If physical distancing is possible, individuals working in private offices or laboratory environments that do not otherwise require face masks/coverings may remove their face masks/coverings while in such space. Appropriate use of face masks/coverings is important in minimizing risks to the wearers and those around them. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. The face masks/covering is not a substitute for physical distancing. This applies to off-site and leased building space, as well as on the main Vanderbilt campus, both indoors and outdoors.

Each faculty member, staff member, post-doc and student will be provided with one cloth face covering. Disposable masks will be provided, if needed. Individuals and departments can contact their assigned building manager or liaison per college, school or department to acquire cloth face coverings or disposable masks. You also may wear homemade cloth face coverings that adhere to CDC and other public health recommendations. This will help Vanderbilt reduce the need to purchase additional masks which are in short supply. A disposable mask must not be used for more than one day. See details regarding face mask/covering use and care below.

An individual who is having difficulty wearing a face mask/covering should contact Occupational Health (faculty, staff, post-doc) or Student Health (student) for direction. A faculty member, staff member, or post-doc who cannot wear a face mask/covering due to medical or other reasons, should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity office for possible accommodation measures.  Students should contact Student Access Services office for possible accommodation measures.

Type and Intended Use of Face Coverings/Masks

TypeCloth Face CoveringDisposable MaskMedical-Grade Surgical MaskN95 Respirator
DescriptionHome-made or commercially manufactured face coverings that are washable and help contain wearer’s respiratory emissionsCommercially manufactured masks help contain wearer’s respiratory emissionsFDA-approved masks to protect the wearer from large droplets and splashes; helps contains wearer’s respiratory emissionsProvide effective respiratory protection from airborne particles and aerosols; helps contain wearer’s respiratory emissions
Intended useRequired for campus community use in all settings (common workspaces, public spaces, hallways, stairwells, elevators, meeting rooms, classrooms, breakrooms, campus outdoor spaces, in restrooms, etc.) Not required when working alone and physical distancing is possible.These masks are reserved for healthcare workers and other approved areas with task-specific hazards determined by OESO.

Use and Care of Face Masks/Coverings

Putting on the face mask/covering

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer prior to handling the face mask/covering.
  • Ensure the face mask/covering fits over the nose and under the chin.
  • Situate the face mask/covering properly with nose wire snug against the nose (where applicable).
  • Tie straps behind the head and neck or loop around the ears.
  • Throughout the process: Avoid touching the front of the face mask/covering.

Taking off the face mask/covering

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing the face mask/covering.
  • When taking off the face mask/covering, loop your finger into the strap and pull the strap away from the ear, or untie the straps.
  • Wash hands immediately after removing.

Disposal of face masks

  • Keep face mask stored in a paper bag when not in use.
  • Disposable face masks must not be used for more than one day and should be placed in a trash receptacle.
  • Dispose of a face mask if it is visibly damaged (e.g., stretched ear loops, torn or punctured materials), dirty or visibly contaminated.

Taking off the face mask/covering

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when removing the face mask/covering.
  • When taking off the face mask/covering, loop your finger into the strap and pull the strap away from the ear, or untie the straps.
  • Wash hands immediately after removing.

Care, storage and laundering of cloth face coverings

  • Keep face covering stored in a paper bag when not in use.
  • Cloth face coverings may not be used longer than one day at a time and must be washed after use.
  • Disinfecting method: Launder cloth face coverings with regular laundry detergent before first use and after each shift. (Disposable masks are not washable.)


Gloves are not necessary for general use and should not replace good hand hygiene. Washing your hands often with soap and water is considered the best practice for common everyday tasks. Please speak with your supervisor to determine if gloves are necessary.

Goggles/Face Shields

Individuals are not required to wear goggles or face shields as part of general activity on campus. Good hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face are generally sufficient for non-healthcare environments.

Personal Disinfection

Custodial crews will continue to clean offices and workspaces, classrooms and public spaces based on protocols developed with CDC guidance in mind, and you should take additional care to wipe down commonly used surfaces after use. It may not be possible for the university to provide product for personal use, but before you leave any room in which you have been working or eating, it is recommended that you swab down all work or eating areas with EPA-registered disinfectant. This includes a private workspace or any shared-space location or equipment (e.g., computers, A/V and other electrical equipment, copiers, desks and tables, chair arms, light switches, doorknobs, handles, etc.). To the best of your ability, you should clear desk and table surfaces in personal offices and workstations to aid in thorough cleaning. Using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is also effective after contacting commonly used surfaces.


Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place or used the restroom; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; and before and after eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Coughing/Sneezing Hygiene

If you are in a private setting and not wearing your face mask/covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Vanderbilt is committed to supporting your overall health and wellbeing. Visit the Vanderbilt health and wellness website for more information and resources that offer support, help manage stress and enhance your resilience.