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Contact Tracing

Posted by on Thursday, July 16, 2020 in .

To mitigate the risk to others of potential exposure and to protect all on campus as much as possible, a Vanderbilt Public Health Central Command Center (the Command Center) has been established to manage contact tracing and notifications across VU communities. This Vanderbilt Command Center is a collaboration between the Nurse Faculty Practice Division in the School of Nursing, the Vanderbilt Student Health Center (SHC) and the Vanderbilt Occupational Health Center (OHC), and it will conduct contact tracing with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. By launching this robust in-house contact tracing capability, developed in collaboration with experts at VUMC, VUSN and Metro Public Health, Vanderbilt ensures coordinated contact tracing between campus and the Nashville community that is as timely as possible.

Faculty, staff, postdocs and students who live off campus and test positive for COVID-19 must isolate at their home/current residence and follow current CDC guidance as directed until they have recovered. Residential students who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate as directed by the Dean of Students until they have recovered.

Contact tracing generally works as follows:

  • If an individual develops symptoms and is awaiting a COVID-19 test, receives a positive COVID-19 test result, or is identified as a close contact by contact tracers, then the individual stays home (or in the case of residential students, goes to quarantine space as directed by Dean of Students) until released.
  • When a positive COVID-19 test result is identified, a contact tracer will be assigned immediately to the case. The contact tracer will interview the individual and identify all contacts. Close contacts are defined specifically as noted below. Close contacts are entered into a database and notified by phone and email. Information on how to proceed is relayed to each individual who is a close contact, as well as to the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) director.
  • The EHS director will coordinate information among entities and activate support from the Office of the General Counsel, Dean of Students, Human Resources, Facilities/Disinfection, VEHS, and Communications.
  • The contact tracer will relay information about any non-VU close contacts to the Metro Public Health department.

Please note that during this process the name of the index case will be disclosed to possible contacts, but protected health information will not be disclosed.

Per both VU Return to Campus protocol and CDC guidance, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic persons, 2 days prior to positive test collection) until the time the person is isolated.

Things to Remember:

  • Incidental exposure such as walking by someone in the hallway, using the same equipment or the same area/room is not close contact.
  • Surface contamination is not a primary pathway of concern per the CDC. Public areas will be frequently disinfected by Facilities/Plant Operations.

Immunity eligibility for students

In the Return to Campus Acknowledgement, students agree to cooperate with Vanderbilt and public health officials’ contact tracing efforts. Students are expected to be forthcoming and honest when providing information to contact tracers. A student who provides information about their prior possession or use of alcohol or other drugs and any resulting intoxication, or prior violation of Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 protocols, during contact tracing will be eligible for immunity from disciplinary action in order to facilitate accurate information reporting. Similarly, a student who provides information in a Title IX investigation about their prior possession or use of alcohol or other drugs and any resulting intoxication or prior violation of Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 protocols, will be eligible for immunity from disciplinary action in order to facilitate accurate information reporting during the investigation. On the other hand, failure to be truthful and forthcoming during contact tracing will result in disciplinary action.