COVID-19 Testing: Graduate and Professional Student Spring Semester Testing Overview
Vanderbilt University’s ongoing COVID-19 safety model continues to leverage collaboration and partnership with the world-class Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University School of Nursing to support and protect the Vanderbilt University community as much as possible. Vanderbilt testing methods are employed in consultation with VUMC experts, and we will continue to evaluate all testing options and methods moving forward.
No pre-arrival testing will be required before returning to campus. Based on the learnings from this fall, we expect students’ highest risk activities prior to returning to campus are likely to be traveling to campus and engaging in social activities before classes begin, so efforts will focus on arrival testing and a shelter in place protocol.
Additionally, the fall move-in schedule did not allow for testing everyone within the first few days of arrival and we did not have a test available with a short turnaround time at the start of the fall semester. This has now changed with our new testing vendor so we can test everyone and clear them very quickly.
All graduate and professional students will be tested upon arrival prior to the start of the spring semester. Arrival testing will be conducted at the testing center in the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center. Students will receive an email from their school the week of January 4 or 11 with details on arrival testing. Students will be required to “shelter in place” at their residences until they receive a negative result. Shelter in place means that you must not participate in in-person campus activities, including classes or group activities, until a negative test result. Off-campus students should not come to campus at all, other than for testing, until they receive a negative test result.
Students who have symptoms related to COVID-19 during the semester should visit Student Health. If Student Health is not open and symptoms are severe enough, the student should go to the VUMC emergency department. If symptoms are not severe enough to require an emergency visit, for the safety of others, it is extremely important to avoid all contact with others, wear a face mask/covering, and practice strict hand hygiene while awaiting the Student Health Center to open.
Alternatively, if Student Health is closed, students may call the VUMC COVID-19 hotline at (888) 312-0847 for information about after-hours assessment site availability. This number is answered seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time. Student Health will instruct the individual on appropriate next steps.
WEEKLY ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING OVERVIEW
All graduate and professional students who participate in regular in-person on-campus related academic activities will be included in the spring testing program, which includes up to weekly mandatory testing. If students are symptomatic, they should follow the symptomatic instructions outlined above.
Following mandatory arrival testing, testing will begin. Students will receive an email with details about logging into YES to register for their COVID-19 testing date. Students will register for a time block (day of the week to test) that will appear on students’ course schedule in a manner similar to a class with a subject designation (UNIV) and course number (0099). Students who are not registered for their testing date will not be allowed back on campus.
Testing will be conducted in the David R. Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center Sunday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students will report for testing in the same time block weekly.
ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING COMPLIANCE
Asymptomatic testing is mandatory for all graduate and professional students who are authorized to be on campus. By signing the Return to Campus Acknowledgment, students agreed to “submit to regular COVID-19 testing if and when VU requires.” Those who refuse to comply with testing requirements will be referred to their respective Dean’s office.
If a student is not able to make their scheduled day:
- If they are unable to make it their scheduled day of the week, they must make up their test the same week they missed. They can visit the test center during open hours the same week (Sunday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
- It is important that all students note their calendars with their scheduled slot and the make-up dates for the rest of the semester. It is the student’s personal responsibility to plan ahead and ensure they test.
- If students are symptomatic and visited Student Health for testing the week they were scheduled for their test, they do not need to visit the testing center that given week.
- Students who are in quarantine do not report to testing until their quarantine period is over.
Student test attendance will be tracked weekly, and compliance will be managed by each individual school.
WEEKLY ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING RESULTS
Students will be notified of their test results.
Students who test negative should continue with their weekly tests.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate as directed until they are deemed to have recovered and are released to return to on-campus activities, including classes.
Students may also receive an inconclusive test result. Inconclusive test results occur in about 1% of COVID-19 tests taken in an asymptomatic periodic testing program. An inconclusive test typically means that a very small amount of viral DNA is present but not enough to test positive. Students will be asked to shelter in place, only leaving for critical activities like picking up food, and retest as soon as possible at the testing center Sun.-Fri. 7am-6pm. The retest should show whether students were just exposed and mounted a minor viral response that does not develop into full blown infection, resulting in a negative retest result, or whether the original test caught the beginning of the infectious cycle and an increased viral load will be present at the retest resulting in a positive retest result. Directions will come to the student from the Command Center on the proper procedures to take.
Students in quarantine or isolation will receive additional follow-up instructions specific to their current status. Students who are in isolation and quarantine do not report to twice a week testing until their quarantine period is over.
POSITIVE CASE AND RECOVERY
Students who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate as directed until they are deemed to have recovered and are released to return to on-campus activities, including classes. Students should create a checklist of all necessary items in the event they are required to move to on-campus quarantine or isolation housing. This list should include items such as medication, computer, phone, chargers, textbooks and items necessary for schoolwork, adequate clothing, personal hygiene products, their own pillow, etc.
To determine the risk of potential exposure for others on campus, the Vanderbilt Public Health Central Command Center will conduct contact tracing with any student who has tested positive. Please visit the Contact Tracing page for more information on contact tracing.
Positive test results through the asymptomatic testing program are automatically rerun before students receive their result to confirm that they are positive. Therefore, students who test positive through the asymptomatic testing program will not be retested, as it has already occurred.
Vanderbilt is following the CDC’s recommended recovery strategy. If an individual had symptoms and tests positive for COVID-19, recovery status is assigned when: 1) the individual remains fever free without the use of fever reducers for 24 hours, 2) symptoms have improved, and 3) it has been at least 10 days since their symptoms first appeared.
If an individual tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms, the individual can be cleared to return to campus 10 days after the test as long as the individual does not develop symptoms. If the individual develops symptoms, then the individual must follow the recovery strategy for those with symptoms.
ASYMPTOMATIC CLOSE CONTACTS
The university has also updated its approach to testing of asymptomatic close contacts. Per both VU Return to Campus protocol and CDC guidance, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within six 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, two days prior to positive test collection) until the time the person is isolated.
If an individual is identified as an asymptomatic close contact, they will now quarantine for a 10-day period. This has been updated from the previous 14-day quarantine period, per CDC guidance, but comes with additional requirements for days 10 to 14.
When the 10-day quarantine period ends, for days 10 to 14 after last exposure, Vanderbilt community members identified as close contacts must not unmask at any time in public, including in dining locations, and must wear their mask even in the presence of those in their residence. Individuals should eat alone or complete any activities alone that require removing a mask in a private space during those days.
As a reminder, all individuals should do the following at all times to help slow the spread of COVID-19:
- Perform daily self-monitoring for symptoms. The VandySafe app includes this feature.
- Immediately self-isolate if they develop symptoms and contact the Student Health Center if a student and Occupational Health if faculty, staff or postdoc for assessment and testing.
- Wear a mask, stay at least six feet from others, wash their hands, avoid crowds and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
If asymptomatic close contacts develop symptoms, they should visit Student Health for testing.
TESTING EXEMPTION – PREVIOUSLY POSITIVE
If you have previously been COVID-19 positive, per CDC guidelines you should not partake in COVID-19 testing for 90 days following the date of your test. Please complete the testing exemption form and upload relevant documentation, which will go to the medical professionals in the Public Health Command Center for review. Acceptable documentation to upload would be confirmation of a COVID-19 test in the last 90 days that includes your name, test date and the medical facility that provided the test. Antibody tests are not accepted. Those who tested positive through arrival and on-campus asymptomatic testing or symptomatic testing at Student Health do not need to complete the form as they are already in the university’s system.
TESTING EXEMPTION – OTHER EXEMPTIONS
If you need to seek a medical exemption for testing, contact Student Access Services.
If a student has an extenuating circumstance and needs to leave Nashville or an emergency situation that means they will be out during all offered testing dates in a given week, please contact your school’s testing coordinator.
Graduate and professional students who have questions regarding campus protocols and particularly the asymptomatic testing program, should contact their school’s testing coordinator (see below):
- Arts and Sciences: David Wright and Brooklyn Bryant (CASgradtestcoord@vanderbilt.edu)
- Basic Sciences: Kathy Gould (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Divinity: Marie McEntire and Heather Lee (email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Engineering: Duco Jansen (email@example.com)
- Graduate School: Gina Repas (graduateschool@Vanderbilt.Edu)
- Law: Chris Meyers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Med: Meredith Wood (email@example.com)
- Nursing: Sara Putnam (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Owen: Sue Oldham (email@example.com)
- Peabody: Meaghan Mundy (peabodytesting@Vanderbilt.Edu)