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COVID-19 Testing: Undergraduate Student Spring Semester Testing Overview

Posted by on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 in .

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 the university will continue to evaluate all testing options and methods moving forward. 


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, then 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. 


Similar to the fall semester, undergraduate student asymptomatic testing will be required. However, undergraduate students will now be required to test bi-weekly. If students are symptomatic, they should follow the symptomatic instructions outlined above. 

Following mandatory arrival testing, twice a week testing will begin the week of Jan. 31. Students will register for days to test that will appear on students’ course schedules in a manner similar to a class with a subject designation (UNIV) and course number (0099). Students who are not registered for their bi-weekly testing time blocks will be referred to Student Accountability. 

Twice a week testing will not begin until the week of January 31. Testing will be conducted in the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center, Sunday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Learn more about the Safer Community app, the official COVID-19 testing app for Vanderbilt University.


Asymptomatic weekly testing is mandatory for all undergraduate students who are authorized to be on campus, whether they live on campus or off 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 the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards and Academic Integrity. 

If a student is not able to make one of their scheduled days in a given week: 

  • If a student cannot make their scheduled time on an assigned test date, they should visit the test center during open times that same day to make up their test. If they cannot attend the same day, they should attend the next day to make it up.  Tests must be made up the week they were missed (a week is considered Sun-Fri).
  • Unlike the fall semester, students will not receive daily “you missed your test” messages.  It is important that all students note their scheduled testing slots on their calendars.It is the student’s personal responsibility to plan ahead. 
  • If students are symptomatic and visited Student Health for testing, they do not need to visit the testing center that week. 
  • Students who are in isolation or quarantine do not report to bi-weekly testing until their isolation or quarantine period is over. 

Students who do not make their bi-weekly testing dates and do not make it up will receive a formal warning the week after they missed. If a student misses two weeks of tests, they will be referred to the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity. 

Students who have an extenuating circumstance and need to leave Nashville or an emergency situation that means they will be out during all offered testing dates in a given week should visit the  testing exemption page. 

At this time, undergraduates who receive a COVID-19 vaccination must continue to participate in the testing program and follow all campus protocols.  The CDC has recommended that those that live in close proximity like in dormitories/residential housing continue to be tested for COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated. We will continue to evaluate as additional public health information is released and update the community accordingly. Students with symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to pursue testing at SHC or another healthcare provider.


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. 


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 they may need 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 retesting 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. 


The university also has updated its approach to testing of asymptomatic close contacts. Per both the university’s 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 two 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 face mask/covering even in the presence of those in their residence. Individuals should eat alone or complete any activities alone that require removing a face mask/covering in a private space during those four days. 

Individuals who have been vaccinated will no longer need to quarantine if they are identified as a close contact and their last exposure to a positive person was later than two weeks after their vaccination (the second of two doses for two-dose vaccines, or the single dose for one-dose vaccines) is complete.  The vaccinated person will be exempt from quarantine from the two week mark, ONLY, if they submit their vaccination records to the Public Health Command Center.  To submit the vaccination record, please visit the following link.

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 face mask/covering, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash their hands, avoid crowds, and take other steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

If asymptomatic close contacts develop symptoms, they should visit Student Health for testing. 

More information about our testing vendor can be found on this FAQ.