Postdoctoral Affairs E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

November 2020

Dear Postdoctoral Fellow Community –

As we near the holiday season, I know we are all eager for some rest, restoration and renewed connections with friends and family. As we make plans, I wanted to reach out with some guidance regarding travel and holiday gatherings shared in the most recent “Return-to-Campus update” – relevant sections of which I’ve included for you below.

Please remember that the risk of contracting COVID-19 while traveling or at gatherings remains high. If you will be interacting with new sets of people that are not part of your current normal daily life, extra precautions should be taken. In order to enjoy your holiday as safely as possible, continue to wear a mask, practice physical distancing, wash your hands frequently and avoid large gatherings.

If you are hosting or attending a small gathering (<10), be extra sure that the location is well-ventilated and large enough for all to be 6-foot distanced, the activities ensure mask wearing and, if dining, use separate serving utensils and follow other hygiene measures listed below

If you are traveling for the holiday break, please check with your supervisor, mentor or PI regarding special guidelines that may be issued by your school, college, department or program and must be followed upon returning to campus. I encourage you to discuss with your supervisor how you may be productive while following your area’s return to campus guidelines for travel.

Also, you may have read the Chancellor has extended the university’s Winter Break this year to include December 22nd and 23rd. This applies to VU-employed postdoctoral fellows. These days should not be considered part of a postdoctoral fellow’s paid-time-off bank. For postdocs on training grants, please refer to NIH policy which generally advises postdocs to follow their institution’s holiday schedule.

Below you will find general guidance on travel and gatherings. In an effort to keep our Vanderbilt community as safe as possible and protect our ability to continue our important work in learning and discovery, I hope you will remain stringent in adhering to the protocols the university has put in place for the health and safety of all.

If you have any questions, please let me know.


Sally Parker
Interim Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs


Leaving Campus or travel outside of the Nashville Area

Many states recently have updated or issued guidelines about their travel requirements. Those traveling domestically should read state requirements before they depart and plan what they need to have with them when entering the state. These may include:

  • Government-issued ID used when traveling that matches name printed on ticket or boarding pass.
  • A mask (or two) to wear in the airport, aircraft, public spaces, rideshare and/or other shared modes of transportation.
  • Hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol; note that TSA is allowing 12 oz. liquid hand sanitizer in carry-on luggage.
  • Disinfecting wipes to clean any shared surfaces you may use.
  • COVID-19 test results if needed for arrival destination.
  • Mobile phone charger. 
  • Snacks—Some airlines and airports currently have limited food and beverage service/options.

If traveling internationally, be sure to check the destination’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health or equivalent agency, or the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Country Information for details about entry requirements and restrictions for arriving travelers, such as mandatory testing or quarantine.

Travel is known to increase risk of being exposed to COVID-19; therefore, anyone traveling is encouraged to carefully review data on the prevalence of COVID-19 at their final destination.

Individuals are even more at risk if they interact with people from neighboring areas or other communities outside of their home community and are at the highest risk when interacting with crowds that include people traveling from distant communities or are made up of people from different places.

All members of the Vanderbilt community should take safety precautions during travel, especially if using public transportation:

  • Reduce the number of stops on the trip.
  • Wear a face mask/covering at all times and consider also wearing a face shield.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people; if not possible on public transportation, sit as far away from other passengers as possible.
  • Carry and use hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol) frequently.
  • Use a disinfecting/sanitizing wipe to clean any touchable surfaces in the vehicle in which you are traveling. This includes planes, trains and other forms of transportation.
  • Recheck for any requirements or restrictions at your travel destination.

The least risky option for individuals is to travel by car alone or with others within a household. If in a car with others, whether they are from within a household or outside a household, individuals should wear a face mask and sit in the back seat if someone else is driving. If weather conditions permit, open the windows.


Gatherings and activities while home and during the holiday breaks

The CDC has shared considerations about virus spread risk at holiday celebrations. Gatherings with people who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than those with people who live in the same area.

Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering’s location, or where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Again, as noted by the CDC, individuals are even more at risk if they interact with people from neighboring areas or other communities outside of their home community, and are at the highest risk when interacting with groups or crowds that include people traveling from distant communities or made up of people from different places.

During the break, members of the Vanderbilt community can take steps to protect themselves and others, including, among other things, following key CDC guidelines such as:

  • Avoiding activities in which physical distancing cannot be maintained or taking protective measures may be difficult.
  • Asking all guests at holiday get-togethers to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for the prior 14 days.
  • Avoiding any self-serve food or drink options. Use single-use options or identify one person to serve shareable items instead.
  • Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving and eating food.
  • Isolating from family and friends and getting retested if any symptoms develop, including but not limited to fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache or loss of taste or smell, or if notified of being a close contact of someone who tested positive.