Dear Postdoctoral Fellows,
As a follow-up to today’s community message, I write to share additional and important guidance ahead of the spring semester. Please note the following specific changes that will directly impact you.
Return to campus testing
Before the start of the spring semester, we are implementing a return to campus testing program that will include students, faculty, staff and postdocs.
Postdocs must take a COVID-19 test no later than Friday, Jan. 14, regardless of their vaccination and booster status. You can test either at home (a PCR or rapid antigen test is acceptable), at a community testing center, or at the Testing Center at the Recreation and Wellness Center, which is open Jan. 4 – Jan. 6 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. And Jan. 10 – Jan. 13 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you have questions about where you are eligible to test, please contact the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
- If your test result is negative, you can return to campus. If you test at home or elsewhere, you do not need to submit proof of a negative test. Vanderbilt test results will be shared automatically with the university.
- If your test result is positive, you must share your test result with the Command Center and isolate at home consistent with the latest CDC guidance.
Masks required indoors
Masks will again be required indoors on campus at all times, except when in an enclosed office by yourself. This includes masking while you are teaching at least until Monday, Jan. 24. We will reevaluate this requirement in light of then-current evidence. Make sure you have a well-fitted mask that completely covers your nose and mouth, preferably a KN95, KF94, or FFP2 version.
In addition to the sentinel testing described above, the university is expanding the requirements for the existing asymptomatic testing program for faculty, staff, students and postdocs. Effective Jan. 10, individuals must provide proof of a booster, if eligible, to be exempt from the asymptomatic testing program. Testing protocols will be as follows:
- Individuals who have not provided any vaccination documentation will be required to test twice a week. These individuals will not separately be included in the sentinel testing program.
- Individuals who have provided documentation of completed vaccination but not of a booster will be required to regularly test and will be notified about the frequency of the tests. These individuals will not separately be included in the sentinel testing program.
- Individuals who have provided documentation of completed vaccination and a booster will be exempt from asymptomatic testing. These individuals will be included in the sentinel testing program.
Sentinel testing for on-campus community
Beginning Jan. 4, our sentinel, or random sampling, testing program will test groups of asymptomatic students, faculty, staff and postdocs who are working on campus on a rotating basis, regardless of their vaccination and booster status.
- Testing will be provided through the university’s Testing Center at the Recreation and Wellness Center. Hours are posted on the Health and Safety Protocols website.
- Your administrative leadership will notify you when it is time for your team to test. Please do not report to the Testing Center until you are notified, unless you are required to test under the testing protocols outlined below.
- You can and should continue your campus activities (and follow all health and safety protocols) until receiving your test result. If positive, the Command Center will contact you to determine your isolation period and to gather information for contact tracing.
- As a reminder, if you test positive through an external testing program or believe you are a close contact to someone who tested positive, please complete the webform to inform the Command Center. They will then follow up with you as outlined above.
Our public health experts will continue to evaluate all testing protocols based on trends in positivity rate and case counts and will update them as needed to protect health and safety as much as possible.
Submit your vaccine or booster record by Monday, Jan. 10, to vu.edu/submit-vaccine to avoid the requirement of regular testing and possible quarantine requirements for close contacts per new CDC protocols. Failure to fulfill the appropriate testing requirement may result in discipline for violation of the policy.
Given our experience during the pandemic and expert assessment of the omicron risk, we are confident that if we work together to make health and safety a priority—especially during the first few weeks of the semester—we can continue in-person learning, research, scholarship, and creative expression.
I recognize how challenging this has been for our scholars and for our entire community. I hope you will utilize our campus resources for mental health and well-being support, such as Work-Life Connections, and support others when they are in need.
In the weeks to come, we will continue to carefully monitor the data and metrics and work closely with our team of health experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to guide plans for the spring semester and share updates regularly. I hope you have a wonderful winter break and look forward to seeing you on campus in 2022.
Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School
Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs