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Aug. 27, 2020 – Message to undergraduates and parents: Undergraduate mandatory weekly testing starts Monday, August 31

Posted by on Thursday, August 27, 2020 in Community Messages.

Dear students and families,

As we’ve discussed throughout our Return to Campus Plan communications, frequent testing is key to our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 on our campus. With that goal in mind, we have expanded our periodic campus testing to include mandatory, weekly testing of all undergraduates starting Monday, Aug. 31.

Currently, as a result of the significant efforts of our community to keep one another safe, we are only seeing small or limited clusters of positive cases amongst our undergraduate students. We detected this in part through our arrival testing and our robust, swift contact tracing. All individuals involved are following the university’s protocols for testing, quarantine and isolation. We expected positive cases as we ramped up our campus activity for the fall semester and these are being well managed. We have also been planning for significant periodic testing of our campus community. Based on the analysis of our public health experts, we believe enhanced weekly testing, paired with our rigorous contact tracing, will provide another key lever in our efforts to do everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus. In particular, as we conducted universal early testing, we identified many asymptomatic positive students, and, as we said we would, we are adapting plans to reflect this new information. This weekly testing will allow us to better and more quickly identify asymptomatic positive cases and localized clusters within our campus community.

Testing will be conducted in the David R. Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center at scheduled times and is mandatory for all undergraduate students who are authorized to be on campus and are engaged in on-campus, in-person activities—whether they live on campus or off campus. Those undergraduates who have elected for remote-only study are exempt. Students will receive an additional email with further instructions on registering for their testing time slot, including details on exactly where to report for testing in the Recreation and Wellness Center and what to bring. We will continue to partner with Vault—a national provider of saliva test kits, and the same provider we utilized for pre-arrival and arrival testing of undergraduates—to help us conduct these weekly tests.

The testing center will offer testing time slots Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., to provide students with the greatest flexibility in scheduling their weekly tests. Under this testing model, the university will plan to process approximately 1,000 tests per day to start.

In addition, as mentioned in Monday’s Return to Campus update email, the university’s ongoing COVID-19 periodic testing program (also referred to as surveillance testing) launched Aug. 24 with testing of select graduate and professional students in various schools. Periodic testing will continue to expand over the coming weeks to encompass additional graduate students, professional students, faculty, staff and postdocs.

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. 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 tests positive. Students are expected to be forthcoming and honest when providing information to contact tracers. A student who provides information during contact tracing 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. A student who has not been honest with the contact tracers about relevant contacts will be subject to the Student Accountability process.

Students identified as close contacts must quarantine immediately upon being notified. It may be necessary to move a student quickly to quarantine or isolation based on testing results or contact tracing. We recognize that this can be disruptive and appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation. Students should create a checklist of all necessary items they may need in the event that they are moved to on-campus quarantine or isolation housing. This should include items such as medication, computer, phone, chargers, adequate clothing, personal hygiene products, etc.

This new weekly testing program will help ensure, as much as possible, the safety and well-being of our community. I especially appreciate the degree to which our campus community has rallied around a sense of shared responsibility for each other over the past week. We are making progress and with continued vigilance and teamwork, we will ensure this special semester will continue as planned.


Susan R. Wente

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair