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Aug. 31, 2020 – Return to Campus Update

Posted by on Monday, August 31, 2020 in Community Messages.

Last week was a week of firsts. As Chancellor Diermeier said in his video message on Friday, not one of us has ever attended college, or worked together on campus, during a global pandemic. But as a community, as One Vanderbilt, we are rising to the challenge, every day, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the semester.

We have updated our public dashboard to report each week the prior daily number of positive tests results. As you’ll see, after the first full week of all students being back on campus and our testing program in place, there was an uptick of positive COVID-19 tests. This increase on a weekly basis primarily stemmed from a small number of clustered infections. Our post-arrival testing of undergraduates identified cases in these small clusters, as well as those who were likely exposed during travel. Importantly, we planned for such localized cases and our rigorous contact tracing and quarantine systems are working to swiftly contain the spread. This week’s dashboard update also includes the results from our pre-arrival testing for undergraduates. Of those tests, 29 were positive, giving us a positivity rate of 0.5%, much lower than the current national average of 5.7%. This pre-arrival testing allowed us to identify those individuals who needed to stay home until they were well.

Moving forward, we expect to continue to see positive cases as we test all undergraduates weekly and expand our periodic testing across all campus groups. These additional tests, and the data we are drawing from them, are vital tools in helping us slow the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to closely monitor the data and make evidence-based decisions to adjust our campus responses as needed.

As a campus community, we must take these numbers seriously and as a reminder that we cannot let up on our efforts to keep each other as safe and healthy as possible—if we stay vigilant, we can diminish the spread from isolated positive cases. The four basic components of our prevention protocols are critical: masking, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and no gatherings larger than 10 people. Roommates and suitemates considered a family unit are exempt from masking and physical distancing within the interior of their living space; however, please be mindful that this only applies to the members of your family unit while inside your living space. One unmasked positive person interacting from family unit to family unit can result in a cluster of infections.

Developing new lifestyle routines in the midst of a global pandemic can be challenging. As we are still discovering new aspects about the nature of this virus, we must remain steadfast in following health and safety protocols, and encourage those around us to do the same—not just for the safety of ourselves, but for our entire community. And as new information becomes available we will remain flexible and adapt.

Last week offered many reasons for hope. The commitment and enthusiasm of students, faculty, staff and postdocs has brought new life and energy back to campus. We should all be proud of the work we have done that has brought us to our second week of classes, and we must work together over the coming weeks to have the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong.

What’s Coming Up

Undergraduate mandatory weekly testing

Mandatory weekly testing for all undergraduates begins today, Monday, Aug. 31.

Undergraduate students must enroll in a weekly testing time block by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and complete their test by Saturday, Sept. 5. Students will have the opportunity to change the time block they have selected up until the Sept. 1 deadline, after which registration will be closed. Additional slots will not be added, so students are encouraged to enroll as soon as possible in order to reserve their desired block. For additional assistance registering, please reference the YES user guide and the Return to Campus website.

Testing will take place in the David R. Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center, by appointment/registration only, Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Students will be notified of their test results via email, typically within 48 hours. 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 who live on campus may be required to move quickly to quarantine or isolation based on testing results or contact tracing and should create a checklist of all necessary items they may need if that happens. This should include items such as medication, computer and devices, phone, chargers, textbooks and items necessary for schoolwork, adequate clothing, personal hygiene products, their own pillow, etc.

Students who have previously been COVID-19 positive, per CDC guidelines, may be exempt from COVID-19 testing for 90 days following the date of their test and should complete the testing exemption form and upload confirmation of a COVID-19 test in the last 90 days that includes name and test date. Antibody tests are not accepted.

Those who tested positive through pre-arrival, arrival and on-campus Vault tests or through testing conducted at Student Health will be exempt from weekly testing at this time. Students currently in quarantine or isolation received additional follow-up instructions specific to their current status and should register for a weekly testing time but should not report to weekly testing until their quarantine period is over.

On-campus testing center details>>

Symptom Monitoring

All students who have been authorized to be on campus must continue to conduct symptom monitoring every day before coming to campus or leaving their residence hall room using the symptom assessment tool within the VandySafe app. If incorrect symptoms are accidentally entered into the app or a student has been cleared by Student Health, or if a student experiences technical issues with the app, they should email between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for assistance.

Student symptom monitoring details>> 

University safety measures: Shelter in Place Orders

The university may issue Shelter in Place Orders to small groups of students who are not positive or immediately identified as close contacts. This will require students to temporarily remain at their residence and switch to online learning for all classes.

The university issues Shelter in Place Orders when it finds, based on the advice of public health experts and assessment of University officials, that test results and contact tracing developments suggest a potential cluster among a concentrated group of students that may present a higher risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission.

Shelter in Place Orders protect all involved when additional time is needed to complete contact tracing and related analysis to assess the scope of a potential cluster, and are in addition to the isolation and quarantine actions already underway. The university will lift Shelter in Place Orders once the necessary analysis is complete.

University Shelter in Place Orders details>>

Update to Gatherings policy for organized off-campus events

The university’s Gatherings policy has been updated to clarify that a member of the VU community may attend, participate in, or engage with an off-campus service, activity or event that is not hosted, managed, organized or sponsored by Vanderbilt University or Vanderbilt community members, but the individual is required to follow all Vanderbilt University safety and gathering protocols (including masking and physical distancing from others) while attending, participating in, or engaging with such off campus services, activities or events.

This means that if several members of the Vanderbilt community attend the same service, activity or event in the greater Nashville community they must not congregate in a masked, physically distanced group larger than 10, as per the Vanderbilt Gatherings policy. The university will impose significant penalties for violating the university’s Gatherings policy, whether on- or off- campus, because such gatherings have potential campus-wide impacts.

All university community members should also be aware of Nashville’s guidelines concerning gatherings which are different from Vanderbilt’s. Failure to comply with the city’s public health emergency orders can result in criminal penalties. 

If you notice COVID-19 protocols are not being followed, report it by calling the Public Health AmbassaDore Hotline at 615-343-1352.

Gatherings Policy details>>

Immunity eligibility for being truthful during contact tracing efforts

Students are expected to be forthcoming and honest when providing information to contact tracers. A student who provides information about their prior possession or use of alcohol or other drugs and any resulting intoxication, or prior violation of Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 protocols, during contact tracing will be eligible for immunity from disciplinary action in order to facilitate accurate information reporting. Similarly, a student who provides information in a Title IX investigation 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 during the investigation. On the other hand, failure to be truthful and forthcoming during contact tracing will result in disciplinary action.

Contact tracing details>> 

Libraries, study rooms and other resources

Vanderbilt’s libraries have reopened with card access for the VU community only. Check the libraries’ webpage for current opening hours and additional information, including new services and resources. While staffing on-site has been de-densified, librarians are fully available via live chat, Zoom, email, phone or text.

Designated libraries, buildings and specific rooms available to take online courses and to study are listed on the Return to Campus website, and each room’s capacity is listed to aid students in identifying a study space that best fits their needs. Each of these study spaces is specifically set up to maintain appropriate physical distance, and students should follow all campus protocols, including wearing a face mask/covering, at all times. Students should be mindful of following all posted signage, including circulation patterns, and be prepared to change plans in the event a space is at capacity when they arrive.

Libraries, study rooms and other resources details>>

Public dashboard

Vanderbilt University provides a public dashboard of new positive COVID-19 tests among members of the Vanderbilt community. This dashboard has been newly updated to show daily positive tests reported, in addition to weekly data summaries. Additional information has also been provided regarding pre-arrival testing results. The dashboard continues to include positive test reports for Vanderbilt students residing on campus; Vanderbilt students residing off campus who are coming to the university campus; and Vanderbilt University-employed faculty, staff and postdocs who are teaching, working or conducting research on the university campus. These results are recorded on the day the test result is received and not on the day the test was taken. The university will not send updates about each positive case or clusters of cases; the dashboard is the best source of information about positive cases on campus.

COVID-19 public dashboard>>

What you might have missed

Tips for talking about wearing masks, physical distancing

It can be uncomfortable to ask a fellow Commodore to put on their mask or to move 6 feet away. You may feel nervous or embarrassed, but there are proven techniques that you can use to encourage compliance by others. The keys to success are to approach someone with respect and kindness, and not make assumptions about why they are not complying.

If you find that the person is either ignoring you or becoming aggressive, remove yourself from the situation and call the AmbassaDore Compliance Hotline at 615-343-1352.

Tips for addressing mask wearing, physical distancing>>

Classroom protocols

The university has made substantial investments in classroom technology to support our educational mission, including upgrading classroom technology for livestreaming and recording in classrooms, building new video recording studios and providing guidance for faculty about the classroom technology available. The university’s protocols were designed to either meet or exceed guidance from the CDC and were also based on input from leading subject matter experts across campus including a range of faculty leaders; for example, the co-chairs of the University Working Group educational continuity subcommittee and the Public Health Advisory Task Force.

Classroom protocols details>>

Testing and Contact Tracing Flow, Notifications

Testing and contact tracing charts are available for community members to use when determining next steps after having symptoms, receiving a COVID-19 positive test case or being identified as a close contact of a person with COVID-19.

Contact tracing details>>

Undergraduate student testing details>>

Graduate and professional student testing details>>

Faculty, staff and postdoc testing details>>

Voluntary Faculty COVID-19 Periodic Testing Program available 

Faculty interested in participating in the university’s COVID-19 periodic testing program on a voluntary basis should complete the Voluntary Faculty COVID-19 Periodic Testing Program webform. Eligible faculty must be VU-employed, working on campus and engaged in in-person activities on campus, such as teaching an in-person course or working in a research space with other individuals. Participation in the program is confidential, as are test results, except to the extent that information and advice is coordinated by the Public Health Central Command Center and Occupational Health.

Access to buildings on campus

Access to academic buildings, or buildings in which in-person instruction is taking place, will generally be open between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and will not require a Vanderbilt card/badge during those hours. Access will be restricted outside of the designated hours and on the weekends. All residence halls and administrative buildings will require a Vanderbilt card/badge and appropriate access permissions for entry at all times. 

Building access, entry and exit details>>

Outdoor tent safety and security protocols

Given last week’s tornado warning, please remember that all occupants of tented areas should follow the instructions provided by tent staff in the event that any enhanced safety or security measures are needed. VUPS will respond to tents and relocation points as requested and, along with tent staff, will ensure calm and orderly evacuations if needed.

Evacuation and shelter situation details>>

VandyRide and other transportation modes

VandyRide is operating limited service with one Gold Route shuttle and one Black Route shuttle. Download the VandySafe app and go to the “Maps & VandyRide” section or visit the website to access routes in real-time. There will be longer wait times for riders due to capacity restrictions related to COVID-19 safety during this time.

VandyRide and other transportation details>>

Video Spotlight

WATCH: Classroom Protocols

WATCH: Support for the Community

WATCH: Positive Case Notifications

WATCH: Quarantine and Isolation

Upcoming deadlines for undergraduate students

Sept. 1 Undergraduates must enroll in their mandatory weekly testing block no later than 11:59 p.m. and take their test by Sept. 5 in order to be in compliance with the university’s periodic testing policy.


Graduate and professional programs academic calendar

Aug. 31 School of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice program launches
Sept. 1-4 Divinity School Doctor of Ministry Virtual Intensive Program

The Return to Campus Update is part of our ongoing effort to provide you with the latest information regarding the fall 2020 Return to Campus Plan. While some of this information may not impact you directly, we want to ensure everyone in our community has easy access to this information. You’ll receive this update via email until September, and then we will switch to running it as the top story in MyVU, continuing through the end of the fall semester. Each edition also will be posted on the Return to Campus website under the Community Messages section.