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Aug. 12, 2021 – Updated COVID-19 guidance and protocols

Posted by on Thursday, August 12, 2021 in Community Messages.

Dear members of the Vanderbilt community, 

As we look forward to the start of the 2021–22 academic year, we are monitoring the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidance to keep our community as safe as possible. Today we are sharing information you will need as you prepare for the start of classes later this month. 

We start this academic year in a tremendously better place than last year. In compliance with our requirements, more than 94 percent of us have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination, made possible in part by significant medical and scientific contributions here at Vanderbilt, is the very best protection our society has against this devastating virus. Thank you for stepping up and getting vaccinated to protect our community. 

Because of our high vaccination rate, we are looking forward to an academic year that will offer fewer campus restrictions than last year. That said, we will take appropriate precautions in response to recent infection increases and to expert guidance related to the delta variant. We collaborate with medical leaders at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to understand emerging data, and our policies reflect the most current scientific guidance available. We know today that the delta variant has fueled a rise in infections in Nashville and beyond and that vaccinated people infected with the variant are, in some cases, able to transmit the virus. However, we also know that vaccinated people are robustly protected against the disease. Breakthrough infections among the vaccinated are rare and, in most cases, produce only mild symptoms. Unfortunately, due to insufficient vaccination rates in our region, there has been a significant increase in infections and hospitalizations, which are almost entirely limited to unvaccinated individuals. To do our part in improving the situation, we are temporarily adjusting on-campus guidance, as outlined below.  

Please carefully read the following updated protocols and guidance for the start of the fall 2021 semester. These protocols are effective beginning Monday, August 16. 

  • Masks are required indoors on campus, unless noted below. Masks are also required indoors whenever minors are present and at all indoor, off-campus Vanderbilt-hosted events. We will monitor cases and guidance to decide when we may lift this masking protocol. 
  • Masks are not required for vaccinated individuals in private offices, or in shared workspaces, classrooms or labs where individuals can stay at least six feet apart. Instructors when lecturing do not have to wear a mask if the instructor can maintain at least six feet of physical distancing from all students at all times. Additionally, roommates who are vaccinated are not required to wear masks when together in their residence hall room or suite.
  • All campus community members and all visitors, including family members and loved ones, will be required to mask during move-in on Aug. 21–22. More detailed information about additional move-in protocols will be shared soon. 
  • As of Aug. 2, all visitors are required to wear masks in all indoor spaces on campus.  
  • Because vaccinated individuals are at a lower risk, they are exempt from quarantine if identified as a close contact to a positive case unless they become symptomatic. Anyone experiencing symptoms should get tested at either Student Health, Occupational Health or other testing location in the community and shelter in place while awaiting results. Undergraduate students experiencing symptoms will either shelter in place or be moved to quarantine housing by the Command Center while awaiting test results. Vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals who are close contacts of someone who tests positive should get tested at the Vanderbilt Testing Center or another community testing location three to five days after exposure. 
  • We firmly support the personal choice of anyone in our community to wear a mask for any reason at any time 

As we have all learned, we may need to change quickly to adapt to new information, and we have proven that we’re prepared to do so. Our public health command center remains operational to lead our contact tracing and other response efforts, which are a national model. We monitor the available data and analyze cases to identify trends and respond quickly.  

We reiterate that vaccination is the most effective layer of protection against the devastating effects of this virus, and the additional layers of protection that are in place are intended to keep our community as safe as possible. We hope you will encourage everyone you know to get the vaccine. Be mindful of your interactions in the broader community where vaccination rates are lower and the risk of exposure is higher.  

We encourage everyone to remain calm, and careful, as we move forward. We will use our collective intellect, creativity and expertise to tackle this challenge while still experiencing a one-of-a-kind collegiate experience. We are One Vanderbilt and one community. We are grateful for your commitment to keeping one another safe and for everything you do to support our educational mission. 


Daniel Diermeier 


Cybele Raver

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs 

Eric Kopstain 

Vice Chancellor for Administration 

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