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COVID-19 Cases: How does contact tracing work? What are quarantine guidelines for close contacts? How does isolation work for on and off campus residents?

Posted by on Friday, July 23, 2021 in .

Contact Tracing

Contact tracing generally works as follows:

  • If an individual develops symptoms and is awaiting a COVID-19 test or receives a positive COVID-19 test result, then the individual stays home. Campus residents will generally quarantine or isolate in their regular on-campus housing assignments. Limited isolation space is available. More details are outlined below in the “campus residents” section.
  • When a positive COVID-19 test result is identified, a contact tracing survey will be sent to the individual who tested positive. The individual who is positive must complete the survey which determines all of the necessary information for contact tracing.  A contact tracer will review the information submitted and contact the individual who is positive if further information is required.
  • Close contacts will receive notification and instructions by email.

Per both Vanderbilt protocol and  CDC guidance, a  close contact  is defined as any individual who was within  6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic persons, 2 days prior to positive test collection) until the time the person is isolated.

Things to remember:

  • Incidental exposure such as walking by someone in the hallway, using the same equipment or the same area/room is not close contact.
  • Surface contamination is not a primary pathway of concern per the  CDC. Public areas will be frequently disinfected  by Facilities/Plant Operations.

Quarantine/Close Contact

If you are a close contact:

  • You can continue participating in on-campus activities if you do NOT have COVID-19 symptoms. You must monitor symptoms. You must wear a tight-fitting mask if you need to be around others at home and in public for 10 days. 

If you develop any COVID-19 symptoms, you should get tested as soon as possible and shelter in place until you get a negative test result. For more information on testing, please visit the COVID-19 Testing FAQ.

Positive Case/Isolation

Members of the Vanderbilt community who have received a COVID-19 positive test result from an entity other than Student Health or Occupational Health, regardless of vaccination status, should complete the following  webform. More information can be found on the Command Center FAQ.

Individuals will receive direct communication from the Command Center about their isolation. If you have a positive test result:

  • You remain in isolation for 5 days after your symptoms started or tested positive, whichever came first. You can return to campus activities after 5 days of isolation if symptoms have improved or you remain asymptomatic.
  • You are required to monitor symptoms and wear a tight-fitting mask for 5 additional days.
  • Details regarding isolation for campus residents is outlined in the “campus residents” section below.

Campus Residents

Campus residents will generally isolate in their regular on-campus housing assignments. They will remain in their spaces at all times other than to seek medical care or pick up food. They will wear a well-fitting mask at all times when in any shared areas and will clean shared areas immediately after use. Roommates should also wear a well-fitting mask in shared areas and clean those areas regularly during the isolation period. Masks may be removed when actively eating or sleeping and every effort should be made to remain six feet away from anyone during these times. KN95 masks are recommended and are available on campus at no cost. Additional details will be provided to campus residents at the time of their isolation.

Limited isolation space is available on campus and will be reserved for campus residents who test positive for COVID-19 and who share a bedroom space with a student with moderate or severe immunosuppression, including, but not limited to, (i) those in active treatment for cancer; (ii) solid-organ transplant patients taking immunosuppressive medications; (iii) stem cell transplant patients within two years of transplantation or taking immunosuppressive medications; (iv) those with inherited immunosuppressive conditions, such as DiGeorge Syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome; (v) those with an advanced or untreated HIV infection and a CD4 count of less than 200, AIDS defining illness without subsequent improvement, or current uncontrolled viral loads with ongoing symptoms; or (vi) those with moderate or severe immunosuppression because of medications (e.g., Prednisone for more than two weeks, chemotherapy medications, biologic medications like Humira or Remicade).  In these instances, the campus resident who has tested positive will be relocated to isolation housing.

Students with moderate or severe immunosuppression who will be sharing a bedroom space should register with Student Access and submit a request for this isolation housing accommodation as soon as possible. In order for isolation space to be available, students should be approved for accommodation before a roommate tests positive. Students with moderate or severe immunosuppression may also be eligible for Evusheld, a pre-exposure prophylaxis available at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  The Student Health Center will assist with referrals for Evusheld for eligible students.  More information is available at

Classes and Work

Students in isolation should contact their instructors to discuss a plan to access class material and make up missed work. Faculty will work with students as they do other times when a student misses class due to a medical condition.

Staff members in isolation should contact their supervisor to discuss time off work.  Human Resources is available for additional questions. The COVID leave bank is still available.