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COVID-19 Health and Safety

The status of the COVID-19 pandemic has improved substantially, with cases and hospitalizations continuing to decline in Nashville, Tennessee, and the United States. As a result of these improvements and with the planned ending of the COVID-19 national public health emergency on May 11, 2023, the Public Health Central Command Center (Command Center) discontinued operations effective May 12, 2023. The Office of Health and Wellness maintains a small, nimble public health monitoring function moving forward to support any university response to future public health threats. This website will continue to be updated with relevant guidance regarding COVID-19.


Find answers to the most asked questions about COVID-19 

For example, type in “vaccine” or “mask” in the search box. The list will filter to show only items that mention those keywords.

COVID-19 Health & Safety

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is a disease caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, a flu, or pneumonia.  Like many other respiratory viruses, coronaviruses spread quickly through droplets you project out of your mouth or nose when you breathe, cough, sneeze, or speak. COVID-19 may attack more than your lungs and respiratory system. Other parts of your body may also be affected by the disease.

Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people become severely ill. Some people may suffer from post-COVID conditions — or “long COVID”. Older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Vaccines against COVID-19 are safe and effective. Vaccines teach our immune system to fight the virus that causes COVID-19.

You can read more about COVID-19, variants, symptoms and prevention here.

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Influenza (flu), the common cold, and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses  caused by different viruses. Flu is caused by influenza viruses only, whereas the common cold can be caused by a number of different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019.

Because flu, the common cold, and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed for proper diagnosis. Testing is also important because it can reveal if an individual has both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. More information can be found here and here.

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Individuals should get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms and should shelter in place/remain at home to minimize exposure to others until they have their test results.

Symptomatic testing is available at the following locations:

  • Student Health is open Mondays to Fridays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for students. Please consult their website for more information.
  • Occupational Health Express Care is open Mondays to Fridays 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for VU faculty, staff or postdocs. Location is Suite 112 on the 1st Floor of the Medical Arts Building.
  • Vanderbilt Health Walk-In Clinics noted  here and the Vanderbilt Health Clinics at Walgreens noted  here offer COVID-19 testing.
  • More information on testing options through VUMC can be found here.

Rapid tests that you can do at home may also be available at retail locations.


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Members of the Vanderbilt community who receive a COVID-19 positive test do not need to report that test to the university but should follow CDC isolation guidance. 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 should continue to monitor symptoms and wear a tight-fitting mask for 5 additional days.

Off campus residents should isolate at their off-campus residence following CDC isolation guidance.

Campus residents will generally isolate in their regular on-campus housing assignments. They should 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.

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

Students can visit the Get Well Meals program page for information on obtaining meals while they have COVID. For more information about the Get Well Meals program, including menu options and ordering details, please visit

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

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If you were exposed to COVID-19 you can continue participating in on-campus activities if you do NOT have COVID-19 symptoms. You should monitor symptoms and 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.

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COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be  safe and effective  at preventing serious illness or hospitalization and reduces potential transmission to others even if you do get infected. The rapid development and expansion of the vaccine is an unprecedented achievement in the history of medicine and is one in which scientists and clinicians at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center  played  leading roles. This underscores the power of our university’s relentless pursuit of innovation and our mission to be of service to our community.

Vanderbilt students can contact Student Health to schedule a vaccine if interested.  Faculty, staff and post docs who are VUMC patients can obtain a vaccine at VUMC and should contact their primary care physician, schedule through the myHealth app and/or find more information here. Individuals can also look into options to be vaccinated in the local Nashville community.


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The CDC announced every U.S. household can order 4 free COVID-19 self-tests.

Self-tests (also called at-home tests and over-the-counter tests) are one of several tools that protect you and others by reducing the chances of spreading COVID-19. Self-tests can be taken at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results.

You can place an order:

  • Online at
  • By calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489)
  • By calling or emailing the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) at 1-888-677-1199 or (for people with disabilities)

Additional tests can be purchased online or in pharmacies and retail stores. Visit FDA’s website for a list of authorized tests. If you’re not able to obtain a self-test when you need it, you might also visit a community testing site, or contact a healthcare provider for more options.

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