Campus COVID testing program expands to weekly mandatory testing for all undergraduates

Vanderbilt University will expand its campus COVID-19 testing program to include mandatory weekly testing of all undergraduate students beginning Monday, Aug. 31.

Testing will be mandatory for all undergraduates 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 remote-only study are exempt.

“As we’ve continuously discussed in our Return to Campus communications, frequent testing is key to our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Currently, as a result of the significant efforts among our community members to keep one another safe, we are seeing only small or limited clusters of positive cases among our undergraduate students,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente said.

This was detected, in part, through arrival testing and 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 cases are being well managed,” Wente said.

“We also have 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,” she said. “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. Weekly testing will allow us to better and more quickly identify asymptomatic positive cases and localized clusters within our campus community.”

Weekly testing will be conducted at the David R. Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Students will receive an email with further instructions on how to register for their preferred testing time slot, including details on exactly where to report for testing in the Rec Center and what to bring.

The university will continue to partner with Vault—a national provider of saliva test kits, and the same provider Vanderbilt used for pre-arrival and arrival testing of undergraduates—to help conduct the weekly tests. Under this testing model, the university plans to process approximately 1,000 tests per day to start.

In addition, the university’s ongoing COVID-19 periodic testing program (also referred to as surveillance testing) launched Aug. 24 with the 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 postdoctoral scholars.

Students who test positive for COVID-19

Students who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate as directed until they have been deemed recovered and are released to return to on-campus activities, including classes. To determine the risk of potential exposure to others on campus, the Vanderbilt Public Health Central Command Center will conduct contact tracing with any student who has tested positive.

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.

Students identified as close contacts must quarantine immediately upon being notified and will be tested on day eight of the required quarantine period in accordance with current CDC guidance regarding asymptomatic close contacts. It may be necessary to move a student quickly to quarantine or isolation based on testing results or contact tracing. The university recognizes that this can be disruptive; students should strongly consider creating a checklist of all necessary items they may need in the event 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,” Wente said. “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.”

For more information, visit the Return the Campus website.