Vanderbilt launches COVID-19 sentinel testing program

As a part of Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 response and in light of increasing case numbers in Nashville and the surrounding community, the university is implementing random asymptomatic testing—or “sentinel” testing—to detect and forecast possible infection trends and provide early warning signs of outbreak. Sentinel testing captures a random sample of vaccinated individuals from the campus community to help monitor the prevalence of COVID-19. This type of testing is a common technique with vaccine-preventable diseases, per the Centers for Disease Control.

Pam Jones
Pam Jones

“The virus changed on us, so we need to adapt,” explains Pam Jones, associate vice chancellor for health and wellness, co-commander of the university’s Public Health Central Command Center and associate professor of nursing. “Supporting this plan really helps us have an early warning sign that we may be getting more asymptomatic presence on our campus. We know that people are going to get tested when they’re ill; what we’re trying to pick up are people who actually have virus and could spread virus but don’t have symptoms.”

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students, postdoctoral scholars, staff and faculty are eligible for the sentinel testing program and will be selected at random. If you are selected, you will be notified via email in advance and should report for testing the following week.

Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 asymptomatic testing center is located at the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center in the auxiliary gym.

The testing center hours are as follows:

  • Mondays, 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
  • Tuesdays, 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
  • Wednesdays, 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
  • Thursdays, 7 a.m.–3 p.m.

Individuals can park and walk in to the testing center, or use the drive-up service.

Parking is available in Lot 102, and the entrance to the testing center is through the large doors at the back of the Rec Center by the recreation fields. Signage will direct you to the indoor testing center.

Additionally, a limited number of drive-up testing parking places are available in reserved locations in Lot 102.

Please note: You should not eat, drink or chew gum for 60 minutes prior to taking your test.

Additional information about the testing center can be found on the Health and Safety Protocols webpage.


Why does Vanderbilt think it is necessary to do sentinel testing? 

The university’s health and safety protocols were developed in close consultation with experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt School of Nursing, as well as national, state and local public health officials, and in keeping with relevant public health guidance. At this time, in light of rising case numbers in Nashville and the surrounding community, the university is launching the sentinel testing program. Sentinel testing is a common technique with vaccine-preventable diseases, per the CDC. The goal is to gather a snapshot of the health of the VU population with respect to COVID-19, identify trends, and provide early warning signs of outbreak. The university will continue to monitor case numbers and may change its approach to sentinel testing in the future, as appropriate.

If I have symptoms, should I go to the testing center? 

Individuals with symptoms should NOT visit the testing center and should follow the instructions for symptomatic testing on this webpage.

Do I need to quarantine while waiting for my test results each week? 

Since this is an asymptomatic testing program, you do not need to quarantine after testing. If your test result is positive, you will be contacted by the Public Health Command Center with further instructions.

How are individuals selected for this? How was I chosen?

The sentinel, or asymptomatic random testing, program focuses on those individuals who are not currently in the regular, mandatory testing program and includes undergraduate, graduate and professional students, postdoctoral scholars, staff and faculty. Individuals are selected randomly.

For additional questions regarding testing protocols, visit the Health and Safety Protocols website.