Vanderbilt administrators sent an email to undergraduates, containing information on changes to COVID-19 testing protocol for the Spring 2021 semester, at approximately 2 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
Per the email from Provost Susan Wente and Vice Chancellor of the Division of Administration Eric Kopstain, changes were made to the spring semester testing program according to information gathered over the course of the Fall 2020 semester. In addition, quarantine guidelines have been revised in accordance with new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.
This email follows another email sent Tuesday morning from the Office of the University Registrar which requires undergraduate students, both on campus and remote, to complete the COVID-19 Return to Campus Acknowledgment for Students (Spring 2021) by Monday, Jan. 18.
One of the most significant changes to Spring 2021 testing protocol is the elimination of pre-arrival testing. Instead, the focus will shift to arrival testing in combination with a “shelter in place” procedure as students await their initial COVID-19 test results.
According to the email, this change was made based on learning from Fall 2020 that students’ highest risk activities prior to returning to campus are likely to be traveling to campus and engaging in social activities before classes begin. Students should expect to receive an email from the Office of the University Registrar to sign up for their arrival testing time slot by Thursday, Jan. 14.
Arrival testing will take place between Jan. 20 and 25 at the Testing Center. Students must shelter in place until they receive a negative test result in order to participate in in-person activities. The email defines sheltering in place as “not participat[ing] in in-person campus activities, including classes or group activities.” Off-campus students should not come to campus at all, except for testing, until they receive a negative test result.
Mandatory weekly testing at the Testing Center is scheduled to resume the week of Jan. 31, though testing days have shifted to Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST. Students will receive an email by Jan. 14 to register for their weekly mandatory testing time slot.
Other changes to mandatory weekly testing are the elimination of missed test reminder emails. If a student misses their weekly testing date and does not make it up, they will receive a “formal warning” the following week. Students who miss two weeks of tests on their scheduled testing date and do not make it up will be referred to the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards and Academic Integrity.
Test samples that return a positive result will be retested automatically for confirmation before students receive the result. Thus, the separate retesting program that was in effect for Fall 2020 has also been eliminated.
The email also stated that individuals who are “asymptomatic close contacts” will now be required to only quarantine ten days, down from the previous 14-day CDC guideline. After the ten day quarantine period, day ten to 14 regulations stipulate that masks are required in any public setting and any activity requiring removal of the mask should be done privately.
Finally, students who receive the vaccine over the course of the spring semester will still be required to participate in the testing program and must continue to follow all COVID-19 safety protocols, per the email.
“However, we will re-evaluate if additional public health information is released suggesting that those vaccinated should no longer participate in the periodic testing program,” the email reads.