122 Vanderbilt community members test positive from Aug. 29-Sept. 4

Amidst a rise in positive COVID-19 cases, the university released a public dashboard, revamped their testing program and added regulations to large gatherings.

COVID-19 sign with Zeppos tower in the background

Alex Venero

COVID-19 signs on Vanderbilt’s campus, as photographed on Aug. 27, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Alex Venero)

Mae Monette, Staff Writer

122 members of the Vanderbilt community tested positive for COVID-19 between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4 following 67 positive cases the week of Aug. 22-28. In light of the cases between Aug. 22-28, Vanderbilt announced updates in a Sept. 3 press release to its COVID-19 policies. These changes include a dashboard with case counts, a sentinel testing program and limitations regarding large gatherings. 

The dashboard, released on Sept. 8, will be updated with new case counts every Wednesday this fall. The dashboard displays the total number of positive cases broken down into the percent of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who tested positive. Vanderbilt had a dashboard last year that included additional statistics of test results for students living on and off-campus as well as faculty, staff and post-doctoral students teaching or working on campus. It also compared Vanderbilt’s positivity rates to the county, state and nation. 

screenshot of the covid-19 dashboard
Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 dashboard. Screenshot taken on Sept. 8. (Hustler Staff/Mae Monette)

From Aug. 29 to Sept. 4, the dashboard reported that 122 community members tested positive. It also reported that 0.56 percent of the vaccinated community and 2.04 percent of the unvaccinated community tested positive.

The Aug. 29 to Sept. 4 numbers mark an 82 percent increase from the previous week of Aug. 22- Aug 28, during which 67 community members—55 of whom were vaccinated— tested positive. This increase mounts on the 81 percent increase from the week of Aug. 22-28 compared to Aug. 15-21, during which 37 individuals tested positive, per the Sept. 1 Fall 2021 Faculty COVID-19 Town Hall. Vanderbilt did not publicly disclose the case counts for Aug. 15-21 until this town hall.

Universities adjacent to Vanderbilt on the U.S. News Best National Universities rankings have also taken the initiative to create public dashboards displaying COVID-19 cases on their campuses. Brown University, tied with Vanderbilt at No. 14, has a dashboard that includes data from its routine, asymptomatic testing of vaccinated and unvaccinated students, faculty and staff as well as information about its current vaccination rates. In the last week, Brown had 38 confirmed positive cases. About 97 percent of the students and 95 percent of faculty and staff are vaccinated as of Sept.1. 

Similar to Brown, Duke University (12) created a testing tracker that displays weekly and cumulative results of their asymptomatic testing program for vaccinated and unvaccinated students and employees. From Aug. 30 to Sept. 6, Duke reported 126 positive cases. This was 0.52 percent of the 24,070 tests that were administered.

A sentinel testing program, led through the Public Health Central Command Center, will also be launched to monitor infection trends and hot spots of COVID-19 within Vanderbilt’s community. This program will include all unvaccinated individuals and a random sample of vaccinated individuals. Target implementation of the program starts this week, per Jones’ presentation during the Faculty Town Hall. 

The university representative said that more information about the testing program will be shared soon.

Vanderbilt also modified its policies regarding large gatherings. Large indoor gatherings with a “substantial amount” of visitors will be limited, although the university representative did not quantify this limitation in the email. Indoor events with no visitors present will not be limited at this time, per the university representative. Masking protocols for large outdoor gatherings are also a possibility and will be determined on a case-by-case basis, per Jones’ presentation during the Town Hall.

“I think this is a perfect step for Vanderbilt to make sure we still have some sort of normalcy but at the same time to make sure that we are protected,” first-year Emini Offutt said.

chart of covid-19 vaccines among vanderbilt community
COVID-19 vaccination records among the Vanderbilt community. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

As presented by Senior Associate Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Pam Jones during the Town Hall, approximately 96 percent of the Vanderbilt community is vaccinated. Around one percent remains non-compliant with the university’s vaccination protocol, while around three percent have received approved accommodations to the requirement.