According to the latest update to Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 dashboard, 333 people in the Vanderbilt community tested positive in the opening week of the Spring 2022 semester. The total number of cases, vaccinated population positivity rate and unvaccinated population positivity rate are all the highest so far in the 2021-22 academic year.
Between Jan. 16 and Jan. 22, 1.57% of the vaccinated population and 3.59% of the unvaccinated population tested positive for COVID-19. This number of positive cases shows a 674.4% increase from the statistics for the last week of the Fall 2021 semester, which announced 43 positive cases. The positivity rates in the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations are also up from 0.22% and 0.25%, respectively. The dashboard does not specify the number of tests administered during this time, and a university spokesperson said they could not offer The Hustler any additional information about these statistics.
“Like other communities across the country, Vanderbilt and the Nashville area are experiencing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases due to the surge of the omicron variant,” the Vanderbilt dashboard reads. “While much more contagious than previous variants, evidence shows that omicron infection results in a significantly less severe illness.”
Dashboards for the 2020-21 academic year are no longer available on Vanderbilt’s website but can be viewed in the university’s live COVID-19 data spreadsheet. The 2020-21 dashboards included graphs showing a daily breakdown of positive cases across different student populations such as on-campus and off-campus undergraduate students, as well as graduate students. The 2021-22 dashboards only display the total number of test cases per week in “the Vanderbilt community” and the percentages of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals that have tested positive. As of print, the spreadsheet has not yet been updated to include data from Spring 2022.
The percentage of vaccinated individuals in the Vanderbilt community—96%—remains unchanged since the end of the Fall 2021 semester. Statistics regarding the number of students who have received the booster shot are currently undisclosed by the university. The spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Hustler’s inquiry on this matter.
Students who have not provided proof of receiving a booster are subject to weekly COVID-19 testing in the Spring 2022 semester. Individuals who have not provided any proof of vaccination are subject to required asymptomatic testing twice a week. These policies are a change from the Fall 2021 semester, in which unvaccinated individuals were required to get tested weekly.
Individuals who have provided documentation of the initial vaccine series and a booster shot are exempt from routine asymptomatic testing, but unlike the others, are included in the sentinel testing program. The program conducts tests on a random sample of individuals in the Vanderbilt community each week to prevent and foresee COVID-19 trends. This technique is commonly used in regards to vaccine-preventable diseases.
The uptick in COVID-19 cases happened during the Commodores Care period, which imposed several restrictions from Jan. 18 through Jan. 24, such as dining halls converting to a “to-go” format, libraries being closed and students being unable to interact in-person with those other than their roommate(s). These restrictions followed a one-week delay of the semester.
First-year student Augustus Boettcher commented on the increase in cases, mentioning that he finds it ironic that cases rose during the Commodores Care period.
“You’d think after all these restrictions and preparations that this wouldn’t happen,” Boettcher said.
Sophomore Andrew Hu remarked on the spike in cases, despite the Commodores Care policies.
“If anything, students were encouraged to break the rules of the Commodores Care period as they struggled to accommodate to its unreasonable set of policies,” Hu said.
Graduate students also protested university policies addressing the omicron variant with protests on Jan. 18 and Jan. 26. The protests were fueled by an online petition started by graduate students, which has garnered 512 signatures as of print, and the administration’s response to it. The petition calls for “accessible hybrid options,” “broader testing accessibility” and “clear and consistent” COVID-19 guidelines.
The university spokesperson said in an email to The Hustler that the university would relay updates and additional information as the situation evolves but otherwise referred The Hustler to the information provided in the dashboard.
“The vast majority of students, faculty and staff with positive cases are reporting mild symptoms that typically resolve within a day or two,” a statement on the COVID-19 dashboard reads. “As always, we will monitor the latest available data and respond accordingly to protect the health and safety of the Vanderbilt community.”
Vanderbilt policy states that those who have received a positive COVID-19 test result must quarantine for five days after beginning to experience symptoms or receiving their result—whichever comes first. They can resume campus activities after five days if they remain or become asymptomatic, with the condition of wearing a “tight-fitting” mask for an additional 10 days.