Students return to campus amid pandemic

Students return to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville on Wednesday as case counts begin to rise amongst the campus community.

University of Tennessee in early 2020

On Aug. 18, Chancellor Donde Plowman updated the public via Zoom on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s effort in handling COVID-19.

Director of the Student Health Center Dr. Spencer Gregg, Vice Provost John Zomchick and Vice Chancellor for Student Life Frank Cuevas joined Plowman in the virtual meeting. They updated viewers on the current case count and the importance of adhering to all COVID-19 safety regulations.

Since last week, COVID-19 cases at UT have risen. As of Aug. 18, 75 active cases were reported on campus. In addition, 270 people are actively self-isolating within the campus community. These figures include non-residential students, residential students and employees.

Gregg discussed that the only real way to keep the case count down is by following the rules. Students, faculty and staff are to wear face coverings everywhere on campus, adhere to six or more feet of social distancing and actively participate in handwashing.

“We’re only gonna be successful if we play by the rules,” said Gregg.

Plowman warned that students could face conduct charges, including expulsion, for attending parties. This comes after Plowman received news of an off-campus party on Laurel Avenue in the Fort Sanders neighborhood last Tuesday. There were at least five positive COVID-19 cases, creating what UT is referring to as a cluster.

Further complicating the initiative to keep students safe are those who choose not to report where they have been or if they are having symptoms.

“Not all students, already, are cooperating with contact tracing efforts and some are refusing to fill out the self-isolation forms,” Plowman said. “Our first and primary goal is to keep our community healthy and hopeful. Students have a role to play in this.”

Gregg echoed Plowman, “When you fail to participate, you’re failing to help others in need and that’s certainly not consistent with the volunteer spirit.”

A sea of orange and white masks will cover Rocky Top as classes begin Wednesday thanks to volunteers who assembled 50,000 wellness kits. Each kit contains a UT mask, a checkerboard gaiter and a thermometer. Most students should receive their kits through their on-campus housing or off-campus housing authority. Students without a kit can pick one up at a designated location from Aug. 18-20 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Students, faculty and staff should assess their health by completing the daily health screening found on the Tennessee app before arriving on campus or before leaving their residence hall.

UT’s information about the virus, including real-time data, cleaning policies and testing information is found on their COVID-19 Information and Support page.

Plowman will give the next COVID-19 update this Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Edited By Gracie-Lee Strange and Maddie Torres

Featured image courtesy of Donna Mitchell