Since Spring Break, The University of Tennessee and the Strip have been anything but normal and “normal” is changing week by week. On Friday, Sept. 18, the Knox County Board of Health implemented a new regulation for all restaurants and bars who serve alcohol to close their doors at 11 p.m. each night. The goal is to discourage large gatherings and the spread of COVID-19, specifically thwarting the regular nightlife routines of the University of Tennessee’s students. But do bar closing times really prevent the spread of COVID-19 at a college campus?
The highest percentage of cases for COVID-19 is between the ages of 21-30, totaling 2,402 cases or 24.28% of the total cases in Knox County, according to recent reports by the Knox County Health Department.
“Instead of students going out around 11, they’re now going out as early as in 8:30 in order to get their “going out time” in, said graduate student Lauren Mann. “Therefore, this defeats the purpose of keeping students’ homes.”
In a recent interview with WBIR, Knox County Mayor Glen Jacobs said that house parties remain more of a concern among the board than bars and restaurants. Backing Jacobs, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said that “We need to treat UT student infection rates the same as any Knoxvillian.”
The University of Tennessee Chancellor Plowman has been pleading with the Knox County Board of Health to create bar regulations and closures since the beginning of the semester.
Junior UT student Lucy Mays said she thinks going out has been a difficult topic depending on how serious the individual believes the virus (COVID-19) is.
“People are going to party and go out no matter what it’s just where and how. Everyone adapts as they did with the 11 o’clock curfew so people are going to party and spread their germs no matter what,” said Mays. To compound the problem, recent data suggest that students have also largely given up on testing.
With every new mandate, cases have still continued to rise in the Knoxville area, which leaves residents of Rocky Top more confused than ever.
Students have slowly given up on getting tested or have traveled out of the county to avoid being contacted by contact tracing teams from the Knox County Health Department or the University of Tennessee.