UT COVID-19 cases, testing participation declining as leaders prep for fall semester

Education

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — COVID-19 cases on the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus continue to decline accord to school leaders during a weekly update.

Though the news is encouraging, the testing participation among students is putting a damper on opening campus up further.

“We’re so close to a turning point in this pandemic. Now is not the time to let down our guard,” UT Provost John Zomchick said.

“If you have not already, you will soon begin see consequences for not participating in the community saliva program.”

For the week ending March 7, participation rates in the community saliva testing dropped to just over 50%. Participation ending the week of Feb. 26 was 56%. The week ending Feb. 21 saw just under 60% of students participate.

There are 43 positive cases of COVID-19, 38 students and five employees, on campus as of the university’s last update. Two-hundred forty-two, 128 on-campus students, 92 off campus and 22 employees, are in quarantine.

Spencer Gregg, director of the Student Health Center, said UT has provided 5,000 vaccines this semester, including 1,000 second doses in the last 24 hours at two clinics on campus. The university will provide 1,100 Johnson & Johnson vaccines at a clinic on March 19.

Dr. Gregg also provided insight into the university’s announcement about preparing for a “regular” fall semester.

“With the improvements we are seeing across our community, state and nation … we feel it is imperative for us to be prepared for a regular fall semester,” he said. “As we have from the beginning, we will continue to follow the guidance of local, state and federal health officials if circumstances change.”

Gregg said the university will “hope for the best, prepare for the worst and remain flexible.”

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