UT staff returning to campus June 1 ahead of in-person fall semester


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — University of Tennessee, Knoxville staff will return to campus June 1 in preparation for a return to in-person operations in the fall.

UT Chancellor Donde Plowman and UT leaders made the announcement Friday during their weekly COVID-19 update.

“Our staff have been incredible,” Plowman said. “They have been resilient and creative, working remotely, supporting our students and our mission everyday day in and day out. I am looking forward to seeing this campus humming again.”

The university will still follow public health guidelines as they evolve. Department heads are to submit their plans to follow health guidelines to university administration by May 10.

The changes will allow UT to move forward with plans to return to full capacity dorms, classes and dining halls for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 18.

“We want to proceed cautiously until we can be assured that everyone, or as many people as possible, are fully vaccinated,” Provost John Zomchick said.

With that in mind, Zomchick said the summer term will look a lot like the spring term with a mix of in-person and virtual classes. The first summer term also begins June 1. Mini term begins May 10.

Vaccinations are increasing on campus. UT Student Health Center Director Dr. Spencer Gregg said the university gave out its 10,000th dose Friday morning. Amalia Kappel, a junior from Johnson City, received the milestone dose.

“It is overwhelming to think of how far we’ve overcome,” Plowman said. “Widespread vaccination is our way out of this pandemic and it is the reason we plan to return to full on-campus operations this fall.”

UT is offering the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine to students at the Student Health Center. The school is also offering clinics to everyone, including the general public, at the Student Union. Signups can be made online at www.utk.edu/coronavirus/vaccine.

“We encourage all of our students, faculty, staff, as well as the broader public, to schedule your vaccine as soon as possible,” Plowman said. “We especially want our students to get their vaccine immediately, before the end of the semester.”

Gregg also offered some incentive to students to get the vaccine.

“Those confirmed by contact tracer as fully vaccinated will not have to participate in saliva testing for the remainder of the semester, and in some cases, may not have to self-quarantine if they are exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus,” he said.

As for cases on campus, there are 41 positive cases, including 40 among students, as of Thursday, the latest date for which data is available. There are 137 people in quarantine or self-isolation. Of those 137, 67 are students living on campus, 55 are students living off campus and 15 are employees.

The participation rate for mandatory saliva testing among on-campus students continues to decline. It is now at 40.6%.

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