Dr. Deborah Birx meets with local leaders and health officials at University of Tennessee

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Dr. Deborah Birx, Coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force visited the University of Tennessee Tuesday to meet with local leaders and health officials.

This is the sixth university stop on her Midwest tour. She says she’s pleased with the way students and school employees are handling the frequent changes that come with the virus.

“It’s clear that they have a strong testing plan, quarantine and isolation plan and support of the students. We did see excellent utilization of masks by students on the campus,” Birx said.

However, a new problem is looming. Birx says the school may be looking at an uptick in cases when students come back from holiday break.

“The majority of the spreading is happening in family gatherings and neighborhood gatherings independent of being in a restaurant or bar,” Birx said.

She says students have a social responsibility to themselves and the rest of the community to make smart choices during their breaks.

Birx also talked about social distance versus physical distance. She says we have been taught to social distance, but even when in settings with family, close friends, or roommates we still need to maintain physical distance.

“Instead of saying socially distance, we’re going to say physically distance while you’re working through and having social activities,” Birx said.

Birx says the school is planning to increase surveillance testing as well as possibly testing students before they go on Thanksgiving break. Those plans are forthcoming.

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