UT Knoxville requiring students living on campus to take weekly saliva COVID-19 tests for spring semester

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– University of Tennessee students living on campus will have to take weekly saliva COVID-19 tests during the spring semester.

UTK Chancellor Donde Plowman announced the change Friday during the first COVID-19 update of the new semester.

“It is required of students living in university housing to participate in the community testing programs,” Plowman said.

That includes sorority and fraternity housing.

The testing requirement comes in addition to many similar COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines they had during the fall.

“No visitation allowed in the residence halls, or Greek housing, so residents only in those buildings. Campus dining will be carry out only to start the semester. There will be limited access to recreation and common spaces, and there will be limited in-person events,” Plowman said.

There will also be a mix of online and in-person classes.

Students still have time to switch to online classes if they choose to. However, Plowman suggested they talk to their advisors first.

The additional testing comes as cases in Knox County continue to rise.

“Case counts within the Knoxville community are higher than when they left at the end of the fall, and community spread is greater. So, it’s important for them to arrive prepared for that,” Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the Student Health Center, said.

Students living off campus will not be required to get the weekly tests but are being asked to participate.

Christian Coats, a senior at UT, lives off-campus and he said he might provide some samples, although he is weary about how many students show up for testing at once.

“When I first saw the notification, I was like, ‘I don’t think I want to do the saliva testing.’ But then they put an incentive to it, so there’s like, I guess, drawings that can happen to get the students to be more willing to actually go along with this,” Coats said.

Zoe Kidder, a freshman at UT, lives on campus and she thinks the required saliva testing will make the campus safer.

She knows from personal experience.

“When I participated in that, that’s how I found out I was positive, because I was carrying it. For a while I did not know until I got that saliva test, so I’m embracing this,” Kidder said.

She won’t have to participate for the first couple of weeks since she tested positive with COVID-19 within the last 90 days.

Kidder said she had to be quarantined in a hotel room, which wasn’t the best experience being so isolated and far from campus.

However, this semester, the university is trying to make quarantine easier on students.

Leaders created a COVID-19 support webpage, that’s available here.

Both Kidder and Coats, along with UTK leaders hope students and staff follow the safety guidelines to help keep down the spread of COVID-19 for the spring semester.

“By working together, we can stop the spread of this virus and keep ourselves, and our fellow Volunteers and our broader community healthy,” Plowman said.

More information about the spring semester guidelines can be found here.

More information about the community and residence saliva testing can be found here.

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