Tennessee Coronavirus: University of Tennessee puts in new measures to slow spread of COVID-19

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The University of Tennessee announced a series of measures Thursday designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has been spiking at the Knoxville campus since classes resumed for fall semester.

UT Chancellor Donde Plowman in an email said the following new measures are effective immediately and last through at least Sept. 27:

No visitation in any on-campus housing. Only residents who live in the building should enter a residence hall or Greek house, and only roommates or suitemates should be together in individual rooms. All common spaces that are not already closed will be closed.

All on-campus dining will be converted to carryout. Dining options and procedures will remain the same, but there will be no eat-in dining during this time. All dining in Greek houses is also grab-and-go only.

TRECS will be closed for two weeks. Fitness classes and instructor training can be held outside or virtually. The outdoor pool will remain open and outdoor intramurals will continue.

All indoor in-person campus events are canceled during this two-week period. Socially distant academic programming and research, outdoor events with safety precautions in place, and virtual events will continue.

In-person classes and research will continue. Contact tracing indicates that classrooms and current levels of research activity have not contributed to the spread of COVID-19.

Social gatherings on campus should be held outdoors, follow CDC guidance for social distancing, and require that all attendees wear masks.

Off-campus social gatherings should similarly be held outdoors or follow the Knox County Board of Health’s recommendation for indoor activities, limiting gatherings to no more than 25 people in a 900-square-foot space.

In addition, students hosting any gatherings are responsible for making sure that attendees are following CDC guidance regarding social distancing and mask-wearing.

As part of this effort, university leaders will also begin comprehensive surveillance testing of all on-campus housing, Plowman said.

“I ask for your cooperation in following these new, and hopefully temporary, restrictions,” Plowman said in the email “There are student conduct consequences for noncompliance.

“If we can’t flatten the upward trajectory of our active cases by September 27, we will have to keep these measures in place longer. Let’s work together over the next two weeks to reverse the upward trend in new infections.”

Some Massey Hall students felt the additional guidelines added more stress to their workload, seeing as how they just learned the day before they had to move.

“I got like four emails about the move out, I had to schedule my testing for tomorrow. I had to find new roommates,” Jack Deese, a freshman living in Massey Hall, said.

Some also think these new policies are being placed a little too late.

“We’re a month in and they’re kicking us out of our dorm and they’re making us relocate. It’s kind of like, you didn’t think this was going to happen,” Callie Cronise, another freshman living in Massey, questioned.

Several students all agreed that one of the rules will make life on campus even harder, especially with having to move: no visitation in any on-campus housing.

“Studying groups and stuff like that is really important, especially our major, it’s really important. So we really can’t meet up as often. Maybe like FaceTime, but that’s about it,” Ashley Depe, another freshman living in Massey, said.

That specific new rule impacted their plans to stay in touch with their current roommate and other dorm floor friends, who are either moving back home or to another dorm.

“We were kind of depending on seeing each other in our dorms and being able to hang out with each other and now that’s been taken away from us as well,” Jonathan Spurlock, a freshman living in Massey, said.

The four freshmen all agreed they were glad in-person classes weren’t canceled.

Spurlock said getting out of his dorm and seeing other classmates for even just his one in-person class has helped him stay sane.

He was also glad to hear outdoor activities weren’t canceled.

“We’re very very lucky that they you know didn’t shut down the Vol beach next to the TRecs,” Spurlock said.

The four Massey students said there was one rule that wouldn’t impact them too much: Vol dining changing to carry-out only.

“That’s not changing much. It’s more convenient a lot of the times anyway to (get carry-out),” Deese said.

None of these students were sure, though, how the university planned to enforce the new rules.

“You cannot stop college kids from getting together,” Cronise said.

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