University of Tennessee relocating Massey Hall residents to make room for COVID-19 self-isolation cases

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One month after moving into their dorm rooms, residents in Massey Hall are moving out to create more self-isolation space for COVID-19 positive and close contact students living on campus.

Vice Chancellor for Student Life Frank Cuevas sent an email to Massey residents just before 11 a.m. Wednesday saying the dorm is “the best option for that space due to its low occupancy rate and number of beds.”

Students in Massey have until Friday, Sept. 11, to decide if they want to stay on campus or cancel their housing contracts outright. If a decision is not made by then, the university will select a room on the students behalf beginning Sept. 12.

“I recognize that this is unexpected news and that shifting residence halls will disrupt your semester,” Cuevas says in the email. “I am sorry for the disruption, and we are here to support you academically, socially, mentally, and financially.”

The university says it will provide staff to help residents move out beginning as early as Sunday. All moves are to be completed by Wednesday, Sept. 16.

“I’m glad they’re taking extra measures to make sure kids are quarantining properly and staying safe. But I think if some of the students here would stop partying all the time, then maybe we’d stopping having like a 100 cases per day,” Amelia Connolly, a freshman currently living in Massey Hall, said.

The university is offering a 66% prorated refund of semester housing fees, whether a resident chooses to move to another room on campus or cancel their housing contract. All Massey residents will receive a VolCard deposit of $250 once checkout procedures are complete.

Refunds will be given at the end of the month.

Cuevas says Massey residents will be tested for COVID-19 before moving into their new housing. Testing will be Thursday and Friday at Massey Hall. Tests will be offered regardless of whether a student chooses to stay on campus or leave campus for housing.

Some Massey Hall students said the unexpected move will cause additional stress, despite university leaders offering some relief.

“I have an exam on Friday and I have to move out on Sunday. So, I’m worried. I hope classes will be a little bit easier, but I don’t think they will,” Courtney Brown, another freshman currently living in Massey Hall, said.

Instructors of students who are affected will also be contacted and the university is offering support services beginning Wednesday. Cuevas, Provost John Zomchick, Dean of Students Shea Kidd Houze, Executive Director of University Housing Chandra Myrick, and Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams are hosting a webinar with students and parents tonight to answer questions.

I know this is not how you envisioned your semester, and we will work to support you through this,” Cuevas says. “As circumstances evolve on campus we are adjusting our operational plans to help manage through this pandemic, with our top priority being the health and well-being of our campus community.”

As for the spring semester, displaced residents who move to another dorm on campus will keep the Massey Hall residence rate regardless of where they are living.

Cases of COVID-19 on campus rise by 22 Wednesday

The university reported 22 additional cases of COVID-19 Wednesday bringing the total to 622. There are now 2,014 students and staff in isolation.

According to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville COVID-19 dashboard, there are now just six employees that are positive with the virus and 68 that are in self-isolation. The number of students who are positive for the novel coronavirus continues to climb, as does the number of students in isolation. There are now 961 on-campus residents and 985 off-campus residents in self-isolation.

The university on Tuesday announced positive cases hit 600 Monday and self-isolations topped 2,000.

As of Tuesday, 335 students and employees have recovered from COVID-19.

With the addition of Massey Hall as an isolation dorm, UT will have 937 beds where on-campus students can self-isolate.

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