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Focused measures to slow COVID-19 spread on campus

Dear Vols,

With the significant rise in case counts over the past week, we must take additional action to control the spread of COVID-19 on our campus.

I appreciate the majority of Volunteers who are masking up and spreading out to keep themselves and their friends safe. Unfortunately, the number of active cases continues to go up, more than doubling in the past week alone, and we must flatten the curve.

The first action is to create more isolation space on campus, and we began that yesterday by reassigning students currently living in Massey Hall to other residence halls. Contact tracing indicates that social interactions in enclosed spaces without protections such as masks are the major factor driving cases up, and we must take additional measures.

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, we are instituting new actions, beginning immediately and continuing through at least September 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 suite mates 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, we will also begin comprehensive surveillance testing of all on-campus housing.

I ask for your cooperation in following these new, and hopefully temporary, restrictions. 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.

I know how difficult this is. But Vols help Vols, and we can do this for one another. More than 2,000 students are in quarantine or isolation and are feeling cut off from their friends and lives. It’s not forever, but that doesn’t make it easy. The Office of the Dean of Students will be providing virtual programming and care to these students and will be looking for ways to safely enlist the campus community in reaching out to our isolated fellow Volunteers.

Thank you to our Volunteer community for working hard to stay safe and protect others. We will continue to keep you updated at utk.edu/coronavirus and in our regular live updates.

Donde Plowman
Chancellor