Dear students, faculty, and staff,
Welcome back. I hope everyone had a restful and rejuvenating winter break. The energy and excitement on campus always makes the beginning of a new semester one of my favorite times of the year. This fall we were reminded of just how impactful an in-person college experience can be, and I am excited to have everyone back on Rocky Top again this spring.
Our semester is beginning at a time when case counts are high locally and around the country, caused by the emergence of the Omicron variant. This variant appears to be causing milder symptoms—especially in patients who are vaccinated and boosted—and experts anticipate the surge will peak soon. In some areas of the country, communities that experienced surges are already seeing rapid declines. It remains important for each of us to take steps to protect ourselves and our Volunteer community.
The best way for you to do this is to get vaccinated and, if eligible, receive your booster. At least 70 percent of our community has been vaccinated, and we will provide several opportunities for those who need a vaccine or a booster to get one on campus. Over the next few weeks, we will partner with Knox County to hold vaccination clinics on campus, and the Student Health Center has appointments available most days.
I am also asking everyone to please continue wearing your masks in classrooms, laboratories, and other public spaces. Surgical and cloth masks are widely available across campus, and faculty and staff can also request KN95 masks.
Finally, if you’re feeling unwell, please stay home. Testing is available for all students at the Student Health Center and EverlyWell home tests are available for students, faculty, and staff. You can also get a COVID test locally at most drive-through pharmacies. If you test positive for COVID or need to quarantine because you are a close contact, filling out a COVID support form will help us guide you to the resources and support you need.
I want to express my gratitude to Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the Student Health Center, and our partners at the Knox County Health Department, who have helped guide our decision-making. I also appreciate the hard work of Dr. Chris Klenck, who guides our athletic department and is a member of the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force. Dr. Klenck was recently named the 2022 SEC Team Physician of the Year.
We will continue to provide guidance and updates throughout the coming weeks, and you can always find detailed information on our website. We have a lot to look forward to this semester, and I want to make sure everyone stays healthy so we can enjoy these experiences together. Thank you for doing your part.