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With improving virus numbers, UT eases some on-campus restrictions

Residents, for example, can begin visiting between dorm rooms.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The University of Tennessee Knoxville campus told students Thursday it's easing some on-campus social restrictions because of progress stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The changes:

*On-campus residents can resume visiting between dorm rooms.

"You are permitted to have no more than one guest visiting the residence hall at a time. Only UTK students are permitted as guests in the residence halls."

*Residents, members and other UT students can go to fraternity and sorority houses -- but only those people, "unless the House Corporation has implemented a more restrictive visitation policy."

In August and September as school began, reported clusters of infected students shot up, especially at some Greek residences.

Positive case rates among UT students on and off campus have been relatively low in recent weeks. There's some debate in the community whether that's because fewer students are being exposed to the virus or because they're finding a way to hide their positive tests.

UT reported Thursday a total of 66 active cases, including 56 students and 10 employees. The data is current through Wednesday night.

Currently, there are 316 people in isolation or quarantine, including 170 students off campus, 105 students on campus and 41 employees.

UT is crediting the student body with taking part in pooled saliva testing of on-campus residents. According to administrators, the results from that testing over the past several weeks show a very low positivity rate.

The university is continuing to urge students to practice social distancing and to wear masks when out and about.

"Your diligence is critical in allowing us to keep restrictions lifted. We will continue to watch both prevalence and testing participation and will reinstate restrictions if necessary to protect our community," the notice states.

In Knox County, and across Tennessee and the nation, virus rates have begun to spike along with hospitalization rates of sick people.

UT administrators are expected to offer a campus update Friday morning.

Fall classes end Nov. 24.

Spring semester is scheduled to start later than usual -- Jan. 20, 2021 -- but there won't be a full spring break and classes are set to end April 28, earlier than normal.