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UT arranges to use another hotel for infected students as virus counts rise

The university reported Friday that positive cases through the end of Thursday were at 369, a jump of 61 from the day before. All but six are students.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — With infection rates continuing to rise, University of Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman warned students Friday they'd better follow safety guidelines if they want the semester to proceed safely.

"As these numbers continue to go up from here, it is beginning to strain everyone, and it's going to put a strain on our resources going further," the chancellor said in the online address.

The university reported Friday that positive cases through the end of Thursday were at 369, a jump of 61 from the day before. All but six are students.

A week ago UT had 153 cases, she noted.

Plowman said administrators expected COVID-19 numbers to grow at the semester's start Aug. 19, but "the increase cannot continue unabated."

The number of people in isolation or quarantine also rose, from 1,442 to 1,647, UT figures show. That included 827 students living off campus and 754 students living on campus.

In addition, UT has identified seven current "clusters" of cases -- all of which are at sororities.

UT is going to take steps to address the rise in cases and need for greater isolation-quarantine space, Plowman said.

It is in the process of securing an agreement with an additional, unidentified hotel where people who test positive can live until they clear isolation, she said. UT already had a number of agreements with hotels and apartment developments for such space.

Plowman said UT would have "the entirety" of the hotel for isolation use.

Some staff also are being deployed to help with support resources such as those related to contact tracing and meal deliveries as the need increases.

Staff also is working with fraternities and sororities and the county health department to ensure Greek members have plans that would allow them to stay in isolation or quarantine while living in the houses.

UT also is examining current dorm space to consolidate vacancies to make way for more isolation space, Plowman said. That may mean some students now living in one room will have to move around, she said.

It may feel like a semester in motion for some, Plowman said.

Credit: UT
UT Chancellor Donde Plowman on Friday.

Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the on-campus Student Health Center, said students must do a better job of following common safety practices such as keeping at least 6 feet apart, washing their hands often, and wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Plowman warned students to be smart during the looming Labor Day weekend. They need to avoid cramped bars and should aim to gather only in small groups of their closest friends -- while doing things like wearing a mask and maintaining proper distance.

The chancellor said the university also has hammocks and tents available that students can use to enjoy the campus outdoors -- at a safe distance.