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UT to update COVID-19 guidelines, reflecting downgraded Knox Co. community risk level

The CDC said Knox County has a "medium" community risk level, recommending people with high risk for severe illness speak with their doctors about precautions.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee said Friday that it would be updating its COVID-19 guidelines to reflect a lower community risk level in Knox County.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Knox County was now at a "medium" risk level for contracting COVID-19, downgraded from a "high" risk level.

"As we watch COVID-19 case counts drop on campus, I want to thank each of you for all you have done and are doing to take care of yourself and others," said Donde Plowman, the chancellor of UTK, in an email to the campus community.

As part of that downgrade, they said masks were no longer recommended as a general prevention measure for most people. The CDC said people at high risk for severe illnesses should speak with their healthcare providers about prevention measures, which can include wearing a mask.

They said people can be at high risk for severe illness if they are obese if they have chronic kidney disease, if they have COPD, if they are immunocompromised, if they have Type 2 diabetes or if they have serious heart conditions.

People living in "medium" risk communities are also encouraged to get tested if they show symptoms of COVID-19 and are encouraged to stay up to date on vaccines.

"With our case counts on-campus low and our understanding, tools, and treatments for COVID-19 continuing to grow, we are coming to a place where we manage COVID on campus much as we manage other illnesses like the flu," Plowman said in the email.

The email also said the university will be updating its campus mask notices as part of the downgrade. They said the signs will reflect broader health messages encouraging people to take steps towards keeping the campus community healthy in general, such as by practicing good hygiene and staying home if they don't feel well.

They also said wearing a mask will always be an option for anyone who wants to. COVID-19 rapid tests will also still be available at the Student Health Center, and the university will continue to give guidance and resources about COVID-19 through its online form.

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