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UT tracking COVID-19 cases as students return to Rocky Top

Students returned to campus a week before classes resume online and in person. Vols are adjusting to the safety changes on campus while UT monitors the pandemic.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UT Students returned to campus for the fall semester a week before the first day of class. Students started moving into the dorms Sunday, adjusting to new safety restrictions.

Already, two rooms in different buildings on campus are closed after exposure to COVID-19. The university announced at the end of July everyone is required to wear face masks while on campus.

While UT is making changes and encouraging self-screenings before stepping on campus, students like sophomore Austin Davidson are just relieved to be back in Knoxville.

RELATED: UT Knoxville students start moving into dorms

"I'm definitely excited to be back," Davidson said. "Under these circumstances it's a little tough, but I think everybody's just ready to get back to school."

University of Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman said 8 miles worth of vinyl signage are posted on campus, serving as reminders to keep a safe distance.

"It's a little weird to see all that, but besides that you know everything seems a little bit more normal than I expected at least," Davidson admitted of wearing masks and limited capacity in buildings.    

Monday morning, the university listed 24 active COVID-19 cases on campus: 16 students, three faculty and five staff.

Monday night, UT's online active case tracker was reset to zero across the board. The university said this is in preparation for a new database rolling out this week.

RELATED: First-year UT students not required to live on-campus, and other changes due to COVID-19

The Knox County Health Department said during a media briefing Monday, any UT student living on campus who tests positive for COVID-19 will be counted as a Knox County case.

"They're living here, they get counted in Knox County," director Dr. Martha Buchanan said.

This rule does not apply for commuter or online-only students.

If someone does have novel coronavirus symptoms or tests positive for the virus, the university temporarily shuts down rooms, including ones in dorms.

UT hopes its precautions will help stop the spread and students hope to stay on campus as much as promised.

"I can't wait to start school," Davidson noted. "Go Vols!"

The University of Tennessee system said students will attend a mixture of virtual and in-person classes until Thanksgiving. At that point, finals will be online.

RELATED: UT's fall semester will be shorter but with fewer breaks