Coronavirus in Tennessee: A look at UT student’s typical day during the COVID-19 pandemic

Local Coronavirus Coverage

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The main focus for University of Tennessee leaders over the past five months is how to bring students back safely, with COVID-19 precautions.

Friday, WATE 6 On Your Side’s Madisen Keavy got a look at what a typical day on Rocky Top will look like for students.

“There’s a shared responsibility between the university, our faculty, and staff in keeping our community and campus safe.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Life Frank Frank Cuevas

A shared responsibility that starts at home, where a student lives.

“Encouraging anyone in the residence halls to wear face coverings anytime they’re outside of their individual bedroom.”

Executive Director of University Housing Chandra Myrick

This year, more than 6,500 students are living on campus, and before they even get to the classroom, every day they’re required to take a self-health check.

“We do have a way of going back and looking at the students, faculty and staff we can’t look at their individual answers, but we can know whether they were cleared to be on campus, or not be on campus.”

Director of Student Health Center Dr. Spencer Gregg

If the number of self-checks doesn’t match with the number of people expected on campus that day, the university plans to double down on reminders to students.

With masks on, and the health checks done, students can go to class and those classrooms will be at 20-40% of the usual capacity.

“With a camera to capture the instruction, something called a Sign app which is technology that allows the instructor to run three or four apps and with amplification.”

Provost John Zomchick

Desks will be spaced apart and markers will be on the floor to indicate where the desks should be.

A seating chart will also keep students in the same spot for the semester and if a student tests positive, anyone near where they were sitting can be notified.

Something to note: Course absences related to the coronavirus will not be counted against students.

As you may know, life on Rocky Top doesn’t exist strictly in the classroom, and a tricky part of these new rules will be enforcing them.

University of Tennessee leaders say students should hold their peers accountable but if a student repeatedly ignores the coronavirus rules, there can be consequences, like a review by the Office of Student Conduct.

“For all types of gatherings, we have a conduct process that applies to both students on and off campus. If we need to go through the route of a student is in non-compliance, educational conduct process.”

Chancellor Frank Cuevas

Another element of a student’s daily life is food.

Take-out and online ordering at on-campus eateries is expanded; there’s an app students can use to order food.

Dining halls now also require reservations that can be made up to a week in advance. Buffet-style is also gone, replaced with students being served individually.

By the numbers: Preparing for the fall semester at the University of Tennessee

A University of Tennessee spokesperson provided some numbers that will be significant for the University of Tennessee’s plan for holding classes, and students during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • 150,000 face coverings for students and employees
  • 43,962 linear feet (8.3 miles) of vinyl and laminate for campus signage
  • 50,000 face shields for students and employees
  • 40,000 wellness kits for students and employees
  • 30,389 different pieces of campus signage printed
  • 1,400 hand sanitizer stations
  • 750 containers of disinfectant wipes
  • 652 Wifi hotspots available for students
  • 500 service hours to pack wellness kits
  • 404 laptops available for students
  • 400 stanchions
  • 364 faculty who attended Zoom and Canvas training this summer
  • 337 new touchless faucets
  • 326 plexiglass screens installed
  • 240 webcams ordered and installed
  • 225 volunteers to pack wellness kits
  • 70 hammock stands for outdoor study spaces
  • 5 months of preparation

UT taking measures to keep students safe

Classes start Wednesday, but already, 28 cases of COVID-19 were reported this week and four of those cropped up since move-ins started last Sunday.

Students can be tested at the Student Health Center, but there’s more testing planned beyond what you would expect and it involves wastewater.

Wastewater testing. Perhaps an unusual way to identify potential outbreaks of COVID-19 by finding asymptomatic students living in on-campus housing, but there’s a science behind it.

“There’s been studies on what’s the best time of the day to test wastewater, and it turns out it’s around 9 a.m. when everybody gets out of bed, brushes their teeth, takes care of their business.”

Dr. Spencer Gregg

Campus residential sites will get the wastewater tested every two weeks and if there’s a positive test, more testing will come.

“We would go to that facility the following morning and do saliva sample collection from the residents that are housed within that facility.”

Dr. Gregg

Just because wastewater is positive for COVID-19, doesn’t mean someone living there is, but it signals to UT health officials, like Dr. Spencer Gregg, someone with the coronavirus has been in that building and it’s worth an extra look.

“We’re at least getting some degree of public health instead of nothing.”

Dr. Gregg

The extra look first involves saliva samples. After those saliva samples, if there are COVID-19 positive signs, those individuals will be asked to take an official test.

The Student Health Center has those tests available for students.

“We’re up to the capacity to do 2,000 tests a day. The truth is, I don’t know if our staff will be able to turn out that many tests in that day.”

Dr. Gregg

Gregg doesn’t believe they’ll ever need that amount in a day. Right now, results are back in approximately 36 hours.

There is a back-up plan if an outbreak does occur, and more tests are needed. Gregg says they have approximately 10,000 at-home test kits, and they’re trying to pull from all contingencies.”

While this is all available for students, faculty and staff are asked to use community testing resources.

Gregg also says the daily health checks are another way of monitoring the campus environment when it comes to the virus.

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