University of Tennessee identifies sorority house as second COVID-19 cluster

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has identified a second cluster of COVID-19 cases, this one stemming from a sorority house. 

Two residents of the Zeta Tau Alpha house originally tested positive for COVID-19, Chancellor Donde Plowman said Friday. Because of how the house is set up, with shared bathrooms and living spaces, all of the residents of the house are considered close contacts.

The university defines a cluster as at least five positive COVID-19 cases or 20 close contacts stemming from the same event. All of the residents of the sorority house are being tested, and will be placed in isolation or quarantine depending on results of the COVID-19 tests, Plowman said. 

“Whenever we’re looking at close contacts, anyone who shares a living space … those household contacts are going to be considered close contacts, there’s no way around that,” said Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of UT’s Student Health Center. 

Gregg encouraged anyone to get tested if they are a close contact of a person who has tested positive. People who test positive should stay separate from others their roommates, including having a separate bedroom and bathroom, he said. 

“From the standpoint of our sorority and fraternity houses, it’s going to be very difficult to do that,” Gregg said. 

The Student Health Center conducted 70 COVID-19 tests yesterday, and most of the results have already been returned today, Gregg said. The Student Health Center has the capacity to test up to 2,000 people per day. 

There are 150 active cases of COVID-19 at UT Knoxville as of Aug. 27. Of those, 144 cases are students and six are employees. There are also 734 people in self-isolation, most of them students who live off campus. 

Undergraduate enrollment is expected to pass 24,000 students this semester, with over 30,000 students enrolled.

Fraternities and sorority placed on interim suspension

Chancellor Donde Plowman has repeatedly said she will not tolerate students breaking COVID-19 guidelines, including hosting parties off campus that do not follow social distancing or mask guidelines.

Five fraternities and one sorority were placed on interim suspension earlier this week, and will be investigated for breaking COVID-19 gathering guidelines. The organizations placed on interim suspension are:

  • Alpha Tau Omega
  • Sigma Alpha Epsilon
  • Delta Tau Delta
  • Pi Kappa Alpha
  • Kappa Alpha
  • Chi Omega

Last week, the university identified a party thrown on Laurel Avenue as the source of the first cluster. 

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