The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has traced a cluster of active COVID-19 cases to an off-campus party, the university announced Tuesday.
The party took place on Laurel Avenue last week, Chancellor Donde Plowman said. A cluster is defined as at least five connected cases or 20 people in self-isolation stemming from one event, said Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the UT Student Health Center.
“We know students have missed their friends and they want to connect but they have to do it safely,” Plowman said.
Contact tracing has been completed and was successful for the cluster, Gregg said.
Plowman said students will be required to comply with contact tracers throughout the semester, and there would be punishment for students who did not comply because “you are risking the health and welfare of everyone else here.”
Students who host parties that do not comply with social distancing and mask guidelines could also face punishment, Plowman said, adding that “we will hold the party host accountable.” However, there will not be a punishment for disclosing that you attended a party to a contact tracer, Plowman added.
“We will hold you responsible, and it’s possible that you could be expelled from school and I will not hesitate to do that if our students are irresponsible,” Plowman said.
The university reported 75 active cases of COVID-19 and 270 people in self-isolation on Tuesday. Those numbers more than doubled in the week leading up to the start of the semester. Students began moving onto campus on Aug. 9, and classes begin on Wednesday.
University of Tennessee coronavirus case count: Get the latest numbers
Last week, UT reported 28 active COVID-19 cases and 155 people self-isolating. The university is also tracking rooms that are undergoing enhanced cleaning when someone who has been in that space has tested positive, or is suspected of being positive for COVID-19.
Rooms will be shut down for a short period of time to be disinfected, then reopened for use, Plowman said.
Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt said there had been 23 positive COVID-19 tests since football players returned to campus in early June, although Pruitt said this week only “a few” players are quarantining and not practicing.
Classes at UT have been divided up between online, in person and a hybrid model that combines online and in-person teaching. About 15% of classes will be fully in person, 52% will be fully online and 33% will follow the hybrid model, said Provost John Zomchick.
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