The risk of developing severe illness from the new coronavirus, COVID-19, is low for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends taking simple steps to avoid catching or spreading respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. These include covering your cough or sneeze, disinfecting commonly used surfaces, and thoroughly washing or sanitizing your hands. Call your doctor and stay home if you are sick. Get more information at CDC.gov/coronavirus. Knox News is making this coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers, including nonsubscribers, to help people stay safe.
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville has suspended all in-person classes and will offer them online because of concerns about the coronavirus.
Students are expected to stay home after spring break, UT-Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said in an email to students, faculty and staff. Students unable to stay home can register for an exemption to stay on campus. At this time, the university has no cases of coronavirus
This will go into effect for classes beginning March 23 and they will be suspended until at least April 3 for Knoxville and Martin as a proactive measure in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a release from the university. UT Chattanooga will be suspended until at least March 30.
UT Health Science Center will offer all face-to-face lecture classes remotely, beginning March 23.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our students,” Interim System President Randy Boyd said. “We are taking this preventative measure with all of our campuses that provide face-to-face instruction out of an abundance of caution.”
More: UT suspends out-of-state travel over coronavirus concerns, but sport teams are excluded
UT is also cancelling all non-athletic events that would involve gatherings of 50 or more people, beginning March 16, Plowman wrote.
“This remains a fluid situation,” Plowman wrote. “The uncertainty of spring break travel adds to the changing dynamics of the situation specifically related to campus. Additional updates may be forthcoming.”
Campus facilities, however, will remain open.
“The university will remain open, although several entities and resources across campus will have limited operations,” said UT spokeswoman Tyra Haag.
Moving classes online has become a nationwide trend as the number of coronavirus cases grows. Universities like Stanford University, Columbia University and the University of Washington were among the first to make the move.
In Tennessee, Vanderbilt University was the first to cancel classes and consider moving them online.
UT has already cancelled all non-essential, out-of-state travel for faculty and staff. This does not apply to traveling sports teams. The university says they are monitoring the coronavirus situation daily.
Coronavirus in Tennessee latest news: Fewer than 60 COVID-19 tests conducted statewide
At a press conference on Tuesday, UT administrators said the university would take time over spring break to clean campus more intensely.
UT had already “stepped up” their current cleaning processes and will use spring break as a time to access more areas of campus, said Chris Cimino, senior vice chancellor for finance and administration.
More: How Tennessee Vols athletics is responding to the coronavirus
Administrators also warned students about travel over spring break, and make sure they are aware of any travel restrictions at their destinations. Students who may travel to countries with restrictions may have difficulty returning to the United States, said Spencer Gregg, physician and director of the Student Health Center.
“This would not be a good time to be traveling to a CDC level three alert country,” Gregg said.
There have been nine cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Tennessee: five in Williamson County, two in Davidson County, and one each in Sullivan and Shelby counties. Coronavirus was declared a pandemic on Wednesday, as the number of cases in the United States rose above 1,000.
What to know
According to the CDC, the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) for most people is low. The CDC recommends taking simple, everyday steps to avoid catching or spreading respiratory diseases including COVID-19. These include covering your cough or sneeze and thoroughly washing or sanitizing your hands. Call your doctor and stay home if you are sick. Get more information at CDC.gov/coronavirus or contact the Tennessee Department of Health coronavirus information line at 877-857-2945 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, the total number of coronavirus cases are:
- Williamson County: 5
- Davidson County: 2
- Shelby County: 1
- Sullivan County: 1
United States: 938
Source: Tennessee Department of Health; Centers of Disease Control and Prevention; World Health Organization