To help students through the unchartered territory of isolating during a pandemic school year last fall, UT staff could be seen handing out personal-sized loaves of pumpkin bread to make a random hotel room or repurposed dorm feel more like home.
But one year later, UT announced they will no longer provide isolation or quarantine support for the upcoming semester, including the small comforts of baked goods. Instead, the onus will be on students to plan for housing, meals and transportation during self-isolation.
In a statement to the Daily Beacon, Frank Cuevas, vice chancellor for Student Life, said the current COVID-19 situation calls for increased personal responsibility.
“We have entered a phase of the pandemic where more tools are available for people to protect themselves, including widely available and effective vaccines,” Cuevas said. “The university’s role has shifted from putting strict protocols in place to providing more information about vaccines and convenient opportunities for students to get them.”
Although the university has not implemented a vaccine mandate, UT has used the wide availability of vaccines as their reasoning behind the quarantine policy. Cuevas asked that on-campus students in particular devise a personal plan for where they will stay in the event that they must leave their dorm.
“With vaccines, students are responsible for making informed decisions about their health and need to have a plan if they must isolate or quarantine off campus,” Cuevas said. “Being fully vaccinated is the best way to limit the need for isolation and quarantine and to protect yourself and others from serious illness”.
In an email to the UT community last month, Dr. Spencer Gregg, director of the Student Health Center, made clear the benefit of vaccination to students.
“Fully vaccinated students do not need to quarantine, isolate or be tested if they are exposed to COVID-19 and develop no symptoms,” Gregg said. “As long as you are fully vaccinated and have no symptoms, you do not have to stay away from others, go home, or pay for a place to stay.”
Additionally, students who have previously tested positive from COVID-19 and quarantined do not need to be tested or to self-isolate for up to three months, provided they also show no symptoms.
Dr. Gregg went on to say that he personally recommends that each student who is not already vaccinated take advantage of campus resources to do so.
“As a doctor who has followed the COVID-19 pandemic from the very beginning, I want you to know that vaccines are safe, effective and free,” Gregg said. “They are effective at preventing COVID-19, especially severe illness and death, and help reduce the risk of people spreading COVID-19.”
Unvaccinated students who display symptoms or have had known exposure are required to self-isolate if deemed necessary by UT’s COVID-19 support team.
While no longer providing housing, meals or transportation directly, UT’s support team has plans to connect students with outside resources in the event of having to quarantine.
UT asks that students self-isolate if they are COVID-19 positive, have developed any symptoms of COVID-19, are currently awaiting COVID test results, have come into close contact with someone COVID-19 positive or have recently traveled to or from a COVID-19 hotspot.
Students with concerns can reach out by completing the COVID-19 support form at covidform.utk.edu.