Staff Report Graphic

Every Monday, the university publishes updated COVID-19 monitoring data to its website and this week, the data indicated that there is now a greater reported COVID-19 case load on campus than at any other point in 2021.

Since the school year began, there has been a steady increase in active cases and active COVID-19 support, a metric that indicates the number of community members who have completed a request for support after testing positive, developing symptoms or being exposed to COVID-19.

By Aug. 29, the university reported that 228 students and 37 employees had active cases of COVID-19 for a total of 265 active cases, the highest number since Sept. 2020. With 51 new cases, Aug. 26 also marked the highest number of reported new cases for a single day on campus since Sept. 2020.

With 87 employees, 184 on-campus students and 329 off-campus students currently on active COVID-19 support for a total of 600 community members, the support load is the highest since Nov. 2020.

A creeping feeling of déja vu has begin to settle in as more classes and meetings switch to an online modality, events around Knoxville get canceled and mask mandates on campus are expanded.

One senior named Jenna Demeter said that she feels as though the differences between this year and last year are decreasing.

“It seemed like things were just starting to go back to normal, and now, it feels like we’re back to where we started," Demeter said. 

In her email to students last week regarding the increased mask mandate, Chancellor Donde Plowman urged students to get vaccinated and to comply with mask mandates.

“With vaccines now widely available, we have better tools to fight this pandemic than we did last year,” Plowman said. “I encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already. This is the best defense against contracting and spreading COVID-19, and especially against severe cases of the disease. It is also the best way to ensure that we can keep our campus thriving and bustling throughout the fall semester.”

The university will not require the COVID-19 vaccine but has instead adopted a policy of strongly encouraging the vaccine. There has been no statement at the university or system-wide level about classes potentially moving online, though COVID-19 cases continue to rise on campus and have broken all-time records in the Knox County school system.

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