University of Tennessee Interim President Randy Boyd announced Wednesday that school officials will temporarily suspend all in-person classes until further notice as a proactive measure against the coronavirus.
UT Chattanooga will suspend in-person classes until March 30, while UT Knoxville and UT Martin will suspend in-person classes until April 3. Beginning March 23 the UT Health Science Center, until further notice, will offer all face-to-face lecture classes remotely. Clinical rotations in hospitals will continue as usual.
This, according to a press release UT officials put out Wednesday.
Boyd said in the press release that he had already consulted with chancellors at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center.
There are no reports of confirmed coronavirus cases on any University of Tennessee campus — but, regardless, there are confirmed cases in Tennessee, UT officials said.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our students,” Boyd said in the press release.“We are taking this preventative measure with all of our campuses that provide face-to-face instruction out of an abundance of caution.”
Each campus will send out specific communications to their faculty, students and staff regarding the details of the suspension and any online accommodations, the press release said.
The coronavirus is also known as COVID-19.
“While we do not want to create undue anxiety on our campuses, we firmly believe that suspending our in-person classes is a prudent and important measure to take given the current COVID-19 situation,” Boyd said.
As The Tennessee Star reported Wednesday, Tennessee Department of Health officials said the state had seven known cases of coronavirus — one each in Davidson, Shelby, and Sullivan counties and four additional cases in Williamson County.
State officials announced last week that a 44-year-old Williamson County man was the first confirmed person in Tennessee to have the coronavirus, as The Star reported.
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee has urged Tennessee residents not to panic, adding Tennessee was one of the first states in the nation to start testing for the coronavirus early.
The governor also said that state officials are “in constant communication” with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While this is a serious situation, I urge Tennesseans to keep this illness in perspective,” Lee said last week.
“The vast majority of cases are mild and manageable.”
TDH Commissioner Lisa Piercey, at a press conference last week, asked state residents to take the following precautions:
• Wash hands often with soap and water and use alcohol based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze.
• Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Avoid close contact with those who may be sick.
“Most patients with this have a mild respiratory illness including fever, cough, and shortness of breath and do not require hospitalization,” Piercey said.
“However, a smaller number of patients can have severe symptoms that do require hospitalization, particularly among the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.”
Piercey said people wanting more information may visit tn.gov/health.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “University of Tennessee Knoxville Campus” by University of Tennessee Knoxville.