Here’s what you need to know:
- The university staff monitors metrics at the campus, community, and state levels to make data-driven decisions.
- The university coordinates closely with local and state health officials and constantly monitors CDC guidelines.
- Students, faculty, and staff should be prepared for contingency options.
The summary provides a snapshot of core metrics and an assessment of each. The assessments summarize week-to-week trends to inform the community about the campus’s overall situation and guide decisions about restriction levels and other adjustments to campus operations.
The university’s emergency operations team monitors campus information in real time, including employee and student active cases and self-isolations. In the interest of transparency, we are making key campus metrics available here. This data will be updated here every weekday. Over the course of the semester, the trends shown here will help inform our decision-making.
The university tracks reported positive and recovered cases of COVID-19 among students and employees. The Student Health Center reports positive student results for the tests it conducts while maintaining the anonymity of those who have been tested. Students and employees are required to complete daily health self-screenings and, if indicated, the online COVID-19 self-isolation form, which provides data about positive test results. Additionally, the university’s contact tracing process, carried out in close concert with the Knox County Health Department, provides test result data. Read more about what happens when a COVID-19 case is reported.
The number of new cases for each day is based on COVID-19 self-isolation forms indicating a positive COVID-19 test. The number of new cases from prior days is subject to change as active self-isolations are updated with positive results and as duplicate COVID-19 self-isolation forms are identified and deducted.
The number of recoveries was corrected on January 28, 2021, to eliminate an inconsistency in reporting cases that originated over winter break.
The university monitors the number of self-isolations among its students and employees. Members of the campus community may be asked to self-isolate because they have received a positive COVID-19 test, are awaiting test results, have developed COVID-19 symptoms, or have been identified as a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Self-isolation data is collected when students and employees complete the COVID-19 self-isolation form. Read more about the university’s self-isolation requirements and procedures.
The university closely monitors and communicates about clusters of positive COVID-19 cases and close contacts to help reduce further spread. The university defines a cluster as at least five positive cases and/or at least 20 close contacts as a result of one event or in one concentrated location. Notice of a cluster may be sent to members of the campus community by email or UT Alert if the identification of a cluster results in the need for potentially affected students or employees to take action. If campus officials, working closely with Knox County Health Department are able to successfully conduct contact tracing of a cluster, a notification will generally not be communicated. All clusters identified within the last 14 days, along with start date and determined point of origin will be documented here.
Enhanced cleaning activity
Beyond routine campus-wide cleaning, Facilities Services and University Housing conduct enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of campus spaces in response to positive cases or potential exposure. When enhanced cleaning is needed, Facilities Services will close any affected spaces and clean and disinfect according to protocols and guidance provided by the CDC and health officials. Employees will have access to appropriate PPE, all areas will be cleaned and disinfected, and the room will be reopened after the disinfectant products have had adequate time to be effective. Campus spaces that have undergone this level of enhanced cleaning within the past three days will be listed below. Signage will be posted to designate temporarily closed areas and removed once the area is reopened. Read more about Facilities Services’ enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocol.
Community saliva testing
Community saliva testing is required once a week for residential students and encouraged for commuter students. Testing events are scheduled each week for all residence halls, fraternity and sorority housing, and for commuter students. In addition to monitoring the prevalence of COVID-19, the community saliva testing program helps identify asymptomatic students who may have COVID-19. These students are referred to the Student Health Center for follow-up diagnostic testing. Saliva samples are tested in pools using PCR techniques.
The community saliva testing positivity rate is calculated by dividing the total number of positive diagnostic tests by the total number of saliva samples collected during a week and expressing the result as a percentage. Weekly positivity rates reveal COVID-19 prevalence trends on campus and guide the university’s decisions about restrictions.
Student Health Center Testing
The Student Health Center provides testing for symptomatic students, asymptomatic students who are close contacts of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, and any students identified in positive pools through community saliva testing. The numbers of health center tests performed, positive tests, and negative tests for the previous week are updated on Mondays. The Student Health Center has also distributed 1,466 Everlywell COVID-19 test home collection kits since August 9, 2020.
Regardless of where they get a test, students and employees should report positive tests to the university through the COVID-19 self-isolation form. The daily charts for new cases and active cases include positive health center tests and self-reported positive tests from home collection kits and other health-care settings.
Monitoring of community-level data in Knox County is focused on hospital capacity and case trends. University leadership is especially mindful of the need to help local hospitals and avoid overburdening the health care system. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the university has worked closely with the Knox County Health Department to share data, resources, and plans.
Statewide data provides an overview of trends that could affect our region. The university coordinates with the Tennessee Department of Health and state emergency management leaders.
The following statewide resources are helpful:
- CORE-19: Coordinated by two UT units—the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the Department of Public Health—the CORE-19 website includes policy expertise and information on statewide case trends.
- Tennessee Department of Health: The department has a dashboard with state and county data and information on statewide hospitalizations.
The university closely monitors local, regional, and state data as well as the latest CDC guidelines. Based on data and the expertise of campus staff, Knox County Health Department staff, and state officials, the university could implement some or all of the following contingency options if needed.
- Suspension of in-person classes
- Suspension of in-person events
- Suspension of in-person services
- Closure of residence halls
Students, faculty, and staff should be prepared for contingency options at all times. Everyone is asked to be creative, compassionate, and flexible.