UT identifies first cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to off-campus party

Chancellor Plowman said students who do not cooperate with contact tracers can be expelled.
A beauty shot of the outside of Mossman Building on November 7, 2018. Photo by Steven Bridges
A beauty shot of the outside of Mossman Building on November 7, 2018. Photo by Steven Bridges(WVLT)
Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 12:56 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - University of Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman announced officials identified the school’s first cluster of COVID-19 cases.

On August 13, the university reported 28 confirmed COVID-19 cases. On Aug. 18 that number increased to 75.

The cluster was linked to an off-campus party on Laurel Avenue.

Plowman said contact tracing was conducted to identify the cluster from the off-campus party.

Some UT students are reportedly not cooperating with contact tracing efforts and refused to fill out forms. Plowman said this is hindering contact tracing.

“When you fail to participate, you’re failing to help others in need and that’s certainly not consistent with the Volunteer spirit,” Dr. Spencer Gregg with the UT Medical Center said.

Chancellor Plowman said there will not be a punishment for individuals who tell contact tracers they were at a party, however students who do not cooperate with contact tracers could be expelled.

“Being compassionate requires curbing behavior because you’re caring about someone else,” Plowman said. “Not all students are cooperating with the contract tracing efforts and some are refusing to fill out the self-isolation forms.”

According to Plowman, party hosts will be held responsible. She said officials know where the party hosts live. Plowman visited the residence in Fort Sanders where the COVID-19 cluster was identified Tuesday morning.

“I actually knocked on the door,” Plowman said. “We will hold you responsible.”

Plowman said KPD and UTPD will assist in monitoring areas near campus for parties.

“We can do this. We’re going to proceed with compassion, we’re going to proceed with creativity, and we’re going to be flexible,” Plowman said. “It’s not compassionate when you attend a large party.”

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