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Closing campus ‘most dangerous thing university could do,’ says Dr. Birx at UT event

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx called on University of Tennessee students to stop participating in off-campus events that officials believe are responsible for the greatest case spread of the virus across the university.
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 11:28 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx called on University of Tennessee students to stop participating in off-campus events that officials believe are responsible for the greatest case spread of the virus across the university.

“The planning that the SEC schools did... is really quite good. I’m confident that a large number of students are not being infected in the classroom," said Dr. Birx during a press briefing on UT campus Tuesday.

Birx also encouraged students to come forward for testing after chancellor Donde Plowman previously said some students were trying to avoid alerting the university to their COVID-19 positive status.

“I wanna applaud the students who are coming forward and getting tested because that is how we stop the virus," said Dr. Birx. “To every student who is not following the rules, what you’re doing is creating superspreader events. Really calling on every student: being in college is a responsibility... it’s your responsibility not to participate in superspreader events.”

Dr. Birx said she does not believe closing down the campus and sending students away to participate in virtual-only classes is a viable option.

“We think the most dangerous thing is to stop having classes," said Dr. Birx. “Because then you have both the 70-80 percent of students who have already rented that space and they are going to stay. And then they’re not connected to their friends and the university so they’re going to create other types of off-campus gatherings.”

Students will be sent home for Thanksgiving and not return to campus. The remainder of the semester will be completed virtually.

“This shortened semester has been the plan since June as one of the ways to prevent students from traveling and then returning to campus,” said a university spokesperson.

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