UT professor says to prepare to miss classes over COVID-19

Published: May. 13, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
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A University of Tennessee assistant professor said he never expected to test positive for COVID-19.

Phillip Stokes is 36-years-old, works out daily and eats a healthy diet. Stokes said he didn't have any pre-existing health conditions to make him more susceptible.

"My symptoms presented in, what was at least at that point, considered an atypical manner, about four or five days at the very beginning," explained Stokes.

Stokes said he felt fatigued and didn't have an appetite at first.

"The respiratory symptoms and the neurological symptoms like loss of taste and smell only came on about day five or six. The first four or five days I didn't think I had COVID-19," explained Stokes, "I thought maybe I'd had some bad food poisoning or some other bug, and I wasn't too concerned at that point. The respiratory symptoms started and they came on quite strong."

Stokes and the Knox County Health Department tracked the case about a month ago.

"Once I received the positive results and that got communicated to Knox County Public Health, I received daily calls from someone at public health," explained Stokes.

He said the department was concerned about limiting his exposure to others and establishing a timeline so they could contact anybody he had come into contact with in the 48 hours leading up to his symptoms.

He said he'll proceed cautiously into the fall semester slated to start in a few months.

"I think it's going to be important that the possibility and even likelihood of a significant number of faculty members becoming sick is going to have to be built into the structure of the academic calendar, the nature of each class," explained Stokes, "I think all my colleagues should be looking to build into their syllabus and communicating to the students what plan is in place if and when they get sick."

Stokes said his two children had fevers at one point, but because of lack of tests could not confirm if either or both were infected. He said his wife remained healthy.

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