KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky are collaborating on a study of its students to better determine how long a close contact should stay in self-isolation to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
UT Chancellor Donde Plowman and UT systematic testing coordinator Deborah L. Crawford made the announcement during an update on the state of coronavirus on the Knoxville campus.
The study will be optional for close contacts on each campus. Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say that close contacts should remain in self-isolation for 14 days for monitoring and prevention of spread of the novel coronavirus.
In the study, students in self-isolation will have a nasal swab taken at Day 3, 5, 7, 10 and 14 to see if the virus is present. Ultimately if the virus begins showing at a sooner date, self-isolation times could be altered, given enough data and study.
Saliva testing and wastewater testing began last week on UT’s campus. Crawford, vice chancellor of university research, said wastewater treatment could give an early warning about a potential spike of the virus in a dorm and the saliva test helps estimate the percent of positive cases on the campus.
Spring semester change
A slight change was made to the spring 2021 semester. Provost John P. Zomchick said a week of instruction was inadvertently left out. Students will receive an email today about the semester change.
Classes will now end on April 28. The following day will be a study day and final exams will be held April 30 and May 3-6.
“The correction to the spring calendar does not affect the start dates for mini-term and summer session,” John P Zomchick said. “Mini-term will still begin on May 10 and summer session … will begin on June 1.
Case decline good, worrisome
Positive cases of COVID-19 on the UT campus fell on Monday to their lowest point since Aug. 29. According to the university’s internet dashboard 178 people, 166 students and 12 employees, were positive according to the latest released numbers.
Plowman said 196 cases were subtracted from the roll after recovering from the virus and 10 new active cases were added. Self-isolations also fell sharply. There are now 849 in self-isolation, 771 of which are students.
Director of the Student Health Center Dr. Spencer Gregg said the data can be looked at in two ways: good, in that less people have the virus, and worrisome, since there has been evidence that students are not getting tested as frequently as needed.
“The latter interpretation is a little more likely to be the case because we are also seeing statewide that the number of those being tested are starting to decline,” Gregg said.
“Because this population is more likely to exhibit many more new symptoms, without a confirmed diagnosis, they are less likely to change their day-to-day activities. And by continuing to be out in the community they’re more likely to spread infection to others.”
Gregg went on to say that the majority of close contacts are coming from social activities like going out with friends to eat a meal together or spending time together in a residential setting. There is also a delay in the return of close contact forms leading to lag time in notifications.
“Those delays in reporting to us are really closing the door of opportunities to prevent the spread on campus,” Gregg said.
Plowman urged students to get tested and to return the forms as soon as possible.
“As soon as you feel something that doesn’t feel normal, go to the health center,” Plowman said