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UT-Knoxville leader: COVID case count rising ‘way too fast’

NASHVILLE (AP) — The chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville said Tuesday that COVID-19 cases are increasing “way too fast” and that specific actions to address the jump will be announced in the coming days.
In an online message, Chancellor Donde Plowman said there are 600 active cases at the campus. She said more than 2,100 people are in quarantine or self-isolation, the vast majority of whom are students split about evenly on and off campus.
She said the university has added a hotel to isolate on-campus students who test positive, and the school is in the process of creating more isolation space on campus. The school already has contracted for similar space at nearby apartment complexes and other hotels.
She also said the school is doubling the number of its contact tracers. As for additional measures to curb the spread, Plowman said “everything is on the table at this point.”
“Our case counts are going up way too fast, and we will need more drastic measures to stop the upward trajectory,” she said.
Plowman cited “disturbing information stemming, frankly, from the fraternities in particular,” though she said the vast majority of the university community is “working hard to do the right thing.”
She cited reports of fraternity leaders communicating to houses how to have parties, avoid getting caught and avoid the police; stories of a fraternity renting space off-campus to have their party crammed with people in close quarters; and of frat members being told not to get tested or how to get tested so the results aren’t shared with the university.
“Actively working to avoid quarantine and isolation is reckless,” Plowman said. “And it will further spread this virus, jeopardizing everyone else’s opportunity for a fall semester on campus.”
Across the state, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 1,408 per day on Aug. 24 to 1,453 new cases per day on Monday.
Police in Nashville reported an active Labor Day weekend in their efforts to enforce COVID-19 health regulations.
From Friday through Sunday, Metro Nashville Police say they issued 52 citations downtown for people not following the city’s mask mandate, with three “physical arrests,” and worked alongside other officials to remind about 9,600 people of the requirement.
They cited the host of a large house party, then issued misdemeanor citations for people who head two bars — one where 300 to 500 people gathered for a special event and another with 50 to 75 people, with attendees of both mostly unmasked, police said. Separately, a building owner was cited for a misdemeanor when officers saw about 500 people gathered there.
Additionally, operators of six “transpotainment” vehicles — where revelers generally dance and party on everything from school buses with the top taken off to wagons dragged by tractors — were cited over the weekend for not following local health guidelines.
While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older people and those with existing health problems.