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UPDATE: Lee University has canceled class until March 30, according to the school Thursday, March 12. Read more here


Original story: 

University of Tennessee Interim President Randy Boyd announced Wednesday that all in-person classes will be "temporarily suspended until further notice" at the the system's campuses in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Martin and UT Health Center in Memphis because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

While none of Tennessee's nine confirmed cases of the disease have involved UT campuses, Boyd said the move is a proactive measure in response to the outbreak.

The UT System is among several colleges and universities across the state and in the Chattanooga region that have closed their doors in response to concerns about COVID-19.

UTC students are on spring break this week, but in-person classes will be suspended March 16 until March 30.

(READ MORE: UTC suspends all university-related international travel due to coronavirus concerns)

UTC officials said in a news release Wednesday evening that they hope to resume normal operations on Monday, March 30.

"March 16 to March 30, students are asked not to return to campus. We recognize that some students cannot go home, for a variety of reasons ranging from their hometowns or countries are unsafe to the fact that this campus is their only home," said UTC Chancellor Steve Angle in an email. "Students with research or clinical requirements should contact their faculty advisors for guidance."

UTC has also suspended all non-essential, domestic, university-related business travel indefinitely, in addition to restrictions on international travel announced earlier this month.

UT Knoxville and UT Martin will suspend in-person classes until April 3. UT Health Science Center will assess its online options within the next 10 days and communicate directly with its campus community.

Clinical rotations in hospitals will continue as usual.

"Our top priority is the health and safety of our students," Boyd said. "We are taking this preventative measure with all of our campuses that provide face-to-face instruction out of an abundance of caution."

The UT system also announced an online guide that provides information and resources surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga schools, universities prepare for coronavirus impact)

Lee University officials also announced that the school — a private Christian university in Cleveland, Tennessee — plans to extend its spring break an additional day "to provide more time for precautionary measures being taken in light of the global coronavirus crisis," according to an email.

Classes will resume on Tuesday, March 17.

There are also no suspected cases of the virus on Lee's campus, according to the email.

Belmont University in Nashville has also extended its spring break until March 22 as the number of confirmed cases increases in the Nashville area.

Vanderbilt University, also in Nashville, canceled classes through the end of the week and announced that "alternative learning will launch Monday," and all classes will be online for the remainder of the semester, according to the university. It also announced that undergraduate residential students should move off campus by March 15.

"We are actively working on plans to assist undergraduate residential students with move out and are evaluating an approach to address on-campus housing and dining fees for the remaining month of classes," according to a statement from Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente.

(MORE: Tennessee, Georgia receiving nearly $25 million from CDC for coronavirus response)

Schools are addressing students who live on campus and faculty differently. UTC is providing housing for students "unable to return home," but local K-12 private schools are also starting to weigh concerns about the impact closures can have on boarding students.

In December 2019, the global health care community identified a new respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and has since been labeled 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), according to the World Health Organization.

Spread of infection is correlated with circumstances of close and sustained contact with others who are infected.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health website, there are nine confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in Tennessee as of Wednesday afternoon. None are in Southeast Tennessee.

After first refusing to identify specifically impacted counties this week outside independently operated health departments in the state's largest counties, the Lee administration on Tuesday agreed to begin releasing figures for any county where tests show positive results of presence of the virus in individuals.

Latest figures show these cases:

— Williamson County: 5

— Davidson County: 2

— Shelby County: 1

— Sullivan County: 1

The Times Free Press reached out to Bryan College and Chattanooga State Community College officials for information on the schools' COVID-19 response plans. Neither school has responded at this time.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

(Read more coronavirus coverage here)