This story was updated Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 10:15 p.m. with more information.

UPDATE: Following a Thursday morning online chapel service, Lee University President Paul Conn notified students that the school's campus will not reopen for the remainder of the semester.


A Lee University student has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email from university President Paul Conn to students Wednesday. 

The female student has been quarantined off-campus since she was tested and has not required hospitalization, according to the email. The student is thought to have contracted the coronavirus while on a personal trip within the United States and returned to campus after the trip.

She was screened by Lee University's health clinic on Tuesday, March 17 and was referred for testing. She was also moved in off-campus housing for quarantine, according to university officials. The student had stayed in a Lee University residence hall prior to her screening and university officials said that residents and others who might have interacted with her were "notified promptly". 

"I wanted to let you know of this development as soon as we became aware, so you could be informed, whether you are far away or in Bradley County. The campus has taken significant steps to prevent the spread of the illness. Remember that all your efforts are critical to slowing the spread of this virus wherever you are," Conn said in the email.

"Since receiving the news, the Bradley County Health Department has been in communication with this student, and our Health Clinic has continued to stay in touch with her. The Health Department will now make every effort to trace contact this student may have had with others in our community," Conn said in the email.

Bradley County has 2 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, March 24, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. 

The Bradley County Health Department has been in contact with the Lee University student and is working to trace her contacts, according to university officials.

Like many colleges and universities across the country, Lee moved classes online through at least April 13 amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Some universities have already decided to complete the rest of the spring semester online.

Though all on-campus activities also have been suspended until April 13, more than 100 students remain in the university's on-campus residence halls.

"Most of these are international students, others from distant hometowns or senior nursing students who are doing clinical rotations in area hospitals...who have no place else to go, so we are keeping the dorms open for them," said a university spokesperson in an email.

University dining services are officially closed, but are providing take-out meals for the students who remain on campus. Many of the Chattanooga area's other schools, including Bryan College and Southern Adventist University, mandated most students move out earlier this month but have also allowed exceptions such as international students or students with extenuating circumstances to remain on-campus.

In addition to holding classes online, Lee student meetings and even chapel meetings are also available to students through digital platforms, according to an email from a spokesperson.

Lee also has had to reschedule it's largest annual recruitment event, Lee Day, originally, scheduled for April 3 to 4. 

Typically, hundreds of high school students and their families and friends visit the Cleveland campus for orientations, events, and other activities, but school officials are currently designing a plan to present Lee Day through Zoom and other digital platforms.

"There's two ways to approach this," Conn previously said. "When this crisis began some schools just closed it all down, emptied out the dorms, shuttered campus, and cancelled commencement. That's one approach. It works best in terms of the institution. It's more efficient, and it saves money for the school. But many schools like Lee have adopted a 'wait and see' approach and tried to make decisions as things change."

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) recently reported that "a UTC community member" tested positive for COVID-19 and Covenant College has also acknowledged that it has had individuals in quarantine or under observation related to the virus.

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