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Roundup: Knoxville Strengthens "Stay Home" Order; UT Stays Online Through Summer

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Kincannon issues new “safer at home” order, with enforcement powers

A new “safer at home” order for Knoxville went into effect today, and it goes a step further than similar county and state orders. Until now, the orders from public health officials have been strong recommendations, stopping short of enforcement. But Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon says that approach didn’t work for everyone.

“The number of COVID-19 cases in Knox County has doubled in the last few days and is rising daily,” Kincannon said in a statement. “Too many people are not taking this seriously.”

Reports of restaurants continuing to offer dine-in services, food truck parties that flouted social distancing guidelines, and people forcing their way into a locked city park facility prompted Kincannon to issue the new directive.

Under the order, codes enforcement officers, Parks and Recreation employees, Knoxville Fire Department inspectors and the Knoxville Police Department will have the power to enforce social distancing and closures.

City parks and recreation workers will padlock some park facilities and remove sports equipment. Violators may be cited.

“The last thing we want to do is to issue citations during these already challenging times, but we must do everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Kincannon said. “We all can do our part and that includes limiting physical interaction and avoiding gathering in groups of 10 or more people."

State will begin disclosing COVID deaths by county

Tennessee will begin sorting COVID-19 deaths by county, Governor Bill Lee said. Data from the state health department so far has included deaths only, with no other identifying information.

Lee had previously said the state could not release that information, citing unspecified legal concerns. The governor also said his office was working to see if those legal hurdles could be overcome.

The announcement continues a slow trend of offering more information about COVID testing and cases in Tennessee. In mid-March, the state had to double back from a decision not to provide county-level statistics for confirmed COVID cases. Cases sorted by age range came later. And last week, the state began to provide data about tests that came back negative.

County-level death information may be available as soon as the end of this week.

23 Tennesseans have died from COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the state health department. One death in Knox County was confirmed by local public health officials earlier this week.

UT to continue classes online through the summer

The four-campus University of Tennessee system will not offer in-person classes until at least this autumn, UT System President Randy Boyd said Wednesday morning.

UT went to all-online classes in March. Boyd and the four campus chancellors agreed to continue the practice for mini-term and summer semester courses.

“Our faculty and staff have done an incredible job of moving to an entirely digital platform for the spring semester,” Boyd said in a statement. “I am confident they will continue to provide an inspired learning experience for our students who are enrolled in summer classes.”

Since moving to the all-remote approach, the university estimates it has conducted 9,300 class sessions online.

Summit Medical Group expands telehealth options

East Tennessee’s largest primary care organization will now offer patients the opportunity to visit with doctors without having to leave their homes.

Summit Medical Group announced Wednesday it would expand telehealth services that allow patients and health care providers to speak via phone or video. Telehealth appointments will help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, the group said. The appointments will also allow people who think they have COVID symptoms to get a remote assessment without exposing other patients or medical professionals, and allow people with regularly-scheduled appointments to keep those dates.

Summit recommends patients contact their provider to learn more about setting up telehealth appointments.