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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

COVID outbreak halts return to in person classes at University of Memphis

One cluster is connected to football team, the second is within the POM/Cheer squad.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — UPDATE 9/16/2020 - The Shelby County Health Department said Wednesday there are a total of 46 cases in two clusters at the University of Memphis.

The department said 42 of those cases are associated with the athletics department, and 4 are with the POM/Cheer squad.

The health department says the cases within the POM/Cheer squad are not directly associated with the other athletics. They do not practice on campus - they practice at a separate facility.

The 46 total cases represent athletes, students and staff within those programs.

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9/15/2020 - Two COVID-19 outbreaks at the University of Memphis mean face-to-face classes are now on hold. Shelby County Health Department officials said a total of 36 students and staff tested positive in two separate outbreaks.

Of the two clusters of cases, one is connected to the football team. The other is not.

In person classes were supposed to begin next week. So far this semester, the majority of classes have been held virtually.

Last Friday, the University of Memphis announced it was pausing football activities after a number of individuals with the football program, including players and staff, tested positive for COVID-19.

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Tuesday. the Shelby County Health Department announced there is a second campus cluster they are investigating, though health officials wouldn't reveal much about it.

"One of the clusters is associated with a different group of students not associated with a place of residence, but more of another group of students and they share activities and training together," said David Sweat, SCHD Deputy Director.

The majority of classes have been held online since the semester began but many students were looking forward to the return of traditional classes.

A statement from the University said, "As we work with the Shelby County Health Department to gain a full and accurate understanding of the recent COVID 19 cases, and in an effort to guard against any potential spread, we will maintain campus density at current levels and not add additional face to face classes next week as scheduled. 

We will continue to monitor available data and consider any adjustments that would increase the density on our campus only after we are sure that the rates of infection are stable or declining. A target date for the next review will be the beginning of October at the earliest.

As we have done throughout the course of this pandemic, all decisions are driven by the latest health information with the safety of our faculty, staff and students being paramount. For the latest updates, visit memphis.edu/coronavirusupdates."

Current Status The following actions and policies are in place until further notice. All updates will be posted to this site. All classes began Monday, August 17, and end Tuesday, November 24. We will not be taking a fall break this semester, but will observe the Labor Day holiday.

At Tuesday's Memphis and Shelby County COVID 19 Joint Task Force news conference, leaders also said they were concerned about a possible spike in numbers due to Labor Day weekend. 213 news cases were reported Tuesday. Last week we averaged 121. The transmission rate has also increased slightly. Health officials want to see if there is a pattern or if levels will drop back down to what they have been.

If the trend continues downward, Dr. Bruce Randolph announced there could soon be loosening of some restrictions, including the possible reopening of Limited Service restaurants and bars which have been shut down since early July. 

"It's very likely all restaurants, whether full service or limited service, will be held to the same safety measures as to how you operate," said Dr. Bruce Randolph, SCHD Officer.