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COVID-19 Update: Knox confirms Commencement, responds to parties

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Knox will proceed with an in-person graduation ceremony, while it continues to attempt to limit COVID spread on campus

Commencement Ceremonies 

On Tuesday March 30, President Teresa Amott confirmed that Knox will hold an in-person Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 on the first weekend of June.

As described by Amott, the ceremony will feature some changes from a traditional Knox Commencement. The event will be split into a morning and afternoon session and will be held at the Knosher Bowl. Currently students will only be permitted two guests for the live ceremony.

Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich told TKS that this setup for the ceremony was developed following Knox’s discussions with the Knox County Unified Command and Health Department, with the main concerns being Knox’s ability to manage large crowds.

“If we wanted people to be able to bring family, which is the most important thing, we had to split the class in half,” Ehrlich said.

The Knosher Bowl was chosen instead of the traditional South Lawn of Old Main because it will allow Knox to maintain greater control over who comes in and out of the ceremony. Knox does hope it will be able to increase the amount of guests that graduates are able to bring, as regulations on large gatherings will potentially continue to loosen in the following months.

Knox concurrently announced its updated plans for the Class of 2020’s Commencement, now planned to be held during Homecoming Weekend on Sunday, October 10. The decision followed a survey of the Class of 2020, asking for their preference among several possible dates. Ehrlich stated the class voted by around 80% in support of the Homecoming date, by which time Knox hopes it will be possible to hold a normal celebration for the recent alumni.

The other Knox tradition the school is now planning is this spring’s Flunk Day. Ehrlich commented that there have been recent meetings to discuss how to safely provide the Flunk Day experience, with the plan being to avoid events that would draw large crowds, but still hold many smaller events and activities. 

“The plan is to have in-person stuff. We feel that people really need it,” Ehrlich said. 

COVID on Campus 

Knox is continuing to deal with limiting its number of COVID cases, and is now responding to reports that multiple large gatherings took place the previous weekend on campus.

While these cases are still being investigated by Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Deb Southern, Ehrlich confirmed that she expects that some students involved in hosting large gatherings will now have to be sent home.

“I know people are sick of the pandemic, and there’s nice weather, and they just want to have a normal term. But I don’t want to send people home, and I don’t want to put people in quarantine. So I hope people can hang on for one more term and try to lay off the really big gatherings.”

In terms of active COVID cases, Ehrlich confirmed on Thursday three current cases in quarantine. She said one of these was a student returning from a spring break while the other two cases were from students already on campus. Ehrlich said one of these students recently had an off campus visitor, which is suspected to have been the source of the COVID spread.

Ehrlich also stated one of the confirmed cases had a large number of contacts as a result of their involvement in student activities. As a result, there are now 24 people in on campus quarantine and 9 in off campus quarantine.

While COVID cases are an ongoing concern, Ehrlich emphasized that Knox is still maintaining an overall low positivity rate. Another cause for the optimism is the increase in availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, as Knox County has now expanded eligibility to all people over the age of 18.

Ehrlich says that Knox will continue to provide shuttles as they receive info on vaccine clinics, and that Health Services is attempting work with the County Health Department on providing an on-campus vaccine clinic. While Knox is encouraging all students to receive the vaccine if they can, Ehrlich noted that the school will not move forward with making it a requirement until permanent FDA approval of the vaccine is in place. 

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