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Masks are no longer required on Vol State campuses

By Victoria Long

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a bill into law that removes the mask requirement at Volunteer State Community College. The bill, “Omnibus COVID Bill” was signed Friday, Nov. 12.

The Tennessee Board of Regents updated its website saying it is still recommended that students and staff receive vaccination and wear masks, but wearing masks is no longer required as of Nov. 15. Vol State has also updated its website saying it is happy with the recent drop in COVID cases and plan to follow the new rules of Tennessee legislators. 

According to Vol State’s website as of Nov. 15, “Masks are encouraged, but not required, on campus. Free disposable masks, as well as hand sanitizer, are still available on all campuses. These items are primarily found in hygiene stations marking most entry points at each building on the Gallatin campus and at the entry point of the campus locations in Livingston, Cookeville and Springfield.” 

Eric Melcher, Vol State’s coordinator of Public Relations and Marketing, confirmed that masks are no longer required, but encouraged at all campuses.

“We’re just kind of letting people know as things go on. There’s a lot of debate over it right now. I believe there is as federal lawsuit or something that is involved,” said Melcher.

When asked if students were going to be notified, he said, “we just let faculty and staff know today.”

“The new law restricts private businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccination proof and only allows schools and other public entities to enact mask mandates under an extreme surge of 1,000 infections or more for every 100,000 residents in a 14-day period,” according to the Tennessean.

The following are the specific changes with the Omnibus COVID Bill: 

  • Ban government entities and public schools from requiring masks, unless severe conditions arise; 
  • Ban government entities, public schools and many private businesses from vaccine requirements, but with exceptions;
  • Require schools to provide N-95 masks or similar masks to those in demand;
  • Allows for 14-day mask mandates for governments and public schools, subject for renewal, during severe conditions — at least 1,000 cases for every 100,000 residents in the past 14 days — which no county currently reaches;
  • Requires licensing boards to develop a set of rules, subject to state Government Operations Committee’s approval, if they wish to discipline medical professionals for COVID-19 treatments;
  • Allows those who quit their job because of COVID-19 vaccine requirements to collect unemployment benefits;
  • Allow health care professionals to use independent judgement to prescribe monoclonal antibody treatments;
  • Allow the health commissioner exclusive power to design quarantine guidelines;
  • Ban use of public funds for COVID-19 mandates;
  • Requires hospitals to allow visitation by at least one family member of a COVID-19 patient as long as the family member tests negative for the disease and remains asymptomatic;
  • Allow those at risk of losing federal funds to issue mask and vaccine mandates, and use public funds for mandates, if they receive approval from the comptroller’s office;
  • Allow the governor to suspend the entire bill if he desires.

Students and staff are still encouraged to stay home if they are around anyone sick or sick themselves. They may report COVID cases to the vice president of student services via email. A report of student and faculty cases across all campuses is updated daily on website.

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