Pellissippi State Community College will require face masks be worn in all indoor spaces effective Monday, August 9.
The college said its emergency management team based the decision on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID data tracker, which shows both Knox and Blount counties to have “high” levels of community transmission, as well as numbers of active COVID-19 cases from the Knox County and Blount County health departments. In Knox County alone, the number of active COVID-19 cases jumped from 198 on July 14 to 1,240 on August 4, a press release said. Case numbers are updated each Wednesday.
Fall classes begin Monday, August 23, and the college will have some masks available on each of its five campuses for those who arrive without one. Face shields are not sufficient, the press release said.
“We know this is frustrating and stressful and that we’re all tired of it,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “There are exciting weeks ahead as we welcome faculty and students back for the fall semester, many for the first time in months. We are going to take the challenges as they come and do the best we can to set a good example for our peers and our students by providing a safe environment for teaching and learning.”
Pellissippi State’s main campus is in Hardin Valley.
Pellissippi State said it will re-evaluate its mask policy at the end of September, using a return to “moderate” community transmission – sustained over 10 days to two weeks – as the metric for deciding when to relax the mask requirement. By waiting until the end of September to re-evaluate, the team will be able to see if Labor Day travel impacts local numbers, the press release said.
In the meantime, one of the best things faculty, staff, and students can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is get vaccinated, Wise said. Pellissippi State will offer both the Pfizer and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines at a walk-in Vaccinate and Educate Fair noon-4:30 p.m. Monday, August 30, outside on its Hardin Valley Campus. No appointments are necessary, the press release said.
“We want to do whatever we can to help us get closer to the 80 percent mark we need to have community immunity against this particular variant,” Wise said.
Individuals with questions about the efficacy of the vaccines available should speak to their health care provider.
Pellissippi State said it has taken several steps to combat the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. During the months that most Pellissippi State students and employees were learning and working from home, Facilities installed new air purification units in each college building on all five campuses, the press release said. A third-party study of the technology released in October 2020 showed that these units inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19 by 99.9 percent, the release said.
Pellissippi State also is continuing to operate indoor spaces at limited capacity to increase opportunities for social distancing. Academic spaces such as classrooms are operating at 75 percent capacity while nonacademic spaces such as auditoriums and community rooms are operating at 50 percent capacity.
“We also will be identifying some outdoor spaces for classes and meetings so that our faculty, staff, and students can take advantage of the nice weather we usually have in September,” Wise said.
Masks are not required in outdoor spaces, but those who are unvaccinated are encouraged to continue to wear masks outside when they cannot maintain social distancing of at least six feet from others, the press release said.
While the college no longer requires daily campus access forms to be completed, those who have been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 are still asked to fill out Pellissippi State’s self-reporting form to help the college with contact tracing. Most importantly, Wise said all faculty, staff and students should stay home if they are sick to reduce the likelihood of the spread of the disease.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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