Roane State ends COVID-19 mask requirement for fully vaccinated

Part of the Oak Ridge branch campus of Roane State Community College is pictured above. (Photo by Roane State)

Roane State Community College is ending its face mask requirement for people who are fully vaccinated. The college also ended its daily wellness screening requirement on campus on Monday.

The changes are updates to the college’s pandemic response plan as COVID-19 cases decline in the area, state, and nation.

“These changes follow updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on May 13,” Roane State said in a press release. “Over the next few weeks, Roane State will be working to implement these new protocols within its response plan and communicate changes to the campus community.”

Until further notice, Roane State will maintain some of the preventive measures put in place during the pandemic in order to keep campuses as safe as possible. Protocols that will remain in place include:

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Read more about the Roane County mask order

A daily snapshot of COVID-19 cases in Roane County on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, includes, among other information, the daily number of new cases and the daily positivity rate. (Graphic by Tennessee Department of Health)

The executive order for face coverings that was issued by Roane County Executive Ron Woody on Monday could be in effect through December 29 unless Woody and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee extend the order.

Woody announced Monday morning that he was going to invoke the authority to mandate face masks in Roane County as authorized by Lee’s order in July.

The mask mandate does not apply to:

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Roane County requires masks

A graph shows the number of new COVID-19 cases in Roane County by month since the pandemic began in March. Note: The data for November is through Nov. 22, a partial month. (Graph by Oak Ridge Today)

Face masks are now required in Roane County to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Roane County Executive Ron Woody announced the mask mandate on Monday morning. It is effective immediately.

“I hope this community will take this order without causing more divisions among our citizens,” Woody said. He hopes no law enforcement will be needed.

The west end of Oak Ridge is in Roane County, although most of the city’s residents live in Anderson County.

Roane County’s cases and deaths have risen during the past month, Woody said. Roane County has reported almost four times as many COVID-19 deaths so far this month, 15, than in the previous high month—four in September. The county has reported more new cases so far this month, 717, than in the previous high month—543 in October.

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Kroger will require face masks starting Wednesday

The Kroger Marketplace at Westcott Center in Oak Ridge is pictured above on April 4, 2020. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

Kroger stores will require all customers in all stores to wear a face mask starting Wednesday, July 22.

The change is in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, Kroger said.

“We are taking this extra step now because we recognize additional precautions are needed to protect our country,” the company said.

Citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kroger said there are three actions that have been scientifically proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Besides wearing a face covering, they include frequent hand washing and social distancing (generally staying at least six feet away from people outside your home).

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Starbucks requiring face coverings

Starbucks on Oak Ridge Turnpike on April 4, 2020. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

Starbucks started requiring customers to wear face coverings in its stores on Wednesday.

The policy applies to all company-owned café locations in the United States, Starbucks said. The policy is to protect the health and well-being of employees and customers, the company said.

A representative at the Starbucks on Oak Ridge Turnpike, near Main Street Oak Ridge, said the store is company-owned and requiring face coverings. Oak Ridge Today was not able to reach a representative at the other Starbucks, which is inside the Kroger store at Westcott Center, late Wednesday afternoon.

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Walmart, Sam’s Club stores will require face coverings starting Monday

The Walmart store in Oak Ridge is pictured above on April 4, 2020.

All Walmart and Sam’s Club stores will require face coverings starting Monday, July 20.

The new policy was announced Wednesday by Dacona Smith, chief operating officer of Walmart U.S., and Lance de la Rosa, chief operating officer of Sam’s Club.

They said about 65 percent of their more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is some form of government mandate on face coverings. They said the number and types of face mask mandates has spiked across the country along with the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20,” Smith and de la Rosa said in a press release published online. “This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage, and train associates on the new protocols.”

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Oak Ridge not authorized to require masks

The City of Oak Ridge does not have the authority to require face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, officials said Wednesday.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Anderson County, which includes Oak Ridge, has increased significantly this month. The county had 178 total cases on Thursday—a 70 percent increase since July 2—and the number of active cases more than doubled in eight days.

As the number of cases has surged in the region, people have set up social media groups where members have reported on mask use at local businesses and offices and called for mandatory masks, including in Oak Ridge and its schools.

On Wednesday, the city said it is prohibited from enacting or enforcing a mask requirement because of a Tennessee attorney general opinion issued in April and an executive order from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee in May. (The attorney general’s opinion is Opinion Number 20-07, and the executive order is Executive Order Number 38.)

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