University of Tennessee system extends COVID mask mandate

September 7, 2021 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee system has extended a mask requirement at its campuses amid the state’s continued spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant.

University spokesperson Jennifer Lynn Sicking said Tuesday the mask requirement will continue for indoor public spaces, with plans to reevaluate in a few weeks. Exceptions include private offices, residence hall rooms and while eating, drinking or engaging in fitness activities.

On Aug. 2, the university began requiring masks in classrooms, laboratories and at indoor academic events required for students.

On Aug. 23, it expanded that to the current requirement, with plans to reevaluate after two weeks.

The campuses include Knoxville, the Institute of Agriculture, Chattanooga, Martin, Southern and the Health Science Center.

Tennessee’s GOP-supermajority Legislature has barred public entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccines, with limited exceptions for state school health care students fulfilling requirements through private offices that require vaccination.

In Tennessee, there were about 1,088 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, which ranks sixth in the country for new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Tennessee is averaging about 3,482 current COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data through Sept. 6.