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Regents to consider repealing COVID vaccination mandate for employees

Updated June 22, 2022 - 3:42 pm

Nevada’s higher education board will meet next week to consider rescinding an employee COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents meets at 1 p.m. June 30 at the system administration office in Las Vegas. The meeting also will be streamed live online.

Regents heard information about the proposal in late May but did not take action.

The system’s code has a provision that says regents will reevaluate the need for an employee vaccination mandate “as the emergency conditions underlying the COVID-19 pandemic substantially improve” and, either way, before the beginning of fall semester.

During their meeting next week, regents also will consider adopting a resolution stating the system’s commitment to following state directives and COVID-19 mandates, encouraging staying up-to-date on vaccinations and using masks “when appropriate,” and that each president can decide when masks are used on campus.

Online meeting materials show that the chancellor’s office supports the repeal of the mandate and adoption of the resolution.

In a Wednesday statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the higher education system said: “The health and well-being of Nevada’s public higher education community continue to be our utmost priorities during this dynamic and evolving situation. We look forward to the Board of Regents discussing and possibly providing direction on this matter at its June 30th Special Board meeting.”

The resolution the board will consider next week “empowers the college and university presidents to take actions on masking based on public health guidelines and local conditions,” said Kent Ervin, president of the Nevada Faculty Alliance, in a Wednesday statement to the Review-Journal.

“That’s good as far as it goes,” he said. “However, future variants of SARS-2-CoV or other new contagious diseases may require different measures. The institutions must have the authority and responsibility to act quickly to implement whatever mitigation measures are required in the face of new public health and safety threats to students, faculty, and staff.”

The system also urgently needs to address indoor air quality issues, Ervin said, since there are still classrooms with no ventilation with outside air and no filtration.

In December 2021, regents deadlocked in a 6-6 vote, which essentially meant the employee COVID-19 vaccination mandate remained in effect.

It came after five regents requested a special meeting to reconsider the requirement shortly after the state Legislative Commission failed to pass a permanent student COVID-19 vaccination measure to replace an expired emergency provision.

Regents approved the emergency code revision for an employee mandate in September 2021 and a permanent code revision in December 2021.

The higher education system’s employees had until Dec. 1 to provide proof of vaccination unless they had an approved medical or religious exemption. Those who didn’t received termination notices.

There was some flexibility, though, including allowing those who got fired to seek reinstatement if they showed proof of vaccination in January.

In total, 379 employees of the more than 22,240 higher education system employees were fired, while 188 ended their employment because of completing a contract and 18 resigned. Another 663 employees had an approved medical or religious exemption.

It was unclear Wednesday what effect, if any, a decision to repeal the mandate would have on those who were previously fired for not complying.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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