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NSHE drops mask mandate for college campuses

Updated February 10, 2022 - 5:19 pm

The Nevada System of Higher Education announced Thursday it will no longer require face masks for students, employees and the public.

It follows an announcement by Gov. Steve Sisolak lifting the state’s mask mandate. NSHE, which has eight public schools and about 100,000 students, says its change will include places such as classrooms and work spaces.

Individual schools don’t have the authority to impose stricter face mask requirements and it’s a system-wide policy decision, Chancellor Melody Rose said in a memo.

At UNLV, masks are no longer required on campuses “except those areas where healthcare services are being provided,” President Keith Whitfield and Executive Vice President/Provost Chris Heavey said in a message to the campus community.

The school will also continue to provide KN95 masks for those who want them, according to the announcement.

About 97 percent of UNLV employees and 91 percent of students are vaccinated, Whitfield and Heavey said. “Our vaccination rate is one of the main reasons why the COVID-19 virus has had less of an impact on the UNLV campuses than in the Las Vegas community at large.”

NSHE has a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees and about 97 percent of the system’s approximately 22,159 workers are vaccinated.

Employees who’ve received a religious or medical exemption no longer have to wear a face mask, Rose said. But unvaccinated workers will still be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

An emergency regulation that required students to be vaccinated for spring semester has lapsed, but about 76 percent of NSHE students have already gotten the shots.

All NSHE employees, students and members of the public can choose to voluntarily wear a mask and “should be permitted to do so free of any criticism, judgment, or retaliation,” Rose said. “It is a personal choice that must be respected.”

She also encouraged members of the NSHE community who haven’t done so to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic are that short-term steps forward have resulted in longer-term steps backward if we let our guard down,” Rose said. “We must remain diligent as an NSHE community in our response to this historical health crisis. Today’s decision represents progress that working together we can continue to move forward.”

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

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