Source: Knoxville News Sentinel | Monica Kast | August 2, 2021

A sign in the student union asks visitors to wear face masks on the first day of the spring semester at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. The university has ruled that staff and students will be required to wear masks in some indoor spaces for the fall semester.The University of Tennessee will require students and staff to wear face masks in some indoor spaces, including classrooms, when the fall semester begins.

Following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even those who are fully vaccinated should wear masks indoors in areas with high COVID-19 transmission, including Knox County. Those who are unvaccinated are encouraged to continue wearing masks.

“We are excited to have our campus communities together this fall and are planning full campus experiences across the UT System. With the Delta variant spreading in our state and communities, we want to help ensure the safest return possible,” UT System President Randy Boyd said. “The best way to take care of each other as we return to campus is to first take care of ourselves by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Masks will be required in classrooms, laboratories, instructional spaces and at indoor events students are required to attend, according to a news release from UT. Specific plans for each campus in the UT System will be announced soon.

Classes at UT Knoxville begin on Aug. 18. The mask policy at UT Knoxville will be reviewed throughout the fall semester, Chancellor Donde Plowman said in an email to students and employees on Monday. 

“Students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks in classrooms and labs, and for indoor academic events required for students such as orientation,” Plowman said. “We will continually re-evaluate the need for masks based on COVID-19 case counts in our community.”

UT Knoxville will no longer provide quarantine or isolation space on campus, Plowman said. Students living on campus “should come back to campus with a plan for where they will stay if they need to isolate or quarantine,” Plowman said.

COVID-19 testing will no longer be required of students, but will still be provided at the Student Health Center as needed, she said.

In May, as vaccines became widely available and new cases dropped, Chancellor Donde Plowman announced the university would not require fully vaccinated people to wear masks or social distance when on campus. This followed CDC advice at the time, as does this new recommendation.

As of July 25, the most recently available data, there are 7 active COVID-19 cases among UT students and employees and 16 people in isolation. The student population is minimal over the summer, but thousands of students will return to campus in a few weeks.

Students were required to wear masks in indoor spaces throughout the last academic year. Administrators also put other pandemic safety rules into effect temporarily: only offering to-go dining, limiting campus events and putting restrictions on dorm visitors.