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UNLV updates campus mask policy

Updated May 20, 2021 - 6:08 pm

Nevada’s public higher education system announced Thursday that face masks are now optional on campuses for those who are fully vaccinated, prompting UNLV to immediately announce it will drop its current requirement.

The Nevada System of Higher Education, which oversees eight schools and more than 100,000 students, said last week that it planned to keep a mask mandate in place.

The change comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that people who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a face mask in most indoor and outdoor settings. The CDC’s guidance has been adopted by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

NSHE Chancellor Melody Rose said in a statement that students, employees and others who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 “are no longer required to wear a face covering while outside on NSHE campuses and inside buildings.”

Rose’s letter did not specify whether an individual’s vaccination status will be checked or verified, and a representative of NSHE did not immediately respond to questions from the Review-Journal seeking clarification.

Those who aren’t fully vaccinated are still required to wear face masks while inside NSHE buildings “regardless of whether other people are present” and outside on campuses “when in large groups or gatherings,” she said.

“As we transition into a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, compassion and patience are urged toward all students and colleagues,” Rose said. “Employees and students may choose to continue wearing a face covering, even those who have been vaccinated. They should be permitted to do so without judgment or criticism.”

Each campus will follow county-level and CDC guidance on social distancing and capacity, Rose said. She also said a systemwide return to campuses is slated for July 1.

Officials at UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno, both released letters saying they’d follow NSHE’s new mask guidance.

UNLV President Keith Whitfield and Executive Vice President/Provost Chris Heavey wrote in a letter they strongly encourage students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.  

NSHE announced this month it was drafting plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students coming to campuses for fall semester, with “some limited exceptions.”

But that’s contingent on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifting the emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine, and would also require approval from NSHE’s Board of Regents and the state Board of Health.

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

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