Mask mandate back at Pellissippi State as COVID-19 cases remain on the rise

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Pellissippi State Community College announced Wednesday that face mask usage will be required at all five campuses amid rising COVID-19 transmission rates locally and across the nation. The mandate will go into effect on Monday, Aug. 9.

The college’s emergency management team made the decision based on high levels of community transmission in both Knox County and Blount County. The number of active cases in Knox County jumped from 198 on July 14 to 1,240 on Aug. 4. The average positive percentage in Blount County, which measures the average percentage of daily COVID-19 tests performed that are actually positive over a week period, was 16.8%.

Fall classes begin Monday, Aug. 23, and the college will have some masks available on each of its five campuses for those who arrive without one. The use of face shields will not be considered sufficient.

Pellissippi State will re-evaluate the mask policy at the end of September. The emergency management team will use a ‘moderate’ community transmission sustained over a two-week period to determine whether to relax the mask requirement or not. This will allow officials to evaluate if Labor Day travel impacts transmission rates.

“We know this is frustrating and stressful and that we’re all tired of it,” acknowledged Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “There are exciting weeks ahead as we welcome faculty and students back for the fall semester, many for the first time in months. We are going to take the challenges as they come and do the best we can to set a good example for our peers and our students by providing a safe environment for teaching and learning.” 

Pellissippi State will offer both the Pfizer and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines at a walk-in Vaccinate and Educate Fair noon-4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, outside on its Hardin Valley Campus, no appointments necessary.

“We want to do whatever we can to help us get closer to the 80% mark we need to have community immunity against this particular variant,” Wise said. 

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