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On Aug. 23, the Office of Chancellor Donde Plowman emailed the UT community to announce that masks will now be required in all indoor public spaces on campus, except when “individuals are actively eating, drinking, or engaging in fitness activities.” The new policy does not require masks in private offices or dorm rooms.

This is an extension of the previous mask mandate announced on Aug. 2, which required masks in classrooms, laboratories and required indoor academic events. Students will now no longer be able to go mask-free in hallways of academic buildings or in other public indoor spaces such as Hodges Library or the Student Union.

The Office of the Chancellor explained that the expansion of the masking policy is driven by the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

“Because the delta variant is continuing to spread and is driving up hospitalizations in our community, we are adjusting campus health and safety guidelines,” the email said.

The new policy will stay in effect for two weeks and will be re-evaluated by UT leadership on Sept. 7.

The announcement also reflected Chancellor Plowman’s push to get students vaccinated, even though the university will not require vaccination against COVID-19. 

“With vaccines now widely available, we have better tools to fight this pandemic than we did last year,” the email said. “I encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already. This is the best defense against contracting and spreading COVID-19, and especially against severe cases of the disease. It is also the best way to ensure that we can keep our campus thriving and bustling throughout the fall semester.”

As the email reminds students, anyone in the UT community can schedule a vaccination appointment at the Student Health Center through the university’s COVID-19 website. 

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