Hundreds at UNR urge reinstatement of mask mandate on campus
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Hundreds of students and faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno are urging state education officials to reinstate the mask mandate on campus a day after Gov. Steve Sisolak rescinded the statewide requirement that masks be worn in public places to combat the spread of COVID-19.
More than 900 people had signed an online petition that graduate students began circulating Friday as part of the plea for Nevada’s System of Higher Education to restore the mandate on their campus.
KRNV-TV first reported about the petition on Friday.
Sisolak had cited a steep decline in in coronavirus cases in Nevada since a statewide peak in mid-January in explaining his decision Thursday to drop the mask mandate. New cases statewide reached 7,865 on Jan. 10 but average about 1,280 cases per day now.
The governor said virus-related hospitalizations also have dropped off, and noted that two-thirds of Nevadans age 5 and older are vaccinated,
Nevertheless, the spread of the virus in Nevada remains far above federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thresholds for positivity and new cases per population of 100,000.
Some UNR professors and students point specifically to high levels of transmission in Reno and Washoe County, where the Truckee Meadows COVID-19 risk meter remains in the “very high category.
Kent Ervin, the president of the Nevada Faculty Alliance who helped organize the petition, said repealing the mandate was a step backward.
“Many of us are concerned about the repercussions of eliminating the mask requirement at the collegiate level, and how lifting this requirement will impact our quality of work and life,” the petition states. It says maintaining the mask requirement is in line with CDC guidelines for institutions of higher education.
Chancellor Melody Rose said late Thursday that employees, students and the public are no longer required to don face coverings. UNR President Brian Sandoval concurred, confirming that the campus mandate was lifted and saying individual NSHE institutions don’t have the authority to impose tighter face covering restrictions.
“Stricter face covering requirements, according to NSHE’s legal determination, involve systemwide policy decisions that fall outside of an individual institution’s discretion,” Sandoval wrote.
He asked for patience and empathy for people choosing to continue masking up on campus.
“Individuals who choose to continue wearing a face covering or who choose not to wear a face covering on our campus, should be permitted to do so free of any criticism, judgment, or retaliation,” Sandoval said.