JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University announced Tuesday that masks will be required in most indoor spaces.

According to a release from the Office of ETSU President Brian Noland, the face-covering requirement will go into effect on Wednesday, August 4.

“Effective Wednesday, August 4, face coverings will be required in most indoor settings for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” the release states.

Noland wrote that the region is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases due to the spread of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates.

“We recognize that this situation is disappointing and discouraging, especially given the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines,” Noland wrote. “In light of the evolving recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as reports that our local hospital system is nearing capacity, the need has risen for us to modify and reinstitute our emergency policy regarding face coverings.”

While eating, drinking or sitting in private offices or residence halls, masks can be removed.

The release states that the requirement applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people on campus.

“We have discouraged all members of the university community from asking persons to disclose their vaccination status, from requiring it to be in their presence,” said university spokesman, Joe Smith. “It’s been our priority to provide a safe environment for all persons.”

Smith says case counts were low for the university and that the Covid-19 dashboard is updated daily. He also says that contact tracing will continue and that is when someone might be asked about their vaccination status.

“That does include an important intake and an interview. So that would be one of the questions that our intake staff would take,” said Smith. “It’s going to depend on the information the person provides on what the next steps would be.”

According to Noland, ETSU will remain in the Modified Stage 4 phase of its operating plan. The stage functions with primarily on-campus instruction with a mask requirement and minimal other restrictions. You can read the Modified Stage 4 plan by clicking here.

The release states ETSU Health will continue to host free vaccine clinics in the near future.

“Vaccination remains our best option for preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, and ETSU vehemently encourages all students, faculty, and staff who have not been vaccinated to schedule an appointment as soon as possible,” Noland wrote.

As of now- this will not impact outdoor events- like football for the fall semester. University leaders hope this policy will be temporary and can be rolled back at some point.

“There’s just certain magic and excitement that surrounds a college campus when you’re getting ready for the fall semester and that certainly would describe the climate here right now,” said Smith. “We’re excited to see everyone.”