What are COVID protocols and how might they be changing?

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has left students with questions about what COVID-19 protocols are on campus. Maryville College administration released their expectations for the fall semester at the end of July, including many protocols for dealing with vaccines, symptoms and quarantining. However, protocols are changing due to new Tennessee laws.

As of right now, vaccinated students who have been exposed but are not symptomatic need to “monitor their symptoms and have a COVID test within 3-5 days,” according to the Maryville College website. 

All students, unvaccinated and vaccinated, who are exposed and start showing symptoms should immediately quarantine and get tested. If you have tested positive or have been exposed to COVID and are experiencing symptoms, the college encourages you to report your case to the MC Dean of Students email ([email protected]).

On September 7, MC President Bryan Coker announced to the college that the “personal preference” option for students and faculty would no longer be available in the spring semester. This means that any student or faculty member who chose the personal preference option for the vaccination requirement this semester would have been required to receive and submit their vaccination by December 1.

However, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a bill on November 12 that takes away the option from private colleges and universities to mandate the vaccine for students, and possibly for employees, depending on updated Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines. 

Coker notified students of the changes to the vaccination requirements via email on November 15. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated students will be allowed to dine-in at Pearsons, while faculty and staff must still do take-out only. The college will still do random testing of unvaccinated students, but, according to Coker’s announcement, “participation in the program is now optional.” Some protocols for quarantining and isolating on campus will need to be further developed in accordance with the new state laws, something the college has been working on for a while in anticipation of the bill’s passage.

“The college is consulting legal counsel to see what this legislation means for us or what it doesn’t mean,” Coker said. “The not-knowing is stressful,” 

Many students want to get back to normalcy in the classroom, and not being able to require vaccines could prohibit that from happening. 

“If we become a more vaccinated campus, we could possibly see a lessening in restrictions,” Coker said. 

If you should have to miss class due to COVID-related symptoms or quarantine, you should be excused from class, according to the college’s protocols.

“I haven’t heard of any incidents with professors not allowing students to miss class due to COVID, but that does not mean it doesn’t happen,” Coker said.

Masks, covering both the mouth and the nose, are still required in all indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. In outdoor spaces, masks are only required for unvaccinated students. 

For any updates on COVID-19 information, visit www.maryvillecollege.edu

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