Sign that reads COVID testing line starts, appointment only

Isaac Hoops / Nevada Sagebrush
The UNR Student Health Center conducts COVID-19 testing on Sept. 20. The recent Fall ’21 semester has been one filled with trial and error after going back to in-person classes since the start of the pandemic.

The University of Nevada, Reno fall 2021 semester has been like no other due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the previous two semesters being almost entirely online, the shift back to in-person classes has led to many new safety protocols and important announcements.

Here is a look at all of the changes UNR has endured following up to the fall 2021 semester.

Mar. 8, 2021: UNR announced the shift back to in-person classes

After going completely online during March 2020, UNR announced the return to in-person instruction for the fall 2021 semester. Brian Sandoval, president of UNR, sent the announcement via email to the campus community after making the decision due to the lowering of the COVID-19 cases in the state of Nevada.

May 6, 2021: Nevada System of Higher Education drafted plans to require COVID-19 vaccine for all institutions

After vaccine eligibility for ages 16 and up became available on Apr. 6, 2021, NSHE drafted plans to mandate the vaccine for all corresponding institutions. This mandate includes all students, faculty and staff of NSHE institutions who planned on returning for the fall semester. Prior to the official mandate, the university required approval from the State Board of Health.

Aug. 20, 2021: State Board of Health mandated COVID-19 vaccine for all NSHE institutions

A unanimous decision was made in favor of mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for all NSHE institutions during an emergency meeting. Cathay McAdoo, chair of the Board of Regents, and Melody Rose, chancellor for NSHE, were both in full support of this mandate.

The decision came only three days prior to the start of the fall 2021 semester classes.

Aug. 23, 2021: First day of classes

President Sandoval sent an announcement to all students on Aug. 23, 2021, welcoming them back to campus and outlining all of the current protocols.

After the vaccine was mandated for all students on Aug. 20, 2021, Sandoval announced students were to provide proof of vaccination by Nov. 1 to enroll in spring semester classes.

Other announcements included the continued mask mandate and weekly COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated faculty set to go into effect later in the month.

Sept. 8, 2021: Associated Students of the University of Nevada made a “Resolution in Support of Mandatory Vaccination for In-Person Attendance”

At the Sept. 8 ASUN senate meeting, senators passed “A Resolution in Support of Mandatory Vaccination for In-Person Attendance” in accordance with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Within the legislation they cited the 1905 case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, and the 1922 case, Zucht v. King, which ruled the school and state had the power to enact vaccine mandates.

The resolution also helped empower the Department of Campus Wellness to enact campaigns in support of the vaccine.

Sept. 15, 2021: President Sandoval tests positive for COVID-19

Sandoval announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 in an announcement sent to the campus community. He started feeling ill the night prior and got tested the following morning.

“The positive test result I received this morning and the mild symptoms I’ve experienced thus far also point to the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines are indeed doing their job. I received my COVID-19 vaccinations earlier this spring and I am so grateful I did,” said Sandoval in his announcement.

Sandoval is unsure of how he contracted the virus, although he was seen at a Raiders and UNR football game in the previous week.

Sept. 23, 2021: UNR faculty and administrators release the “COVID-19 Open Letter”

In the staff open letter, members of the campus community expressed their dissatisfaction with the current UNR COVID-19 protocols, or rather lack thereof. The letter scrutinized the continuation of holding large gatherings such as NevadaFIT and State of the University, as well as their lack of testing and contact tracing implementations.

“Due to the failure to plan and implement appropriate COVID protocols, faculty and students are experiencing repeated disruptions to in-person learning.”

Over 300 faculty and staff have signed the letter, along with 100 undergraduate students.

Additionally, Todd Ruecker, associate professor of English and signer of the letter, came to the Oct. 3 ASUN senate meeting to reiterate these concerns and ask for their support.

Oct. 22, 2021: UNR provides information on vaccine exemption and announces the implementation of a vaccine exemption board

In an announcement sent to students on Oct. 22, UNR provided information on how to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine exemption. Upon submitting an exemption form, a committee will be overseeing, approving and/or denying the request.

“The University has tasked two separate committees to review requests for exemptions. One committee will address requests made for exemptions due to a documented and contraindicated medical condition, and one shall address requests made for exemptions due to a sincerely held religious belief.”

Members of the committee were members of the human resources, theology, student services and medical field. The committee members were not mentioned in the email, but The Nevada Sagebrush acquired information regarding the members of the committee.

Members of the medical exemption committee included Cheryl Hug-English, Arthur Islas, Carol Scott and Joanne McGee.

Members of the religious exemption committee included Maria Doucettperry, Tim McFarling, Melisa Choroszy and Debera Thomas. Although the email announcement mentioned members of the theology field would be in the committee, it is not evident any of the members have any previous education in theological practices.

Nov. 30, 2021: Steve Alford, Nevada men’s basketball head coach, tests positive for COVID-19

Alford tested positive for COVID-19, which led to him having to isolate for 10 days and miss three Nevada men’s basketball games.

Alford’s case is the second known student leader on campus to test positive for COVID-19 after Sandoval.

Dec. 1, 2021: Nevada men’s basketball sees their first cancellations due to COVID-19

Nevada men’s basketball had their Dec. 4 game against North Texas and Dec. 7 game against UT Arlington due to an outbreak within the team.

A few other men’s basketball teams were seeing cancellations as well due to COVID-19 rises— Washington and Arizona.

Dec. 21, 2021: NSHE overturns COVID-19 student vaccine mandate

The emergency COVID-19 student vaccine mandate did not pass the extension approval by the Nevada Legislative Committee. All students who had holds on their account due to not receiving the vaccine were in the process of getting those holds lifted.

The decision comes over a month and a half after the Nov. 1 deadline for students to receive the vaccine or a vaccine exemption. Over 800 students received a vaccine exemption— 785 religious waivers and 60 medical waivers were issued.

The Board of Regents were still set to meet on Dec. 30 to deliberate on the staff vaccine mandate.

Dec. 30, 2021: Board of Regents does not overturn employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The NSHE Board of Regents held a special meeting on Dec. 30 regarding the employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate after the student vaccine mandate was overturned a week prior. The board kept the vaccine mandate in place after a 6-6 vote at the meeting.

The deadline for vaccination was Dec. 31 before facing extermination, but they will be allowed a thirty day grace period from Jan. 1 to Jan. 31 to show vaccination status and request to be reinstated.

Dec. 31, 2021: UNR employees faced extermination for not being vaccinated

NSHE has 22,240 employees across eight institutions, with 379 set to be terminated.

On Dec. 1, termination notices went out, with 323 going to UNR faculty and staff. Those numbers have now gone down, with 46 UNR faculty and staff set to be terminated on Dec. 31.