In a memo to faculty and staff sent Tuesday, East Tennessee State University President Dr. Brian Noland said the university’s mask mandate will remain in place, and employees who fall under President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will need to be vaccinated or receive a waiver.

“While it is certain that ETSU must comply with the Executive Order, the guidance on which of our employees this affects continues to be limited,” the memo read. “Earlier this month, we identified approximately 70 employees who were clearly covered within the scope of the Executive Order. These employees have been notified of their status and have been asked to either get fully vaccinated or submit requests, as appropriate, for medical or religious exemptions.

“At this point, we are still reviewing the documentation and consulting legal counsel to determine the magnitude of impact the Executive Order will have on the University community,” it continued. “However, we have determined that some individuals serving in our healthcare facilities or working on our VA Campus must comply. The Office of Human Resources will reach out and provide direction to those additional individuals who are affected.”

In September, Biden signed executive order 14042, which requires workers performing on or in connection with a federal contract or contract-like instrument to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 unless they are granted an exemption.

There is no option for workers to submit to weekly testing as there is for private companies that fall under Biden’s executive order requiring businesses with more than 100 employees require them to be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

ETSU receives about $40 million in funding through federal contracts and programs, and therefore must comply with the order. While the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that was signed into law last week prohibiting vaccine mandates, ETSU was granted a waiver allowing them to comply with the federal mandate.

The University of Memphis, University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University also received exemptions to comply with the order, which must be renewed annually.

Those employees who are required to be vaccinated will be notified, though Noland encouraged all unvaccinated employees to get the shot.

“I continue to strongly encourage all unvaccinated employees to consider getting the vaccine,” Noland wrote. “Vaccination remains the safest and most effective method for preventing severe illness or death from COVID-19.”

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