Georgia colleges and COVID: differing policies and reported cases

By Levi Cloud, Viking Fusion Videographer

Georgia colleges are taking different approaches to hosting classes this fall, allowing students different levels of access to campus and adding new campus procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

To understand how colleges are handling COVID-19 across the state, we reviewed several Georgia universities’ policies and case numbers, and reached out to some of their students to see what makes their school’s approach unique.

The University of Georgia, with the state’s largest student body at nearly 39,000, is allowing its students back on campus with added health and safety requirements, some of which are more drastic than those seen at Berry. 

Maddy Cora, a student at UGA, told Viking Fusion that students who want to eat at the university’s dining halls have to either reserve in-person seating or get food to go. In addition, each student’s identification cards now only allow access to his or her specific dorm, rather than to dorms across campus. 

Between August 10 and September 20, UGA has reported over 3,000 COVID cases, with a high of 1,500 positive tests in one week between August 31 and September 6.

Georgia Southern University, which reported a student body of 26,000 last year, has allowed its students to return to campus for in-person classes. A recent addition to the school’s dining services may make the semester that much safer for these students.

Tom Parker, a student at Georgia Southern, says the university has taken a unique approach to supplying students with food from dining halls. Since August, the college has used 20 six-wheeled self-driving robots to deliver food to students across campus along specified routes, functioning much like coolers on wheels.

At Georgia Southern, 1,078 cases total have been reported since students returned to the university’s various campuses. Cases at the university crossed the 1,000 mark in mid-September.

Emory University, which reported a student body of over 15,000 in 2019, is not allowing all of its students back on campus this fall. Freshmen, transfer students, international students, and students with scholarships that require on-campus housing are allowed to take in-person classes, while others are learning entirely online. According to Jared Chen, a freshman at Emory, students who are on campus do not have roommates this semester. 

Out of Emory’s nearly 30,000 students, faculty, and staff, a total of 151 cases have been reported since June 1. 

Agnes Scott College and Morehouse College, which both have fewer than 3,000 students, opted to complete the fall semester entirely online in contrast to larger Georgia schools.

Earlier this summer, Agnes Scott and Morehouse announced through press releases that they hoped to hold hybrid classes, meaning students would learn both in person and virtually. However, as statewide coronavirus cases rose, both Agnes Scott and Morehouse announced they would host the semester virtually and not allow students back on campus.

Along with UGA, Georgia Southern, Emory, and others, Berry College has allowed students to return to in-person classes full-time while implementing health and safety requirements to limit the spread of the disease. The use of masks and social distancing is mandatory, and routine temperature checks are also being conducted when anyone enters campus or the school’s dining hall. 

For the 2019-2020 academic year, Berry reported a student body of just over 2,000 students. Since August, Berry has reported a total of 93 cases among students and employees. Over half of those cases were reported over the span of one week, with 58 cases reported between September 15 and September 23.

Berry community members can view the latest updates on Berry’s case count at the school’s official confirmed case report. Those interested in seeing case numbers for the other schools mentioned here can access the COVID case reports for UGA, Georgia Southern University, and Emory University online.

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