As the possible return of face-to-face instruction becomes more apparent this fall, the University System of Georgia released a statement on July 6 announcing that face masks will be mandatory on campus.
“Effective July 15, 2020, all USG institutions will require all faculty, staff, students and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities [and] buildings,” the USG website states.
The update came after a push back from USG students. Masks4USG, an Instagram page, began amplifying concerned voices from across the state.
“As a 22-year-old student living with [Type 1] diabetes, a heart condition … and asthma, people often look at me and think I’m invincible because of my age and therefore they don’t wear a mask,” a Georgia College and State University student said.
And that student is not alone. As reported by Masks4USG, the Georgia Department of Public Health has noted that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases are the highest among college-aged students.
“There’s so much that has to be done to ensure [the] safety and equality for all students, faculty and staff if we are planning an in-person return to campus for the fall semester,” Ciera Thomas, a rising junior at the University of Georgia and a member of the Masks4USG team, said.
She proposes extensive testing, contact tracing abilities and flexible working arrangements for elderly staff and people with low immunity.
According to the CDC, contact tracing refers to identifying, testing and self-quarantining any individual who has come in contact with the virus.
“I understand the desire for in-person classes and how online learning significantly changes the delivery of academic instruction,” Thomas said.
Thomas also notes the incredible risk of face-to-face instruction in the midst of the pandemic.
Georgia State is also preparing methods to keep students safe in the fall.
According to Vice President for Public Relations and Marketing Andrea Jones, faculty and staff will be provided with two face masks by mail within the next few days.
Georgia State will also provide each student with two face masks that will be distributed at the beginning of the semester.
Although face coverings are not mandatory in outdoor settings, personal study rooms or dorms, they are required everywhere else.
“Anyone not using a face covering when required will be asked to wear one or must leave the area,” Jones said. “Repeated refusal to comply with the requirement may result in discipline through the applicable conduct code for students.”
However, reasonable accommodations can be made for those who are not able to wear face masks due to documented health reasons.
As reported by The Signal, enhanced sanitation plans are in the works, and elevator occupancy will be limited to four people.
“We know students have a strong preference for face-to-face instruction; that is abundantly clear,” Georgia State University President Mark Becker said. “At the same time, we know we cannot populate our classrooms as we did this past fall.”
Editor’s Note: This article will be updated as necessary.