On April 17 at 1 p.m., Georgia State University President Mark Becker held a virtual town hall to speak on new updates and answer questions concerning the pandemic’s impact on Georgia State.
The Effects of COVID-19 in Georgia
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 31,580 cases have been confirmed in Georgia and there are 1,348 confirmed deaths.
Becker announced that the tools to prevent and treat this virus are “so far limited.”
According to Becker, there are issues to test the virus and the U.S. does not have verified treatments for people who are seriously affected by this virus.
Although this virus continues to spread, according to Becker, it has been predicted that Georgia may reopen at the beginning of May.
The U.S. is encouraging people to continue social-distancing and sheltering in place to make it possible.
“The good news is this does seem to be working,” Becker said. “We do seem to be here in the United States, flattening the curve so that the predictions [on deaths and overwhelming the healthcare system] are no longer what is expected.”
The 3-Phase Plan
The white house has initiated the 3-phase plan called ”Opening Up America Again,” regarding ending all lockdowns and stay at home orders.
According to Newsweek, the power to reopen states is in the hands of the state’s governors. The governors are not required to follow the plan.
In phase 1, people are encouraged to continue social distancing in public and follow CDC guidelines for safety purposes. Those who are more vulnerable to the outbreak (elderlies and individuals with health issues) should continue to stay at home.
Restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues, gyms and elective surgeries can reopen but with strict protocols.
Schools will still remain closed during phase one.
In phase 2, non-essential travel can resume and schools, daycare centers and camps can reopen.
In phase 3, those who are vulnerable to the pandemic do not have to stay home but they should continue to practice social distancing to stay on the safe side.
During this pandemic, the U.S. has suffered an uptick in its unemployment rate that has created financial issues for many individuals.
Becker announced in four weeks the U.S. has lost more than 22 million jobs and more than 8,000 people in Georgia have filed for unemployment. He also announced that Georgia is ranked No. 8 in job loss percentages.
“There is a lot that we do not know. We do know that our university, our state, our country have weathered other historic times. I’m confident we will weather this pandemic, we will balance safety and the greater efforts given,” Becker said. “What makes me more proud and inspired is that our University community is rising to meet those challenges and continue forward.”
The CARES Act
The CARES Act provides $2 trillion to small businesses, families and workers in need due to the pandemic.
Georgia State is receiving about $45 million, which will be split between the students and Georgia State’s facilities and staff. Over $22 million will be sent directly to the students.
According to Becker, approximately two-thirds of the funds will be granted to students that have financial needs.
When students transitioned to online classes, the university refunded $16 million dollars into student accounts.
Students received refunds that included mandatory student fees (athletic, sustainability and transportation), parking permits, meal plans and housing. Students on the Atlanta campus also received a refund for the recreation fee. Law students received a refund for their law activity fee.
“The CARES Act is going to help [the university employees] because even though the students got their money, the individuals [whose] jobs [were] supported by those funds, continue to be paid by Georgia State,” Becker said.
These funds will help keep faculty and staff the Georgia State payroll.
“Although this $45 million, which is a huge amount of money for anybody and [the] institution, is still not going to be enough,” Becker said.
The financial year budget starts on July 1. According to Becker, Georgia State doesn’t know their budget for the 2020-2021 academic year yet.
“By this time, the legislation would’ve passed the budget and sent it to the governor. [Then] the Board of Regents would [have] allocated our [financial year] budget to us,” Becker said.
However, due to COVID-19, there is no state budget and the university does not know what its budget will be at this time.
The pass/fail system would allow students to receive the credits for the course they were registered in without the course impacting their grades.
However, it is not an option for Georgia State as the University System of Georgia has not decided to implement it at this time.
Read The Signal’s article for more information about the students’ efforts to persuade the USG to adopt the pass/fail system.
Expectations of the 2020 Fall Semester
There are high expectations that campuses will be opening for the Fall Semester, if they follow the 3-Phase plan.
“Hopefully we pass phase one here by the end of May,” Becker said. “We do need to be prepared and we are preparing for the strong possibility that some, and perhaps much of our curriculum, will have to be online for this fall.”
According to Becker, more than 850 professors have signed up for training to teach online courses.
There are still unanswered questions on whether departments like the Recreation Center, housing, the Student Center and the Georgia State University Library will be ready to open in the fall.
“The virus is in control right now,” Becker said. “We’re going to do everything we can to have campus be as normal as it can be this fall.”
As for Georgia State commencements, according to Becker, it’s too soon to know when they’ll be able to have these special ceremonies for graduates.
“We will have a commencement, we will gather together, we will celebrate our students and their achievements, and we will do that being physically present,” Becker said. “[However,] it’s impossible to say when will that be.”
Wednesday, Georgia State held its first virtual ceremony honoring graduates in the Georgia State Class of 2020.