How COVID-19 is affecting colleges in Georgia

The relationships and collaborative work that are usually a major part of the college experience have been stripped from students as colleges are enforcing social distancing protocol and limiting human contact among the student population. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplash

The relationships and collaborative work that are usually a major part of the college experience have been stripped from students as colleges are enforcing social distancing protocol and limiting human contact among the student population. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplash

Ashley Meyer, Staff Writer

Colleges and universities throughout Georgia are working to control COVID-19 outbreaks within their campuses, but many are still struggling. Students, teachers, and faculty are forced to deal with new protocols and restrictions this school year in order to keep everyone as safe as possible. The ability for colleges to contain the spread of coronavirus depends on the college and the resources they have, but all schools face similar challenges. 

 

Large universities such as the University of Georgia (UGA) and Georgia State are two of the best equipped schools to handle testing and containment of cases according to Dr. Isaac Fung, a professor of epidemiology at Georgia Southern University.

 

However, campuses are still plagued with rising cases. 

 

UGA has increased the amount of testing available to asymptomatic students, but this increase in testing has shown the rising case numbers. Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4 the university reported 1,417 positive cases among the students, staff, and faculty of the university. Of the positive cases nearly 99% are students. 

 

The increase in cases is largely due to the off campus activities the students participate in. UGA junior and 2018 Roswell High School graduate Skylar Barth says, “Numbers are rising, much due to the downtown scene and lack of mask enforcement in those downtown areas.” The popularity of attractions around the Athens area has caused many students to be exposed to the disease and carry it back to campus. 

 

The university president, Jere Morehead, urges students to stay safe in an attempt to limit the cases at the college. Morehead told the AJC, “Each of us must make sound decisions in the coming days and weeks so that we can turn the trajectory, as we have seen at other institutions in the state.”

 

The other institutions he is speaking of are universities such as Georgia Tech (GT) and Emory. Emory University Director of Student Health Services Sharon Rabinovitz siad, “It’s important to get ahead of outbreaks and clusters and the only way to do that is more testing, more often.” Emory has turned these words into action by testing daily, recording case counts, limiting on campus housing, and reporting the number of tests administered weekly. These precautions have been successful because the university has only reported 88 cases since June 1. 

 

Georgia Tech has also implemented a very aggressive testing strategy that seeks to test 1500 asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff per day. GT is also developing a contact tracing and notification system in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Health in an attempt to limit the spread of the disease in and around the Atlanta area. These strategies have also proved effective with the university only recording 800 positive cases since March.

 

Smaller colleges in Georgia also face obstacles because of the disease. Colleges like Emmanuel College and North Georgia Technical College are forced to deal with COVID 19 without the money and resources the larger universities do. These colleges have decided to bring students back to campus with a mixture of in-person and online courses. 2020 Roswell graduate and Emmanuel freshman Kristin Liquori said, “The environment at Emmanuel College seems very closed off because nobody can really have a real conversation due to wearing masks and social distancing.” 

 

Smaller colleges are able to enforce their social distancing policies better because of the smaller student populations, so the spread of the diseases has been minimized in these colleges. However students do not have the same college experience with the restrictions. Liquori also stated that because of the limited student life activities and new social distancing restrictions she did not feel she was getting the full college experience.

 

The virus has affected all colleges and universities, but despite the restrictions everyone is trying to make the best of the situation. Roswell graduate and Kennesaw State freshman Natanya Naturman said, “If you go out and look for things to make you smile and make those friends then you’ll enjoy college. You have to make the most of what you have.”

 

To learn more about online school click here.

To learn more about how high school’s are affected by coronavirus click here.

To learn more about how colleges are dealing with admission amidst the pandemic click here.

Many college courses have been moved to online this semester, so students have to do most of their classes alone on a computer. Most campuses require masks in all university buildings, but a major concern is the exposure students receive by working on school work off campus Photo by Tim Gouw from unsplash.