As students prepare to return for the fall semester, the University of Georgia is strengthening its measures to protect the university community from the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 virus.
These steps include new incentives to encourage vaccinations, continuation of COVID-19 testing, mandatory reporting of cases via DawgCheck, special cleaning and disinfection protocols that are now standard operating procedures, and major HVAC system improvements that will be ongoing.
Of all these measures, getting vaccinated is paramount. UGA President Jere W. Morehead joined with S. Jack Hu, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Shelley Nuss, campus dean of the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, and Jennifer Swails, Interim Executive Director for University Health Center, to emphasize that point last week.
“We are particularly thankful to the many faculty, staff, and students who have chosen to get vaccinated to not only protect themselves and their families but the entire University community,” they wrote in a memo to the university community. “To fully protect our campus community, however, we need for everyone who can get vaccinated to do so.”
Based on guidance from the University System of Georgia, UGA cannot require students, faculty or staff to be vaccinated in order to be on campus, but vaccinations are strongly encouraged.
UGA offers COVID-19 vaccines for all faculty, staff and students at the University Health Center (UHC) and is incentivizing participation with T-shirts and gift card promotions advertised through social media. The university is also offering vaccine appointments to incoming students during undergraduate orientation, with a shuttle service between the Tate Student Center and UHC for their convenience.
Faculty, staff and students also can take advantage of vaccine clinics being offered this fall at the Tate Center. UHC is partnering with the Georgia Department of Public Health to administer COVID-19 vaccines at the Tate Center in Room 137 from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Aug. 19, Aug. 23-26, Aug. 30, 31 and Sept. 2. Incentives will be available at the vaccine clinics while supplies last.
UGA also has been participating in and will continue to promote USG’s statewide campaign for students to be vaccinated at any one of 15 participating campuses in the USG that might be closer to their hometowns.
The university also will continue to offer free testing for COVID-19 to all members of the UGA community at the University Health Center and will require any faculty, staff or student who tests positive to report his or her positive test through DawgCheck and follow the guidance provided.
“The protection of the UGA community against the spread of COVID-19 remains a top priority of the University Health Center as we prepare for the start of the academic year,” Swails said.
Residents of on-campus housing who test positive for COVID-19 will not be allowed to stay in their residence hall during their isolation period and will be encouraged to return home. If this is not a viable option, Student Care and Outreach (SCO) can arrange for other housing and meal delivery on an individual basis.
As it did last year, the university will hold beds for quarantine and isolation needs of residents of on-campus housing. SCO will continue to notify faculty should students report a positive COVID-19 test result through DawgCheck.
Students living off-campus can contact SCO directly if they need specific support with instructor notifications or require any other assistance.
Since the risks of COVID-19 remain high for people who are not fully vaccinated, the University System of Georgia encourages everyone to wear a face covering while inside campus facilities.
UGA has free face coverings still available in several types and designs. Departments that are interested in having masks on hand can order them for faculty and staff in their units. Students who want face coverings can pick them up at Information Desks in the Tate Student Center and the Miller Learning Center.
- Special cleaning and disinfection protocols put in place last year across the campus community will continue, with particular emphasis on high-touch surface disinfection in all buildings. The Facilities Management Division (FMD) will continue to re-stock and supply the existing hand sanitizing stations and wipes for individual use in offices, breakrooms and classrooms.
- The plexiglass shields installed in classrooms, buses, point-of-sale locations and other settings will remain.
- For the past 18 months, FMD has been focused on improving ventilation and indoor air quality across campus. This FMD interactive website illustrates the location of buildings with completed, in-progress or in-design HVAC air quality improvement projects.
- The FMD website has been updated to include additional details regarding completed HVAC system changes implemented since spring 2020. This work includes increased daily air exchanges in 5.1 million square feet of academic and research space and the installation of portable HEPA units in more than 50,000 square feet of classrooms. More than $7 million in targeted projects to improve HVAC systems across campus will be accomplished in the 2021-22 academic year—all in accordance with CDC, DPH and HVAC industry standards.
- Transportation & Parking Services will continue to use sprayers to sanitize parking deck stairwells overnight as well as inside each bus. The sprayers contain a solution proven to kill COVID-19. All rails and handles on buses will continue to be wiped down with disinfecting wipes between class breaks.