Georgia University System (USG) continues to encourage students, faculty and staff to get COVID-19 vaccinations and wear masks inside campus facilities, with institutions starting to report a drop the first spikes in positive COVID-19 cases on their campuses.
Each of the 26 public colleges and universities in the USG continues to monitor COVID-19 positivity numbers. As happened last fall and spring, some campuses have seen an increase in positive COVID-19 tests as classes kicked off for the fall semester several weeks ago. Those increases were generally followed by decreases over the course of the semester, and several U.S. government institutions are now reporting similar trends across campuses.
These include Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Clayton State University, Columbus State University, Fort Valley State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Southern University, Kennesaw State University, University of North Georgia, and University of Georgia, all of whom this week reported a decrease in cases.
The declines come as U.S. government institutions statewide have stepped up vaccination campaigns for their campus communities and focused on continuing health and safety protocols. Of those efforts, more than 313,000 COVID-19 tests have so far been sent to campuses – a figure that does not include tests developed by the campuses themselves or performed in partnership with local health partners. 50,000 additional tests will soon be distributed.
The USG has also provided additional PPE to campuses over the past two months to include one thousand gallons of disinfectant and disinfectant solution, 21,400 gowns, 432,000 masks and face shields, and 942,000 gloves.
“Thank you to the students, faculty and staff who got vaccinated and took seriously everything we asked them to do to keep themselves and their campuses safe,” Acting Chancellor Teresa MacCartney said. âWe appreciate everyone who wears a mask on campus, stays home when they’re not feeling well, gets tested, and most importantly, gets vaccinated. It makes a difference.
Among other examples, the number of positive cases in Georgia Southern has fallen to 72, from 113 last week. At the University of Georgia, the total number of week-over-week cases fell 68%, from 505 cases last week to 164 this week. Georgia Tech’s seven-day moving average for positivity rates fell below 1% last week and is currently 0.5%
“Whenever we see a drop in the number of cases, we are grateful and hope that this downward trend continues,” said Dr Shelley Nuss, Dean of the UA / UGA Medical Partnership Campus and Co-Chair of the UGA Group. work on the medical surveillance of the UGA. âWe saw a similar trend last fall: a spike in cases shortly after the start of classes, which then dropped sharply and leveled off. We hope that with our continued efforts to encourage vaccinations, testing and masking, our numbers will continue to decline. COVID-19 is a very serious disease, and vaccines remain our best defense. “
As part of their campaigns, a majority of institutions offer incentives to those who get vaccinated. This includes everything from $ 50 T-shirts and bookstore credits to weekly prize draws ranging from $ 100 to $ 1,000 for those who are fully immunized.
The system offers vaccination incentives to all employees enrolled in a US government health care plan. Employees can earn $ 200 for themselves and $ 200 for their spouse for a total of $ 400 through the Wellness Credit program through the payroll system. The USG also offers paid administrative leave to give people time to get vaccinated, and as a thank you to those already vaccinated.
In addition to promoting immunization, the USG continued to dedicate resources to mental health and wellness. The number one demand from students and families is to keep campuses open, a demand focused not only on academics but also on student mental health. Being on campus, entering classrooms, and being physically able to interact with faculty, staff, and other students has a profound effect on their success in college.
Institutions have also increased services to support mental health on all state campuses through the U.S. government’s Mental Health Initiative. Launched in August 2020, the initiative is funded by Governor Kemp through funding from Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER), set aside by the federal CARES Act.
“The drop in positive cases is encouraging, but we know we can’t give up,” MacCartney said. âWe will continue to work with the State Department of Public Health and our campuses to ensure that everyone has access to testing, PPE and, most importantly, vaccines. “
This is a press release from the Georgia University System.