In a Thursday ArchNews email, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead and Provost Jack Hu updated the university community on plans for the spring 2021 semester regarding COVID-19. Morehead and Hu emphasized that they would continue following guidance from the Medical Oversight Task Force on testing.
UGA has been designated as a dispensing point for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the email. The university will work with the federal and state government to administer doses of vaccine when they are available. The university does not expect to have large volumes of the vaccines until later in the spring semester, and the University Health Center staff and the Office of Emergency Preparedness will give further updates once they have more information.
Testing on campus ends Dec. 24 but will resume on Jan. 4. From Jan. 4-22, surveillance testing capacity will be expanded to 1,500 tests per day, including 1,000 per day at Legion Field and 500 per day at pop-up testing sites. UGA plans to continue offering incentives such as T-shirts, food coupons and discounts to stores. New face coverings will also be distributed to faculty, students and staff for the new semester.
As soon as it exhausts its supply of nasopharyngeal swab tests, UGA’s surveillance testing program will switch to using saliva-based tests exclusively. According to the Medical Oversight Task Force, saliva-based tests have proven to be as effective as nasopharyngeal swab tests and are more convenient. UGA has used saliva-based tests at pop-up testing sites at the Athens campus since mid-October.
Those who test positive after arriving in Athens are required to self-isolate per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The university has set aside 500 rooms for students in residence halls who test positive and have limited options for isolating. These rooms will be available during the winter break and spring semester. In addition, after being notified of a positive test, the Student Care and Outreach team will help students with housing, food delivery, contact with professors and more.
The Medical Oversight Task Force encouraged UGA community members to continue following safety protocols such as wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and limiting the size of group gatherings. They also warned that off-campus social activities have been the primary driver of COVID-19 cases on college campuses, instead of classrooms or other instructional settings.
The Preventative Measures Advisory Board has updated its COVID-19 training module, which will be available on Jan. 6 through eLC. Those who have already taken training will be able to take a condensed version, but new hires and transfer students will be required to complete the entire course.