On Thursday, The Guardian published an opinion piece criticizing the leadership of University of Georgia and Athens’s response to COVID-19 by none other than R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.
In the beginning of his piece, Stipe said Athens is a place he calls home. It’s where R.E.M. started in 1980 and a place he returns to often. However, the town now “exemplifies the most dangerous aspects of public policy decision-making amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Stipe praises the city of Athens’ response to the pandemic despite slow response from state and federal leaders. However, Stipe continues, the University of Georgia’s reopening “has upended the sense of relative safety” Athens officials were able to create. Students have an impact on many groups on-campus such as professors and custodial staff, Stipe said, as well as off-campus.
Stipe called for more limitations in Georgia, such as outdoor only service at bars and football games without fans in the stadium. He said he understands the feeling of being in a crowd more than most, but people need to create safety now so gatherings in future years can be more meaningful when the pandemic is “behind us.”
Stipe said he is calling out UGA and Governor Brian Kemp specifically.
“The measures I have mentioned are easily within our reach, and this week is the time to implement and embrace them before further disaster.”