A novel coronavirus, named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. (Photo Courtesy/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The University of Georgia’s latest campus-wide announcement about COVID-19 was on March 5 in an Archnews email about spring break health and travel precautions.

The same day, the Office of Instruction sent an email to faculty, advisors and staff detailing instructions on preparing remote learning.

However, as UGA students, faculty and staff prepare to return to campus after spring break and universities across the nation announce class cancellations, the university has yet to announce an update.

Emory University announced an extension of spring break to March 22, followed by remote learning beginning March 23. Emory’s decision comes after universities across the nation have altered their spring semesters. Vanderbilt University canceled in-person classes until March 30, and the University of South Carolina canceled classes and on-campus events until March 22.

The lack of updates from UGA over spring break amid university closures across the country has frustrated some students, leading to a petition to close campus garnering more than 1,700 signatures and a “Coronavirus UGA” GroupMe attracting more than 350 members within 24 hours.

“Making a GroupMe is what UGA students do,” said Dana Bubka, a junior avian biology major.

Bubka, an out-of-state student, spent her spring break with her family in Pennsylvania. She expects to return to Athens on Sunday night; however, with the recent closures of several universities in her home state and around the Southeast, Bubka said she’s uncertain about her plans after spring break.

Bubka sent an email to President Jere Morehead voicing her concerns about the “lack of communication” from the university and the rise in COVID-19 cases in Georgia. Bubka said out-of-state students bear the “brunt of these travel changes.”

“The best thing that UGA or even the University System of Georgia can do is just be a bit more transparent with where they are with the decision-making process,” Bubka said. “Just try to let us know where you are in that process, what you’re thinking of, where your concerns are, so that we can start making our own plans.”

Leah Miano, a senior linguistics major, works two jobs during the school year — one on campus with the department of International Student Life and the other off campus at a restaurant — both of which Miano said may be in jeopardy if closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak hit Athens.

“I genuinely don’t know if I’ll be able to pay rent for the rest of the school year,” Miano said.

Miano also expressed frustration at the lack of a “consistent message” about UGA’s plans for remote learning or living situations. Miano said out-of-state and international students, students living in dorms and other students who may not have housing alternatives need time to plan.

“The way for the university to handle it the best is not to tell us on Friday night or Sunday night — the way it’s starting to look,” Miano said. “The sooner they can get us that information, the sooner people can make contingency plans.”

As of press time, Georgia has 12 confirmed and 19 presumptive cases of COVID-19. The U.S. has 1,323.

The Red & Black has not received a statement from UGA.

Check back with The Red & Black for more updates.

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