200820_TMG_FirstDay035.JPG

Signs mark which seats can be used in a large lecture room in UGA's Miller Learning Center on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. Compared to previous first days of class, few students were present on campus, as many classes met online. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; @taylormckenzie_photo)

University of Georgia faculty were instructed not to alter the location or format of their class if a student tests positive for COVID-19, according to an email obtained by The Red & Black on Sept. 2. 

The email, sent on behalf of Provost Jack Hu and Vice President of Instruction Rahul Shrivastav, emphasized that if faculty are made aware that one of their students has tested positive for COVID-19, they should not report it to the rest of the students in the class.

Faculty should not notify others about the positive test as it may violate student privacy, even when a name is not specified in these messages,” the email said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who are exposed to people with COVID-19 should be “quickly identified and quarantined.” 

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), sensitive health information of a specific student cannot be publicized. Faculty are advised to only notify graduate teaching assistants about a positive case in the classroom. 

If a student receives confirmation of a positive COVID-19 test result during class that “created a significant distraction,” the class can be dismissed for the remainder of the class period, according to the email. The student should be asked to leave and report the test to DawgCheck. 

The classroom space where there was a confirmed positive case can be used for the rest of the school day, the email said. The email mentioned that the Preventative Measures Advisory Board has advised wearing face coverings, maintaining social distance in the room and using disinfecting wipes will reduce the likelihood of transmission within the classroom.

The Facilities Management Division is notified when a positive COVID-19 test is reported in DawgCheck. The FMD is supposed to schedule sanitation protocols at the affected spaces where the student may have been.

“If supervisors become aware of multiple faculty, staff, or students testing positive in a single classroom or other shared space, they should contact their department/division head, dean or vice president as appropriate,” the email said.

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(1) comment

Hedor304

Faculty making a general statement that 'someone' in their class tested positive does not violate FERPA and I expect the admin knows this. FERPA applies to school records, not individual faculty, and if generalized as stated above completely avoids any possible hit on this privacy law or common privacy laws. More information lets faculty and students make informed decisions. The admin needs to put and end to the culture of secrecy. This is setting a terrible example for an institution that should be a model for transparency and solutions based on evidence.

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