Georgia colleges ‘strongly encourage’ face masks upon return but some say it should be required

Georgia colleges ‘strongly encourage’ face masks upon return but some say it should be required

ATHENS, Ga. — The University System of Georgia says that it will “strongly encourage” students and faculty at public colleges and universities to wear face masks on campus to control the possible spread of COVID-19 when classes resume in August.

“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is the University System of Georgia’s top priority. From day one, the USG has followed COVID-19 guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Consistent with current guidance from those agencies, we strongly encourage everyone to wear a cloth face covering in areas of campus where social distancing cannot be practiced.”

[SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus in Georgia]

Content Continues Below

University system officials are also encouraging frequent hand sanitizing and urging students and faculty who exhibit symptoms to stay home. But a long term UGA professor told Channel 2 Action News that face masks should be required, and not optional.

“That is the best practice that is the norm at all public universities throughout the Southeast. And it’s the norm at the top 20 universities outside the state of Georgia.” said UGA Professor of Psychology, Dr. Janet Frick.

RELATED STORIES:

Frick vowed she will not teach unmasked students. She says during the pandemic, students and faculty should wear masks in classrooms and campus buildings, at the very least.

"If there are asymptomatic students who aren't wearing a mask, that risk is raised unnecessarily for the students sitting nearby. I think it's important to do everything we can, everything that is without our power to mitigate the spread of the virus." Frick said.

Some UGA students agreed that face coverings should be mandatory in the classroom.

"I mean they mandate we get vaccinated before we come to school. I don't think this is any different from mandating something for the public health of students. If they require masks to be in the classrooms, I think that would drastically cut down on the risk to students, the risk to faculty," UGA senior Nathan Pugh said.

However, others believe requiring the wearing of masks goes too far.

"I think you should do what you feel comfortable with. If you want to wear a mask, that fine. If you don't want to wear a mask, please don't make me," said Audrey Nesbit.

A campus workers union has called for the mandatory wearing of face masks in campus buildings and classrooms. Several thousand have signed an online petition in support.

Metro health officials say travel could be behind jump in coronavirus cases