UGA reports over 1,400 new cases of COVID-19 on campus this week

UGA reports over 1,400 new cases of COVID-19 on campus this week
FILE: Officials reported 821 positive tests for the virus for the period of Aug. 24-30. Of those, 798 were students. (PHOTO: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

ATHENS, Ga. — The University of Georgia reported Wednesday that there were over 1,400 new coronavirus cases among students, faculty and staff this week.

From August 31 to September 6, a total of 1,417 new cases were reported on campus.

Last week, the university reported over 800 new cases.

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The positivity rate on campus rose from 5.30% to 8.03%.

The University said in a statement that student cases rose last week, while those of faculty and staff remained at a very low level. Officials said 1,402 cases were among students, 14 were among staff and only one case was a faculty member.

Dr. Garth Russo, executive director of the University Health Center and chair of UGA’s Medical Oversight Task Force, said the data suggests the virus is not spreading in classrooms.

“With only one faculty member testing positive during this period, we can surmise that the preventive measures the university has taken to control the classroom environment—such as installing HEPA filters, marking off social distancing, installing Plexiglas shields and mandating masks—are working to make our classrooms safe places for students and faculty,” said Russo.

Still, president Jere W. Morehead said the rise among students was alarming.

“The rising number of positive tests for students last week is very disturbing,” said Morehead siad. “I would again remind students of their important responsibility to follow the rules intended to protect the health of our campus and our local community: wear your masks, maintain your distance from others, make wise decisions, and stay away from social venues where appropriate distancing is impossible to maintain. Each of us must make sound decisions in the coming days and weeks so that we can turn the trajectory, as we have seen at other institutions in the state.”

UGA’s semester started August 20 with mostly in-person classes. Students were are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing.

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The university has set aside nearly 300 rooms on campus and hundreds more in the community for students who need to isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or come in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Before school started, more than 300 professors signed a petition protesting in-person instruction.

The University of Georgia community has nearly 50,000 students, faculty and staff. UGA announced Tuesday that it is increasing the number of free tests administered at its surveillance testing site to 450 per day. This site accommodates asymptomatic students, faculty and staff at no cost to the individuals.

UGA reports 800+ COVID-19 cases on campus, expert says real number could be more than 3 times that