As Georgia universities deal with COVID-19 cases, parents group fights to keep campuses open

ATHENS, Ga. — Across the state, college parents are organizing to keep their kids at school.

A Facebook group called “Keep Georgia Universities Open” has more than 5,100 members. Many are parents who say they want to protect their child’s health and that means them staying on campus.

As students returned to campus in August, the number of COVID-19 cases rose.

For the last week of August, the University of Georgia reported 821 COVID-19 related cases. Kennesaw State had 181 cases since Aug. 15 and Georgia Tech reported 571 for the month.

Georgia Gwinnett College administrators report 54 cases since the pandemic began.

“Once the schools closed in North Carolina, we became concerned there could be a ripple effect here,” parent Joy Morin said.

Last month, dozens of tenured UGA professors called the reopening of campus “as currently planned unwise.”

Morin helped organize the Keep Georgia Universities Open group. Morin and others say they don’t believe college students are as much at risk as other populations, and the greater risk is keeping 18-22 year olds at home, away from friends and all the on campus learning and experiences.

“The students are at much less risk from the virus than they are suicide and depression.” Morin said.

Her son Zach is a freshman at UGA.

“It’s a little different but at least we have this, something,” he said.


Channel 2′s Tony Thomas asked Zach Morin how important he thinks it is to be on campus.

“Very important, just because of everything that has happened for the class of 2020 in the past few months, it’s been brutal,” he said.

Last week, other groups questioned the need for in-person learning.

“I don’t think we should have even been on campus this semester because of the rise of cases,” student Arianna Mbunwe told a group of lawmakers on a Zoom call.

UGA student Gabi Earl spoke about the start of classes and her worries about on campus learning as she walked near the arches.

“It’s definitely stressful because you are worried about your health,” Earl said.

The Keep Georgia Universities Open Facebook group is bombarding state leaders and administrators with phone calls and letters. The group worries that students’ mental health is at stake.

“I think we are really depriving them of an education by keeping them out of the classroom,” member Nicole Johnson told Thomas. “We’ve already started this course and I think we need to stick with it. "

As for Zach Morin, he hopes to keep his hybrid in-person and online classes going and wants soon to attend all in-person classes like a normal college freshman.

“If they send us home, I’d be pretty devastated, ” Morin said. “This is something new. I’m finally moving on with my life and they are trying to snatch it away and send me back to what it was for the past four or five months.”

Organizers of the Facebook group told Thomas they plan to keep up the pressure, knowing for the short term at least, the number of cases will likely rise the longer students are on campus .

One parent commented that they just need to weather that rise and urge administrators to as well.

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