Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Updates for USG

LIVE UPDATES

Gov. Kemp Extends COVID-19 Executive Orders

On June 29, 2020, Governor Brian P. Kemp signed two executive orders extending the Public Health State of Emergency and existing COVID-19 safety measures.

“As we continue our fight against COVID-19 in Georgia, it is vital that Georgians continue to heed public health guidance by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and practicing social distancing,” said Governor Kemp. “We have made decisions throughout the pandemic to protect the lives - and livelihoods - of all Georgians by relying on data and the advice of public health officials.”

“While we continue to see a decreasing case fatality rate, expanded testing, and adequate hospital surge capacity, in recent days, Georgia has seen an increase in new cases reported and current hospitalizations. Given these trends, I am extending previous COVID-19 safety requirements and guidelines that were due to expire on June 30 at 11:59 PM. Dr. Kathleen Toomey and the Department of Public Health, along with our local public health partners, will continue to monitor ongoing cases and related data to ensure that we are taking appropriate measures moving forward. Together, we can win the fight against COVID-19 and emerge stronger.”

Executive Order 06.29.20.01 extends the Public Health State of Emergency through 11:59 PM on August 11, 2020. The Public Health State of Emergency allows for enhanced coordination across government and the private sector for supply procurement, comprehensive testing, and healthcare capacity.

Executive Order 06.29.20.02 continues to require social distancing, bans gatherings of more than fifty people unless there is six feet between each person, outlines mandatory criteria for businesses, and requires sheltering in place for those living in long-term care facilities and the medically fragile. The order also outlines that the State Board of Education must provide “rules, regulations, and guidance for the operation of public elementary and secondary schools for local boards of education” in accordance with guidance from Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the Department of Public Health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The order runs through 11:59 PM on July 15, 2020.

Gov. Kemp Signs New COVID-19 Executive Order

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Governor Brian P. Kemp signed Executive Order 06.11.20.01 - Empowering a Healthy Georgia June 11, 2020. The order addresses ongoing emergency response efforts for fighting the spread of COVID-19. Unless noted otherwise in specific sections, the order goes into effect at midnight June 16, 2020, and runs through 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2020.

Sports: Effective June 16, professional sports teams and organizations must follow the rules and guidelines set by their respective leagues. High school and collegiate teams and organizations must follow the rules and guidelines set by their applicable conferences or associations. Amateur sports teams and organizations must follow the criteria for non-critical infrastructure entities outlined in the order.

Sheltering in Place: Effective immediately, residents and visitors of Georgia who are sixty-five years of age or older are no longer required to shelter in place unless they meet any of the following categories:

  • Those persons who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, including inpatient hospice, assisted living communities, personal care homes, intermediate care homes, community living arrangements, and community integration homes
  • Those persons who have chronic lung disease
  • Those persons who have moderate to severe asthma
  • Those persons who have severe heart disease
  • Those persons who are immunocompromised
  • Those persons, of any age, with class III or severe obesity
  • Those persons diagnosed with the following underlying medical conditions: diabetes, liver disease, and persons with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • Those persons who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, including inpatient hospice, assisted living communities, personal care homes, intermediate care homes, community living arrangements, and community integration homes
  • Those persons who have chronic lung disease
  • Those persons who have moderate to severe asthma
  • Those persons who have severe heart disease
  • Those persons who are immunocompromised
  • Those persons, of any age, with class III or severe obesity
  • Those persons diagnosed with the following underlying medical conditions: diabetes, liver disease, and persons with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis

Gatherings: Effective June 16, gatherings of more than 50 people are banned unless there is at least six feet between each person. This rule does not apply to critical infrastructure entities, incidental or transitory groupings, or cohabitating individuals.

Drinking and Eating (effective June 16): In restaurants and dining rooms, there is no longer a party maximum for the number of people who can sit together. There is no longer a limit on the number of patrons allowed per square foot. Workers at restaurants, dining rooms, banquet facilities, private event facilities, and private reception venues are only required to wear face coverings when they are interacting with patrons. In a bar, now you can have 50 people – up from 25 – or 35% of total listed fire capacity, whichever is greater. For salad bars and buffets, a worker can use cafeteria-style service to serve patrons or the establishment can provide hand sanitizer, install a sneeze guard, enforce social distancing, and regularly replace shared utensils to allow patron self-service.

Overnight Summer Camps (effective June 16): Campers and workers may not attend an overnight summer camp unless they have received a negative COVID-19 test within twelve days – up from seven days – prior to starting camp.

Conventions: Effective July 1, a “convention” may occur if it meets 21 specific requirements in addition to the requirements for non-critical infrastructure entities. “Convention” means “an organized event of more than 100 persons that are required to register or obtain a license to gather for a common purpose at a single indoor facility or grouping of indoor facilities for more than four hours and in some cases for more than one day” and “shall include exhibitions, trade shows, conferences, and business retreats.” The term “convention” does not include any regular operation of a business that occurs on property owned or leased for the exclusive operation of such business, nor does the term encompass regular religious services, business meetings, sports competitions, or events categorized by O.C.G.A. § 16-11-173(b)(1)(A).

Live Performance Venues: Effective July 1, a “live performance venue” may reopen for business if it complies with specific criteria based on whether it is designated Tier I, II, or III. There are certain exceptions in the order for drive-in performances; private recording sessions, livestream performances, practices, fanless events, and rehearsals; and non-ticketed or free events. “Live Performance Venue” means “any indoor or outdoor location that requires patrons to purchase a license to attend an event featuring live musical, dramatical, automotive, educational, or any other type of entertainment performed before in-person patrons.” The term does not include restaurants and dining rooms, banquet facilities, private event facilities, private reception venues, weddings, drive-in venues, or events held as part of a convention, and the term does not include outdoor recreational fields used for amateur sporting events.

Effective June 16: At indoor movie theaters and cinemas, there is no longer a limit on the number of people who may sit together in a party. Walk-ins are now allowed at body art studios, barber shops, hair salons, their respective schools, massage therapy establishments, and tanning facilities subject to specific requirements. Mandatory requirements for operating non-critical infrastructure businesses, for-profit corporations, non-profit corporations, and organizations are extended through the end of the month. Specific requirements for previously closed businesses remain in effect.


USG Students Made Academic Progress in Spring 2020 Despite COVID-19

UPDATED

University System of Georgia (USG) students continued to make successful academic progress despite the rapid shift to remote instruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Spring 2020 grades remaining at least as strong as those earned by students in previous spring semesters.

A new systemwide grading analysis of all 26 USG institutions shows significantly more A grades awarded this spring and lower rates of students failing or withdrawing from courses. As compared to Spring 2019, the proportion of A grades awarded to students increased from 44.1% to 52.4%, while students’ failing or withdrawal (DFW) rate decreased from 14.3% to 12.2%.

This grading distribution remained true for student sub-groups including by race and ethnicity and those eligible for the federal Pell Grant. It was also consistent for both lower division and upper division undergraduate courses, as well as for all graduate and professional course grades within USG.

“Our students continue to show resilience and determination in pursuing their studies, and I am grateful for how often they have overcome the challenges thrown at them by COVID-19,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “Faculty and staff also worked hard to transition courses to an online format while maintaining their quality. I appreciate their flexibility and remain confident they will continue to do everything in their power to help every one of our students succeed.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, USG announced on March 16 that all institutions would move to online instruction for the remainder of the semester. In the following days and weeks, USG and its institutions expanded access to academic resources and support systems. This has included additional online learning and teaching tools available through Keep Learning USG, Keep Teaching USG and USG Learning Everywhere, as well as the newly redesigned Georgia On My Line website that connects students to online degree programs and certificates offered throughout system. USG has also increased access to internet and Wi-Fi services across the state for students’ digital learning needs, and made available to all students the resources of doctors, nurses and mental health specialists as they experience issues related to COVID-19.

While remote instruction continues through summer semester, USG institutions will return to in-person instruction for fall semester, and each campus is now planning for that return.


Stay Safe, Stay Well on Campus

UPDATED

As USG institutions plan for the return to face to face instruction in the fall, there is no higher priority than the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We need everyone to do their part to keep our campus communities and visitors safe.

This is video also available on Vimeo. Source file is available upon request. Email communications@usg.edu for use at your institution.


Board of Regents Provides Authority for Potential Reductions Due to COVID-19

UPDATED

The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia (USG) provided authority Thursday for a plan for possible staffing reductions and furloughs due to rapid changes in expected state revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

USG is working now with its 26 colleges and universities to develop a new spending plan for fiscal year 2021 that includes a 14% reduction from the current fiscal year.

Any action related to staffing reductions and furloughs will be based on the final budget appropriation to be approved in June. The Board’s approval allows institutions and the system office to respond to the state’s request for a plan to reduce spending by 14% starting July 1.

While this may include difficult decisions, the system’s top priority continues to be helping students complete a college education. USG remains grateful to all its employees for making a difference at a critical time for the University System, including keeping institutions and the University System Office (USO) accessible and responsive during this extraordinary time.

The Board’s guidance, to be reflected in each campus plan, requires faculty and staff at all 26 USG colleges and universities as well as the USO to take a minimum number of days of unpaid time off depending on their salary range, with the exception of those with the lowest base salaries. For most employees, this means either 4 furlough days or 8 furlough days, depending on their salary. Those with the highest base salaries will be required to take 16 furlough days, or the equivalent of a 6.2% pay reduction.

In addition, the Chancellor and all Presidents at every USG institution will take the equivalent of a 10% pay reduction which includes 26 furlough days for fiscal year 2021.

USG institutions and the USO may also need to adjust staffing levels to meet operational needs and address the immediate impact of revenue and funding losses. These plans, including the number of impacted employees, will be unique to each institution.

“Employees of the University System of Georgia and our 26 colleges and universities continue to show resilience and dedication despite facing uncertainty and unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “Their work has been instrumental in supporting not only USG’s 333,000 students, but thousands of Georgians across the state. I deeply appreciate the contributions of our employees impacted by these measures, and ask all of us to show our respect, compassion and gratitude for their service to our students.”

Institutions have already experienced changes to campus operations caused by COVID-19, including a move to remote instruction and the departure of thousands of students from campuses, which has had an immediate negative impact on auxiliary operations and finances.

USG will continue to monitor the financial impact of COVID-19 and adjust as circumstances require. The system also continues to implement cost-cutting measures. These include a Comprehensive Administrative Review that will reduce administrative costs systemwide by more than $100 million and a critical hire process that was implemented in December 2019.

While remote instruction will continue through summer, on-campus classes are tentatively expected to restart in the fall. A final decision will be based on guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Furlough Chart for USG


Chancellor’s Message to USG Faculty and Staff

UPDATED

May 1, 2020

Dear University System Faculty and Staff:

Your hard work has continued to keep all of our 26 institutions and the University System Office (USO) accessible and responsive in an extraordinary time, even as you have had to juggle your own personal challenges. I am grateful and proud of the way each of you has responded to our rapid shift in operations.

The challenges thrown at us by the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented. The health and safety of our students and employees are our greatest priorities.

As you are aware, the state of Georgia is facing a significant drop in revenue from the coronavirus that has caused the news I must now share.

Today, the state Office of Planning and Budget, House Budget and Research Office, and Senate Budget and Evaluation Office directed all state agencies to develop new spending proposals for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1. In doing so, all agencies including USG must submit proposals that include a 14% reduction of their base budget.

I have instructed all institutions and the USO to prepare a plan to address these 14% reductions. These plans must be submitted to the state no later than May 20th.

This will not be easy work. We have asked everyone to be strategic in their approach to meeting this reduction, therefore across the board cuts are not permitted. Our priority continues to be helping our students complete a college education. Our mission is more critical than ever as we take a leading role in helping all Georgians recover.

Right now, institutions are only submitting plans to address the 14% reductions for FY21. It will be some time before we will know the specifics of these plans and how they will be implemented. Among actions that may be taken include furloughs and layoffs. Additionally, we are placing a hold on all vacant positions not deemed essential, and remain committed to a critical hire process for the few that are. We will be faced with some uncertainty until the FY21 budget is adopted and approved.

The state will continue to monitor the financial impact of COVID-19 and adjust as circumstances require. Any budget plans submitted to the state must also be finalized and approved by the Georgia Legislature, and signed by the Governor.

I know this is hard news to hear. Please keep in close contact with your supervisor for further guidance and if you have any questions. We will provide updates as quickly and as transparently as possible.

Above all, know you are making a difference at a critical time for the University System. There is no question this will be tough. But we will get through it, and be stronger. Thank you for all you do to support our students and the state of Georgia.

Sincerely,

Steve W. Wrigley
Chancellor


Gov. Kemp Announces Plan for Gradual Reopening of Businesses

UPDATED

Today Governor Brian P. Kemp provided an update on COVID-19 in Georgia and announced as early as Friday, April 24, 2020, some businesses will be able to reopen.

As of noon on Monday, April 20, Georgia has 18,947 COVID-19 cases with 733 deaths. The state lab has processed 5,362 tests, and commercial vendors have processed 78,966 tests.

“We understand that these are more than just numbers,” Governor Kemp said. “These are Georgians. These are families and communities impacted. Our prayers remain with the victims and their loved ones. We lift up those who are battling this terrible virus. We remain focused on the safety and well-being of every person who calls Georgia home.”

The state will follow the guidelines for reopening released by the White House last week, Governor Kemp said. The process will be informed by the Coronavirus Task Force and public health officials. Labeled “Opening Up America Again,” the process of reopening includes three phases.

To initiate Phase One, a state must meet a series of basic criteria, which can be tailored to reflect specific circumstances for a regional or statewide approach.

“For weeks now, our state has taken targeted action to prevent, detect and address the spread of coronavirus by leveraging data and advice from health officials in the public and private sectors,” Governor Kemp said. “Thanks to this methodical approach and the millions of Georgians who have worked diligently to slow the spread of coronavirus, we are on track to meet the gating criteria for Phase One.”

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), reports of emergency room visits for flu-like illnesses are declining, documented COVID-19 cases have flattened and appear to be declining and there have been declining emergency room visits in general. The state’s efforts to expand hospital bed capacity - including the temporary facility at the Georgia World Congress Center - has reduced stress and strain on area hospitals as well as the communities and families that they serve.

The second criteria, testing, is being addressed by a new effort spearheaded by Augusta University (AU). The university has launched a telemedicine app as part of a comprehensive plan to screen, test and treat Georgia patients through an algorithm designed by experts at the Medical College of Georgia. This app has enhanced public health while reducing exposure for doctors, nurses and medical staff.

“We are encouraging symptomatic Georgians to download the app this week and begin the screening process,” Governor Kemp said. “Georgians can access the app by visiting AugustaHealth.org or downloading AU Health ExpressCare on your smartphone. You can also call (706) 721-1852. This free app is user-friendly, and through this app, physicians and advanced practice providers from Augusta University Health and the Medical College of Georgia are available to users 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Augusta University will also produce testing swabs in the Dental College of Georgia innovation lab using 3-D printers, which will help create thousands of new swabs per day. In addition, the Georgia National Guard will mobilize 10 new strike teams to deploy to hotspots across the state and at long-term care facilities, with plans to administer 1,500 additional tests in Georgia per day. Testing expansions through Augusta University and the Guard will complement existing initiatives, including DPH’s existing testing capacity, Georgia Tech’s drive-thru CVS testing site and private labs.

Other USG institutions are playing a critical role in the testing process, including Georgia State University, as well as Emory University and the Georgia Public Health Lab. In roughly 72 hours, test results via a secure patient portal will be available for those who were tested, and a medical provider will contact them directly if they are positive.

“Given the favorable data, enhanced testing and approval of our healthcare professionals, we will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists to reopen their doors this Friday, April 24, 2020,” Governor Kemp said. “Unlike other businesses, these entities have been unable to manage inventory, deal with payroll and take care of administrative items while we shelter in place. This measure allows them to undertake baseline operations that most other businesses in the state have maintained since I issued the shelter-in-place order.”

The measure will apply statewide and will be the operational standard in all jurisdictions. The entities being allowed to reopen will still be subject to specific restrictions, including adherence to Minimum Basic Operations, social distancing, and regular sanitation. Minimum Basic Operations includes screening workers for fever and respiratory illness, enhancing workplace sanitation, wearing masks and gloves if appropriate, separating workspaces by at least six feet, teleworking where at all possible and implementing staggered shifts.

Subject to specific social distancing and sanitation mandates, theaters, private social clubs, and restaurant dine-in services will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27, 2020. Bars, nightclubs, operators of amusement park rides, and live performance venues will remain closed.

The shelter in place order is still active and will expire at 11:59 p.m. on April 30 for most Georgians. Governor Kemp urged everyone to continue to follow guidance from DPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by sheltering in place as often as possible while limiting travel to prevent potential exposure.

People should wear face masks or cloth coverings in public to slow the spread of coronavirus, and medically fragile and elderly Georgians should shelter in place at least through May 13, the date Georgia’s declared Public Health Emergency expires.


USG Encourages Medical and Public Health Professionals to Join Medical Reserve Corps

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Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp, in partnership with the University System of Georgia (USG) and the Georgia National Guard, is encouraging medical and public health professionals including those who work for the state’s 26 public colleges and universities to volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).

The call for volunteers comes as the State of Georgia has seen increased demand for medical professionals such as clinicians, doctors, nurses, dentists, dental techs and administrative staff, who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise to help Georgians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Medical Reserve Corps are looking for medical and public health professionals to volunteer in Georgia, and the University System of Georgia is encouraging its clinicians, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to answer that call,” Governor Kemp said. “I am extremely thankful for the university system’s continued efforts to help Georgia, and I would encourage others to also volunteer their time and expertise to help their neighbors and communities in this battle against COVID-19.”

The MRC is a national network of volunteers, who are organized and based in local communities, and function as a way to locally organize volunteers who have the time and expertise to help respond to emergencies. MRC volunteers supplement existing emergency and public health resources.

There are about 20 MRC units in Georgia.

“As the University System of Georgia continues to provide resources to our state during this public health emergency, our students, staff and faculty are stepping up and answering the call to help,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “I am grateful for their commitment and sacrifice, and am especially humbled by those who consider signing up to help in Georgia through the MRC.”

“These medical professionals are our true heroes, and the state needs them more than ever,” Georgia Department of Defense Adjutant General Thomas Carden said. “The assistance of the University System of Georgia has been very important, and we are grateful for any Georgia citizen who steps up and volunteers as part of the MRC.”

The USG’s institutions continue their efforts to contribute in other ways, including donating critical medical supplies, making personal protective equipment, carrying out research on vaccines and providing additional COVID-19 testing capacity in Georgia.

Additional information on volunteering with the MRC can be found at: <https://dph.georgia.gov/medical-reserve-corps-mrc and https://mrc.hhs.gov/HomePage>. For specific contact information for Georgia units, please go to https://mrc.hhs.gov/FindMRC or click https://mrc.hhs.gov/File/MediaKit/MRCVolunteerFlyer_Full.pdf.


Governor Brian P. Kemp has extended a shelter in place order for the state of Georgia

UPDATED

The order, originally set to expire on April 13, is now extended through April 30.

The University System of Georgia’s 26 institutions are currently delivering online instruction and will continue online instruction through the end of summer semester. While all USG institutions have remained open, only minimal staff is physically on-site to ensure continuity of certain services.

For guidance about how the shelter in place order is being enforced and what it means for you, please go to: https://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2020-04-02/governor-kemp-issues-shelter-place-order.


Governor Brian P. Kemp has issued a shelter in place order for the state of Georgia

UPDATED

The order is effective beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, April 3rd, and expires at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 13th.

The University System of Georgia’s 26 institutions are currently delivering online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester. While all USG institutions have remained open, only minimal staff is physically on-site to ensure continuity of certain services.

To see the executive order, as well as find guidance and FAQs for how the executive order will be enforced and what it means for you, please go to: https://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2020-04-02/governor-kemp-issues-shelter-place-order.


USG Continues Online Instruction for May, Summer Semesters

UPDATED

The University System of Georgia’s 26 institutions will continue to deliver instruction remotely during May and summer semesters, with only limited exceptions.

USG institutions are tentatively planning to return to normal on-campus operations for the fall semester should guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health allow it.

In the interim, all institutions have been asked to continue their current telework and flexible work strategies for faculty and staff. USG institutions overall have remained open, with only minimal staff physically on-site to ensure continuity of certain services.

We continue to prioritize the safety of our students, faculty and staff as we do our part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia and fulfill our mission to graduate our students in these challenging times.


Gov. Kemp, University System of Georgia Announce COVID-19 Testing Ramp-Up

UPDATED

Today Governor Brian P. Kemp is announcing a laboratory surge capacity plan to quickly increase the availability of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19 in Georgia.

This initiative leverages the collective laboratory resources under the University System of Georgia, Georgia Public Health Laboratory, and Emory University. The ramp-up of laboratory testing surge capacity begins today. Upon implementation, labs will process over 3,000 samples per day.

“Adequate testing for COVID-19 has continued to be a top priority for the Coronavirus Task Force as we fight this pandemic,” said Governor Kemp. “With this innovative partnership between state government agencies, our world-class research institutions, and private-sector partners, we will be able to dramatically increase testing capacity.”

“We hope this surge capacity plan will allow federal and state public health officials to gain a more complete picture of COVID-19’s impact on Georgia and better inform our collective decisions going forward. We expect this plan will lead to greater testing capacity and more insight into the number of positive cases in our state. I would like to thank University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, and their respective staff for their hard work on this important partnership,” said Kemp.

“Working collectively with our partners in the University System of Georgia will greatly expand our testing capacity. That means identifying more cases, getting more people into care, and protecting our communities from the spread of COVID-19,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey, MD, MPH. “This collaboration will not only provide much-needed capacity now, but it will ensure a robust state infrastructure for the future.”

“The increase in testing capacity is critical to Georgia’s effort to battle COVID-19 in our communities, and our institutions are working hard to make it happen,” University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “The experts at Augusta University, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia understand that urgency and have the capacity and expertise to make this work for Georgia. We appreciate their hard work, and we thank our laboratory partners at Emory University and the Georgia Public Health Laboratory.”

Background

The Laboratory Surge Capacity Task Force is working closely with Georgia Department of Public Health to effectively integrate this new capability into the existing Public Health response. Partners in this effort include: Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), Georgia Public Health Laboratory (GPHL), Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), Georgia National Guard (GNG), Augusta University (AU), Georgia State University (GSU), Georgia Institute of Technology (GT), Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), University of Georgia (UGA), and Emory University (EU).

Task Force Critical Efforts

Two critical efforts are underway within the Task Force:

Operational Sustainment Capability

This unique partnership allows for Georgia’s universities to transfer the equipment needed for COVID-19 testing from their research labs to accredited clinical labs - GSU, AU, EU, and GPHL - to perform the tests. The Governor’s Office has expedited the purchase of necessary equipment and reagents to begin ramping up testing over the next five to seven days.

Method Development & Supply Chain Stabilization Capability

A major hurdle in this process has been securing critical reagents, instrumentation, and supplies needed in the PCR process from commercial vendors to ramp up and begin testing. Supply chain volatility has been a barrier to implementation and could continue to put the testing process at risk across the state. To counter this volatility, the Governor has authorized the Laboratory Surge Capacity Task Force to validate new laboratory methods and implement new solutions and technologies to safeguard our testing infrastructure. These technical efforts will enable the accredited laboratories - GSU, AU, EU, and GPHL - to operate despite potential disruptions in the supply chain.


USG Working to Supply Critical Medical Supplies in Fight Against COVID-19

UPDATED

The University System of Georgia (USG) in partnership with Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) is working to redirect personal protective equipment (PPE), and other critical medical supplies, from the state’s public universities and colleges to healthcare workers fighting COVID-19.

Public safety and emergency management personnel at all 26 USG institutions are coordinating with departments on each campus to inventory and collect these supplies, which are typically used for everything from research and campus maintenance to nursing programs and on-campus health clinics.

GEMA and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) will determine where the supplies are needed most across the state.

“Across our state, Georgians are working tirelessly to coordinate efforts in our fight against COVID-19,” Governor Kemp said. “I applaud the University System of Georgia for taking action to keep our healthcare workforce and communities safe and healthy in the weeks ahead. We are all in this fight together.”

The latest inventory of supplies that are either ready for pick-up or have already been picked up by GEMA and DPH for distribution include:

  • Ventilators: 38
  • Gloves: 375,755
  • Masks (including surgical and N95): 19,718
  • Medical gowns, coveralls and accessories (including hair and shoe covers): 18,020
  • Goggles (includes face shields): 2,061
  • Sanitizing supplies (includes hand sanitizer, spray sanitizer and sanitizing wipes): 1,757
  • Thermometers: 300

“The University System of Georgia and our 26 institutions will continue to do all we can to support our healthcare workers at the frontlines of this fight,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “I am grateful to Governor Kemp for his leadership, and appreciate the help and collaboration from GEMA and DPH to get this done.”

USG is also partnering with GEMA and DPH to help expand the State of Georgia’s COVID-19 testing capabilities. These efforts come as students, staff and faculty at individual institutions are already contributing in different ways to help meet the needs of healthcare workers, hospitals and other medical providers. This includes conducting research to develop COVID-19 therapies, using 3D-printed parts to build makeshift medical gear, and the sewing of masks for healthcare workers and hospitals.


Find Free Public WiFi in Georgia

UPDATED

We know some in our University System of Georgia family face challenges in finding high-speed internet to stay connected.

Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Department of Affairs have launched a new website to help all Georgians find free public WiFi throughout the state.

For more information and to find public WiFi sites near you, please click: https://broadband.georgia.gov/georgia-internet-access-covid-19-update.


“Keep Teaching USG” initiative launched to help faculty transition to online instruction

UPDATED

The University System of Georgia’s new “Keep Teaching USG” initiative has great resources for faculty and instructors as they transition to online instruction for the remainder of the semester.

These include teaching guides, tips and contacts about online teaching, virtual lab resources, proctored exam alternatives, digital accessibility, finding free and open educational resources and copyright and fair use guidance.

Individual USG institutional guides are also available. Find everything at the Keep Teaching USG webpage: https://www.usg.edu/keep_teaching_usg.


New COVID-19 Student Health Resources

UPDATED

All students at University System of Georgia institutions are now eligible to consult with doctors, nurses and mental health specialists as they work through issues related to COVID-19.

The Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) provider, United Healthcare Student Resources (UHCSR), has resources available to all students related to COVID-19. The information below outlines resources and benefits available to all students including those not enrolled in the SHIP program.

For the most up to date information related to SHIP is available at UHCSR’s website at <www.uhcsr.com/news-main>.

If students have questions or concerns about whether they are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19, they should immediately call their provider. If they do not have a provider, the Georgia Department of Public Health has established a hotline to provide guidance: (844) 442-2681.

Telehealth Services

  • Telehealth services (on-line or by phone doctor’s visits) are available for all students through United Healthcare StudentResources HealthiestYou program by Teledoc. Download the HealthiestYou mobile app, call (855) 870-5858 or go online at www.telehealth4students.com.
  • Telehealth services are available at no charge to students enrolled in the USG Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).
  • Students not enrolled in the Student Health Insurance Plan will pay $40 per visit.
  • Behavioral Health Visits
    • Students enrolled in the SHIP program have access to licensed therapists and psychologists at no charge at www.telehelp4students.com.
    • Students not enrolled in the SHIP program have access to licensed therapists and psychologists through www.betterhelp.com for a monthly charge of $180.

Optum Support Line

  • To support students who may be experiencing anxiety or stress following the recent developments around COVID-19, UHCSR is offering an Emotional-Support Help Line, through Optum, providing access to specially trained mental health specialists.
  • Optum’s toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as necessary. The service is free of charge to all students.

Students enrolled in the USG SHIP program

Access to Medical Care, Coverage

  • If a student suspects they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of the disease, they should immediately call their provider. To find a network provider, visit www.uhcsr.com/MyAccount or utilize their UHCSR mobile app.
  • All testing for COVID-19 will be covered by UHCSR at no charge.
  • Additional updates will be made on United Healthcare StudentResources website at: www.uhcsr.com/news-main.

Student Assistance Program

The USG SHIP plan offers a student assistance program through Optum which provides a wide range of resources to students telephonically. The phone number is available on the UHCSR Mobile App or at their www.uhcsr.com/MyAccount.

  • Counseling - 24/7 access to crisis intervention services and confidential counseling from licensed clinicians.
  • LiveAndWorkWell.com - health risk assessments, health/fitness calculators and other helpful resources.
  • Legal and Financial Services - provides help with issues such as credit card debt, divorce, child custody and shelter from abusive relationships.
  • Mediation - access to a national network of mediators to help resolve family-related disputes such as divorce, separation, child custody, visitation and support.

If students have questions, they should contact their institution’s Student Affairs Office.


State Department Issues ‘Do Not Travel’ Advisory

UPDATED

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.

In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.

More details are available at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/travel-advisory-alert-global-level-4-health-advisory-issue.html


USG Institutions Working to Issue Partial Refunds

UPDATED

All 26 University System of Georgia institutions are working as quickly as possible to issue partial refunds to students, especially those required to move out of on-campus housing and those who no longer have access to dining services. Other fees may also be partially refunded, and more information will be forthcoming soon to our campus communities.


USG Institutions to Develop Creative Alternatives to Commencement Ceremony

UPDATED

The University System of Georgia (USG) has directed all 26 USG institutions to cancel Spring 2020 commencement ceremonies.

Students will still graduate consistent with academic standards, but the actual ceremonies will not be held as originally scheduled.

The USG continues to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people.

“We don’t make this decision lightly, nor do we want to diminish all our students have achieved,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “Our institutions are working on creative, alternative ways to celebrate their students’ accomplishments, and I am grateful for the commitment and dedication our students have shown in the face of extraordinary times. They have worked hard and rightfully expect to celebrate and mark their graduation.”

For details on institutional plans for commencement, please visit institutional websites. Students and campus communities should also look for ongoing institutional communication as more details are forthcoming.


USG Moves to Online Instruction for Remainder of Semester

UPDATED

The University System of Georgia (USG) has decided that all 26 institutions will move to online instruction for all courses for the remainder of the semester with extremely limited exceptions.

This action comes following last week’s decision to suspend instruction for two weeks to ensure business and instructional continuity, and to allow further state assessment of COVID-19.

Students are not allowed to return to campus until they receive permission from their institution, which will be forthcoming soon.

Additionally, residence halls will be closed, with minimal exceptions for students unable to return home, or who cannot find housing elsewhere. Students will receive specific instructions from campus leaders regarding when they will be allowed to return to campus to retrieve their belongings from residence halls. Students must follow those instructions. For those students who are unable to depart campus, we will make every effort to accommodate these students.

USG will be providing guidance to campuses on refunds for housing, dining, and other services. Students should wait for their campus to contact them.

Institutions will remain open, with minimal staff physically on-site, to ensure continuity of certain services.

In the end, we want to ensure that our faculty, staff and students are safe; that we do our part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia; and that we fulfill our mission to graduate our students even in the face of these challenging times.


Gov. Kemp Declares Public Health Emergency for Georgia

UPDATED

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday his plan to declare a public health emergency for Georgia.

In a news release, Kemp said the declaration—effective Saturday, March 14—would help state health and emergency officials deploy all available resources to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Georgia.

Kemp said he would ask state lawmakers to return to the Capitol on March 16 to ratify the action through a joint resolution. The Georgia General Assembly decided Thursday to suspend the legislative session over concerns about the coronavirus.

The governor further emphasized the need for faith-based groups and similar entities to use caution when gathering in public.

“At this time, it is appropriate … to consider cancellation of public events and services. Contact your local public health office or consult official sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health, for helpful guidance on decision-making. Elderly citizens and those with chronic, underlying health conditions face a serious threat to their health, and we must do everything in our power to reduce risk associated with this virus,” Kemp said in the release.


Georgia Department of Public Health launches new website for tracking COVID-19 cases

UPDATED

Late on March 12, the Governor’s Office and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) announced a new resource is available for monitoring confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Visit the site for up-to-date numbers, locations and demographic breakdowns of COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths. The site will be updated daily at midnight.

Continue to monitor this site for updates related to the University System of Georgia.


USG Suspends Instruction to Assess Continuity Plans, Online Instruction

UPDATED

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp today announced state agencies, school systems and local communities have been given the flexibility to implement closures.

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, all University System of Georgia institutions will temporarily suspend instruction for two weeks to allow time for USG institutions to test their business continuity plans and online instruction modules and for state officials to continue to assess the current situation regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) in Georgia.

Students who are currently on spring break are strongly encouraged not to return to campus. Students on campus are asked to depart campus by close of business Friday, March 13, 2020, and to remain away from campus until March 29, 2020. At this time, students are not being asked to move out of their dorms for the remainder of the semester. For students who are unable to leave campus, institutions have been asked to develop plans to safely accommodate those students on campus.

As circumstances change, the USG is providing regular updates to its institutions and the public on this site.


CDC Issues Travel Guidance

UPDATED

We take very seriously the responsibility to make prudent choices for the well-being of our USG community. We have been actively monitoring the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation in conjunction with the governor’s office, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

While we understand the concerns around COVID-19, it is extremely important our campus communities stay calm and not panic. Public health officials, including those from DPH and CDC, continue to stress the overall risk level in Georgia associated with COVID-19 is low.

You can look for updates from the USG on this site, from the CDC, and from the Georgia DPH.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an update on people at risk for serious illness from COVID-19. The updated guidance is as follows:

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel—Widespread Sustained Transmission Key Points

  • On March 11, President Donald Trump announced a ban on most travel from Europe, excluding the United Kingdom. The exceptions are outlined in the Presidential proclamation.
  • Europe is experiencing widespread sustained transmission of respiratory illness caused by COVID-19.
  • CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the specified countries in Europe. See: What countries are included in this notice.
  • CDC also continues to advise against travel to previously designated Warning Level 3 or higher countries: China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.
  • Older adults and people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions are at increased risk for severe disease.
  • Travelers should avoid contact with sick people and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Travelers returning from the specified countries in Europe must stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing.
  • Travelers who are sick with fever, cough, or have trouble breathing should call ahead before seeking medical care.

Travel notices are updated at this CDC website.

If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, the CDC recommends:

  • Stock up on supplies.
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
  • During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.

Who is at Higher Risk? Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:

  • Older adults
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease

For the latest updates from the CDC, visit the COVID-19 website.

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) continues to advise that there is a low risk of COVID-19 transmission in Georgia.


Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Updates for the University System of Georgia

UPDATED

The University System of Georgia has been closely monitoring the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and has offered direction to our institutions in line with Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State Department, and Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) guidance.

The CDC has provided the following new guidance on all student foreign travel for institutions of higher education:

Consider postponing or canceling student foreign exchange programs

Given the global outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) institutes of higher education (IHE) should consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs. IHE should consider asking current program participants to return to their home country. Those overseeing student foreign exchange programs should be aware that students may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges in returning home or accessing health care while abroad.

IHEs should consider asking students participating in study abroad programs to return to the United States. IHEs should work with state and local public health officials to determine the best approach for when and how (e.g., chartered transportation for countries or areas assessed as high-risk for exposure) their study abroad students might return. All plans for returning study abroad students should be designed to protect participants from stigma and discrimination.

The COVID-19 situation is dynamic. Given the speed of spread and the number of countries experiencing human-to-human transmission, IHEs should evaluate the risks associated with choosing to maintain programs abroad and take the appropriate proactive measures. IHEs that continue to maintain programs abroad should monitor cdc.gov/COVID-19 for additional information.

Additionally, in consultation with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), students returning from countries at a Level 3 or higher designation should self-monitor for 14 days prior to returning to campus. If a student presents with any symptoms during the self-monitoring period, the student needs to contact DPH immediately at 1-866-PUB-HLTH and seek medical assistance.

Currently, China, South Korea, Italy and Iran are under a level 3 warning from the CDC which means:

  • There is a widespread, ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that can be spread from person to person.
  • Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease.

Here are links to up-to-date country-specific coronavirus-related information from the CDC:

Since CDC can raise or lower warning levels at any time, the system office will continue to monitor the situation closely.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact your local public health district or call 1-866-PUB-HLTH (782-4584) or 404-657-2588.

As this is an evolving situation, the most up-to-date information from the CDC can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and from DPH at https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus.

What is the difference between seasonal flu and COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses and there are different types of coronaviruses within that family, much like there are different types of influenza viruses. In the United States, there are common coronaviruses that circulate every year, which usually cause upper respiratory tract illnesses much like the common cold. Coronaviruses tend to circulate in the fall and winter months, like influenza. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives. The coronavirus that has emerged in Wuhan, China, is a new type of coronavirus and is infecting people for the first time, which means that people do not have immunity to it.

What are common symptoms of COVID-2019?

Symptoms of COVID-19 infection include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some infected individuals go on to develop pneumonia requiring hospitalization. Severity of symptoms can span from asymptomatic or mild illness to severe or fatal illness.

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread like other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu and the common cold, through coughing or sneezing by those who already have symptoms. There have also been reports of rare spread from an infected patient with no symptoms to a close contact.

What should students or faculty who have recently traveled to China do?

Because of the ever-expanding global outbreak, the federal government recently announced that all individuals (which may include students, faculty, or staff) who have traveled to China in the past 14 days and returned on or after February 3, 2020, will be requested to remain at home and be monitored for 2019-nCoV symptoms by the Georgia Department of Public Health. School and university students, faculty or staff whose family members have traveled from China in the last 14 days (and are being monitored for symptoms) do not need to be excluded from school.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. There is no vaccine to prevent this virus, and the CDC advises that the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to it.

What preventive measures should schools and universities take to help reduce the spread of respiratory illness?

The Georgia Department of Public Health recommends that schools and universities increase education about respiratory hygiene. Students, faculty, and staff should follow these steps that prevent the transmission of respiratory infections:

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, not your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Stay home if you’re sick, especially with a fever.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.

For university students who present to Health Services:

  • Students who visit health services should be instructed to wear a mask when they present with respiratory symptoms.
  • Health personnel should inquire about travel history.
  • Clinicians should wear person protective equipment to guard against potential exposure. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/hcp-personnel-checklist.html
  • Continue to monitor up-to-date information from health officials.
  • Always promote daily practice of everyday preventive actions.
  • Have supplies on hand for staff and students (masks, soap, tissues, hand sanitizers, trash baskets).
  • If you identify a patient suspected of having COVID-19 infection, immediately isolate them.

More Information

Outbreaks involving novel coronaviruses evolve quickly and recommendations from public health officials may change frequently as new information becomes available. Please check the following websites often for updated information.