Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Updates for USG

LIVE UPDATES

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.