Athens-Clarke County officials urge UGA leaders to implement mask mandate on campus

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners have now urged leaders at the University of Georgia to have a mask mandate on campus.

This comes as many fear a rise in COVID-199 numbers in the area as thousands of students are back on campus for the fall semester. 

"It’s really shameful and infuriating," Melissa Link said.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link is passionate about those in her area.

She chairs the Board of Health and along with board members, they have sent a letter to the University of Georgia administration calling for a mask mandate on campus. 

"We just felt like we had to do something as members of the board of health. We are extremely informed to research and statistics and current data. Most members are in the medical field," Link said.

Link said they sent a similar letter last year and their fears remain the same.

As thousands of unmasked students and staff members flood the campus they believe COVID-19 numbers will grow.

"Number one simplest thing that can be done is to lay down a mask mandate on campus," Link said. 

There’s currently a mask mandate in Athens-Clarks County but the governor’s orders do not allow the mandate to be enforced on private properties.

"Bodies will pile up and students will die. Delta is impacting younger people," Link said. 

"I’m concerned there has already been an outbreak and we are just waiting for the numbers going up," UGA student Alison said.

Many on-campus said they supported some version of a mandate.

University of Georgia

Especially as thousands of spectators flock to campus for sporting events.

"My classes there are maybe 25% of people who are wearing masks and they are packing us in there like sardines," Alison said.

"Having a mask mandate would encourage people to wear a mask because I’ve been going around to classes and most people aren’t wearing a mask. I feel as if having a mask mandate would encourage it because last semester when we had a mask mandate everyone was wearing a mask," student Abhay Chilakamarri said. 

"I definitely think for indoors they should be mandated. When I’m indoors like dining halls or classes I’m wearing a mask," student Mark Adams said.

University of Georgia Officials sent this statement: 

"The University of Georgia is doing everything within its power to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our community. The university is a part of a university system and must follow the direction of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. The USG does not allow its institutions to enact mask or vaccine mandates.

"However, vaccines and face coverings are strongly encouraged, and UGA is offering numerous incentives for motivation. Beginning Sept. 1, any current student, faculty or staff member who has been fully vaccinated can submit their names to be in the running to win a cash prize of $1,000 in three drawings in September and October. A total of 100 prizes will be awarded. This latest incentive is on top of the existing incentives that include a $20 gift card, T-shirt and the chance to win $100.

"The university is providing free vaccines and masks to the community, as well as free COVID-19 testing. In addition, positive cases are required to be reported, and special cleaning and disinfection protocols put in place last year are now standard operating procedures. UGA also has made major improvements in its HVAC system. 

"One clarification to a point in the board’s recommendations:

"UGA’s Preventative Measures Advisory Board (PMAB) remains actively engaged this fall, even though it is not meeting twice per week, as it did in the 2020-21 academic year. The group, composed of campus health and environmental safety experts, continues to monitor requests for help and provide assistance on an as-needed basis to colleges, schools and units.

"PMAB is led by co-chairs Lisa Nolan, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, and John McCollum, Associate Vice President for Environmental Safety. Many of its recommendations from the previous academic year are now standard operating procedures at UGA."

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