Health officials ask UGA to reconsider not requiring masks, vaccines at football games

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay 

The University of Georgia is facing pressure from Clarke County health officials to create more COVID-19 regulations for students and staff at Bulldog's football games.

The Clarke County Board of Health and other county leaders sent a letter to the university.

The letter was in response to UGA's decision to not require masks or proof of vaccination at home football games.

According to the letter, the board is "deeply concerned" about rising COVID-19 cases around Athens, especially as UGA begins its fall semester.

"We also ask that UGA’s administration consider the dangerous turn the pandemic has taken in very recent weeks and take immediate action to implement any additional policy, precautions, protocols, and programs to prevent a replay of last Fall’s harrowing skyrocketing of COVID cases among UGA students that was followed by a sharp uptick in COVID-related deaths in the Athens community and landed UGA near the top of the list of international COVID hotspots," the letter read in part.

Health officials recommended the university take a number of steps including reinstating a mandatory on-campus face-covering requirement and implement more vigorous COVID educational efforts detailing the increased dangers of the Delta variant.

UGA responded by saying the Georgia Board of Regents does not allow its institutions to enact mask or vaccine mandates. However, the university says both masks and vaccines are strongly encouraged and it is offering several incentives to motivate students and staff.

As of Thursday morning, the Georgia Department of Health reports Clarke County has confirmed over 14,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic's start, with nearly 900 new cases in the last two weeks. 

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the number of COVID-19 cases reported at the university has doubled after its first week of class with the majority of positive tests coming from students. 

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