Emory University joined the growing list of schools around the country and opted to discontinue in person classes due to growing concerns over COVID-19.
There are 31 confirmed and presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in 12 counties around Georgia, according to the state health department.
A statement announcing Emory's decision was sent to all students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, March 11 by Interim Provost Jan Love.
“Effective immediately, Emory University will extend spring break for students until Sunday, March 22, 2020, and transition to remote learning for graduate and undergraduate classes on Monday, March 23, 2020. Residential learning will be suspended for the remainder of the semester while the university remains open.”
Read the full statement here.
Thousands of other concerened students in colleges across Georgia have signed petitions urging administrators to close campuses and switch to online classes to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
No other university in Georgia has announced plans to close campuses, as of Thursday morning.
Students in the remaining universities across Georgia are putting more pressure on administrators as petition signatures continue to pour in.
With more than 53,000 students, Georgia State University enrolls the largest number of students in the state.
Concerned student Jason Kusmierz started a petition Monday that has gathered more than 25,000 signatures.
The petition reads:
"Downtown campuses and other campuses of Georgia State University throughout Georgia pose a great risk of infection/transmission of the Coronavirus to both the students and the staff. Close the campuses and offer online classes for all classes until further notice to ensure the safety of all GSU members.
Getting infected with the virus puts families at risk. The downtown campus is located next to a hospital and surrounded by people. Keeping the school open is reckless and is bound to spread the virus unnecessarily. Classes can be offered online and should be for our safety. I do not want to get my family sick and neither do any other students.
The professors and students on campus are at great risk of exposure as GSU hosts numerous commuters from all over Georgia. It is time to be proactive and assume that the lack of testing does not mean a lack of cases. They are out there around us, and they are spreading the virus."
Those who signed the petition were invited to add their own reasons as to why the university should close.
“Can’t graduate if I’m dead,” petitioner Andrew N. said.
“I attend GSU and have witnessed countless students attend class when sick because of ridiculous attendance policies,” Abbie Stein wrote.
“I live with my grandparents and if I get the coronavirus, I may be fine, but I’d be putting my grandparents at risk. I’m more worried for them than myself,” Amanda Boone said.
GSU remained open as usual as of Wednesday, but Provost of Academic Affairs Wendy Hensel detailed steps GSU had taken to prepare for potential disruptions caused by COVID-19.
In an email sent on March 10, faculty was instructed to create test modules of online courses using technology from home and identify back up instructors in case of illness. Attendance issues were also addressed, urging faculty to be flexible in regards to attendance and missed assignments.
Georgia Tech and The University of Georgia have also remained open despite pleas from concerned community members.
Tech emphasized the health and safety of their faculty and staff remained their priority. University officials canceled all school sponsored international travel and study abroad for the spring and asked students and faculty who had recently traveled to high risk countries to self quarantine.
While off-campus programs will continue as scheduled at Tech, the university has taken precautions to keep campus communities protected such as increased access to hand sanitizer and rigorous cleaning before and after large gatherings.
UGA has not made any public statements regarding coronavirus since March 5. In the message regarding spring break, President Jere Morehead asked anyone traveling to, returning from, or connecting through a CDC Warning Level 3 or higher, NOT to return to a University of Georgia campus or facility until after the recommended period for self quarantine.
Their webpage dedicated to all things COVID-19 lists a number of information resources about the Coronavirus and answers to frequently asked questions, but most answers were vague. In response to questions regarding UGA’s response to possible cases of the illness on campus, the university stated:
“UGA has a number of comprehensive plans in place to address emergencies, including those resulting from infectious disease. Health-related plans result from in-depth exchanges between the University Health Center in conjunction with UGA’s Office of Emergency Preparedness. OEP maintains the campus Pandemic Response Plan and is working with senior campus leaders and departments that have roles and responsibilities in the plan to be ready to respond to potential coronavirus cases. UGA personnel are in regular contact with the Centers for Disease Control and the Georgia Department of Public Health and would continue this communication throughout any implementation of the plan.”