Story at a glance
- The University System of Georgia reversed its decision and will require masks on campuses beginning July 15.
- This comes as multiple schools decided if and how to reopen.
Georgia announced that its 26 public universities and colleges will require students and faculty to wear face masks while on campus to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, beginning on July 15, according to the Associated Press (AP).
This comes after the state university system told schools they recommend that officials “strongly encourage” masks among the faculty and student population, but that it would not be a mandatory requirement. Masks, already a subject of national debate split along political party lines, also caused tension within Georgia’s public universities as they plan to reopen in August with traditional live classes rather than online courses.
AP reports that university faculty, staff and students petitioned that their schools require masks to curb coronavirus transmission via airborne particles. Administrators eventually decided on Monday evening that everyone on campus, including faculty, students, and visitors, must wear face coverings.
Some of the petitions and letters came from institutions like Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Augusta University and the University of West Georgia.
“Effective July 15, 2020, University System of Georgia (USG) institutions will require all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities/buildings where six feet social distancing may not always be possible. Face covering use will be in addition to and is not a substitute for social distancing,” the Georgia University System wrote on their website.
Masks won’t be required in places like student dorms or when alone in private offices or study rooms, nor will the mandate be enforced in outdoor settings where social distancing can be achieved.
Some Georgia schools are asking for more leeway for the upcoming Fall 2020 semester, including extending online learning options to allow students and staff to avoid risking their health in pursuit of their education or livelihood.
The reopening of schools has largely been left to individual institutions. Some universities have opted to keep education remote and have students work online, such as Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., while other schools plan to resume in-person instruction, such as Pace University and Columbia University in New York City.