A group of faculty members at the University of Georgia announced they will be requiring face coverings in their classrooms as they seek to put pressure on administrators to impose their own rules on masks or COVID-19 vaccinations for students to attend classes.
The group plans to initiate their requirements in October to give the system time to evaluate current policies, university genetics professor Jeff Benetzen told CNN. Masks and vaccines are not required to attend classes, but the system encourages students to consider both, according to the outlet.
"We are deeply devoted to the education and well-being of all members of the University community and feel obligated to protect our students and fellow employees from the unnecessary dangers associated with inappropriate public health planning and messages," the letter from more than 50 life science faculty members read, according to CNN.
"In order to protect our students, staff and faculty colleagues, we will wear masks and will require all of our students and staff to wear masks in our classes and laboratories until local community transmission rates improve," the letter continued.
"Scientists are trained to discover and follow the facts, so I believe that we cannot maintain our integrity or our credibility if we stand by silently while bad public health policies are damaging the UGA community," Bennetzen told CNN.
University spokesperson Greg Trevor told CNN in a statement that the university “will continue to strongly encourage vaccinations and the wearing of masks inside our facilities.”
“Pursuant to USG directives, neither the university nor individual faculty or staff can mandate face coverings in campus facilities, including classrooms," Trevor added.
The university said on its website that COVID-19 cases have declined by 85 percent over the past two weeks, with 77 cases reported for the week ending Sept. 19, compared to 164 cases the week prior. Out of the 77 confirmed cases, 51 were students.
Georgia’s statewide daily average of new cases also fell over the last 14 days — averaging 4,929 per day.
"USG remains committed to keeping all our campus communities healthy and safe. This is a responsibility we take very seriously," the university said in a separate statement Wednesday, according to CNN. "We urge vaccination for everyone and strongly encourage everyone to wear a mask or face covering while inside campus facilities."
Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempAbrams targets Black churchgoers during campaign stops for McAuliffe in Virginia Arbery murder trial set to begin this week Stacey Abrams to campaign for McAuliffe in Virginia MORE signed an executive order in August allowing businesses to disregard local mask mandates, but school districts have been permitted to design their own mask policies, according to CNN.