UGA Reports Over 150 Cases of COVID-19

The scene outside a Broad Street student bar on a June evening. Credit: Michael Engleman

The University of Georgia Health Center reported Tuesday that 154 students and employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s not clear how many of those cases are students and how many are faculty or staff, nor how many tested positive in Athens.

“These individuals include students or employees associated with any of our campuses who have been tested by the UHC, and those who have been tested elsewhere and reported to UHC,” according to the university.

The report comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are spiking statewide, and many UGA faculty members and students are worried about the University System of Georgia not requiring masks when in-person classes resume Aug. 20. An online petition calling on the Board of Regents to set more stringent policies has received over 6,500 signatures. And a spreadsheet compiled by psychology professor Janet Frick shows that most of UGA’s peer institutions are requiring masks.

Public health officials attribute recent COVID-19 waves in the South and West to people in their 20s and 30s going out and ignoring social distancing advice. While many young people are asymptomatic or experience mild systems, they can still pass on the virus to those who are more vulnerable.

UGA student Caroline Croucher told WSB-TV that she and her friends have been going out to Athens bars—which Gov. Brian Kemp allowed to reopen with restrictions a month ago—and she and seven of her friends have tested positive for COVID-19, with some bedridden and unable to work.

“We were being careless because we weren’t wearing masks,” Croucher said. “No one was wearing masks.”

So far, though, Clarke County continues to have one of the lower infection rates in the state—the 39th lowest among Georgia’s 159 counties at 409 per 100,000 people, according to the most recent Department of Public Health data. Officials had confirmed that a running total of 531 people who live in Athens had tested positive as of Tuesday, with 56 hospitalizations and 15 deaths.

However, cases are trending up in the Northeast Georgia region and statewide. The seven-day rolling average of new cases in the 10-county Northeast Health District was at an all-time high of 43 on Monday, according to Lee Becker of Oconee County Observations.