Beginning Monday, Georgia Southern University and all University System of Georgia institutions will temporarily suspend instruction for two weeks to assess the current situation regarding coronavirus in Georgia.
In a University Alert sent out Thursday afternoon, the two-week suspension was announced to allow time for all system colleges and universities to test and adjust plans to both continue campus operations and study the online instruction modules for all courses.
Spring break at Georgia Southern begins next week and the alert reads:
“Students who are currently on spring break are strongly encouraged not to return to campus. Students on campus are asked to depart campus by close of business Friday, March 13, 2020, and to remain away from campus until March 29, 2020.
“At this time, students are not being asked to move out of their dorms for the remainder of the semester.”
For students who are unable to leave campus, the University System is asking Georgia Southern and all campuses to “to safely accommodate those students on campus.”
East Georgia State College, a University System of Georgia institution, will follow the same guidelines as Georgia Southern and suspend instruction for the next two weeks.
Ogeechee Technical College also is on spring break, and announced Thursday afternoon that the college has not decided to suspend classes at this time, according to Sean Payne, executive director for Public Relations & Marketing. Payne said college officials will continue to assess the situation and make any adjustments and announcements, as needed.
Georgia man dies
In Georgia, A 67-year-old man who was hospitalized became the state’s first death from coronavirus, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday.
The man tested positive for the virus March 7 and was hospitalized at WellStar Kennestone, according to the governor.
Kemp said the man had “underlying medical conditions," but he did not say what they were or how the man may have contracted the illness.
Georgia has been tracing contacts for 31 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 across about a dozen counties. Several members of a church in Bartow County are infected, according to Kemp.
Separately, 124 passengers flown in from the Grand Princess in California are in a two-week quarantine at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta, CDC spokesman Bert Kelly said.
For most people, this coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, but for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia.
Georgia's cases are spread across the state, from Floyd County in northwest Georgia to Lowndes and Charlton counties near the Florida line, according to an update late Wednesday from Kemp's office. Other cases are from Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Fayette, Fulton, Lee and Polk counties.
Some of the tests still await confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey was pressed at a news conference Thursday about whether Georgia had adequate testing capability for the virus.
The state will expand its capacity to 100 tests a day by the end of next week and officials think more commercial labs will offer the test as well, she said. The goal is to have a network of testing sites around the state that are not affiliated with hospitals or health departments, she said.
From Public Health:
The overall risk of COVID-19 to the general public remains low, although elderly people and individuals with chronic medical conditions may have an increased risk of suffering serious effects from COVID-19. The best prevention measures for any respiratory virus are:
* Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
* Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
* Stay home when you are sick.
* Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
* Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.