As we prepare for the beginning of fall semester in a few short weeks, I know many of you have concerns about the rise in COVID-19 rates in recent weeks and have questions about Georgia State’s operating procedures. I am writing to provide details from University System of Georgia (USG) directives and give information on how best to prepare for our resumption of in-person classes and other events and activities.
As always, our highest priority is protecting the health of our students, faculty and staff. The best way we can achieve that is for everyone in our community to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination is simply the most effective protection against COVID-19. Even with the Delta variant, vaccination helps prevent the onset of severe illness, hospitalization and death and stop the spread of the virus. By getting vaccinated, you will not only be providing a crucial safeguard for yourself, but you will be contributing to the wellness of everyone else.
Vaccines are free and available on the Atlanta Campus. Please visit https://covidinfo.gsu.edu/covid-19-resources/covid-19-vaccine/ to register for a vaccine if you have not already done so.
As a reminder, in accordance with USG directives, it is not permissible to ask anyone on campus whether they are vaccinated or to treat vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals differently. It is important that we treat everyone with respect on our campuses.
Wear a Mask
In accordance with USG directives, masks are not required on campus except when accessing the University Health Centers. The City of Atlanta has a mandatory mask policy, but Georgia State University, as a state entity, follows the guidelines set by USG. As such, the city’s mask mandate is not in force in university buildings.
We follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations in strongly urging everyone—whether vaccinated or not—to wear face coverings while on our campuses. This is another important contribution all of us can make to ensuring healthy campuses. We have ordered a new shipment of Georgia State face masks, and we will make them available prior to the start of the fall semester.
You can read more about Vaccinations and Preventative Measures, including mask requirements, here: https://covidinfo.gsu.edu/vaccine
Another important step you can take for yourself and others is to get a COVID-19 test on-campus or at a healthcare provider near you. We strongly encourage testing for anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19. We also will continue to offer testing on each of our campuses and particularly encourage participation by unvaccinated people. Information about locations and hours of testing is available on our COVID-19 Resources page here https://covidinfo.gsu.edu/covid-19-resources/covid-19-testing/
Prepare for Classes
Classes will proceed in-person
As we return to in-person instruction, please keep in mind that no modality changes for fall semester will be granted absent extraordinary circumstances and the permission of the Office of the Provost. Our data are clear that in-person learning for many students is critical to their academic success. Per USG guidance, COVID-19 related accommodations and flexible work arrangements expired on June 30, 2021. Requests for Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations will be reviewed in accordance with pre-pandemic guidelines. Please contact Benefits at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or assistance.
Seating Charts, Attendance Policies and Syllabi Statements
There are several important steps all Instructors should take in the next few weeks to ensure a smooth semester. Every Instructor with in-person classes should prepare a seating chart during the first class session. This will enable contact tracers to identify who is in “close contact” if a positive COVID-19 test is reported. For this same reason, a daily attendance sheet is recommended. Downloadable seating charts for all university-controlled classrooms will be available on the CETLOE website soon. Please contact your chair for information on classrooms scheduled by your college or department.
A well-developed attendance policy will be especially helpful this year. Students should be expected to attend class if they do not have an excused absence because of illness. We have a process for students seeking excused absences through the Dean of Students Office. Students submit documentation to https://deanofstudents.gsu.edu/student-assistance/professor-absence-notification/. Professors will then be notified by the Dean of Students of any excused absence without the need to manage medical information individually. We recommend that you include this information in your syllabus.
It is permissible to request that your students wear a mask in your classes and in your office. However, because masks are not required on campus, you must respect the student’s decision and impose no consequences for not doing so. It is important to treat all individuals in our university community with respect regardless of their mask use. Recommended mask and attendance syllabus statements can be found here: https://cetl.gsu.edu/services/instructional-support/constructing-a-syllabus/university-recommendations/, and this information will be updated as necessary.
Response to a Positive COVID-19 Test in Class
Students, staff and faculty with a positive COVID-19 test are strongly encouraged to report it to https://cc-gsu.force.com/s/ to allow for contact tracing on campus. Instructors aware of a student with a positive test are also encouraged to report here. Instructors will be notified of any COVID-19 positive student in their class, but individuals will be identified only as needed for the purpose of contact tracing. If identifying information is provided to the instructor, it should not be shared with the class. All those in close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes) of the positive individual will be identified and notified by the contact tracers.
All infected individuals must isolate, and all those in close contact who are not vaccinated must quarantine per the Department of Public Health Guidelines https://dph.georgia.gov/contact. Individuals who are fully vaccinated and individuals who have had COVID-19 within the past three months and recovered need not quarantine or avoid contact with others unless they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
Professors have the flexibility to adapt their courses to conditions and circumstances as they would in any semester. However, any modality change must be approved by the Office of the Provost and may not extend beyond the period of quarantine (typically 14 days or less).
We have created FAQs on instruction to answer your concerns and will continue to add to these as questions arise. We strongly encourage everyone to read through the entire list of questions found here: https://covidinfo.gsu.edu/faqs/.
We are doing all we can to create the safest campus environment possible, and we need your help. All of us need to take seriously our individual responsibility to contribute to the well-being of our friends, co-workers, students and faculty. Working together, we’ll have a rewarding and productive semester. When in doubt, you can find comprehensive information about policies and procedures related to COVID-19 at covidinfo.gsu.edu.
Thank you for all that you are doing and will do this semester to support our students during a time that continues to challenge us all. Your efforts are important, noticed and very appreciated.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs