The Standard Journal
University System of Goergia won’t mandate masks, vaccine
ATLANTA — The University System of Georgia is stopping short of requiring students returning to classes during the next couple of weeks to wear masks or get vaccinated against COVID-19.
With confirmed cases of the virus, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise in Georgia, the university system issued guidelines last week urging but not mandating masking and vaccinations.
“The University System of Georgia recognizes COVID-19 vaccines offer safe, effective protection and urges all students, faculty, staff and visitors to get vaccinated either on campus or with a local provider,” the guidelines state.
“Additionally, everyone is encouraged to wear a mask or face covering while inside campus facilities. The system continues to work closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health to prioritize the health and safety of our campus communities.”
With the particularly contagious Delta variant of the virus spreading, about 600 of the nation’s 4,000 colleges and universities have ordered students to get fully vaccinated in time for the fall semester, while hundreds also have imposed mask mandates.
The schools have cited new guidelines from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that even fully vaccinated Americans mask up indoors.
The University System of Georgia policy is in keeping with Gov. Brian Kemp’s position on virus mandates. Like other Republican governors, Kemp has resisted calls to require Georgians to mask up or get vaccinated throughout the course of the pandemic.
Kemp criticized Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Wednesday for ordering the wearing of masks inside buildings.
“Atlanta police don’t have time to be enforcing an unnecessary mask mandate,” the governor wrote on Twitter. “We trust people to do the right thing, talk to their doctor, and get vaccinated.”
Kemp has been getting pressure from both sides of the mandates debate. Some Republicans have urged him to prohibit local school systems from imposing mask mandates – as officials have ordered in the Gwinnett County and city of Decatur school districts.
On the other hand, state Sen. Michelle
Au, D-Johns Creek, urged the governor to impose a statewide mask mandate.
“You can’t just talk about personal liberties and not take into account personal responsibility,” Au said. “You shouldn’t run for office if you don’t want to make the hard calls and take the unpopular stances.”