With confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in Georgia, local school districts and universities are hastily updating their practices and protocols.
Hall County Schools issued a new COVID-19 statement on Tuesday, March 3, with requirements for students, faculty, staff and others associated with the district.
Students and staff members, who have traveled to a country designated at level two or higher in the past 14 days are required to stay home and self-monitor for 14 days. They must be fever free for 14 days before returning to their respective school. The school system earlier reported that students and staff whose family members had traveled to those areas also could not attend, but that is not the case.
China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea are currently designated level three and are high risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Japan is marked as level two.
People can view an updated list of those countries by visiting cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov and clicking on the “Travel” bar.
If a Hall student or staff member shows COVID-19 symptoms during this self-monitoring period, they must notify the Department of Public Health by calling 1-866-PUB-HLTH and seek medical assistance.
All student coronavirus-related absences will be excused and assignments will be provided to students by the school.
Parents or guardians of students or registering new students, who have traveled outside of the U.S. in the past 14 days, are asked to call their respective schools for guidance. They must call prior to their child coming to school or attending an on-campus activity.
Hall faculty, volunteers and other district team members, who also meet the same criteria, are required to contact their principal or direct supervisor before coming to work or any school campus activity.
“We have protocols in place for additional steps for those individuals who have visited countries designated as ‘high risk’ by the federal government,” Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said in a statement on Tuesday.
Mamie Coker, Hall’s health services coordinator, is leading a 17-person team to prepare for a potential COVID-19 outbreak in the school system. The group is composed of representatives from emergency management, health services, student services, technology, maintenance, communications, and teaching and learning departments.
The Georgia Department of Education has provided a set of guidelines for public schools to follow when faced with the novel coronavirus. Their protocols range in severity from zero to seven.
Stan Lewis, Hall’s director of community relations, said Hall and Gainesville City Schools are still at a level zero, which addresses prevention and preparedness.
Gainesville City Schools is also putting together a COVID-19 preparedness plan.
Gainesville City Schools also has announced precautions the school system is taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Parents of current or new students who have traveled outside the United States in the past 14 days must call their child’s school for guidance regarding the virus. Parents should call before their child goes to school or attends any school activity, before, during or after school hours.
If a student has a family member or lives with someone who has traveled outside the United States in the past 14 days, the school should be notified.
Employees who have traveled outside the United States in the past 14 days should contact their principal or direct supervisor before going to work or to any campus activity.
This also applies to employees who have a family member or live with someone who has traveled outside the country in the past 14 days.
We have protocols in place for additional steps for those individuals who have visited countries designated as ‘high risk’ by the federal governmentHall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield
The University of North Georgia has canceled its study abroad spring programs to countries level three or higher, which include China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.
Sylvia Carson, UNG’s communications director, said the university will evaluate other exchange or study abroad programs on a case-by-case basis.
She said the University System of Georgia has recommended guidance from the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health. The system asks that students returning from countries at a level three or higher, to self-monitor for 14 day prior to returning to campus. If they show any COVID-19 symptoms during this period, they’re advised to contact the Department of Public Health.
Piedmont College, which has campuses in Demorest and Athens, has canceled its scheduled May study abroad trips to Italy, Spain, Ireland, Germany and the Czech Republic.
John Roberts, Piedmont’s associate vice president of marketing and communication, said in a press release on Tuesday, that the college has appointed a task force to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and stay up to date with information coming from the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health.
“While the threat to our community is low, the situation continues to evolve daily,” Piedmont President James F. Mellichamp stated in a press release. “Our top priority will always be the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.”
Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019, Brenau University has worked to put protocols in place.
Ben McDade, Brenau’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the private university is in regular communication with local and state health officials.
Brenau — which has an exchange program with Anhui Normal University in Wuhu, China — has no students or faculty in China now, nor have any returned close to the time of the outbreak.
McDade said the university keeps in contact with its Chinese students as well as their school administrators in Wuhu. Students "will be welcomed and cared for if the international situation requires them to stay beyond commencement this spring," he said.
“We are also encouraging everyone in the Brenau community to remain vigilant and to be mindful that we are in the midst of a very active flu season,” McDade said. “Fortunately, the same common sense measures that are helpful for avoiding the flu are also helpful for addressing COVID-19. These measures are consistent with advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and include many of the suggestions that have been recited elsewhere.”
Information about the status of Brenua's Chinese program was incorrect in an earlier version of this article.