SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Professors at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus are voicing their concerns about COVID-19.
In a series of protests planned for this week, professors are calling on the University System of Georgia (USG) to enact stricter COVID guidelines. The movement is statewide, with protests planned at 16 universities spread across 18 campuses, organizers said.
Georgia’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors is sponsoring the week-long movement.
“We are speaking loud and we are speaking united,” said Ned Rinalducci, associate professor of sociology. “We’re all very frustrated. There’s a lot of anxiety on campus.”
Since Aug. 30, there have been 50 reported cases of COVID among students and employees at the Armstrong campus. Under USG’s current guidance, masks are optional inside campus buildings and unvaccinated people are encouraged to social distance.
Protesters said they want to see an immediate mask requirement put into place.
“The fact of the matter is we need a multi-layer approach,” said Bryan Riemann, professor of sports medicine. “We see breakthrough infections. It makes no sense to be in a confined space in a classroom with multiple individuals for an hour, two hours, three hours. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
The 19-29 age group has the highest infection rate in the state, with more than 250,000 confirmed cases, according to data from the state health department.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released late last week shows wearing masks reduces transmission of the virus in a university setting.
“My classes are completely full,” Rinalducci said. “We are packing students into classrooms with the majority of them not wearing masks. We have to assume the majority are probably not vaccinated based on state data.”
Aside from a mask mandate, protesters would also like to see a COVID vaccine requirement. Data from the Georgia Department of Health shows the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups have the lowest vaccination rates.
Professors say, ultimately, the movement is about protecting the community.
“We all have that same common goal,” Riemann said. “That is to try to keep our students, our staff and our faculty as safe as possible. That’s what this is all about.”
WSAV News 3 reached out to the University System of Georgia for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Protests are set to end on Friday, Sept. 17. Organizers said protest times are staggered to avoid interrupting class times.