SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Teachers and students at Georgia Southern University are speaking out regarding concerns they have with the contact tracing system currently in place across all 26 University System of Georgia schools.
“Last year, we were distanced and we were masked in the classroom so we did not count as close contacts. Now we are not distanced, we are mostly not masked and we are relying on individual students to name everyone they’ve been in contact with in the class, which is not happening because students do not know who’s around them,” said one Georgia Southern professor who wished to stay anonymous.
Currently, when a student tests positive for COVID-19 he or she must turn over a list of people they deem to have had close contact with. The problem, many students might not know the names of those they’re sharing the classroom with, especially in class sizes exceeding 50 students.
“It’s already happened three times this week in our last courses. We’ve had students come to class, spend three hours in the classroom unmasked, the next day or within 24 hours test positive, and then all of the other students in the classroom and the instructor are not getting notified of that exposure,” explained the professor.
Some students have taken notice of problems surrounding contact tracing as well. They say some teachers are taking matters into their own hands, asking that students write down who they’re sitting near at the start of class.
“I do think that could present some problems,” said Ashley Whitfield, a freshman on the GS Armstrong campus. “I have started to see some people in classes starting to be missing, you know, if they do have COVID and stuff, and they are sort of close to me but I’m not being called out to quarantine, which is a concern.”
The University System of Georgia has not yet released any current plans to change how contact tracing is conducted, or how they might pivot if cases continue to rise in the classrooms.
USG decided to not mandate masks or vaccinations for students in May, largely before COVID-19 cases have surged to their highest rates yet.