SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – With more than 27,000 Georgia Southern University students preparing for classes to begin Wednesday, health directors are saying it’s now more important than ever for students and faculty to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Brian DeLoach, medical director for Student Health Services at Georgia Southern, says if a student tests positive for the virus, they’ll have to quarantine until three things happen.
“Number one, 10 days have gone since their symptoms first started, plus they’ve gone 24 hours without a fever, plus their symptoms have improved. Once those three criteria have all been met, then they can end their isolation period,” said Dr. DeLoach. “For people who test positive and don’t have symptoms, as long as they don’t develop any symptoms, then they should isolate 10 days from when they got tested.”
Before classes have even begun, the university reported 73 new COVID cases among students and staff as of Monday, the highest number of new cases reported in over six months.
As the university prepares to welcome back students, DeLoach says an initial surge in cases should be expected, as was the case on college campuses across the country last school year.
“Anytime you bring a number of people together in an area like a college campus, community or town, it’s not unexpected to see that that’s when things tend to start to increase,” explained DeLoach. “When you look back at last year, we certainly saw an increase of cases around that 6 week period and then just a dramatic drop-off.
“So we’re prepared, and if that happens again we have our protocols in place and we’ll proceed accordingly.”
Of the 73 new COVID cases, 57 were self-reported through the CARES system, something DeLoach says is pivotally important in slowing the spread on campus.
“I think this is an opportunity for our students to take that responsibility into their own hands by reporting through our CARES system, which we developed all the way back in March of 2020,” he said. “By reporting into CARES, we can then make a determination as to whether they need to isolate or quarantine and then link them with the care and support they need in that period of time so that they can continue their academic pursuits even if they may be in isolation or quarantine.”
Georgia Southern will host weekly vaccination clinics on all campuses throughout the semester. The first one kicks off on Thursday at the Armstrong campus in Savannah.
The University System of Georgia does not require vaccines for students or employees, but Dr. DeLoach is strongly encouraging both students and faculty to mask up when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.