Milledgeville recently found itself near the top of the wrong New York Times list, again.
In a survey of roughly 750 colleges and universities published on Aug. 26, Georgia College & State University checked in at No. 14 for “most cases at U.S. colleges and universities.” Among the top 20, GCSU easily had the smallest enrollment. Most schools on the list were larger state schools, including the University of Georgia, which ranked seventh, while several were larger private schools (Notre Dame, Texas Christian University). Every other school in the top 20 fields a Division 1 football program, while GCSU competes in Division 2 and doesn’t even have a football team.
This is the second time during the pandemic that Milledgeville has appeared in an unfortunate New York Times list. In late April, “Milledgeville, Ga.” ranked No. 1 among cities in the United States with the “highest avg. daily growth of deaths.” Although technically correct, the data from that list could largely be explained away, based on the fact that COVID-19 data from nearby Sparta was lumped in with “Milledgeville, Ga.,” which greatly distorted the numbers.
In terms of GCSU, however, this one cannot be explained away. Roughly 8 percent of the student body tested positive for the virus during a 10-day timeframe in late August. To its credit, GCSU has been largely transparent with the public and is one of the only colleges in Georgia with an online COVID-19 dashboard.
A possible bright spot in the data occurred over the weekend, when six students recorded positive tests on Saturday and four more on Sunday. Compare that to the previous weekend, when 33 students tested positive on Aug. 22 and 23 more on Aug. 23.
When, and if, GCSU would cancel in-person classes and switch to a virtual model is not being disclosed to the public. The Baldwin Bulletin recently inquired about this and sent several questions to GCSU’s office of communications. Also, would the decision to suspend in-person classes be a university decision, or would it be a larger Board of Regents decision? The responses were largely non-committal.
“Georgia College will receive guidance from the University System of Georgia regarding whether our instruction would transition to an online environment. Georgia College along with the USG continues to review guidance from the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health,” wrote an Office of Communications specialist. “Any decision would be made based on CDC guidance and information available from the Georgia Department of Public Health, and in collaboration between Georgia College and the University System of Georgia.”
In the same email, however, the university did confirm that it is strongly encouraging positive students to return home to their native counties to quarantine.
“If they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, students are asked to return home and quarantine there. If this is not possible, accommodations will be made on campus,” read the email.
Georgia College student interviewed
Now in the fourth week of a campus outbreak, The Baldwin Bulletin interviewed a Georgia College & State University student earlier this week.
The student, who wished to remain anonymous, painted a picture of confusion around campus, while saying that “we’re not really getting communication from (administrators), and a lot of students don’t know what to do.”
Testing resources, as well as testing turnaround time, seem to be an issue. The student said that she traveled all the way to a CVS pharmacy in Macon last week to be tested, because “that was the quickest place that I could find that had tests.” Five days later, the student still had not received her results back from CVS.
Officially, GCSU administrators are advising symptomatic or exposed students to visit the Health Services department on West Campus. From there, the students see a nurse, and the nurse then gives a “referral” to be tested at a site here in Milledgeville. According to the anonymous student, however, “a lot of students don’t know that,” while “some (students) don’t want to do that because they’re afraid they’ll be told to quarantine.”
The anonymous student said that the number of other students that she personally knows who’ve tested positive “is definitely in the double digits.” Her roommate, for example, tested positive last week and currently is in quarantine, while “my boyfriend’s roommate also tested positive.”
“It’s really anxiety-inducing. I took the test last week, and I still don’t know,” she said.
Despite warnings about attending house parties and large gatherings from President Steve Dorman, the anonymous student said that “people are still having parties, but they’re just being more secretive about it.” The anonymous student also said that she doesn’t understand why house parties are being discouraged, but “going to the bar seems to be okay.”
“I still see pictures all the time of people partying downtown and big crowds. Why is that okay, but other things aren’t?” she said. “They never say anything about all of the bars.”