ATHENS, Ga. — Though it is time for students at university campuses across the nation to head back to classes this fall, some are questioning the ability of their schools to keep them safe as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States.
Such is the case in the heart of Bulldog Nation, as students and employees of the University of Georgia held a "die-in" demonstration Thursday afternoon.
The UGA chapter of the United Campus Workers of Georgia organized the event that was held on the school's north campus. It asked participants to silently lay - masked and socially-distant - in protest, to highlight "the real cost of reopening," and question how many lives it would take to close campus.
The event came on the same day that the university confirmed to 11Alive that someone in the University of Georgia "community" had died from COVID-19, though they would not elaborate on how the person was connected to the school.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of a member of the University of Georgia community," a university spokesperson told 11Alive in an emailed statement. "Our sympathy goes out to our co-worker’s family and friends. Out of respect for them, we will not comment further."
The university said they have measures in place to help students and staff stay healthy and prevent the spread of the virus. In their statement, the university said they invested nearly $6 million in preventative measures, including a plan to conduct 24,000 surveillance tests before Thanksgiving to be collected from student, faculty and staff volunteers; the purchase of more than 150,000 face coverings so that each student, faculty and staff member will have two each; and the purchase of 4,300 gallons of hand sanitizer, 4,000 sanitation stations and more than 2,000 plexiglass barriers.
Classes are set to be held mostly in person - with social distancing - and masks will be required on campus, as they will be at all University System of Georgia schools.
In addition, the university said supervisors have "increased flexibility to approve telework and flexible schedules in order to reduce the number of employees on-site at any given time," and are working with other staff members who are at higher risk for COVID-19 to make accommodations.
But, some students remain skeptical of the effectiveness of the measures, with one sharing a photo of what appeared to be a plexiglass barrier held up with painter's tape, apparently inside on of the university's classrooms.
A Twitter account for the university's maintenance department appeared to address the photo with a tweet of their own, writing, "We are aware of photos of a classroom with a questionable plexiglass barrier from one building on campus. Many measures to prepare rooms and facilities are still in progress. Our teams are working to correct the height and effectiveness of the barriers in classrooms as needed"
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