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Georgia back in the ‘red zone’ and holiday travel

On Nov. 12, Valdosta Daily Times announced that Georgia was back in the COVID-19 ‘red zone,’ which could be an outcome of holiday travel and COVID-19 fatigue.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force reported that 25% of Georgia counties have high levels of community transmission.

As of Dec. 1, Lowndes County has had 384 positive COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Per 100,000 people in Georgia, there was 314 positive cases in the last two weeks.

Since the start of COVID-19, there have been 94 confirmed deaths in Lowndes County alone, and 8,798 in the state, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Dr. Vince Miller, vice president for student affairs, said he thinks one of the biggest reasons for this increase in cases is due to COVID-19 fatigue.

“We are social beings as people, and I think it’s been really difficult to have social restrictions on us,” Dr. Miller said. “If we follow the guidelines as expected, they really keep us isolated within a small family group.”

Dr. Miller said students and faculty need to be steadfast with following the Center for Disease Control requirements especially during the holiday season.

“The desire to visit family is strong,” he said. “At the same time, I think we should do everything we can to acknowledge that right now, until there is a vaccine in place that we are comfortable with, and we know there’s a level of medical safety, we’ve just got to follow those requirements.”

To continue combating COVID-19, VSU plans to continue the requirements already in place, and could potentially be a part of the vaccination solution, according to Dr. Miller.

“We are making efforts right now to have all of the right equipment in place for administering vaccinations,” he said. “If we have a vaccine at the early part of next year then we are going to be prepared to be part of the vaccination solution for our campus and maybe the region.”

According to Dr. Miller, it is unknown what the details of the cost will be if vaccines were to take place at VSU.

Dr. Miller said if there is a spike during the holiday season, potentially, VSU could begin the semester virtually.

In order to get the statistics over the holidays, Dr. Miller said there will be a similar survey that was done in the fall to get a head count of individuals who were exposed or tested positive before the semester starts.

According to Dr. Miller, the worries for the holiday travels and gatherings are also a reason behind no spring break.

“The students have been really good with all the expectations we set, but we have seen that fatigue set in at the end of the semester and the restlessness of individuals wanting to travel and wanting to visit family,” he said. “The timing of spring break, based on what we’ve seen in the fall, would be the same place that we would have that fatigue and desire to travel and spend time with friends and loved ones.”

Robbyn DeSpain, director of strategic communications, sent out an email to the student body on Nov. 24 giving advice on how to accommodate during the holidays.

“Modify your plans to reduce the transmission of COVID,” DeSpain said. “Celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas at home with your immediate family only.”

The email included other tips such as postponing travel and shopping online instead of in-stores.

According to Victoria Espinoza, a junior secondary education and English major, the pandemic has affected her family.

“All of us take this very seriously being that many of my family members have weakened immune systems,” Espinoza said. “My family has accommodated holiday festivities by keeping all parties small and usually just immediate family.”

Espinoza also said COVID-19 fatigue is similar to restlessness because we are a part of a society that is always out socializing.

Dr. Miller said if there is a vaccine, and everyone remains safe and healthy over the holidays and come back in January following the same criteria, this could be the last semester of having as many restrictions.

Written by Jonnie Brewer, Assistant Copy Editor. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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