Atlanta college reinstates COVID-19 mask mandate as students return to city



A week after classes began, Morris Brown College is once again requiring students and employees to wear face masks on campus.

The small, private Atlanta college announced the mask mandate Sunday in a letter to faculty, staff and students, saying the requirement and other COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place for two weeks. The college cited “reports of positive cases among students in the Atlanta University Center” as the reason for the decision.

Morris Brown President Kevin James told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an email Monday that the college has received no reports of cases on its own campus yet. He described the steps as “precautionary measures.”

The Atlanta University Center consists of several historically Black colleges and universities on the city’s Westside. Morehouse and Spelman colleges and Clark Atlanta University began classes Wednesday.

Morehouse’s website states that the current alert level within the Atlanta University Center Consortium is green, the lowest of a four-tiered alert system. The green designation means the “prevalence of the virus is minimal.” The alert levels are determined based on the number of new cases in the past seven days on campus and in the community, among other factors.

Thousands of students are returning to Atlanta’s college campuses just as COVID cases are rising in Georgia. Numbers throughout the state have gone up three weeks in a row, though the total number of known infections and hospitalizations remains low, the AJC reported last week.

Georgia State University and Georgia Tech both began classes Monday. Protocols have not changed, representatives of each school said.

Georgia Tech’s Stamps Health Services reported 17 positive cases in the last two weeks. The school recently posted a reminder on its website about COVID and campus health services, acknowledging that cases spike at the start of each semester.

“People come together and bring viruses with them. There’s a lot of commingling, and it spreads from person to person, so we typically see a bump at the beginning of the semester. So far, that dissipates relatively quickly,” said Dr. Benjamin Holton, senior director of Stamps Health Services, in the online post.

A spokeswoman at Emory University, where classes start Wednesday, said the school is following “standard operating conditions,” the lower of its two COVID-19 responses. Students are asked to self-monitor for symptoms and follow other healthy habits such as hand-washing and covering coughs and sneezes.

Morris Brown also instructed students to maintain physical distancing and said there will be no parties or large student gatherings on campus for the next two weeks. It will require students and employees to undergo temperature checks when they arrive on campus.

“We prioritize your safety and seek your cooperation in preventing another pandemic,” James said in his campus letter.