Morehouse, Spelman canceling homecoming activities due to COVID-19 spike

Morehouse College's band performs during a past homecoming game in this AJC file photo. Morehouse is canceling homecoming activities this year due to a surge of COVID-19 cases in the state. The homecoming game will still be held Oct. 16, 2021. FILE

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Morehouse College's band performs during a past homecoming game in this AJC file photo. Morehouse is canceling homecoming activities this year due to a surge of COVID-19 cases in the state. The homecoming game will still be held Oct. 16, 2021. FILE

Morehouse and Spelman colleges are canceling most of their homecoming activities due to the surge in coronavirus infections.

The announcements, made Friday, cite the escalating spread of COVID-19 off campus.

Morehouse’s homecoming was to occur Oct. 10-17, and will not be rescheduled. But the football game against Fort Valley State University will still be played as planned, on Oct. 16.

Spelman will hold all alumnae events for homecoming virtually beginning Thursday, Oct. 14 through Sunday, Oct. 17. A determination is still being made regarding student events, Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said in a message Friday afternoon.

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Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Morehouse and Spelman, historically Black colleges located near downtown Atlanta, required students, faculty and employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine to be on campus this fall, unless they received an exemption. Clark Atlanta University, also adjacent to Morehouse and Spelman, is scheduled to have its homecoming Oct. 24-30. CAU has also mandated vaccinations.

Clark Atlanta officials did not immediately not respond Friday to questions about possible changes to CAU’s homecoming weekend schedule.

Morehouse President David A. Thomas said the college’s mandatory vaccination policies have resulted in near-universal vaccination. With “aggressive” masking requirements and other safety protocols, Morehouse has limited the spread of the coronavirus on campus, he said. But he had to consider the broader community.

“Unfortunately, this week, Georgia broke a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations. The state has the sixth-highest per capita infection rate in the nation and an unprecedented number of young people have become ill with the virus,” he said. “Given the circumstances, a massive in-person gathering on our campus presents a public health risk to our students which is impossible to ignore.”

Thomas said homecoming will be replaced with a student-only fall festival.

ExploreA homecoming like no other

Hundreds, if not, thousands of Morehouse and Spelman graduates typically return to the campuses for homecoming. The decision to cancel is the best given the climate of the pandemic, said Jaylin Grier, 22, a Morehouse senior.

“In order to continue our on-campus experience, that’s just an action we’re going to have to take,” he said. “I’m willing to forfeit homecoming as opposed to staying and taking classes at home virtually.”