Regents reject mask mandates on campus, but not always in their workplaces

Citing safety concerns, at least three Regents require masks in workplaces and facilities

The Board of Regents has refused to require masks on Georgia’s public campuses, endangering students and staff and forcing professors to beg students to wear masks to protect their young children, their pregnant spouses or their elderly parents from the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19. Many faculty -- including a father-to-be at Dalton State College who begins every class with an ultrasound picture of his baby due next month -- report only a handful of students comply.

A few of the Regents are not as callous with their own workplaces and staffs. Consider these prominently displayed policies at the workplaces of Regents C. Thomas Hopkins Jr., an orthopedic surgeon, Samuel Holmes, chairman of the commercial real estate services firm CBRE Inc., and Neil L. Pruitt Jr., chairman and CEO of PruittHealth.

Hopkins’ medical practice proclaims, “OrthoGeorgia is following the CDC recommended best practices to provide you and our employees with a safe environment: All patients and employees are required to wear face masks inside OrthoGeorgia facilities.” Pruitt’s health care facilities require masks for all visitors and patients and the web site shows masked employees. CBRE’s playbook on reopening says, “CBRE is following CDC guidelines and more stringent mask guidance -- including requiring employees to wear masks when they are moving through the office and not at a socially distanced workstation.”

Yet, the Regents have chosen to ignore the CDC’s recommendations for masks on campuses, putting more faith in Gov. Brian Kemp’s undergraduate degree in agriculture than the nation’s physicians and virus researchers.

The AJC College COVID Tracker charts a steep climb today in students, faculty and employees testing positive at the state’s largest colleges and universities. The University of Georgia posted its weekly report online Wednesday morning, showing positive cases nearly doubled in a recent seven-day stretch.

The AJC also reports seriously ill COVID-19 patients are filling a third of all Georgia hospital beds, a pandemic record with every hospital across Georgia full to the point of overflowing.

The Regents are keeping some people safe, just not the ones on college campuses.

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