Throughout the University of Georgia’s response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, we have remained focused on the health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students. This commitment has never wavered, and it remains a guiding tenet as we prepare to enact a carefully planned and measured reopening of our campuses. The gradual reopening will occur over three phases and will commence on Monday, June 15.

UGA’s preliminary plan has been developed over the past month, as nine working groups have researched and developed recommendations which have now been submitted to the University System of Georgia (USG) for approval. These recommendations comply with Executive Orders and directives from the Governor’s Office, and reflect guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the USG.

Phase 1, beginning on June 15, applies primarily to essential staff and supervisors, and their presence on campus should continue to be limited in accordance with guidance from the GDPH for social distancing and control of group sizes. A staggered or rotating weekly schedule is still recommended, and the continuing use of teleworking in conjunction with on-campus work remains appropriate, encouraged, and preferred to achieve social distancing.

The primary task of those returning in Phase 1 will be to prepare our campuses for the continued safe return of even more members of the University community in Phase 2, ultimately culminating in the full Phase 3 return of faculty, staff, and students in August for the Fall Semester. We will soon launch a comprehensive educational campaign to ensure that all members of the community are aware of the many safety precautions being taken by the University, are knowledgeable of the resources available to them, and understand their own responsibility as individuals to abide by the guidelines issued by the GDPH, CDC, USG, and UGA to contain the spread of the COVID‑19 coronavirus. Each and every one of us will have a critical role to play as we work together to protect the health and safety of every member of the Bulldog Nation.

It will be up to vice presidents, deans, department heads, and directors to determine over the next two weeks those supervisors (including administrative faculty) who should return to campus in order to ensure the work environment they oversee and manage is compliant with health and safety guidelines. Those faculty and staff previously defined as essential and who have been working on campus during the period of reduced operations should continue to do so. In addition, staff members who perform mission critical/time-sensitive functions, as determined by their supervisor, and who need to work onsite also can return. Staff members who need to support supervisors or personnel with mission critical/time-sensitive work also can return to campus. Please note that no employee should return to campus until they are notified by their unit that they can do so.

UGA’s health and medical experts have played a key role in the development of our plans, and they will continue to take a leadership role as our plans are continually adapted in response to the evolving COVID‑19 pandemic. In particular, Dr. Marsha Davis, Dean of the College of Public Health; Dr. Lisa Nolan, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine; Dr. Shelley Nuss, Campus Dean of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership; and Dr. Garth Russo, Executive Director of the University Health Center, are helping to refine protocols for screening, monitoring, notification, and isolation; coordinate plans for contact tracing with the GDPH; and explore options for COVID‑19 testing.

The diligent efforts of all of our working group members and chairs to develop plans for our safe return to campus in a gradual, phased manner are greatly appreciated. We are also grateful for the hundreds of University employees who continue to keep essential operations running and work to clean, disinfect, and prepare our campuses. Their work includes the use of enhanced disinfection techniques and more frequent cleaning of commonly touched surfaces. These efforts will help all of us to feel safe and reassured upon our return to campus.

We appreciate your continued efforts to adapt to the ever-changing and uncertain conditions of the pandemic. We are doing everything within our power to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all of us to live, work, and learn. Your ongoing support and cooperation will be essential for our efforts to succeed.