MACON, Ga. — Nearly three dozen Mercer University students have tested positive for coronavirus. Most of them are student athletes. This comes less than two weeks before the start of the fall semester on August 18th.
13WMAZ started receiving tips about this Wednesday morning, so we asked Mercer University to comment. Finally, Wednesday afternoon, the university confirmed that 29 student athletes tested positive for COVID-19.
"Those athletes have been on campus for a while, so if they're sort of the test run, then it's clear the protocols or something aren't working," said Adrianna Rosario, a Mercer University student.
Overall, 35 students on campus have tested positive. The university says that's out of the 316 tests administered between July 31 and August 3, according to a university statement, so 11 percent of those tests came back positive.
"You can imagine how many people that can be when you bring another 3,000 people onto the Macon campus," said Thomas Eads, a Mercer University student.
We spoke to several student athletes. Some say most, if not all, student athlete cases are football players. However, the university would not confirm.
Mercer says all students who tested positive are being quarantined. They say most of the cases are asymptomatic, and some have mild symptoms. People that have come in contact with those students are being notified and asked to watch for COVID-19 symptoms, according to the statement.
"With move-in and the first day of classes happening across these next two weeks, we're just constantly losing more and more confidence in the school's COVID-19 plans," Rosario said.
Rosario says with this happening before the semester starts up, it's concerning, especially picturing what will happen once everyone is back on campus and in their dorms.
"They're going to live with people in close quarters, and so you're worried about not just yourself, but also where your roommate has been," Rosario said.
Mercer says now they're requiring all undergraduates students who will live on campus to be tested for COVID-19 before they move in or when classes start.
The testing program is supported by an on-campus processing lab. Mercer says most test results should come back in one to two business days. The university says other students, as well as faculty and staff, are required to complete a COVID-19 screening before class starts.
However, some students says testing and screening is not enough, and that the university should offer an online option.
"Most students wanted that online option so the students who want to be there in-person can still stay there in-person, and it will be safer for them to have less students on campus and more socially distanced," Eads said.
As for the push from some students for an online option, nearly 2,000 people have signed a petition to give Mercer students an online option as of Wednesday evening.
Student athletes that spoke to 13WMAZ wished to remain off camera to protect their athletic careers.