Marrero talks COVID-19 and university growth

Marrero: “These have been challenging times… I’m proud of how we’ve navigated through this”

Andy Cole, Editor-in-Chief

From his office on the Armstrong campus, Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero spoke virtually Wednesday with The George-Anne about the spring semester amidst a pandemic and the growth the university is soon set to undergo. 

“For our spring, what we really focused on is that continued classroom safety,” said Marrero. “Data shows us that the classroom is the safest place to be for our faculty and for our students.”

Marrero acknowledged that while the university has reported nearly 500 cases since Jan 1, GS has mitigated the spread through the CARES Center.

While none of the 26 University System of Georgia (USG) institutions require surveillance testing for their campus communities, The University of Georgia and Georgia Tech have surveillance testing available to their faculty, staff and students. 

Citing limitations on personnel, sustaining services and cost, Marrero said surveillance testing on GS’ three campuses, “wasn’t an option.” 

“What’s really going to be interesting is when [the pandemic] is all said and done, the comparison of [other colleges and universities]… that were capable of doing fully ramped up surveillance testing and those who didn’t,” said Marrero. “We don’t know where it’ll land, but I don’t know if we’re going to see that mitigating opportunity or factor to have the surveillance testing really lowered any COVID spread within those campuses.”

In September, GS’ chapter of the American Association of University Professors submitted to The George-Anne a Letter to the Editor where they allege, in part, that the lives of Georgians living near USG institutions are in the hands of Chancellor Steve Wrigley and the GS administration. 

Marrero disputes that.

“I’m asking and talking to the CEOs of the [local] hospitals and saying, ‘How are we doing? Are you seeing any impact,’” said Marrero. “Our impact to our region, as a direct relation, has not been substantial.”

Marrero added that the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic is tragic and he mourns any loss from COVID-19.

The university’s COVID-19 efforts now focus on the vaccine, according to Marrero. As The George-Anne reported last week, GS vaccinated 80 members of the campus community in what officials dubbed a dry run.

“That flow of vaccines to the states and to local district [Georgia Departments of Health] is our biggest focus,” said Marrero. “We can do as many as 1,000 vaccines [per] day to the applicable population.”

In the meantime, aside from COVID-19, Marrero said there’s a lot to be proud of. 

GS cut the ribbon on the new engineering building, released the plan for the new South Campus and improvements to all three GS campuses and the announcement on major donations to the university, including one to create the Fred & Dinah Gretsch school of music. 

“Growth means success,” Marrero said. “It means that students are choosing us. It means they’re coming here because we have a welcoming environment in which [students] can flourish. It means more opportunities.”

“I’m excited. I’m bullish in our future. These have been challenging times… budget reductions, worldwide pandemic, social unrest like we’ve never seen in our country. I’m proud of how we’ve navigated through this,” Marrero added. 


Want to hear more? Check out the full interview with President Kyle Marrero and Editor-in-Chief Andy Cole below.