Ohio University

Three Ohio University students walk uptown wearing masks
Doing Our Part: Keeping Bobcats Safe

Doing Our Part: Keeping Bobcats Safe

We all want to go back to the way things were before COVID-19, and we hope for a fall semester that includes our favorite traditions: Homecoming, performing arts shows, Student Involvement Fair, sporting events, watching the Marching 110 perform and more. With these aspirations in mind, there are things each of us can do individually that will collectively help end the pandemic.

Doing Our Part: Keeping Bobcats Safe is a new peer health initiative that helps OHIO students understand the healthy behaviors that will help us return to doing the things we love. A team of Bobcat Health Ambassadors — OHIO students who are trained public health educators — will be in high-traffic campus spaces, hoping to talk with YOU about what you can do to keep yourself and all Bobcats safe. They also want to hear from you about your experiences, frustrations, questions and hopes during this challenging time.

If you see an ambassador, they would love to hear what's on your mind, so please join the conversation. Ambassadors will thank you for sharing your time with a voucher for a FREE drink at The Front Room.

Meet Your Bobcat Health Ambassadors

Andie Hunt headshot

Andie Hunt (they/them)

Year: Senior/ 4th year
Majors: Journalism Strategic Communication & Spanish
Hometown: Stamford, CT
Why I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO: Because I want to spread accurate information about COVID-19 and promote healthy behavior on and around campus.
One little known but interesting thing about me: I am related to Winston Churchill.

Danielle Scott headshot

Danielle Scott (She/Her)

Year: Junior/3rd Year
Major: Psychology & WGSS
Hometown: Carrollton, OH
Why I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO: I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO because I am passionate about spreading helpful information to my peers that provides them with tools to keep themselves and others safe in many different situations
One little known but interesting thing about me: I have a small jewelry business!

Jorden Milliken headshot

Jorden Milliken (She/Her)

Year: Senior/4th Year
Major: Psychology & Sociology-Criminology
Hometown: Cadiz, OH
Why I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO: I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO because I want to help spread information that is accurate and can help us all keep our friends, family and community safe!
One little known but interesting thing about me: I am a level two skydiver!

Leslie Aguilera headshot

Leslie Aguilera

Year: 4th Year
Major: Political Science Pre-Law
Hometown: New York
Why I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO: I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO because I care about the well-being of the community and want to be able to provide accurate information for all!
One little known but interesting thing about me: I have traveled to nine countries!

Melanie Ahmetspahic headshot

Melanie Ahmetspahic (She/Her)

Year: First year
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Why I chose to become a public health ambassador for OHIO: I believe a lot of people don't have access to valuable information regarding personal health coming into college, so I joined the health ambassadors to promote well-being amongst students in face of the pandemic.
One little known but interesting thing about me: I speak four languages.

Mady Nutter headshot

Mady Nutter (she/her)

Year: Junior/3rd year
Major: Journalism Strategic Communication
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Why I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO: I love the interactions I have with my peers as a peer health educator and can’t wait to help more students navigate Covid-19!
One little known but interesting thing about me: I started skateboarding when I was 10 and started to re-learn in quarantine this summer. I can do an ollie :)

Molly Davis headshot

Molly Davis

Year: 3rd Year
Major: Community and Public Health & Biology
Hometown: Sandusky, Ohio
Why I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO: I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO because I have been studying COVID-19 in my epidemiology classes and I want to spread accurate information while protecting a town I love.
One little known but interesting thing about me: I am an Irish Twin!

Sophia Cobb headshot

Sophia Cobb

Year: 3rd years
Major: Child and Family Studies
Hometown: Hiram, Ohio
Why I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO: Because I am passionate about students being safe and healthy on campus!
One little known but interesting thing about me: I love rats, they cuddle, and have long blinky cords.

Tori Nelson headshot

Tori Nelson (she/her)

Year: Senior/4th year
Major: Biological Sciences — Human Biology
Hometown: Massillon, Ohio
Why I chose to become a Bobcat Health Ambassador for OHIO: I’ve always been passionate about the human body and health. I think it’s incredibly important to have easy access to accurate and current information regarding these topics, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One little known but interesting thing about me: I’ve had 3 different last names since I was born!

How to Do Your Part

Help Stop the Pandemic: Get Vaccinated

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 not only protects you from disease, but also will help stop the pandemic. Everyone in Ohio age 16 and older is eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine through the state’s online portal. Ohio University encourages all Bobcats to get vaccinated as soon as possible and will host student-specific vaccination clinics in April. Benefits of vaccination include:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
  • Students who are fully vaccinated will not have to participate in weekly asymptomatic COVID-19 testing during summer or fall semester. 
  • Getting vaccinated may also protect people around you, particularly those at increased risk for severe illness.
  • Stopping the pandemic requires using all the tools we have available. Getting vaccinated, wearing masks and social distancing are three tools you can use to be part of the solution.

There are two COVID-19 vaccines currently in use in the United States: Pfizer and Moderna. Both require a second dose. (A third vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine, is not currently being offered while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review some rare but severe side effects.) Look at your calendar and keep the second dose schedules in mind when scheduling an appointment so you are sure to be in town when it is time for the second dose.

Each of the vaccines offer excellent protection against COVID-19. It is important to note that the Pfizer vaccine is the only one currently approved for those under age 18. Any of the vaccines may cause some side effects.

The state’s online portal is regularly updated with new availability and shows all providers within a specified ZIP code. In addition to the state’s online portal, you can find information about vaccine availability in your county by visiting your county’s health department website.

There is no cost to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. After you are fully vaccinated, please register your vaccine so the University can track progress toward herd immunity on our campuses and work toward resuming normal operations.

Help Dispel COVID-19 Vaccine Myths on OHIO Campuses

COVID Operations regularly hears various versions of the following questions. Dispelling these common misconceptions is something everyone can help with – please help spread the word. 

Will getting vaccinated give me a false positive on a Vault Health COVID-19 test?

No. None of the vaccines in use in the United States can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. The Vault tests are viral PCR tests. There is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests, which indicate you had a previous infection and an appropriate response to the vaccine. OHIO does not use antibody tests. If you receive a positive Vault test result, it means you have a current COVID-19 infection, which is rare but not impossible after vaccination. 

I received the first round of one vaccine a couple of weeks ago. Do I need to wait and get my second dose of the first vaccine or can I just get a different one on campus? 

You need to complete the series you began with the same product. The COVID vaccines are not interchangeable, and the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series have not been evaluated.

Due to the national pause in distributing the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the University is now offering students the two-dose Pfizer vaccine at its campus clinics. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second dose 21 days after the first. Because some students may not be able to return to campus for the second dose, University leadership has identified the following options for students to secure their second dose:

  • Those who are in Athens or able to travel to Athens can get their second dose at Heritage Hall on the Ohio University campus.
  • Those who receive a first dose at one of the student clinics on campus are not required to get a second dose at that location. Students can contact their local health departments, pharmacies and other vaccine providers in their home communities to ask if they are able to provide a second dose.
  • Those OHIO students who received a first dose elsewhere can receive a second dose from the Athens City-County Health Department (ACCHD) at any time (vaccination record of first dose date and location will be required). ACCHD currently hosts its community COVID-19 vaccination clinics, in addition to student clinics, at Heritage Hall and students are welcome to book an appointment at any of these clinics through the state portal (https://gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov/).

Contact COVIDoperations@ohio.edu for more information. 

Since I already had COVID-19, do I need to get the vaccine? 

Yes, you should still get vaccinated. Experts don’t yet know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get vaccinated even if you already had COVID.  

Already Vaccinated? How to Protect Others

When in public

Wearing a mask where required in public – even if you are vaccinated – will help contain the virus until more people of all ages have received the vaccine. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals take precautions in public, like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing, because we are still learning how well the vaccines keep people from spreading the disease. Until we learn more, doing everything we can to stop the spread will give us the best chances of a normal fall.

Regardless of vaccination status, the state of Ohio requires that individuals wear facial coverings in public at all times. Ohio University Policy and City of Athens ordinance also require masks in public places.

When gathering in private with others

According to the CDC, if you are fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms or live in a group setting.

The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals:

  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings

This means that in your own residence, you may visit with small groups of other vaccinated individuals without masks. Vaccinated individuals should avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings, and gatherings that mix vaccinated and unvaccinated people should include only one other household. Detailed information and an infographic can help you determine which precautions are advised for various types of gatherings — all of which should be small.

It is important to note that a relatively small proportion of college-age students have received the vaccine. No one can determine whether someone else is vaccinated, even if that person says, “It’s OK, I’ve had the vaccine.” The only way to be sure you are protecting your health and that of others is to adhere to mask requirements until public health recommendations change based on transmission rates, case counts, and vaccination rates.

Ways to Socialize Safely

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are extremely high across the United States. To decrease your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you do not gather with people who do not live with you.

Although it is safest to stay home and socialize with people from your own household, planning ahead can help you reduce your risk when socializing.

Attending a party

  • Only attend gatherings of 10 or fewer people — the state prohibits anything larger [PDF]. If a small gathering accidentally grows too large, leave.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the host questions about safety protocols: How many people are attending? Will physical distancing and mask wearing be encouraged?
  • Bring your own cups/drinks so you are not sharing with others
  • Don’t use other peoples’ vapes, Juuls or other smoking devices
  • Bring your own snack/foods to avoid touching shared foods and utensils
  • Wear weather appropriate clothing so you can stay outdoors and not feel obligated to go into someone’s place
  • Stay at one location rather than bouncing around and increasing exposure to locations and strangers
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items
  • Select seating or determine where to stand based on the ability to keep 6 feet of space from people who don’t live in your household
  • Listen to your body — if you don’t feel quite right, stay home, and call the Hotline

Hosting a party

  • Only host or attend gatherings of 10 or fewer people -- the state and the city prohibit anything larger
  • Set expectations early: physical distancing, masks, bring your own food and drinks
  • Prep your space: seats 6+ feet apart, hand sanitizer available
  • Host your gathering outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated (for example, open windows)
  • Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing
  • Prep your bathroom: have soap and single-use towels available
  • Remind guests to stay home if they are sick
  • Keep a list of guests for potential future contact tracing
  • Avoid any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and condiment or drink stations
  • Use disposable food service items including utensils and dishes, if available

Going to a bar or restaurant increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19

Visiting restaurants and bars can increase your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. A recent study found that adults with positive COVID-19 test results were twice as likely to have reported going to locations that offered on-site eating and drinking options than those with negative COVID-19 test results. Factors that may explain this include:

  • People from different households are gathering in the same space
  • Eating and drinking requires removal of a mask
  • Ventilation flow in restaurants and bars can cause droplets to spread at distances greater than 6 feet
  • Poor ventilation can also increase risk
  • Physical distancing of at least 6 feet is often difficult to maintain
  • People need to talk louder to hear one another, which can contribute to the production of more virus aerosols
  • Use of alcohol may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures

Safe strategies for visiting restaurants and bars

The safest way to enjoy and support restaurants and bars is to take out food and eat it at home with people who live with you. If you still plan to go, here are some ways to reduce your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19:

  • Check if outdoor seating is available, and if options allow groups to be at least 6 feet apart from one another
  • Avoid busy times
  • Wear masks at all times, indoors and out, except when you are actively eating or drinking
  • Avoid crowds and sit or stand at tables spaced at least six feet apart from people you don’t live with, both indoors and outdoors
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Consuming alcohol may make you less likely to follow COVID-19 safety measures.
  • Ask for individual condiment packets, as those on tables may not be cleaned between patrons
  • Minimize time spent there
  • Wash or sanitize your hands before eating and when exiting the restaurant or bar 

Make a Difference in the Case Rate

Based on downward trends in new COVID-19 cases statewide, combined with increased vaccination rates, the governor has said that he will lift all public health orders if the state reaches a level of 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks.

Each week the governor will report on Ohio’s progress toward this goal. Every Bobcat can help the state reach this goal by wearing masks in public, keeping distance, getting vaccinated, and participating in asymptomatic testing if required.

To put these case rates in perspective, Ohio was at:

  • 731 cases per 100,000 on Dec. 3
  • 445 per 100,000 on Feb. 3
  • 179 per 100,000 March 3
  • 155 per 100,000 on March 10
  • 143.8 per 100,000 on March 17
  • 146.9 on March 24
  • The last time we met the 50 cases per 100,000 people metric in the state was on June 17, 2020

To keep yourself motivated, you can track this metric on state case rates, which are updated each Thursday and include a list by county. Our individual choices and actions contribute to whether counties with Ohio University campuses contribute to a downward trend.

Have Honest Conversations about Your COVID-19 Comfort Level

Talking openly with your friend or date about your respective COVID-19 comfort levels might feel awkward, but it’s an important conversation to have. Discussing boundaries before meeting in person can help everyone stay safe.

There are ways to casually mention your expectations in advance so they don’t hurt or embarrass your friends or dates. Plan ahead rather than bringing up the topic impulsively. Think about what you might say or write it down in advance. Speaking up first and before there’s a problem is key to setting the expectation and avoiding hurt feelings in your group.

  • First consider your own comfort levels. Are you comfortable meeting inside vs. outside, mingling with friends from other households, wearing masks, etc.?
  • Next: Explain what you have been doing and what your comfort boundaries are, and ask your friend to share theirs.
  • Avoid “you” statements; instead use “I feel” statements while acknowledging that everyone may not see it the way you do. Explain your experiences and reactions while acknowledging they may not always be 100 percent logical. Focus on how other people’s choices make you feel or impact you, rather than pointing out someone else’s behavior. Follow up with a direct but kind request. Example: Instead of “You didn’t wear a mask in the hallway, and there were several people around,” consider “I feel really worried when I come close to someone who is not wearing a mask. Would you put one on so I can relax?”
  • Other things to consider asking, include how many other people your friend or date interacts with, and the safety precautions those individuals take.
  • If dating, have an honest discussion about your partner’s COVID-19 health: When is the last time you were tested for COVID? When is the last time you were tested for STIs? Do you wear a mask in public? How big is your “bubble?” Consider starting any new relationship with a virtual date so you can learn more about each other.