Ohio University

OHIO COVID-19 Safety Measures

As we work and learn in the midst of a global pandemic, Ohio University is focused on delivering the best possible student experience while reducing risk to our students, faculty, staff and communities. With that in mind, we have implemented a host of strategies to help reduce spread of COVID-19, as well as changes to our learning, working and residential environments to promote safety.  Read on for descriptions of the precautions we are taking.

Face Coverings

Ohio University requires students, faculty, staff and visitors at any of our campuses to wear a mask or face covering according to the following guidelines: 

  • Outdoors: Individuals are not required to wear masks outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. The University advises those who are unvaccinated to wear a mask if physical distancing of six feet cannot be maintained in crowded outdoor settings, or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated. 

  • Indoors: Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks indoors, except where otherwise required in healthcare or clinical environments, and on public transportation. Unvaccinated individuals are required to wear masks indoors. Masks must cover the nose, mouth and chin, and are not required for children under the age of 10. Students, faculty and staff who have not selected a pathway as part of the university’s COVID-19 Testing Pathway Program, or who have selected the Weekly Testing Pathway, are required to follow the guidance for unvaccinated individuals.

Ohio University acknowledges that some people who are vaccinated may continue to wear masks due to having additional health risks, for the protection of high-risk loved ones, or for any other reason. Everyone is encouraged to carry a mask with them and wear it when interacting closely with those who choose to wear a face covering. 

Physical Distancing

  • Outdoors: Individuals do not need to practice physical distancing when outdoors on OHIO campuses, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. Unvaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to maintain at least six feet of physical distance while outside.

  • Indoors: 

    • In classrooms* or instructional spaces or places where structured, scheduled classes happen, all individuals are required to maintain a distance of at least three feet from others who are not members of their household, regardless of vaccination status. 

    • In all other indoor public spaces on OHIO campuses, unvaccinated individuals are required to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others who are not members of their household. 

    • Fully vaccinated individuals do not have to maintain physical distance from others in non-classroom indoor public spaces on campus. 

    • Some academic programs may require that all participants keep physical distance of at least six feet from others who are not members of their household. 

*For the purposes of physical distancing, classrooms are defined as any indoor campus spaces that are assigned for learning activities (lectures, labs, studios, etc.). 

Daily COVID Symptom Assessment

All students, faculty, and staff should measure their body temperature and complete a Daily COVID Symptom Assessment daily before leaving their residence hall and/or leaving home to come to campus.

Any student, faculty, or staff member who lives on or off campus and experiences symptoms of COVID-19 should isolate and must follow ALL the steps in the relevant section of the OHIO COVID-19 Protocol for symptomatic individuals. Once on campus, if a student or staff member becomes ill, they should return home immediately and follow all of the steps in the OHIO COVID-19 Protocol for symptomatic individuals. 

COVID-19 Testing

As part of Ohio University’s commitment to protect the health and safety of its students, employees and community, COVID-19 testing strategies include referrals for symptomatic testing paired with support from OHIO COVID Campus Liaisons, asymptomatic testing through the COVID-19 Testing Pathway Program, and a wastewater surveillance testing effort. 

All OHIO students, faculty, and staff are required to choose a pathway as part of the COVID-19 Testing Pathway Program. Those individuals who are fully vaccinated do not have to participate in asymptomatic testing if they select the Vaccination Pathway and provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Incident Report Form

Ohio students, faculty and staff should use this Incident Report form to report to Ohio University any confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 reported to you. Also use this form to report if you yourself test positive or believe you have been exposed to the virus. The information gathered in the Incident Report form will be used to track cases affiliated with university community members, notify relevant departments (e.g., faculty if a student will be missing class, or Facilities Management and Safety if a building needs to be cleaned), and to connect individuals with needed care. The Incident Report form also is an instrumental part of the return-to-campus process, so it is important to submit it as soon as possible after known symptoms or exposure. 

COVID Campus Liaisons

To address the needs of individuals on OHIO campuses who are acutely affected by COVID-19, OHIO COVID Operations has built a team of COVID Campus Liaisons (CCLs). These experienced care professionals are trained and ready to assist students, faculty and staff with any need that may arise when COVID affects them in some way. All communications with CCLs are confidential and subject to HIPAA and FERPA regulations, with the goal of balancing the safety of the community and the privacy of the individuals involved. Every day, OHIO CCLs help students, faculty and staff who have tested positive or were potentially exposed to COVID-19 access the resources and services they need.

Campus Care

Students experiencing COVID-19 Symptoms should call OHIO COVID Operations at 740-566-8445 and an OHIO COVID Campus Liaison will explain options for scheduling a test.

For other medical concerns students in Athens may contact Campus Care at 740-592-7100. In order to put patient safety first, visits to Campus Care must be scheduled in advance.  Same-day appointments are available and most visits can be done using telehealth. Campus Care will help you decide whether a telehealth or in-person visit is recommended based on your symptoms. Call 740-592-7100.

Cleaning Protocols

Since last March, Ohio University Facilities Management and Safety has been following the Centers for Disease Control’s disinfection protocols to ensure our workspaces are safe. They continue to execute federal and state cleaning protocols on all campuses: 

  • Facilities uses EPA-approved products for daily cleaning of restrooms, focusing on ensuring handwashing supplies are fully stocked, and that high-touch surfaces are disinfected. (Multi-user restrooms in residence halls are cleaned twice a day, following CDC guidelines for congregate housing.)
  • Facilities has increased the frequency that they clean high-touch surfaces in common areas (for instance, door handles, light switches, handrails, etc.). 
  • Facilities has also provided disinfectant products for students and faculty to use in classrooms and other locations throughout campus to enable individuals to disinfect spaces before and after they use them. 

Airflow, HVAC Systems and Windows

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a layered approach in reducing indoor exposures to the virus that causes COVID-19. This approach includes reducing occupancy levels, improvements to building ventilation, physical distancing, wearing face masks, hand hygiene, and vaccination.

Ohio University’s facilities and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are designed to meet building code requirements. Additionally, Facilities Maintenance and Safety has made modifications and adjustments to systems at each campus in line with CDC recommendations and industry best practices. In the very few campus instructional spaces that have no central air conditioning, Facilities Maintenance and Safety supports the use of portable filtration units.

HVAC maintenance

As suggested by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Facilities Maintenance and Safety changed the HVAC filters on campus from Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 8 filters to MERV 13 filters. MERV 13 filters are recommended to help trap virus particles and keep them from circulating throughout a building.

Facilities Maintenance and Safety will replace filters based on industry recommendations. Changing filters more often than recommended can reduce their effectiveness.

Air exchange

Facilities Maintenance and Safety follows ASHRAE and CDC recommendations for outside air maximization, bringing in as much outside air as possible through the University’s HVAC systems while still providing adequate building temperature. This provides more total air exchange with fresh outside air versus the traditional split of outside air and recirculated air.

We operate our systems this way 24 hours a day, seven days a week to maximize air changes during overnight hours. We will not enact any temperature setbacks or energy savings measures as we strive to bring as much outside air as possible into our facilities. Facilities Maintenance and Safety will perform an additional check of all outside air dampers this summer to ensure they are functioning optimally.

The relative hot or cold temperature of a building is not related to the air filtration system or the use of outside air in that building – the factors do not directly correlate.  If a building feels “too hot” or “too cold” to a particular person, it is not a reflection of air filtration or use of outside air functionality.

Windows

Facilities Maintenance and Safety does not recommend opening windows in facilities with an HVAC system. Keeping the windows in these facilities closed will ensure temperature and humidity controls remain in place, inhibiting mold growth. The HVAC filters in these buildings have been changed to MERV 13 filters to help trap virus particles and keep them from circulating.

Facilities Maintenance and Safety supports opening windows in the relatively few facilities that do not have a central HVAC system. However, opening windows above the first or ground floor of a building can create significant safety hazards. Suggested safety advice for anyone who opens a window:

  • Do not engage in physical activities such as exercise near windows
  • Keep windows closed and locked when children are present
  • When opening a double-hung window on an upper floor, open the top sash if possible, while keeping the bottom sash closed
  • Do not rely on insect screens to prevent falls, they won’t support the weight
  • Keep furniture away from windows

Please contact Steve Wood, chief facilities management officer, with questions or concerns.