Dr. Gillian Ice shares Ohio University weekly public health update
Thank you to everyone who sent feedback to last week’s letter! Per your requests, going forward I will give a summary of the COVID numbers for OHIO and discuss new initiatives. I will also highlight one or two aspects of COVID management for campus and community. If there are other topics that you would like me to address in future letters, please send an email to this address: COVIDoperations@ohio.edu
COVID Numbers at Ohio University
The good news is that we have few positive cases among employees and students at our non-Athens OHIO campuses. To date we have three positives case at our Southern campus and no other positive cases at any other campuses. Collectively, 17 tests have been administered at regional campuses and locations, and we will inform you of those results on the dashboard as they are received. The number of COVID cases in the counties of most of our campuses is trending down, with the exception of Athens, Eastern, Southern and Zanesville.
The situation on our Athens campus is requiring more attention and intervention because the number of positive COVID cases is steadily increasing among Athens campus students. The breakdown for the Athens campus as of September 22 is: 323 tested, 123 positive, 39 pending results. Please note, you cannot calculate a positivity rate on these numbers as we do not know how many people were tested by other vendors relative to how many were reported. On the Athens campus there are currently five students who are in isolation or using quarantine housing. Given the very low density in housing right now, we would not expect many more at this time.
A total of 346 people from all of our campuses have submitted COVID Incident Reports and are working with our Public Health Case Managers. Like our hotline numbers, 84% of these reports are from the Athens campus. The case count in Athens County as of September 22 is 629, with most cases in the 20-29 age group. This case count is for the entire county and is not just Ohio University.
Much more data are available on the COVID-19 Dashboard which we update every Tuesday and Friday and encourage you to visit regularly.
New Initiative for COVID Management: Surveillance Testing
On Monday, we launched our asymptomatic testing program on the Athens campus. A random sampling of on and off campus students and employees were asked to schedule testing even if they were not manifesting symptoms. On the first day of this preventive effort, we tested 114 people and had 8 positive results. Unfortunately, there were several first day problems and people had to wait too long to access this service. We truly apologize, and we have been in discussions with our partner to resolve the issues. I was also standing in line to get tested yesterday and was distressed to see our students -- who were complying -- being made to wait. Today, I returned to the asymptomatic testing site at Grosvenor to perform a walk through to double check that operational glitches have been ironed out. I am happy to report that today’s process was much smoother. Thank you to all of you for your patience
We have also heard some feedback that people were concerned about what criteria were used to select participants and there were some questions about the nature of the test. I am happy to get the opportunity to clarify these two issues:
First, we are combining both a wide net testing strategy and random testing to select asymptomatic participants. This means that we draw from a long list of potential participants generated from anyone who has accessed campus resources, including those in phase 1 and 2. Then we randomly generate names from that list to schedule testing within a specific window. With this strategy, we can identify positives quickly so they can isolate and participate in contact tracing before symptoms manifest. Wide net testing will also eventually include testing of those in near contact with people with positive test results, which supports the goal of identifying and intervening in outbreaks early. This strategy is consistent with the recommendations of the Ohio Department of Health and the expectations of Inter-University Council (IUC) schools.
Second, I’d like to explain the nature of the asymptomatic test we chose for this initiative. It a nasal swab that is self-administered and is not as invasive as tests used for symptomatic individuals. We chose this method because we found that the test was relatively easy to administer and was not painful. If you are selected for asymptomatic testing, you will receive an email which will direct you to schedule with CVS Health and get tested on campus at Grosvenor West 111. After you have self-administered the nasal swab, you will wait on site for 15 minutes and get the result before you leave. If you receive a positive test result, you are required to call the COVID hotline and submit a COVID Incident report. The Health Department will also contact you for contract tracing, and we ask for your full particiption in that process.
Although campus restart has presented some challenges, we are on the right track to managing COVID in our community. We are now not only managing symptomatic cases but are beginning to proactively work in our community to detect and prevent COVID spread from asymptomatic cases. This virus uses social networks to spread but we can also use our social ties to pull together and protect our students, staff, faculty, and community members. Thank you for your feedback and for your collaboration in these important efforts!
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations