Ohio University

Ohio University weekly public health update, Sept. 29, 2020

Published: September 29, 2020 Author: Staff reports

As many of you know, the number of COVID cases at Ohio University is increasing, and 98% of the infections are on the Athens Campus. Within the Athens campus community, 95% of cases are among off-campus students. In line with our OHIO community increase, Athens County is experiencing a significant increase in cases, largely driven by OHIO students. This is extremely concerning, and I hope that we can all redouble our efforts to prevent further community spread.

I am hearing through the grapevine that many people are still confused as to why they are getting phone calls or emails from multiple entities in relation to COVID. I wanted to take some time to explain the role each plays and request your full cooperation with each entity. As a start, remember that the OHIO COVID strategy is multi-pronged and is governed by the Presidential Health Directives. It includes:

  1. The COVID Hotline: 877-OU-COV19 (877-682-6819)
  2. The COVID Incident Report (www.ohio.edu/reportexposure)
  3. Preventive measures: masks, physical distancing, and handwashing
  4. Collaboration and cooperation with appropriate health departments
  5. Asymptomatic testing strategy

In this letter, I am going to focus on the role of the Hotline, the Incident Report and the health departments. 

COVID Hotline
Ohio University partnered with OhioHealth to provide access to expanded services for students and employees during the pandemic, including the Ohio University COVID-19 Hotline (877-OU-COV19). All OHIO students, faculty and staff should call the hotline if they have symptoms, a positive test, or believe that they have been exposed. The hotline staff can assess your symptoms, schedule a test or identify a testing location near you, and can monitor symptoms. If you test positive for COVID, a case manager will contact you for next steps and information including returning back to work/school.  Speaking to the hotline does not release you of your obligation to talk to the health department. It is important to speak to the hotline AND the health department. The hotline provides us with aggregate data which we post on the COVID Dashboard; this allows us to track the current cases associated with all of our OHIO campuses.

COVID Incident report
The COVID incident report is received by the COVID Operations team at Ohio University. The purpose of this report is to connect you with a COVID-Campus Liaison who will assist you with contacting your college or unit and identifying resources that you might need while in isolation or quarantine. We ask that all students, faculty, and staff, who are experiencing symptoms, have tested positive or have a possible exposure to complete a report, regardless of location or campus activity. We ask that all who are aware of a member of the OHIO community who is experiencing symptoms, has tested positive, or has a possible exposure to complete a report, regardless of location or campus activity. This is critical to keeping all campuses and communities safe and is intended to support you. We currently have a staff of nine – Jivanto Van Hemert is the director of this program and our liaisons are Aaron Block, Helen Cumberbatch, Ricardo Hamrick, Mychael Ihnat, Porsha McBee, Catherine Murphy, Kellee Steffen and Zach Swope. Please note that some of our liaisons are part-time and they also serve as resident directors for housing. Please make sure you answer when they reach out to you.

Local Health Departments
If you have tested positive or if you have been identified as a contact (exposed to someone with COVID), your local health department (see below for details) will call you. They need to talk with you to find out who may have been exposed or to inform you of an exposure. This is the central tool we use to combat COVID, across the world. The community needs you to engage with this process.  We expect that you fully cooperate with the appropriate health department. You are legally required to isolate if you are infected and you are legally required to quarantine if given a quarantine order. The health department will also track symptoms, as they are required to by the Ohio Department of Health. Regardless of where you get tested or what address you list (local or home), the affected county will get your test results.

We understand that we are all on information overload and that many of us are still learning about the University and health department processes. Hopefully, this helps clarify the different components of our response to COVID. In addition, we are starting to send out bite-sized information over social media. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for ongoing updates and to ask questions and share your feedback. We are asking a lot of you and we appreciate the many people who have fully engaged with the different entities. The only way that we can continue to move forward as a community is if each of us commits to doing our part and fully participates with all aspects of the COVID management strategies at Ohio University.

Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations

Health department information
Which department will contact you? It will be the department serving the county where you are currently residing. For OHIO campuses, the list is as follows: Athens (Athens City-County Health Department), Chillicothe (Ross County Health District), Cleveland (either Cleveland Health Department or Cuyahoga County Board of Health), Dublin (either Franklin County Public Health or Union County Health Department), Eastern (Belmont County Health Department), Lancaster-Pickerington (Fairfield Department of Health), Southern (Lawrence County Health Department), Zanesville (Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department). Please note that the information you share with the health department is confidential. They cannot and will not share that with Ohio University. If you are not cooperating with the contact tracing process, they can and will contact us. Failure to comply with contact tracing or isolation/quarantine orders will have consequences.