The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on Oct. 27, 2020.
I am happy to report this week that the rate of increase in cases on the Athens campus has declined. While we still have daily cases, we are on the downside of a peak in cases that occurred around Oct. 9. All the students who received blanket quarantine orders have returned to their assigned room and currently we have very few on-campus residents in isolation and quarantine.
While these numbers are encouraging, we must remember our campuses are not unsusceptible to spread. As Governor DeWine noted in his public address, 92.8% of Ohioans are now living in a county with high COVID incidence or spread. Only three counties with an Ohio University presence are still in orange (level 2 public emergency) – Athens, Belmont, and Fairfield – and the remaining have moved to red (level 3 public emergency). Cuyahoga is approaching purple (level 4).
While student and employee cases have remained low on our regional campuses, we cannot let our guard down. Regardless of campus, we are all in communities with high incidence and extensive community spread. Hospital capacity is stretched in several regions of the state and as flu season accelerates, health systems across the state are going to struggle to keep up with demand. I too am suffering from pandemic fatigue, but I am asking again to please be mindful of your risk.
Many community neighbors in Athens are worried about Halloween. Our traditional Halloween celebrations not only increase the risk for individuals, but for entire communities. In Athens we are seeing a shift to community spread, which is particularly concerning because of the rural setting and limited healthcare resources. Our typical Halloween celebrations would make Athens particularly vulnerable this year. So, the Ohio Department of Health and the City of Athens have put out guidelines for safer celebrations and trick or treating. We expect every Bobcat to follow their guidelines, including:
- Do not host a gathering larger than 10 people.
- Do not exceed posted capacity limits in local businesses (especially bars).
- Wear your mask when you are outside in any public space (including Court Street).
- Maintain six feet of social distance and wear a mask when waiting in line to get into a bar.
- Wear a mask inside a bar except when you are actively eating or drinking.
- If you stand up from your table or are exiting a bar, you must wear your mask.
- The city will shut down any nuisance parties or non-socially distanced gatherings.
- A $100 fine will be given to those not following public health mandates.
- A $150 fine will be levied for parties and gatherings that do not comply with public safety protocols.
As a reminder, the Halloween Block Party is canceled this year so please do not host out-of-town visitors. Also, parking will not be permitted on campus.
Fun (and Safe) Ways to Celebrate
There are still lots of creative ways to connect with your friends and celebrate Spooky Season this year. Doing something different could make this part of 2020 stand out in your memories for a good reason. This year will just take a little bit more creativity and planning. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Join a pumpkin carving contest.
- Watch the Honey for the Heart Parade from the comfort of your car.
- Visit a pumpkin patch.
- Enjoy one of the many trails at The Ridges or Strouds Run (night hiking can be spooky!). Strouds Run closes at 11 p.m.
- Connect with friends via Zoom or Teams.
- Host a virtual scary movie watch party.
- Decorate your porch or bedroom.
- Post fantastic pictures of yourself in costume on social media.
- “Ghost” your friends by leaving treats and notes on their doorstep.
Keep in Touch
If you are not already doing so, please follow our COVID operations social media accounts. We post regular updates and tips for all OHIO campuses.
Facebook Page: Ohio Covid 19 Operations
Instagram: ohio_covid 19_operations
If you are Sick or Have been Exposed to COVID-19
Follow these steps for your care and to get clearance to return to campus once you’re well.
- Call the COVID-19 Hotline for advice and for help finding a test: 877-OU-COV19.
- Fill out a COVID-19 Incident Report to get a COVID campus liaison: ohio.edu/coronavirus.
- Collaborate with your COVID campus liaison when they call or email you.
- Isolate or quarantine and get documentation from the Health Department or your COVID campus liaison.
- Email clearance documentation to your COVID campus liaison and they will clear you to return to campus.
Finally, for more information about what do to if you’re sick or have been exposed to COVID, visit here. If you’re confused about the return to campus clearance process, check out this site. If you’d like more information on meals for people living in isolation and quarantine, please go to this website.
Thanks to all of you who are doing so much to look out for the health and welfare of your friends and even community members you haven’t met. Pulling together, coordination, and following public health guidelines is the only way we can we beat COVID. It’s going to take historic efforts to meet the demands of 2020, but I know that we are up to the challenge.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations