Continued efforts to keep the OHIO community safe
The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on Nov. 10, 2020.
In Governor DeWine’s press briefing yesterday, several hospital CEOs and physicians discussed the surge in COVID-19 cases across Ohio. This trend reflects what is happening across the United States with multiple record-breaking days. In the last 24 hours, Ohio recorded 6,508 new cases, 386 hospitalizations and 23 COVID-related deaths. The upsurge is primarily fueled by small social gatherings of people who are relaxing their prevention efforts. Though we are being careful in schools, stores, and at work, we are no longer staying in a small social bubble, and are instead expanding our contact networks. The physicians in the briefing universally asked us to persist with preventative measures despite COVID fatigue. According to Dr. Andy Thomas, OSU’s Chief Medical Officer, “Given the spike in total cases and hospitalizations, we may be two to three weeks from crowding out non-COVID care” in our largest hospital systems. So, once again, I am asking our Bobcat community to be strong participants in these state and nationwide efforts: wear a mask, stay six feet apart, avoid gatherings, wash your hands, and get tested.
As we approach the holidays, I would like to remind you that you need to be tested before you return to your permanent residence. Take advantage of the resources at Ohio University to know your status so you can go home and enjoy your holidays with peace of mind. Governor DeWine has specifically asked college students to test before going home to minimize spread. Ohio COVID Operations will be sending you an email request to schedule a test before Thanksgiving Break. If you are going home before the break you need to test sooner, you may request an earlier test. Pre-Thanksgiving tests are also available to full-time employees. You may request a test by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Housing advisory system
Last week, we shared a preview of Ohio University’s new housing advisory system. To find out the status of each residence hall, visit the COVID Dashboard and click on the “Athens Housing” button. Based on the 7-day positive rate in each hall, Johnson and Shively are in alert level 3: Red; 8 residence halls are in alert level 2: orange; and all others are yellow (no recorded cases). We really need residents of Johnson and Shively to turn the tide by carefully following public health guidelines. Those in other residence halls, please remain vigilant. If you have a student or friend that lives in a residence hall that has a heightened alert level, please reach out to them and ask what you can do to help them stay safe. With the end of the semester approaching, what happens in our residence halls not only affects our students but could also affect their families as well.
Reminder: The OHIO COVID process
As we gear up for more students to return to campus during Spring semester, it is especially important that everyone understand the protocols we have in place to care for them if they should become exposed or infected. Our protocols are identical for every OHIO campus. If you are symptomatic, have tested positive or have been exposed, here is what you need to do:
- Call the COVID Hotline: – The COVID hotline can assess your symptoms and exposure, or can order a test or advise you where to get one. They will link you with a clinical case manager who will monitor your symptoms. Upon completion of isolation or quarantine, they will send you an email releasing you from case management services. You will eventually need to send that email documentation to your COVID Campus Liaison so watch for it and do not delete it.
- Complete the COVID-19 Incident report: You will be assigned to a COVID Campus Liaison (CCL) who will help you successfully isolate or quarantine. They will also notify your college about your absence and process your clearance to return to campus. To be released, you must provide your CCL the appropriate documentation – if you are in isolation or quarantine that means health department documentation and case management release.
- Get tested: The hotline will help you arrange testing if you are symptomatic or are identified as a close contact. Testing is an essential part of COVID prevention. Testing negative once does not mean that you will stay negative. If you are in Athens, you will be expected to participate in asymptomatic testing on a regular basis. Many counties outside Athens have pop-up testing that we encourage you to take advantage of. Save your test results, you may have to share them with your CCL to get cleared to return to campus.
- Work with the health department: Your local health department will provide you with an isolation or quarantine order if you are positive or have been identified as a contact. Share this order with your CCL as soon as you receive it!
Paperwork, emailing, and communication might be the last thing you want to do when you aren’t feeling well. However, these are the best ways we can keep in touch, make sure you’re okay, and clear you to return to campus once you’re well. Remember to regularly scan your email for subject lines that have to do with testing, your COVID Campus Liaison, quarantine or isolation orders, and clearance documents. Keeping track of these will make the process much easier.
Cases continue to increase in all counties where there is an Ohio University campus. Athens and Belmont counties are the only counties that have not turned to red alert status. While the infection rates are trending up in all counties, the infection rates are relatively low on each of our campuses. Over the last week, the COVID hotline reported 16 cases in Athens, three at Southern, one in Chillicothe, one at the Dublin Campus, one at Zanesville, and no new cases at the Cleveland and Lancaster campuses.
COVID fatigue is real – we are all tired of restricting our lives, and we miss time with family and friends. I feel this too; I watch my children, my students, and my community and worry for us all. Rates are increasing rapidly in Ohio, the nation and across the world. While we heard promising results from Pfizer regarding a vaccine, we are a long way from having a vaccine that is widely available, and we are already facing hospital shortages in many locations. There is a lot that each of us can do to keep the OHIO community safe. They are the same things you are probably tired of hearing about by now: wear a mask, wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, stay away from large social gatherings, and sanitize frequently.
I will echo Dr. Thomas’ words from yesterday, “you may not be worried about your own health but worry about your neighbor, worry about the grocery worker, worry about your relatives and about your community.” The best way to respond to a threat that thrives on our social connections is to pull together, think of others, and trust the advice of experts This pandemic is a generation-defining moment. Never before has each of us had the opportunity to step up and in our own small way, become a hero whose actions could quite possibly save the life of another. I promise you this will not go on forever. In the meantime, stay strong, stay committed, and stay tuned.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations