Safety precautions as we approach the holidays
The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on Nov. 17, 2020.
Last week, we saw the highest recorded number of COVID cases in the State of Ohio. We also have increasing hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths in the state and the nation. Nearly the whole state is at Ohio Department of Health Level 3 Public Health Emergency status. In response, the Governor has announced a daily curfew, effective November 19 from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., which does not apply to those who need to travel for work, for emergency purposes, or for medical care. It still allows for carryout/drive-thru meals and delivery. In addition to the curfew and the recently revised gathering, social distancing and mask orders, the governor has asked everyone to reduce their contacts and to make healthy plans for holiday celebrations.
This weekend it came to my attention that there were several gatherings in off-campus settings. This is extremely disappointing. While you personally may not be at great risk of becoming ill, there are members of this community who are, and many of you will visit vulnerable family members for Thanksgiving. To be clear, gatherings are happening not only in the student community; faculty, staff and community members are also letting their guard down and attending small and large gatherings. I understand that we are all tired of COVID, but the choices that you make now determine the future for all of us. I am asking you to make better choices.
Thank you to everyone in Athens who proactively tested in the last week. I’m thrilled that so many of you took advantage of this resource that is available to you to know your status so you can go home and enjoy the holidays with peace of mind. Testing appointments are full through Thursday but Friday slots will open at midnight, and we have limited availability for Monday and Tuesday of next week. We will resume limited testing for those who must return after Thanksgiving for pre-approved, in-person activities. Please email email@example.com before you return to arrange a test. It is important to note that a negative test only applies to your status in that moment. Staying negative is up to you. To stay negative, you have to physically distance, wear a mask and wash hands.
Despite the rapid increase in cases within the county, Ohio University numbers are increasing slowly. Our hotline reports that in the last week 51 people have tested positive in Athens, one in Cleveland, six in Dublin, and three additional positives at Southern. No additional students, faculty or staff members have tested positive at the Chillicothe, Lancaster or Zanesville campuses. The asymptomatic testing positivity rate has declined to 4.6 percent, with a 7-day average of 3.05 percent. While this is promising, we need to remain vigilant to keep the numbers at a manageable level.
As we approach the holiday season, I implore everyone to be cautious. It will be tough to limit gatherings over the holidays but if we do not, we will face far greater restrictions from the State of Ohio and perhaps the federal government. Being safe now not only protects our communities and loved ones, but it also directly impacts the ability of all universities to return to normal. I wish everyone in the OHIO community a safe and happy holiday season.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations