Cases continue to rise in Ohio
The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on Dec. 2, 2020.
Over the last week, cases have continued to rise and all counties hosting an Ohio University campus are now ranked “red” on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System (except Franklin, which remains purple). Almost the whole state is now red or higher, with four counties currently at purple and 11 counties on the watch list. Currently, 5,060 Ohioans are hospitalized with COVID-19. Since I wrote you last Tuesday, 430 Ohioans have died of the virus. Over the past two weeks, cases in Ohio have increased by 18 percent, deaths have increased by 88 percent, and hospitalizations have increased by 54 percent. Rural areas have been particularly hard hit, with many hospitals concerned about high numbers of intensive care patients. Meanwhile, many individuals have been traveling and gathering with friends and family, potentially spreading COVID-19.
Even if you are currently feeling fine, it may take five to 10 days after exposure before symptoms develop and the infection becomes apparent on a test. According to the CDC, 97.5 percent of people with COVID-19 who have symptoms will exhibit them within 11.5 days of being infected (with a median of four to five days between exposure and symptoms onset). Think about all the places you go and all the people you meet in a week and a half: that is a long time to potentially be carrying and spreading this virus. As Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, noted this weekend, “if you are young and you gathered, you need to be tested five to 10 days later. But you need to assume you that you are infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask.” For those of you attending classes or other academic activities, please act as if you could be infectious – keep a distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands.
How to get tested
We continue to receive a lot of requests for tests and it’s important to remember that you will go about scheduling a test differently depending on if you are experiencing symptoms or not. If you are symptomatic or have a known exposure to a positive person, call the COVID-19 Hotline: 877-OU-COV19 (877-682-6819). If you are in Athens and not experiencing symptoms, you can get an asymptomatic test until Dec. 11 by using the same link you’ve used before or by emailing COVIDoperations@ohio.edu.
Testing is important but has its limits
We encourage everyone in the OHIO community to get tested regularly so that you know your status. This is a major part of our effort to control spread. However, that negative test isn’t a green light to change your behavior; you must continue to follow the basic public health measures. Testing only indicates your status at that moment in time. Given the incubation period noted above, you may test negative one day and positive the next. The only way to remain negative is maintain distance, avoid crowds, wear a mask, and wash your hands frequently.
Although cases increased across the state, our positive cases have remained relatively low among our students and employees. We screened a large number of students and employees on the Athens campus leading up to Thanksgiving, and the positivity rate remains low. Over the last week, the hotline reported 24 positives in Athens, two in Dublin, one in Cleveland, one at Eastern, one at Southern, one at Zanesville, and no new cases at the Chillicothe or Lancaster campuses.
Over the next two weeks of the semester, while most students are learning remotely, we expect that we will have few cases associated with campus. In-state students can continue to get services through the hotline if experiencing symptoms, have a known exposure, or have tested positive.
Look for bright spots this holiday season and hold the course
As we wind down the semester and look toward the holidays and an eventual vaccine in the New Year, I want to applaud the communal spirit our students, faculty, and staff have shown by taking steps to protect not only themselves but also the community at large. This pandemic has been a defining moment for all of us, and I am proud to say most of us have responded in a thousand small, heroic ways. I know the holidays are going to look different this year and I want to encourage you to find little bright spots wherever you can. Hold the course: there are hopeful developments on the horizon. Until then we will continue to do all we can to care for and protect our people and our communities with every capacity that we have.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations