Ohio University

COVID campus liaisons are here to help

Published: February 9, 2021 Author: Staff reports

The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on February 9, 2021:

Dear OHIO community members,

As we move past the holiday surge, COVID-19 case numbers have declined nationally and in the state. Unfortunately, our numbers on the Athens campus continue to increase, with 135 new cases reported by the Ohio University COVID-19 Hotline in the last week, almost all identified by asymptomatic testing. Currently, our OHIO community accounts for over 80 percent of Athens County cases.  Last week, Pickering Hall reached red status on the housing advisory system, but it has now declined to orange.

We anticipated and planned for these increases with large numbers of students returning to Athens. Still, each of us is responsible for working to bring those case numbers down. I understand that many of you are tired of COVID Operations reminding you to wash your hands, keep your distance, and wear your mask.  However, until we have increased access to vaccines, those simple precautions remain the most effective way to slow the spread.

COVID Campus Liaisons are Here to Help

Last week, I explained that OHIO takes a traditional public health approach in managing COVID-19, which includes primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. This week, I want to describe our tertiary prevention strategy, aimed at minimizing disease impact and spread through isolation, quarantine and case management.

Our team of COVID Campus Liaisons (CCLs) provides these services, bringing with them a combination of experience in case management, crisis response, student affairs, and customer service.

COVID Campus Liaisons support OHIO students, faculty and staff on all campuses during isolation and quarantine. They also perform case investigations and contact tracing on behalf of the Athens City-County Health Department for all cases related to the Athens campus. The CCLs do not report the details of your exposure to the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility or to University Human Resources.

Since New Year’s Day alone, our CCL team has responded to over 1,400 Incident Reports, which have resulted in 1,800 telephone follow-ups with detailed conversations leading to:

  • 831 COVID-positive individuals receiving direct care and support throughout their isolation period
  • 652 individuals identified as close contacts who were able to help stop the spread via quarantine, with support from CCLs

It is difficult to accurately describe the volume and variety of phone calls and emails that our team receives and makes, and I am grateful for the thoughtful ways in which they respond to our communities’ needs. If you get a call from one of these folks, please answer it. They are calling to help!

Better yet, if you have a COVID concern on any OHIO campus, give them a call. CCLs are available to all OHIO students, faculty and staff Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and noon to 5 p.m. on the weekends, at (740) 566-8445.

COVID-19 Testing Incentive Program

I understand that participating in OHIO’s asymptomatic testing program takes time out of students’ busy days. To recognize and thank those students who  keep doing their part to make campus as safe as possible, COVID Operations is launching the Be Safe Bobcats COVID-19 Testing Incentive Program with drawings for prizes all semester long.

Each time you test with Vault, we will enter your name in a drawing. Keep an eye on our social media accounts for announcements of winners every week through April. Prizes range from small weekly gifts to major awards like our grand prize, a MacBook Pro. There is also a special incentive for the residence hall with the best testing compliance. We will post numbers on residence hall compliance, and we hope to see some friendly competition.

Vaccine interest survey will gauge demand

This week Ohioans 65 years of age and older become eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine as part of Phase 1B. Each week, the state receives approximately 140,000 doses of vaccine to distribute to Ohioans in this phase. With 2.2 million Ohioans in this group, the weekly impact is gradual but steady.

Today, COVID Operations is launching a vaccine interest survey for the OHIO community so that we can gauge demand among our students, faculty and staff. Currently, the University is not able to directly provide vaccines, but we continue to advocate for our community and want to be prepared to distribute the vaccine if it becomes more widely available.

This voluntary survey also will help us understand what types of vaccine-related information people want as they make decisions about getting vaccinated. If you are an OHIO student, faculty, or staff member, I encourage you to take a minute to complete this brief survey.

On Friday, I stopped by Heritage Hall while 1,036 Athens County K-12 employees were being vaccinated by Athens City-County Health Department staff, with the help of volunteers from the University. It was one of the most uplifting things I’ve experienced in a while, and it gave me a glimpse of happier days ahead.

Prioritize connection

Thursday evening, I was heartened to see OHIO students participating in a COVID-safe craft night at Baker Center, sponsored by Housing & Residence Life. Of course, they had to take safety precautions not normally associated with a craft night, but it didn’t stop them from creating and connecting. While this virus is with us, we all must work creatively to find connection, and I am grateful for Student Affairs’ commitment to making opportunities for our students to do so.

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught me, it is to value the connections I have with people. I’ll admit that sometimes I get frustrated that my favorite activities and interactions are changed or limited. At the same time, I know that these challenging restrictions protect the people around me. I hope during this time of physical distancing that each of us discovers new ways to stay connected to supportive and caring people, and that we can discover new ways to support and care for others. I believe that feeling connected will help build resilience in these challenging times.

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