A look at prevention strategies
The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on February 2, 2021.
Dear OHIO community members,
As we head into week three of the semester, COVID-19 case rates are declining in the state but are increasing on our campuses, most particularly in Athens. It is important to remember that even though the rate of increase has slowed, COVID-19 is still widespread in all counties with an OHIO campus; each of our counties is still at the Level 3/red public emergency status on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, meaning very high exposure and spread.
At OHIO, we take a traditional public health approach in managing COVID-19, which uses three levels of prevention: primary, designed to decrease the risk of infection (masks, distance, vaccines); secondary, to identify people at risk of infection (e.g., close contacts) and those who are asymptomatic or in the early phase of an infection; and tertiary, aimed at minimizing the impact and spread of the disease (isolation/quarantine and case management). Today I’d like to take some time to explain our secondary prevention strategy, which is a comprehensive testing program.
Asymptomatic testing: Why Vault and CVS?
Many of you have asked why we have two asymptomatic testing programs. We use Vault Health for regular testing of all students who have a campus presence, and we do wide net testing through CVS as needed to monitor potential outbreaks. The Vault program allows us to broadly monitor whether virus incidence is decreasing or increasing on campus, and to identify and isolate positive individuals, with the goal of identifying potential outbreaks.
If a Vault test identifies a positive individual, we may employ wide net testing to identify clusters and curb a potential outbreak. Wide net testing involves quickly testing a specific group of individuals who may have had contact with a positive case; we do this at our CVS rapid-result testing location on the Athens campus. Look for more details on these programs in OHIO News.
As a reminder, testing is required if you plan to be on any OHIO campus, unless you have an approved exemption.
What Vault test results mean
Even if you are not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, if you receive a positive test result, you are carrying the virus, and could pass it to others. It is extremely important to isolate and follow the University’s protocol for positive test results.
A negative test result is not a license to skip precautions. Your status could change, for example if you were exposed but there was not yet enough virus in your system for the test to detect, or if you become exposed. It is critical to continue to take everyday precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, wash your hands, stay apart, and stick with your asymptomatic testing program.
In the unlikely event that you receive an inconclusive test result, the University will request that you test again in three to four days. In the meantime, continue to take everyday precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Important reminder if you are experiencing symptoms
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 -- which can include feeling like you have a minor cold or flu -- it is important that you do not go to the Vault Health asymptomatic testing location on the Athens campus. You could be spreading the virus to anyone you encounter along the way or at the testing site.
If you are experiencing symptoms, call the Ohio University COVID-19 Hotline (877-682-6819), submit an Incident Report and follow the rest of OHIO’s protocol for positive, symptomatic or exposed individuals.
As the COVID-19 vaccines become available, the University encourages all faculty, staff and their family members to get the vaccine as soon as they become eligible through the state’s phased program. Delaying could mean waiting unnecessarily long until the opportunity comes again. Beyond personal protection, vaccines are a critical tool to halting the transmission of the virus within the community, which is what will eventually get our lives back to normal.
This week, individuals over 70 years of age and employees of K-12 schools are Ohio’s priority for vaccinations, and the Athens City-County Health Department plans to vaccinate 1,200 Athens County school employees at Heritage Hall on the Athens campus on Friday. This is a huge step in getting kids back to school.
COVID Operations has launched a new website for vaccine information. Here you can find updates on the state’s vaccine response, the University’s role, and how it affects our campus communities. There are updates on OHIO’s preparations, current availability and projections in the state, and links to helpful resources.
Dealing with pandemic frustration
As the pandemic continues, it is difficult to watch people who simply do not see COVID as a primary risk to their lives, and who therefore are not compelled to change their behavior. Even though more than half of Ohio’s 11,175 deaths have occurred since Nov. 1, many individuals still struggle to see the ways basic public health measures benefit them. It is very frustrating when other people’s behaviors negatively affect our communities.
To combat my own feelings of frustration, I try to focus on the things I can control. I can wear a mask, wash my hands, and keep my distance. I can work hard to make sure OHIO tests students regularly; to share valuable information about COVID-19 in as many different venues as possible; to isolate and quarantine individuals in our OHIO community when appropriate; to support the health department in their efforts; to support students, faculty and staff in isolation and quarantine; and the list goes on. I am grateful to so many of you who focus on what is within your control to help slow the spread.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations