Weekly public health update: April 13, 2021
The following message was shared with the Ohio University community:
Dear OHIO community members,
The nation is starting to see a fourth wave of COVID-19, particularly in the Midwest, where cases are trending higher in Ohio, as well. Last week the positivity rate on the Athens campus increased to over 1 percent for the first time since late February but declined to 0.8 percent as of today. Biddle Hall temporarily reached red status yesterday. This unfortunate uptick reminds us that we need to push to get students vaccinated before this small increase turns into a full-blown outbreak.
Our benchmark for back-to-normal operations is for 70 percent of our students to be vaccinated and to consistently remain at a ratio below 50 cases per 100,000 people among our University community over a sustained period. At these goalposts, we can resume normal operations at OHIO, which means even more face-to-face classes, no masks, and no social distancing. I am asking everyone in all OHIO communities to help us reach these goals by getting vaccinated, masking, and maintaining distance until we get there.
Student vaccine clinics will feature Pfizer vs. Johnson & Johnson
Today we learned that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have paused distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after identification of a rare and severe blood-clotting disorder. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution and is absolutely the right thing to do. Nevertheless, it will make it more difficult to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible before COVID-19 variants take hold. It also will make it challenging to meet the student vaccination goals I outlined above.
We have worked quickly and closely with the Athens City-County Health Department and the Ohio Department of Health to shift to administering Pfizer at our upcoming student vaccination clinics. If you are logistically able to get a two-dose Pfizer vaccine here in Athens I encourage you to do so. If that does not work for your calendar, please consider booking an appointment in your home community as soon as possible after leaving campus. As the governor said yesterday when he visited our student clinic, vaccination is your ticket to freedom and to doing the things you want to do.
Get vaccinated and avoid regular COVID-19 testing
As vaccinations increase, we will be able to enjoy a broader range of activities across our campuses. Beginning with Summer Semester, OHIO students who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to participate in weekly asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. I hope that this additional benefit of vaccination will encourage more students to get the vaccine. We will continue testing vaccinated students no more than once a month.
Help me dispel COVID-19 vaccine myths
I have heard from several students with various versions of the same questions about COVID-19 vaccines. Dispelling these common misconceptions is something everyone can help with – please help spread the word and find more details here.
- Getting vaccinated will not give you a false positive on a Vault Health COVID-19 test. The Vault tests are PCR tests, which detect the presence of a virus. There is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests, which indicate you had a previous infection and an appropriate response to vaccine. OHIO does not use antibody tests.
- You need to complete the vaccine series you began with the same product, in the same location. The COVID vaccines are not interchangeable, and the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series have not been evaluated. In the case of students who received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine off campus, we may be able to accommodate your second dose. Contact COVIDoperations@ohio.edu for more information.
- Even if you already had COVID-19 you should still get vaccinated. Experts don’t yet know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering.
COVID Operations to sponsor Red Cross blood drive
Medical conditions and emergencies don’t stop for a pandemic, and the Red Cross has a need for blood donations. COVID Operations will sponsor a Red Cross blood drive on April 26 at Baker Center. I encourage students, faculty and staff to share their good health by giving blood. Beyond the potentially life-saving significance of giving blood, the Red Cross offers incentives for this blood drive:
- Donors age 16 to 25 will receive a $10 electronic gift card usable at a variety of merchants.
- All donors will be entered into a national Red Cross drawing to win one of five $1,000 e-gift cards.
After a year of things you can’t do, giving blood is something you CAN do to make a difference.
Push us to 70/50
There is much to be hopeful for now that we have more and more vaccine available, but we are not yet free of this pandemic. I want to ask you all to push us to 70/50: 70 percent of students vaccinated, and fewer than 50 cases/100,000 among our campus community. Getting there will take effort, but I believe Bobcats can pull together and make it happen by following our primary prevention measures – vaccinate, mask, distance, and wash hands.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations