Weekly public health update: April 21, 2021
The following message was shared with the Ohio University community.
Dear OHIO community members,
It’s impressive that we at OHIO have made enough progress toward our way out of this pandemic that President Nellis can signal a largely normal fall semester. Even so, statewide progress often feels like a few steps forward followed by almost as many steps back. My social media feed makes it look like everyone is getting vaccinated, while CNN delivers the sobering news that demand for COVID-19 vaccine is now so low in some parts of Ohio (and the nation) that some health districts are shutting down mass vaccination clinics. Whereas a month ago we were making weekly progress toward Gov. DeWine’s goal of removing all public health orders if we reach a threshold of only 50 cases per 100,000 people, last week Ohio accelerated its case rate to 200 cases per 100,000 people.
Despite the national and state setbacks, we at OHIO have done a remarkable job. We started out with very high rates of transmission but, through collective action, have brought the rates down. Except for a few bumps along the road, we really have pulled together and successfully navigated the pandemic on campus.
Student vaccine clinics push us toward 70/50
Our campus student vaccine clinics are inching us toward reaching our 70/50 goal: 70 percent of students vaccinated, and fewer than 50 cases/100,000 among our campus community. Almost 1,900 students had attended a clinic as of yesterday. Just over 1,000 students from the Athens campus have registered their vaccine.
Our final student campus vaccine clinic will take place this Friday at Heritage Hall from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Any student who would like to attend to receive a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine may walk in between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., no appointment necessary. Please take advantage of this easy opportunity to make a critical choice about your health that will also benefit our entire campus community. Those students attending clinics at Heritage Hall receive information about when to return for their second dose at clinics hosted there regularly by the Athens City-County Health Department; they also are welcome to research availability of second doses in their home communities.
COVID-19 testing pathways: choose your way forward
As OHIO returns to a much more normal fall, with increased classroom capacities, more face-to-face instruction, and more student life activities, our imperative to contain the spread of COVID-19 on campus remains the same, but our tools for doing so are greatly improved thanks to access to vaccines.
Beginning this summer, we will ask students, faculty, and staff to select a COVID-19 testing pathway: vaccinated with less frequent testing, or not vaccinated with weekly testing. These two options will allow us to balance our own health and individual choice with our responsibility to protect the health of our community. Vaccinating will be the simplest and most convenient option, but we want to provide every member of our community a choice that will work for them.
Bobcat Health Ambassadors: stories from the field
Our Bobcat Health Ambassadors have had an exciting first couple of weeks out on the Athens campus, engaging students in conversation about COVID-19. I thought it would be helpful to share some information based on the most frequently asked questions they encounter at OHIO:
• Second dose requirements. So far, the top question our Ambassadors are getting is whether someone must get their second dose from the same clinic as the first. Although some vaccine clinics may have to follow that routine due to space or other logistical constraints, some are able to accommodate appointments for a new individual’s second dose. If you are not already vaccinated, I encourage you to get started this week at Friday’s student clinic (see above for details) or anywhere in Ohio via the state registration page.
• Is the second dose different than the first dose? Many of you also have asked if the second vaccine dose is the same as the first. Yes, the second dose of both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine is identical to the first dose of each. Some people’s immune systems react differently to each dose even though the content in the vials is the same.
• Vaccination after infection. Students also want to know how long they need to wait after recovering from COVID-19 to get the vaccine: You can get the vaccine after your period of isolation has ended, unless you received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of COVID-19 treatment, in which case you should wait 90 days before getting vaccinated.
Commencement: Temper celebration with caution
As a reminder, graduating students must complete a Vault Health asymptomatic COVID-19 test no more than five days before their expected arrival on an OHIO campus. If you are an out-of-town student returning to Athens or visiting any OHIO campus for graduation activities and you have not yet requested a test, email COVIDoperations@ohio.edu immediately to discuss your graduation testing and participation options. Those on the Athens campus can schedule their on-campus test any time. Information on commencement testing requirements is available here.
After you get those tasks crossed off your graduation to-do list, take some time to think through how you will celebrate your accomplishments safely to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our campus community.
While you and your guests are in Athens, be aware of high-traffic areas and be mindful not to contribute to an unintentional large gathering – masking and social distancing requirements remain in place. If someone is snapping a photo where you want to pose, don’t crowd them as you wait for your turn. If lines at restaurants or bars are getting long, maintain distance and demonstrate the safety protocols that have helped us keep our campus safe throughout the pandemic.
We all have an important role to play
We know that for many people, the most reliable source of information about getting vaccinated is not going to be a medical expert, but a peer or family member they know and trust. Many of you will soon be back in your home communities, where you may have the chance to encourage hesitant friends or family to get vaccinated. Please take the time to listen to their concerns, share your experience with getting the vaccine, and support them in their consideration of taking this important step toward ending the pandemic. Helping someone feel comfortable enough to get the vaccine will protect that person and all of us as we work together to achieve community immunity.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations