Weekly public health update: April 27, 2021
The following message was shared with the Ohio University community.
Dear OHIO community members,
Not long ago, infectious diseases like smallpox and polio killed hundreds of millions of people. Imagine growing up in the 1950s--with the constant fear of death or paralysis from polio—and then having a grandchild ask, “What is polio?” For over 200 years, scientists have protected us from unnecessary suffering from deadly diseases through vaccine development.
This is World Immunization Week, where we celebrate that 86 percent of infants around the world were vaccinated against polio in 2019. Because of global public health efforts, polio has been stopped in all countries except Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the disease remains present. Though we think of polio as a disease of the past, it remains a threat to us until it is eradicated everywhere, and most of us in the world are fortunate to be able to vaccinate our children against this devastating disease.
Vaccines have so effectively protected us against diseases that threaten lives and livelihoods that not everyone perceives the impact, perhaps because each of us has not experienced loss due to preventable disease. Now, we are all part of a historic effort: a global race to vaccinate as many people as possible before more variants take hold and cause more needless suffering and death from COVID-19. Each of us has a role to play in winning this race: every person who gets vaccinated against COVID-19 brings us closer to ending this pandemic once and for all.
Testing Pathway Program: Keeping campus safe
I hope everyone who is able will choose to vaccinate, but we want all members of our community to have a safe option that will work for them. The Testing Pathway Program requires fully vaccinated students, faculty, and staff to participate in asymptomatic testing only once a month, while those who are not vaccinated must test once a week. If you plan to be on campus this summer, please use the link above to make your choice by Friday, May 7. If you’re not going to be on campus until the fall, you can select your pathway before your return, and we will send you reminders about our safety plan.
Since announcing the Testing Pathway Program, I have received several questions about why it’s necessary to still take asymptomatic tests if we’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. The short answer is that asymptomatic testing is our back-up plan against some uncertainties: vaccines are not 100 percent effective, and we don’t yet know how well they stand up to variants. Additionally, the campus environment includes added exposures: increased travel, congregate living, indoor activities, increased population density, and a risk-taking age group known to be asymptomatic carriers.
We are extremely optimistic that vaccination will be our path out of the pandemic. To get there we must pull together – locally and globally. Disease variants—viral mutations of COVID-19 that are more contagious or deadly-- are lurking and prepared to disrupt our efforts. So are vaccine hesitancy and the lack of vaccine access in parts of the world. At the outset of fall semester, we are unlikely to have enough people vaccinated, so testing will be critical to managing disease. As more people become vaccinated, our asymptomatic testing need likely will decrease. When asymptomatic testing repeatedly demonstrates that there is little to no spread on campus, we will know it is time to test less.
Don’t take COVID-19 home with you: Test this week before you leave
As you prepare to pack up and head home for summer, take the caring step of visiting our Vault Health testing center on the Athens campus to be certain you are not unknowingly carrying the virus home to your loved ones. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends asymptomatic testing before travel for anyone who is not fully vaccinated.
Please review the CDC's recommendations for domestic travel, whether you are vaccinated or not. Testing is available through Fri., April 30, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sat., May 1. It is free and it is easy to protect everyone you’re excited to see at home: just click here to make an appointment.
Call COVID Operations for all COVID-19 questions and concerns
COVID Operations is streamlining some services in preparation for a more normal fall. Beginning this summer semester, COVID Operations will be a one-stop shop for all COVID-19 guidance, rather than individuals needing to contact both the COVID-19 Hotline and COVID Operations.
OHIO community members with questions or concerns about symptoms, exposure, protocols, compliance, or testing can call COVID Operations’ team of COVID Campus Liaisons (CCLs), who will connect us with the appropriate resources. The CCLs are available by phone (740-566-8445) and email (COVIDoperations@ohio.edu) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends.
In addition to calling COVID Operations, OHIO community members should follow the University’s COVID-19 Protocol: Positive, Symptomatic or Exposed.
Plenty to celebrate
As I drove through town the other day, I saw clusters of happy students visiting with one another and taking pictures on our beautiful campus. Please remember to give each other space during celebrations and impromptu gatherings this week. This is an exciting time for OHIO, with lots to celebrate. Many of you are graduating, while others are preparing to head home or to summer jobs or internships. All of us have so much to be proud about: we pulled together, protected our most vulnerable, and kept our campus safe during an incredibly challenging time. I’m grateful for all you have done, and hope wherever you go, that you know you always have a home here with us.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations