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Weekly public health update: April 6, 2021

Published: April 6, 2021 Author: Staff reports

The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on April 6, 2021.

Dear OHIO community members,

After a rapid decline from our winter surge and a short plateau, COVID-19 cases have begun to increase across the nation and within Ohio. We are experiencing a small uptick at Ohio University, primarily on the Athens campus. Variants are part of this fourth surge, but people also are starting to let their guard down with the warm weather and continuing pandemic fatigue. How far the fourth surge reaches and how long it lasts depends on our collective behaviors and choices. We are in a race to vaccinate before too many variants take hold. Consistency in our public health precautions will help us find the quickest way back to normal. Doing too much too early puts us at real risk of losing the progress we’ve made so far.

Students: Get fully vaccinated before the semester ends

I am excited that Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have allocated vaccines for Ohio University to offer students at on-campus clinics. Athens students can register now for a free vaccine appointment at Heritage Hall. We want to vaccinate as many college students as possible before they leave campus for the summer. 

Even though the end of the school year is a busy time, it is worth prioritizing getting vaccinated since there is no guaranteed future access to vaccines. Moreover, it will give you more freedom and peace of mind all summer, and it will help us get to a more normal fall. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 means you can start to do some of the things you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

To clarify, the student vaccination clinics are in addition to existing doses and appointments available at various local providers and will not take vaccines away from community members. OHIO students on regional and extension campuses, and all Ohioans, can register for vaccine clinics in their communities here.

Safety precautions for graduation

Graduation is an exciting time to share accomplishments with our loved ones. The event also brings people together around campus and throughout the city for celebrations. As we prepare for an influx of people into our small community, the University will be taking safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus and to our neighbors in Athens.

Precautions for graduates will include pre-commencement asymptomatic testing. We highly encourage our guests to get a test before visiting Athens. Precautions for the ceremonies will include mask policies, socially distanced seating, and staggered check-in times. Review all precautionary measures on the Spring 2021 Commencement page.

Bobcat Health Ambassadors are on the move

Beginning this week, a team of students trained in peer health education will be working in high-traffic areas on campus to bring attention to healthy behaviors that can help end the pandemic. These Bobcat Health Ambassadors are part of Doing Our Part: Keeping Bobcats Safe, a new peer health initiative to promote specific actions we all can take to help end the pandemic. 

Nine ambassadors are working in pairs around campus, engaging people in conversation in hopes of also hearing about people’s COVID-19 questions and experiences. They also are prepared to help anyone register for a vaccine at one of our upcoming student clinics or through the state’s web portal.

Help spread the word about mobile vaccination clinics

Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Community Health Programs is hitting the road this week with a multi-county mass vaccination clinic effort across Southeast Ohio. The mobile unit’s first clinic took place today in Lawrence County, with additional stops this week in Washington and Morgan counties. Clinics also are scheduled for Perry, Vinton and Meigs counties. 

One of the biggest challenges of these mobile clinics is getting the word out to community members who could benefit from them. Please take a moment to look at this list of destinations and think about people you may know in those communities and share this valuable information with them. Anyone age 18 and older can register for an appointment from that page.

Public health officials help protect communities

As the vaccination effort picks up speed throughout the state, I am feeling hopeful. Students, faculty, and staff on many OHIO campuses have played important volunteer roles in local vaccination efforts. In each of those counties, a local health department has been at the helm of these incredible undertakings, working long hours and hectic days for the health of their communities.

Here in Athens, the Athens City-County Health Department has done a phenomenal job at getting vaccines to the Athens community and to OHIO students, faculty, and  and staff. The pandemic has highlighted the crucial role that public health practitioners play in our communities and in our lives. This year, perhaps more than any other, I am pausing during National Public Health Week to think about what I’ve witnessed firsthand: professionals who put themselves at risk and work tirelessly to protect the health and safety of our communities. I hope you will join me in reflecting on the many ways that our local health departments protect and improve the health of our communities and the people who live in them. I am both grateful for and inspired by their work.

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