Public health update: May 11, 2021
Dear OHIO community members,
Summer semester is off to a great start, with relatively low community case counts on all OHIO campuses, rising vaccination rates, and continued implementation of strategies proven to manage COVID-19 spread. I am confident that together we will keep these trends going in the right direction.
The state of Ohio’s COVID-19 case rate is again on the decline after steadily creeping up from mid-March to mid-April. Gov. DeWine announced last Thursday that Ohio’s current case rate of 140.2 per 100,000 residents is the lowest it has been since mid-October 2020. His goal is to get to less than 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks, at which point he will remove all public health orders.
At Ohio University we have our own 70/50 goal for returning to normal operations: having at least 70 percent of our campus community vaccinated and <50 cases per 100,000 among our community. You can help us all be together again by getting vaccinated, making and keeping all required asymptomatic testing appointments, wearing masks and physical distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings with non-vaccinated people.
Vaccination Pathway is most popular choice
Successfully managing COVID-19 on our campuses for over a year has demonstrated that asymptomatic testing is critical to controlling spread of the virus. Frequent asymptomatic testing has been identified as a best practice tool for managing COVID on college campuses because it allows us to locate and contain outbreaks before they can spread; it is essential to returning to normal campus life. Another essential tool, which we did not have last year, is vaccination. Our new Testing Pathway Program encourages both prevention measures.
We are beginning the Testing Pathway Program this summer, in preparation for fall. Testing is required for all students, faculty, and staff. Your asymptomatic testing frequency will be determined by your vaccination status. Yesterday, those of you who have selected your pathway received specific details about taking your required tests based on which pathway you selected. If you are enrolled for summer classes and have not yet selected your pathway, please do so here.
To date, just under 3,800 students, faculty and staff have selected a pathway, with the majority choosing the fully vaccinated route. The Cleveland and Dublin extension campuses are leading the pack in terms of percent of respondents who are fully vaccinated: 94 percent and 89 percent, respectively. Next is the Athens campus, with 81 percent of respondents fully vaccinated, followed by Lancaster with 69 percent, Eastern (65 percent), Chillicothe (64 percent), Southern (61 percent), and Zanesville (56 percent).
It is important to remember that this data represents only those individuals who have completed the pathway survey, not the full campus community. We think that people who have already selected their pathway are more likely to have been vaccinated, so these numbers likely do not reflect the actual level of vaccination in those campus communities.
As the results of asymptomatic testing demonstrate a continued decrease in virus spread, which I expect will happen after an initial bump in cases in the fall, we likely will reduce the frequency of asymptomatic testing for both pathways. Watch for emails from COVID Operations and follow our social media accounts (Twitter: @covid_ohio, Facebook: @COVID.OHIO, Instagram: @covid_ohio) for information about any changes we make.
How to take your asymptomatic tests
Completing asymptomatic COVID-19 tests according to Testing Pathway requirements is the responsibility of each student, faculty, and staff member. The Vault Health test that we use is quick and easy.
Students, faculty, and staff on regional and extension campuses will utilize Vault’s at-home tests, which use the same highly accurate test kits that we use on the Athens campus. Find details about picking up or ordering your test kits here.
If you are on the Athens campus, you can schedule your tests and find details about taking the tests here. The Vault Health testing center is located at the University’s Golf and Tennis Center, next to the Ping Center. Please note our new hours for summer semester: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The site follows appropriate safety guidelines.
Saturday vaccine clinic opportunity in Athens
OHIO students, faculty, and staff, as well as community members, can select the COVID-19 vaccine of their preference at an upcoming clinic to be held at Heritage Hall on OHIO's Athens campus this Saturday, May 15, from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The Athens City-County Health Department will host the clinic, and walk-ins are welcome.
Pfizer (two-doses) and Johnson & Johnson (one-dose) vaccines will be available, and you can choose whichever vaccine you prefer. Those selecting Pfizer can get either a first or second dose; if you missed an appointment for a second Pfizer dose you are welcome to get your second dose at this clinic. More details are available here.
Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in 12- to 15-year-olds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet tomorrow to evaluate that decision, and we anticipate that the Ohio Department of Health will make the vaccine available for this age group soon, possibly by the end of the week.
A shift in focus: emerging from the pandemic
COVID Operations is busy implementing the Testing Pathway Program for the summer and planning for the fall, with the goal of having a healthy summer and a smooth transition to a full campus come fall. As we shift our focus from managing surges to emerging from the pandemic, there are likely to be questions and concerns about the safety of students, faculty, and staff. The COVID Operations team and I remain available (email us at COVIDoperations@ohio.edu) to discuss your concerns, and to hear your suggestions for getting us closer to 70/50 even as we all struggle with pandemic fatigue. We will continue to evaluate our strategy as more research and guidance becomes available. In the meantime, I hope you all are getting a little rest and relaxation so you can recharge after an incredibly challenging year.
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations