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OHIO announces new public health measures

Published: June 16, 2021 Author: Staff reports

President Sherman and the Public Health Operations team announced on June 16 new COVID-19 public health measures for OHIO’s campuses. Effective immediately, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors, except where otherwise required in healthcare or clinical environments, and on public transportation. Unvaccinated people are required to wear masks indoors, and we advise that they also do so outdoors if physical distancing of six feet cannot be maintained.

Fully vaccinated individuals also no longer have to maintain physical distance in non-classroom indoor public spaces on campus. In classrooms, everyone is required to maintain three feet of distance, regardless of vaccination status. In all other indoor public spaces, unvaccinated individuals are required to maintain six feet of physical distance. As already announced, distance is not required outdoors for anyone, though we strongly encourage unvaccinated individuals to maintain distance while outside.

Relaxing these public health measures for fully vaccinated individuals is consistent with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Institutions of Higher Education. Combined with relatively low case rates in the OHIO campus communities and the success at managing disease on campus in the last year through other public health measures, including asymptomatic testing and the Residence Hall Advisory System, Sherman and the Public Health Operations team feel confident to manage disease on campus.

As already announced last week, fully vaccinated individuals also do not have to participate in asymptomatic testing. Unvaccinated students, faculty, and staff need to test weekly through the COVID-19 Testing Pathway Program. Vaccinated or not, those who have not yet selected a pathway, should do so immediately. Those who select the Vaccination Pathway will have an opportunity to upload their vaccine card to be exempt from testing.

Knowing how many choose the Vaccination Pathway will allow OHIO to calculate campus vaccination rates. Although Ohio University is not requiring vaccination against COVID-19, it is highly encouraged.

It is important to note the reason this welcome policy change is possible: The COVID-19 vaccines are working. Vaccination is the leading prevention strategy to protect people from sickness and to end the pandemic. However, there is still a real risk for those who are not vaccinated.

Those not yet vaccinated can book an appointment anywhere in Ohio through the state’s website. The vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing sickness, and mounting evidence suggests they are protecting others around us who are at increased risk for severe illness.

On OHIO campuses, where we support a mixed population of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, we all must be sensitive that not everyone has the same comfort level with these changes. While this will be welcome news to many, some people who are vaccinated may continue to wear masks due to additional health risks or as a preference. It is encouraged that everyone carry a mask and wear it when interacting closely with those who choose to wear a face covering, and to be respectful and compassionate to one another.