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Public health update: July 27, 2021

Published: July 27, 2021 Author: Staff reports

The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on July 27, 2021.

Dear OHIO community members,

With classes beginning in less than a month, we look forward to returning to the campus life so many of us missed last year. Ohio University continues to make health and safety a top priority, following local, state, and national public health guidance, sharing information with other public universities, and implementing successful strategies as the pandemic presents new challenges. 

The recent rise in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. and Ohio is due, in part, to the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant. In the past seven days the United States has seen nearly a 50 percent increase in case counts.

Achieving a high vaccination rate among our campus communities will provide the safest environment possible. The University continues to strongly encourage vaccination, will provide convenient access to vaccines on campus, and is committed to containing the virus through testing and case management. Requiring masking and distancing among those who are not vaccinated, and encouraging it for anyone who wants to protect themselves and others (even if vaccinated), remain important precautions.

OHIO's vaccine incentives fuel vaccination registrations

We are pleased to see an increase in students reporting their vaccination status through the COVID-19 Testing Pathway Program in response to the Bobcats Get Vaxxed Giveaway: Over 37 percent of students expected to be on the Athens campus this fall have uploaded their vaccine cards. This is still too low. So far, nearly 59 percent of employees on the Athens campus have selected the Vaccination Pathway, protecting themselves against the virus and avoiding weekly testing.

On OHIO’s regional campuses, we continue to see very low rates of vaccination registration among students. The Chillicothe and Zanesville campuses are just past the 10 percent mark, with Eastern, Lancaster, and Southern campuses in the nine-percent range. These data correlate with the generally low vaccination rates in their host counties. We're concerned about low vaccination rates because they coincide with high numbers of COVID cases. Lawrence County, where only 14.8 percent of 20-29-year-olds are fully vaccinated, now has the second-highest COVID case rate in the state, with 173 cases per 100,000 people.

Students: Upload your vaccine cards and win a chance for prizes

We are in the third week of the Bobcats Get Vaxxed Giveaway, which encourages students to register their vaccines by offering weekly drawings for prizes including scholarships and special OHIO experiences. Particularly with the low vaccination rates on our regional campuses, I want to highlight the fact that each week we are drawing two winners: one from the Athens campus and one from the regional campuses. If fewer people are registering for the giveaway on regional campuses, regional students who do register have a better chance of having their name drawn. Also, the sooner you select the Vaccination Pathway and upload your vaccine card, the sooner you are eligible to win.

Asymptomatic testing has moved to Shively Hall

If you are on the Weekly Testing Pathway, asymptomatic testing is now located at Shively Hall on East Green. We moved it to improve testers’ convenience and comfort: the new location is central to campus and offers much-needed air conditioning. You can park in designated spaces in the Morton Hall parking lot if you are a testing center visitor. More hours and days will be added for fall semester, as well as conveniently located vaccination clinics for those who would like to get vaccinated and not have to test again.

Vaccine hesitancy: many are "vaccine curious"

Just because someone is not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 does not mean they are “anti-vax.” Starting a respectful conversation with someone in your life who is not yet vaccinated can be far more helpful than making assumptions or labeling them. The conversations that matter the most happen with the people we trust the most; I encourage you to be that trusted person for someone you care about.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the COVID-19 vaccines, and some folks don’t have trusted healthcare providers they can talk to about this topic. Others are concerned about potential side effects and how they may affect their ability to work or provide care to children or other dependents. And children under 12 too are unvaccinated because the vaccines are not approved for their age group. It's important to remember that we can’t know all the reasons why someone might be unvaccinated. No matter the reason, they are vulnerable to the virus. 

By listening to and understanding why someone is not vaccinated we may find common ground and even an opportunity to kindly and respectfully discuss the topic. If you are not vaccinated, please talk with your primary care provider and read reputable sources, and please consider vaccination.

The time is now: protect yourself

COVID-19 is a preventable disease. When you are fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Two-dose vaccines are dosed either three or four weeks apart, meaning it takes five to six weeks from your first dose to build full immunity. Four weeks from yesterday, we will welcome thousands of students to our campuses. If you have not yet protected yourself with a COVID-19 vaccination, I urge you to do so as soon as possible so that you have as much protection as possible. You can use this online tool to schedule your vaccine anywhere in the United States, or call your local health department to make an appointment.

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