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University leaders share updated COVID-19 protocols for fall

Published: August 4, 2021 Author: Staff reports

The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on Aug. 4, 2021.

Dear students, faculty and staff,

In just under three weeks, we will begin face-to-face classes on all campuses as we return to a more normal learning environment. Even as we are excited about having more students back on all our campuses, we have been closely watching the recent shift in COVID-19 transmission rates here in Ohio and across the country. As you have likely seen in reports from national health experts, recent data indicates that breakthrough infections, though rare, can occur in vaccinated individuals and that even vaccinated individuals may be able to spread the Delta variant.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our public health decisions have been based on developing science, local epidemiology, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ohio Department of Health, and our local health departments. Consistent with several peer institutions in the state of Ohio, we are updating our mask protocols to protect the health of all Bobcats and to reflect updated guidance from the CDC.

Effective tomorrow, students, faculty, staff, and visitors to all OHIO campuses are required to wear masks indoors in public/shared spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Masks also are required when entering, exiting, or standing in line to enter an indoor campus facility and are recommended outdoors for unvaccinated individuals who cannot maintain physical distance. There may be some cases where the University will require masking of everyone outdoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Additionally, we will require asymptomatic testing upon arrival for all residential students, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status. Testing all students upon arrival is our best opportunity to identify infected individuals and curb a potential outbreak. Our asymptomatic testing program last year was successful in minimizing spread and keeping our residence halls open. We are confident this testing system will again set us up for success.

We will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in our campus communities, prepared to again adjust our policy as conditions warrant. The most helpful thing you can do to contribute to a healthy campus is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. So far, only approximately 45 percent of our campus community has provided proof of vaccination through the COVID-19 Testing Pathway Program. All students, faculty, and staff are required to select a pathway by Tuesday, August 10 – please make your selection immediately.

Knowing how many of our community members are vaccinated will help us make decisions including asymptomatic testing frequency and when it might be possible to again ease our masking requirements.  

Students: Don’t forget you can win dinner with Ohio Men’s Basketball head coach Jeff Boals or scholarships including full fall semester tuition if you register your vaccine by this Thursday at 11:59 p.m.

We know you are all excited to return to the bricks, and we share your excitement – let's all work together to make it a healthy fall semester.

Hugh Sherman, Ph.D.

Gillian Ice, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations

Ken Johnson, D.O., FAAO
Chief Medical Affairs Officer
Executive Dean, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine