Public health update: Nov. 23, 2021

Published: November 23, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Dear OHIO community members,

OHIO’s November 15 deadline to be vaccinated against COVID-19 has passed. I am proud of our efforts to protect each other and hope you feel some of that pride with me. We have made great strides against this deadly virus even with a national conversation about vaccine hesitancy and misinformation abounding. Our vaccination rate achievement here at OHIO is remarkable! 

  • Across all OHIO campuses, 84.2 percent of all students, faculty, and staff are vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The 89.9 percent vaccination rate for our on-campus students is excellent! The following residence halls reached 95 percent or above: Skyview Apartments, Johnson Hall, Washington Hall, Bryan Hall, Lincoln Hall and Treudley Hall. Residents of these halls can expect a special treat on December 1. 
  • We had a good showing among sororities and fraternities, too, with the following organizations reaching 90 percent or above: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Omicron Pi, Delta Zeta, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Kappa. 

On the Athens Campus, 89.2 percent of students, faculty, and staff are vaccinated, compared with 46.4 percent of Athens County residents. Our regional campuses are outpacing their home counties’ vaccination rates as well: 

  • Chillicothe 62.7% (Ross County 44%) 
  • Eastern 53.8% (Belmont County 39.7%) 
  • Lancaster 57.9% (Fairfield County 51.4%) 
  • Southern 63.8% (Lawrence County 32%) 
  • Zanesville 60.6% (Muskingum County 44.4%)

I feel good knowing that so many of us are protected against the virus, especially as we head into the holiday season and people spend more time indoors. If you are not yet vaccinated and would like to gain this protection against the virus, find information here about campus clinics and how to schedule a vaccine anywhere in Ohio.

Keep safeguards in place for the holidays

As we prepare to break for the holidays, early indicators in the state and the country are that we can expect a winter surge of COVID cases. We are seeing an uptick in some counties that host an OHIO campus, as well as a slight increase in cases on the Athens campus and in our residence halls. These increases are within manageable limits because of the precautions we have in place: a high vaccination rate, regular testing, washing hands, and masking indoors in public places. We all can use these safeguards to keep ourselves and others safe as we navigate the holiday season.

Seasonal flu is on the rise

On top of COVID-19 remaining a serious concern, we are also watching the flu season start to take off.  

OhioHealth Campus Care reported an increase in flu last week on the Athens campus, with a flu test positivity rate of over 30 percent for the last several days. A flu outbreak at the University of Michigan last week was so large that a team of investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited to learn about the spread of the virus on campus. We are working to prevent that from happening here. 

Last year, so many people staying home, physically distancing, masking, and washing their hands to mitigate COVID also likely contributed to unusually low flu activity, including a decline in flu incidence, hospitalizations, and deaths. This year, people are back in action and flu is circulating along with the virus that causes COVID-19. Public health experts are concerned about the potential for a “twindemic” – a virulent flu season along with COVID surges. 

We have prepared this information for students, faculty, and staff about how and where to get a flu vaccine, as well as information about what to do if you experience flu symptoms or get sick.

Test when you return to campus

Traveling and gathering indoors with people during the Thanksgiving holiday brings opportunities for all viruses to be transmitted. I encourage all of us -- students, faculty, and staff -- to take an asymptomatic COVID-19 test after returning from your holiday travel. Appointments are available on the Athens campus through CVS and Vault Health. Individuals on regional campuses can pick up at-home test kits. 

If you haven’t already scheduled or taken an asymptomatic COVID-19 test before leaving town this week, there are still appointments available tomorrow at the CVS clinic on the Athens campus. Make sure you aren’t accidentally bringing your friends and family an unwelcome visitor!

So much to be thankful for

I am thankful for so much this Thanksgiving. I love that we are together on campus again, and that we can look forward to gathering with our people for the holidays. Vaccines are protecting individuals and communities from COVID-19, and many children as young as five will be fully vaccinated before the New Year. An oral antiviral is likely to be available soon that has shown to help high-risk, unvaccinated individuals avoid hospitalization and death if they get infected with the virus. Although preventing a disease through vaccine and other public health measures is preferable to treating it once it takes hold, we appreciate every tool to fight the pandemic. 

We also can be thankful for everything we have learned about how to prevent the virus since last Thanksgiving. Just think: at this time last year we didn’t even have a vaccine yet! We also now know from experience on our campuses that when we use the precautions available to us – masks, testing, vaccine, washing hands – we keep each other safe. Thank you for supporting these measures and caring for your fellow students and colleagues; I am truly thankful.

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


COVID boosters available for all adults, campus clinics planned

Everyone ages 18 and up who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is now eligible for a booster shot.

If you got an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), you may get a booster dose six months after you’re fully vaccinated. If you got a one-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson), you may get a booster dose two months after you’re fully vaccinated.

Anyone eligible for a booster dose can schedule one anywhere in Ohio via the state’s vaccination website. Additionally, boosters are available at these upcoming clinics on the Athens campus. All of the Athens campus clinics will have Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine available.