Community spread is high throughout the state
The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on Nov. 24, 2020.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, the state COVID-19 numbers are increasingly alarming. The Ohio Department of Health reported 11,885 COVID cases yesterday. Today, the cases remain high with an additional 8,604, with thousands of reports still pending. Currently, 4,449 Ohioans are hospitalized with COVID and 98 people died over the last 24 hours. As we know that many people are still choosing to travel and gather at Thanksgiving, these numbers will continue to rise, as will hospitalization rates and deaths. The Governor reported yesterday that hospitals are filling up beyond capacity and large numbers of hospital staff are out due to COVID. We must all do our part to reduce the spread. Unfortunately, that means making tough choices about how we spend the holidays this year.
We had many students, faculty and staff take advantage of asymptomatic testing on campus over the past week; in fact, demand was high enough that we added additional testing days and slots. Although a negative test gives us some peace of mind, it only tells us our status at that time. If you participated in any activities that brought you in close contact with others since testing, you may test positive tomorrow. If you are exposed tomorrow, you may become positive in about five to seven days. Testing is only one aspect of prevention. Ultimately, we protect ourselves and our loved ones by remaining six feet apart and wearing a mask. That means that the safest holiday events include only those from your own household in person and all others joining you virtually.
After Thanksgiving, a small number of students and faculty must return to the Athens campus for in-person instruction. If you are in that group, we will be testing you upon return and weekly until the winter break. Academic programs submitted lists of those students to us, but if you do not receive a request to schedule, please email email@example.com. If you return to Athens for other reasons or do not leave until winter break, please reach out to us to schedule a test.
Looking toward the New Year
We are two months away from the start of spring semester. A great deal can happen between now and then. While the Athens campus positivity rates have steadily declined and the regional campus numbers have remained low, the numbers around us in all counties with an Ohio University campus continue to increase very rapidly. On Tuesday, Athens reported 50 new cases, Ross County 47, Cuyahoga County 1,118, Franklin 878, Belmont 70, Fairfield 186, Lawrence 41 and Muskingum 83. Every county is trending up. The CDC COVID Data Tracker reports the positivity rates in these counties as 14.61%, 14.94%, 15.46%, 12.43%, 14.33%, 13.36%, 8.92% and 15.94%, respectively. This means that although we may be testing more, the percentage of tests returning positive is also increasing. Community spread is very high and as a result the risk to all of us, regardless of campus, is high.
We can turn this around. If we all take steps to reduce spread, we can reverse the trend. I know you’ve heard it before but, now more than ever, we need to keep our distance, avoid gatherings, wear masks and wash our hands. The only way to ensure a safe return for all universities is to bring our numbers down.
I want to end by saying that I am thankful for the Public Health Operations team, our partners at OhioHealth, CVS Health, the Athens City-County Health Department and the many colleagues across our campuses who work so hard to keep us all safe. Our team and partners really went above and beyond to make this fall semester work. I also want to thank all of you who did your part to follow public health guidelines. Although we’ve heard complaints about the few who did not follow the Presidential Health Directives, I want to give a shout-out to the many who consistently made safe choices. Because of you, we made it here to Thanksgiving break!
Wishing you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving,
Dr. Gillian Ice
Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations