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Public health update: Dec. 7, 2021

Published: December 7, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Dear OHIO community members,

We have plenty to celebrate as we wrap up the semester. More OHIO students, faculty, and staff get vaccinated against COVID-19 every day, and we all can be proud of our 84.8 percent vaccination rate. Our University community’s adherence to prevention measures has helped us keep infection rates relatively low since October, allowing us to return to mostly face-to-face classes next semester. 

Even so, the COVID-19 environment is in flux. While the omicron variant is a concern, the delta variant remains the dominant strain of coronavirus, driving surges locally and nationally. We are seeing an increase in cases among the OHIO community and in the state of Ohio, and the Ohio Hospital Association reports that COVID admissions are again on the rise.  Our colleagues at OhioHealth are seeing unprecedented COVID-related emergency department visits over the past week, as well as a substantial increase in COVID-19 related admissions. 

These changing conditions warrant our attention and action. We already have the tools at our disposal to fight the delta variant and any other emergent variant, including omicron: readily available vaccines and testing, masking, handwashing, and distance. Each of us can and should assess risk factors as we move through our days, making decisions about when and how to layer these precautions to protect ourselves and those around us.

OHIO's public health approach depends on individual participation

OHIO uses a traditional public health approach to managing COVID-19 on our campuses, including primary, secondary and tertiary prevention measures. This strategy has successfully kept our campuses open and safe, allowing learning and social activities to increasingly return to normal over the past year.

The OHIO community’s adherence to primary prevention measures – ready access to vaccines, use of masks indoors, and physical distance – has disrupted spread on our campuses. Masks are still required indoors on all OHIO campuses. This important protection remains a critical tool in curbing the current delta surge.

The University’s secondary prevention measures, including asymptomatic testing and contact tracing, have helped us identify infected individuals and others who are at risk of infection. Tertiary measures like isolation, quarantine, and case management by COVID Campus Liaisons help us minimize disease impact and spread.

These layered measures reduce risk to individuals on our campuses and they reduce the risk of disruption to campus activities. Our individual choices to “layer up” in different settings (indoors, outdoors, public places, etc.) contribute to our collective safety and help us minimize disruption to class, work, and the activities we enjoy. Just as we add layers of clothing as the weather gets colder, we can layer prevention strategies based on our own risk assessment of a given activity.

COVID-19 vaccination clinics this week

Our vaccination rate on the Athens campus is approaching 90 percent! We need only 87 individuals to get vaccinated and upload proof to cross this major threshold. Can you help us get there? OHIO is hosting two vaccine clinics this week on the Athens campus: 

  • Thursday, December 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Baker Center 240/242
  • Friday, December 10, 9-10:45 a.m., Heritage Hall, Union Street 

Getting a shot this week means you could be fully vaccinated before the New Year. Please consider taking this important step if you haven’t already (or attending a clinic for your second or booster dose). Walk-ins are welcome at these clinics, or make an appointment anywhere in Ohio.

Healthy habits for the holidays

All of us at OHIO are fortunate to have access to asymptomatic testing at no charge. Testing before traveling or attending a gathering can provide peace of mind and prevent any of us from unknowingly spreading the virus.  

Students, faculty, and staff on the Athens campus can schedule tests this week and next. Regional campus students, faculty, and staff can pick up take-home test kits at any campus. Additionally, library systems in all counties that host an OHIO campus, except for Lawrence County, offer free at-home test kits for curbside pickup. Learn more about these testing resources at this link.

Using the prevention measures we have available this holiday season will prevent disease from spreading: get vaccinated, wear masks indoors in public in areas of substantial or high transmission (the entire state of Ohio currently is a high-transmission area), avoid crowded indoor spaces, and wash your hands. We can work together to safely enjoy the season. 

As we come to the close of another semester (and calendar year) I reflect on the progress we have made together: our return to in-person learning and activities, our vaccination rate, and our engagement with each other and the community are all things that make me smile. Our collective efforts to protect community health are not finished, but together we have made huge strides in 2021. I send my support to each of you as you manage the stress of finals week, and hope you are looking forward to cozy and safe holiday activities with your loved ones.

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