News and Announcements

Public health update: Feb. 1, 2022

The following message was shared with the OHIO community on Feb. 1, 2022.

Dear OHIO community members,

Last week I shared data illustrating the significance of the surge in COVID-19 cases we are experiencing at OHIO. Our numbers are coming down significantly now and, if this trend continues, we anticipate being able to gradually lift public health measures. If we all continue doing our best to prevent transmission and maintain this course, we should be able to start with bringing back in-person events in the next few weeks. COVID-19 transmission remains high in all of Ohio and throughout the country but is trending down. We are watching campus transmission closely and will make decisions based on that information. Now is the time for all of us to double down on prevention: taking precautions that decrease transmission risk will help drive our numbers down and move us beyond this surge.

A new omicron variant, BA.2, is quickly becoming a dominant strain in several countries, extending the length of their omicron waves. Although BA.2 might spread more readily, it does not appear to cause more severe disease, and vaccines appear to be as effective against it as they are against other forms of omicron. Although this new variant could slow the pace of the omicron surge’s decline, at this point it does not appear to be a new threat. 

Yesterday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which will be marketed as Spikevax. This updates its previous status from Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to full approval, which means the vaccine meets FDA’s most rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality. We hope that this approval will help some of our community members feel more confident getting vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Data continue to show importance of vaccines and boosters

Getting more people vaccinated and boosted continues to be a key component of our strategy to fully emerge from this pandemic. The more people who are up to date on COVID-19 vaccines in a community or region, the less the virus can spread and the fewer disruptions we will have to our lives. Vaccines and boosters provide essential protection against infection from and transmission of COVID-19.  

The highest rates of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue to be among unvaccinated older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 

  • In December, monthly hospitalization rates were 46 times higher in unvaccinated adults ages 50 to 64 years compared to fully vaccinated individuals with additional or booster doses. The hospitalization rate was 52 times higher in adults ages 65 years and older.

Though older adults are affected most severely, COVID-19 is still a health threat for younger people. The CDC reports that in December, compared to fully vaccinated individuals in the following age groups, monthly rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations were:

  • Eight times higher in unvaccinated adolescents ages 12-17 years.
  • 12 times higher in unvaccinated adults ages 18-49 years.
  • 18 times higher in unvaccinated adults ages 50-64 years.

These are the age groups that include most of our students, faculty, and staff. This data highlights the importance of staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccination (up to date means receiving all recommended vaccines, including boosters when eligible), no matter your age.  

Here at OHIO, although 88.5 percent of all students, faculty, and staff across all campuses are vaccinated, only approximately 31.2 percent of those individuals have reported getting a booster dose. If you’re boosted, please let us know by uploading your booster record.

I encourage you to get your primary vaccine series and your booster dose as soon as you are eligible. You can walk in or make an appointment at the Heritage Community Clinic at Grosvenor West on the Athens campus any Friday this month, or schedule an appointment anywhere in Ohio.

Protecting our communities can help decrease disruption

I often hear comments that college students don't need to worry about COVID because they don’t typically get as sick when infected. This mindset doesn’t consider who an infected student might pass the virus to, and it doesn’t account for the disruption that infection brings into our homes, friend groups, schools, and workplaces.

All of us at Ohio University interact with various surrounding communities and organizations. Any one of us could unintentionally spread the virus to anyone we encounter, including infants and the elderly. Beyond making people sick, when we continue spreading the virus we prolong the disruptions that are taking such a toll on us all. Using simple precautions to reduce the spread of the virus, regardless of our personal fear of infection, means caring for one another and reducing the impact of this pandemic on our lives.

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

February 2, 2022
Staff reports