News and Announcements

Public health update: Feb. 15, 2022

The following message was shared with the OHIO community on Feb. 15, 2022.

Dear OHIO community members,

As I indicated in a campus-wide email on Friday, an overall continuous decline in cases among our campus community made it possible to remove some of the prevention measures the University had put in place due to the omicron surge. We will continue to evaluate campus safety and adjust public health measures accordingly. Because transmission remains high in 98 percent of U.S. counties, including most of Ohio, being consistent with testing and indoor mask use is very important.

While I remain cautiously optimistic, it is important to note that, after four weeks of decline in cases, we experienced a large increase at the end of last week with our wide net testing (testing groups of individuals based on exposures). This may be a short-term change rather than an indication of a reversal of trends, but we need to remain vigilant. 

Changes (again) to quarantine policy

What would the pandemic be without constant change? Based on recent policy changes from the Ohio Department of Health and the Athens City-County Health Department we have implemented some changes to the OHIO COVID-19 Protocol.

Individuals who meet the following criteria are not required to quarantine after a known exposure to COVID-19 (but still are required to follow the protocol, which includes submitting an incident report, testing, and masking): 

  • Students who live off campus, faculty, and staff.  
  • Residential students who are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines or who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days, provided their vaccination and/or booster record is on file with the University. 

Students who live in residence halls who are not up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines or who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are required to quarantine in addition to other steps outlined in the protocol. 

These changes affect only the exposure section of the protocol. Protocols for testing positive or experiencing symptoms are unchanged.

All OHIO students, faculty, and staff are required to follow the OHIO COVID-19 Protocol if they test positive, experience symptoms, or are exposed to COVID-19. 

Rapid antigen tests available on all campuses

The Ohio Department of Health has made available a limited supply of BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests for colleges and universities. These tests are now available for students, faculty, and staff on all campuses (limited to one per person, per week).

Antigen tests detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which implies current viral infection. Therefore, they are most accurate when an individual is most contagious. Antigen tests are not as sensitive as PCR tests, which can detect lower viral loads, so they are prone to false negatives. (Our Vault Health and CVS testing centers use PCR tests, which are more accurate.)

Rapid antigen tests are convenient to use and can be a helpful tool to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, particularly when checking your own health before a gathering or before visiting with high-risk individuals. Likewise, they are useful for checking your health after participating in a higher-risk activity such as being in close contact with others from outside your household (be sure to wait until at least five days after the event to test).

These tests can’t eliminate the risk of many of the activities we all want to return to but combined with vaccination, boosters, masking and other prevention strategies they can help us reduce the chance that we will spread the virus.  

Tools to help us get back to normal

The pandemic brings an array of exhausting decisions: Should we visit elderly relatives? Is it safe to go to a restaurant? Do I let my child participate in a sleepover? It’s no wonder many of us are worn out from constant risk assessment, not to mention the reduction in joy that a focus on risk can bring. Add to that, constant disruption to our lives.  

Case rates are still high, but they are coming down. SARS-CoV-2 is still looking for a ready host wherever it can, but we have more tools to block it than ever before: vaccines, boosters, readily available testing, high-filtration masks. On an individual level these tools make decisions easier because we can mitigate risks to ourselves and loved ones. On a population level, the collective use of these tools is helping us get back to normal by controlling transmission.

I appreciate our OHIO community’s understanding and use of these important tools. 

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

February 16, 2022
Staff reports