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Public health update: May 3, 2022

Published: May 3, 2022 Author: Dr. Gillian Ice

Dear OHIO Community,

Congratulations to all of you who graduated over the weekend and to those of you who will be graduating from the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine this coming weekend – you persevered with your academic pursuits during an extremely challenging time in history.  

Spring Semester wound down at an auspicious time for our campuses, as the virus is on the rise among our campus communities and around the United States. We continue to see small outbreaks, often associated with gatherings. This is a reminder to all of us that we can protect ourselves and others simply by putting on a mask when in close proximity with other people, and by testing before attending gatherings. Although our testing centers are now closed, antigen tests are available for pickup on OHIO campuses. If you do get infected, your primary care provider can help you determine if you are a candidate for antiviral treatment.

Thank you for a job well done under trying conditions!

As the University announced last week, COVID Operations is winding down. I want to take this opportunity to thank my leadership team for working incredibly hard over the past 18 months to build the infrastructure that kept our campuses safe. Their work also helped Ohio University achieve a successful rate of vaccination against COVID-19: 89.1 percent across all OHIO campuses. We are proud of this work.

Jivanto van Hemert, Laura Risler, Maria Modayil, Meredith Erlewine, and Ani Ruhil worked long hours to respond to emerging crises on a near daily basis for many of those months. They accomplished their work while often engaging in challenging conversations. To say their jobs have been stressful is an understatement, and I am grateful for their dedication to the University’s goal of keeping our communities safe with as little disruption as possible to the things we all love to do.

This team would not have been able to serve OHIO community members without the COVID Campus Liaisons (CCLs), assistant directors, and the COVID Operations administrative staff who helped tens of thousands of individuals manage their experiences with COVID-19. This includes our “strike team” – individuals who worked part-time when our caseloads were at their highest. Many strike team members were OHIO employees who provided this critical service on top of their day jobs at the University. These individuals helped Ohio University students, faculty, and staff members, as well as residents in the counties we serve, manage illness, isolation, and other pandemic challenges. Through it all, our CCLs served the University and Athens community with empathy.

Our partnership with OhioHealth allowed us to provide testing and clinical care for the OHIO community. I am grateful to Steve Davies, Krista Duval, Elizabeth Fields, Tonya Burdette, LeeAnn Helber, Sydney Webber, and Rhonda Dixon for their guidance and support of the OHIO community.

I want to recognize the incredibly valuable collaboration between Ohio University and the Athens City-County Health Department (ACCHD). Throughout each surge, Administrator Jack Pepper and County Health Commissioner Dr. James Gaskell were in daily contact with me and other University leaders. They helped us evaluate data and strategize our response to surges, always with the goals of protecting health and minimizing disruption to campus activities. I am grateful for their professionalism, their generosity of knowledge and time, and their care for the University community.  

Before vaccines were even available, OHIO Chief Medical Affairs Officer Dr. Ken Johnson offered up the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s brand-new Heritage Hall for ACCHD to use as a mass vaccination clinic site for Athens County. This resulted in ACCHD being able to provide 22,498 COVID-19 vaccinations at Heritage Hall. The partnership between OHIO and ACCHD has resulted in a unique and meaningful collaboration that included not only strategic decision making but also direct support to individuals: this is public health at its best.

We had many on-campus partners, too. HCOM’s Heritage Community Clinic, University Communications and Marketing, Housing and Residence Life, Culinary Services, Office of Information Technology, Facilities Management and Safety, Printing Services, Transportation and Parking Services, Legal Affairs, Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, Office of Global Affairs, International Student and Faculty Services, Community Standards and Student Responsibility, Office of the Registrar, Institutional Effectiveness and Analytics, School of Nursing, College of Health Sciences and Professions, The Center for Advising, Career and Experiential Learning, University Well-Being and Recreation, Regional Higher Education, Athletics, University administrators, the Office of the President, and the Provost's Office went above and beyond their usual scope of work to assist with the pandemic response. Across all OHIO campuses, so many of you contributed to our efforts in big and small ways that were essential to keeping our campuses safe.  

Enjoy summer and be mindful about safety

Moving forward, I will continue in my role of advising University leaders on COVID-related policy and response. I am available to answer your questions, too, about COVID-19 and other public health topics as they relate to our campuses. Please feel welcome to contact me.

Summer offers the opportunity to relax and recharge. Many of us have exciting travel opportunities, and we should look forward to summer with confidence: we have learned so much about how to protect ourselves and others from this virus. We’ve all adapted to easy ways to travel and gather safely, including checking transmission rates to inform our decisions on when and where to mask or employ other precautions. I wish you all a safe and enjoyable summer.  

Dr. Gillian Ice

Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations