Ohio University is witnessing a slowdown in cases reported among its students, according to a university official.
Dr. Gillian Ice, special assistant to OU President Duane Nellis for public health operations, noted in her weekly COVID-19 update, issued on Oct. 20, that the university in the last two weeks had witnessed a “significant increase” in cases among students in residence halls. She said that infections have since slowed, but she also reported seeing "some evidence" of community spread.
Ice noted that students residing in residence halls represent 25 percent of positive cases among students in Athens.
As previously reported, significant outbreaks of the virus in Boyd, Jefferson and Tiffin Halls led to blanket quarantine orders from the Athens City-County Health Department.
“We also saw concerning increases in Sargent, Sowle and Carr Halls,” Ice stated in her update. “Students in these halls were asked to redouble their prevention efforts to reduce the risk of quarantine.”
“We will be increasing mandatory testing of students in residence halls to keep on top of cases and attempt to minimize outbreaks,” Ice said.
As of Thursday, Athens County was ranked fifth in Ohio in terms of COVID-19 occurrence, with 344.4 cases per 100,000 people, the Ohio Department of Health reported.
Also as of Thursday afternoon, there are 1,205 total known cases of COVID-19 in Athens County: 255 are active, and 948 are recovered, according to the health department. Daily cases on average in the county have considerably decreased within the past 7 days, going from an average of about 27 new cases per day to about 12.
Two deaths are associated with the virus in Athens County, both of which were men in the 60-69 age bracket, according to The Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
In the entire state, 190,430 total cases have been reported, and 5,161 deaths are associated with the virus.
OU’s COVID-19 dashboard breaks down cases of the coronavirus and testing associated with the virus.
Of the 3,253 asymptomatic Athens campus students randomly tested for the virus as of Oct. 19 through the university’s partnership with CVS Health, 225 have tested positive — a positivity rate of about 6.9 percent, the dashboard states.
As of Oct. 19, at least 994 students on OU’s Athens campus have self-reported to the university’s COVID-19 hotline that they tested for the virus. At least 492 of those tests came back positive, and at least 81 test results were still pending at the time.
Out of the at least 82 self-reported to the hotline tests for Athens campus employees, five have come back positive. At least six employee tests results were still pending.
The hotline data only accounts for those who self-report results. Young people ages 20-29 continue to make up the vast majority of confirmed and probable cases in Athens County.
Ice noted that numbers of confirmed cases remain low at OU's regional campuses, "but more cases are trickling in." As of Oct. 19, the following cases were reported among students at regional campuses, according to the dashboard:
- Cleveland: 3
- Chillicothe: 1
- Dublin: 3
- Eastern: 1
- Lancaster: 0
- Southern: 5
- Zanesville: 3
The county continued to be labeled Thursday as a Level 2 county in the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System, indicating “increased exposure and spread” of the virus, according to ODH.
Athens County also joins the list of counties in Ohio that are labeled as having a high incidence of cases. These counties are indicated on the system’s map with a “H.”
ODH recommends those traveling to or residing in Level 2 counties exercise “a high degree of caution.”
DeWine in July unveiled the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System, the warning system that measures the severity of the virus in Ohio’s counties by several case indicators: new cases per capita, sustained increase in new cases, proportion of cases that are not congregate cases, sustained increase in emergency room visits, sustained increase in outpatient visits, sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions and intensive care unit (ICU) bed occupancy.
According to the advisory system, Athens County has triggered three of the seven indicators under the alert system: new cases per capita, proportion of cases that are non-congregate cases and new cases increase.
The county had 196 new cases reported over the past two weeks, the system reported.
Between Oct. 14 and Oct. 20, the county had a non-congregate percentage of cases of 89.6 percent.
In addition, the county’s seven day average for new cases sits at 9.
No counties in Ohio are classified as Level 4, the most severe public health advisory.