Students on campus amid pandemic

Two students carrying their take-out boxed lunches from Nelson Commons on Ohio University’s South Green. Photo by Ben Peters.

By Sydney Dawes

Athens NEWS Editor

Ohio University students, faculty and staff who have been fully vaccinated will not need to participate in the university’s mandated COVID-19 testing program.

Special Assistant to the President for Public Health Operations Dr. Gillian Ice announced on Tuesday new adjustments to the university’s COVID-19 protocol.

“I know this comes as a relief to many,” said Ice. She nodded to recent changes in general guidance from the CDC and the state, as well as the status of local public health data.

Last week, the university announced that it would relax public health measures on its campuses, an act made in anticipation of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s June 2 lifting of public health orders.

Following that adjustment to campus measures, The Center for Disease Control announced last Friday new guidance for institutes of higher education, advising that colleges and universities who will have a population of fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated people implement procedures to protect people who have not been vaccinated.

OU is not requiring its students, faculty and staff to receive the vaccine, and students who are not vaccinated will still be required to test for the virus on a weekly basis.

Ice also noted in her release that the university is unsure of its vaccination rate, as not enough people have reported their status to OU. However, in Athens County, roughly 41 percent of residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Students taking up space outdoors while on campus are no longer requiring face coverings or physical distancing, regardless of vaccination status, the university said.

“We do strongly encourage both precautions for unvaccinated individuals, as does the CDC,” Ice wrote in her update to the university community.

Face masks and physical distancing will still be required indoors or while using university transportation, also regardless of vaccination status. However, students will not be required to wear a mask when they are in their own residence hall room and maintaining social distance. In addition, masks will not be required when students are dining on campus or when students are working alone in a lab or office.

Ice noted in her update that the university will continue with the use of masks in indoor spaces because virus transmission frequently occurs indoors. In addition, OU’s campuses, like many other universities, include frequent interaction among people who come from different locations.

“... an outbreak can propagate quickly with possible spillover to local communities,” Ice said. “We are continuing with masks and distancing indoors until we have a better understanding of campus vaccination rates and case trends for fall.”

At OU, there is also now no capacity limit on indoor or outdoor gatherings beyond normal University guidelines, if distancing protocols are met indoors.

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