From staff reports

Residents of both Jefferson and Tiffin halls on Ohio University’s campus were put under quarantine on Tuesday, Oct. 13 by order of the Athens City-County Health Department due to possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Residents of Jefferson Hall were ordered to quarantine after 16 of the hall’s 69 residents tested positive for COVID-19, and similarly, residents of Tiffin Hall are being moved to quarantine housing after 22 of 78 residents tested positive, an Ohio University press release stated.

The quarantine will last until Oct. 25. All COVID-19 positive students living in both Jefferson and Tiffin were immediately relocated to isolation halls on campus. The remaining residents of each hall were considered close contacts based on their shared living space and typical shared activities, which met the household definition the state provides for close contacts, the release said.

Meals and other university resources will be provided to students through the quarantine period, and OU is working with students and their instructors to support continuing their coursework remotely during quarantine, the OU release stated.

In accordance with the university’s COVID-19 public health protocols, Housing and Residence Life will assign the remaining students to one of the university’s quarantine halls.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for our University community to follow University policy and adhere to public health guidance to keep our students, faculty and staff safe,” President M. Duane Nellis said in the media statement. “The increasing numbers of COVID cases we are seeing in our residence halls should serve as a wake-up call to our students. Now more than ever, we need to follow necessary health practices to keep our community safe, protect our own families and friends, and ensure business continuity.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Athens City-County Health Department reported 1,053 total cases of the virus in Athens County, a large majority of which fall into the 20-29 age bracket.

As part of its COVID-19 response, Ohio University has implemented a two-prong testing strategy.

Individuals who call the COVID-19 Hotline and who are symptomatic are referred to testing; these numbers are captured in the COVID-19 Hotline testing numbers.

Second, asymptomatic testing is currently being conducted on the Athens Campus. Individuals on the Athens campus may be randomly selected to be tested, even if they are showing no symptoms.

This asymptomatic testing allows the university to identify people who may be carrying the virus but are unaware of it.

“This strategy helped [the university] to identify the cluster of cases reported last week in Boyd Hall early, mitigating risks to others and our community,” the OU release stated.

Last week, the Athens City-County Health Department ordered Boyd Hall to be vacated after 19 of its 94 residents tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). This cluster was the first known incidence of a significant outbreak within an OU residence hall.

Those who tested positive for the virus were immediately relocated to residence halls where they will be isolated, a university spokesperson previously confirmed with The Athens NEWS.

The other 78 students were considered close contacts under the definition provided by the state based on their shared living space and “typical shared activities” and were relocated to separate dorms where they will be quarantined until Oct. 21, according to a press release from the university.

The cluster of positive cases in Boyd was detected early in part through what Dr. Gillian Ice, special assistant to Pres. Nellis for public health operations and a Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine faculty member, has called “wide-net” asymptomatic testing, which involves testing multiple students living in the same residence hall after a few positive cases were discovered within the dorm.

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