OSU Dean of Health weighs in amid house parties and COVID spikes
By: Nicholas Youngblood and Lori Schmidt
Update – Ohio State has now released their aggregate data, and the school says 80 students, or 1.16% tested from Aug. 14-Aug. 22, tested positive for COVID-19.
Today marks the first day of classes at Ohio State, and there are already students in quarantine who have been exposed or who have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, 228 students have received interim suspensions for violating the school’s coronavirus guidelines, which require mask-wearing, social distancing, and prohibit gatherings larger than 10 people. Some of those suspensions, however, have been overturned upon review.
The University District was thick with house parties last weekend, flouting university guidelines that extend to all students in the surrounding area. A statement from Vice President of Student Life Melissa Shivers was sent to all students last week reminding them of restrictions and encouraging witnesses to report gatherings directly to Student Conduct.
“This is a moment in which if we don’t follow the guidelines, we’re going to go home. And that’s not what anybody wants,” said Amy Fairchild, dean of the College of Public Health, in an Ohio State News release Aug. 24.
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Authorities in the area are reporting violations to Student Conduct as well. Interim suspensions from the university are issued when “reasonable cause to believe that the student’s presence on university premises or at a university-related or registered student organization activity poses a significant risk of substantial harm to the safety or security of themselves, others, or to property,” according to the Student Conduct website. Suspended students are barred from campus for any reason until the end of their suspension.
However, there’s currently no evidence to suggest that OSU is experiencing the type of outbreak seen at other universities. The school has yet to release results but says it will eventually provide aggregate data on testing.
The University of Alabama has reported 531 cases on its main campus. Last week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 13.6% of the 954 students examined tested positive for coronavirus, leading them to cancel in-person instruction for undergraduates just one week after classes began. Notre Dame’s student newspaper headlined an editorial “Don’t make us write obituaries,” after more than 400 students tested positive there.
Here in Ohio, Dayton moved their first week of undergraduate classes to fully remote as a result of their 100-active cases, while at Miami University, all the student-athletes in Oxford have been quarantined after an off-campus social gathering led to an outbreak of 27 cases.
Ohio State has taken extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus so that it can continue to provide in-person learning. In its return-to-campus PPE safety kits, the university provided masks, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and a thermometer. Students, faculty, and staff are required to report their temperature via the Ohio State app before attending class or work each day. Classes have been limited to 50 students, and some have been moved to non-traditional spaces such as auditoriums and performance halls.
Ohio State has detailed its precautions here.