Critical moment in the battle against COVID-19

Dear Ohio State Community:
We have reached a critical moment in our battle against COVID-19.
We have all worked hard to remain on campus to learn, teach, advance research and scholarship, and be Together As Buckeyes. Our collective commitment and spirit to slow the spread of this dangerous virus has been commendable.
But COVID-19 is a formidable opponent, and now we need to dig deeper. Ohio, like many states across the nation, is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Today, a record 7,101 new cases were reported in the state in a 24-hour period. That is 600 cases more than the previous record set just a few days before. Ohio hospitals are approaching 3,000 patients admitted with COVID-19. More than 700 Ohioans with the virus are in intensive care, up from 240 patients one month ago. 
We send our support to anyone who is battling this illness or grieving the loss of a loved one. We are with you.
For those who have not watched Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s statewide address on this surge in numbers and the state’s response, please do so on the Ohio Channel website.
Governor DeWine recognized the strong efforts and aggressive action Ohio State and other Ohio colleges and universities have taken to keep cases low and our respective communities safe. But unless the spread of COVID-19 dramatically decreases, the governor said that universities may need to remain virtual in January. 
We want to do everything possible to ensure we can return to campus and be together again. 
At Ohio State, the current seven-day average student positivity rate is 2.21% while the on-campus and off-campus rates are 2.04% and 2.39%, respectively. These numbers represent a steady uptick in recent days. On Tuesday, we saw 141 positive COVID-19 cases among our students for a single-day 2.92% positivity rate. This week marks the first time the single-day positivity rate has surpassed 2% since September. The rate has doubled in the past two weeks.
Immediate guidance
These last few weeks of the semester are critical, and what we do now will impact our local communities, our friends and families, and our ability to come back to our campuses for the spring semester. Please read carefully the following guidance that supports the state’s efforts and is also consistent with the strong recommendations of our COVID-19 Continuous Monitoring Team:
  • Effective immediately, all in-person student organization gatherings, events and tabling activities — even those of 10 people or fewer — will once again be prohibited. This limitation applies both to on-campus and off-campus events and gatherings of any kind. 
  • Students living on campus are asked not to leave campus unless it is absolutely necessary. Students living off campus should only come to campus for class and other necessary activities including: to work, take a COVID-19 test or fulfill a medical appointment or address other in-person responsibilities. Because exercise is important for maintaining our physical and mental health, recreational facilities will remain open and will continue to follow strict safety protocols. All students should gather only with their roommates or housemates if at all possible. 
  • Faculty and staff who can work remotely are urged to do so. Many employees are already working from home; we encourage others who can do so to coordinate with their supervisors and work remotely to enhance the safety of our campuses for those who must come in. De-densification of our campus populations remains critical as we fight the virus.
Thanksgiving holiday and winter break
The Thanksgiving holiday and winter break pose challenges to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. Notably, following the COVID-19 protocols is vital to protecting the most vulnerable among us — including loved ones with chronic health conditions and older adults. 
  • All students who plan to travel home for the Thanksgiving holiday and winter break should be tested before leaving their residence halls or off-campus housing. The university recommends that you test twice before heading home for break. You should wait for a negative result from your second test before leaving. Testing hours and instructions are available on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website
  • Even after students return home, they should continue to follow all COVID-19 safety protocols, including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart, avoiding gatherings and washing your hands and using hand sanitizer routinely. 
  • Faculty and staff should consider canceling or postponing travel over the holiday and winter break and avoid gatherings with those outside of their immediate household. Faculty and staff are also encouraged to take advantage of the university’s voluntary testing program to help keep yourself and the members of your household safe. 

​Just as critically, take the time to attend to your physical and mental health during this unusually challenging time. I encourage you to access the resources available through the university. You can’t protect yourself or others and contribute to the fight against COVID-19 if you are not well.

Please do all you can to fight the spread of COVID-19. Do it for yourself, your family, friends and the community. Lives are at stake. 
I know this is hard. As the pandemic drags on, we are all tired and yearning to be done with these restrictions. But we must continue our vigilance. One day — hopefully soon — this will be behind us, and we will be back to doing all the things we love, Together As Buckeyes.
Sincerely yours,
Kristina M. Johnson, PhD