Protecting your loved ones from COVID-19

Dear Buckeyes:
As we wrap up our final days on campus and look toward the holidays, I’d like to remind you of the critical role you play in preventing the spread of COVID-19. 
Most importantly, we know that household transmission is the primary way that this virus is infecting people. One night at a bar or party means that you can bring the virus home, where it can spread rapidly. You have the power to reduce infections, including among your loved ones who may risk severe illness, hospitalization and death. I cannot emphasize enough that what may be a symptom-free inconvenience for one person can be devastating to another —  and I say that underscoring that the pandemic’s severity is increasing throughout our nation and our state by the day.
By now you know what is required to do your part — proper masking when you’re in the same room as others, physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying far from large gatherings and within a small, consistent bubble of close friends and roommates. Parties simply aren’t worth it, particularly when cases are increasing in our community and on and around our campus.
I strongly recommend that, if you are able, you head home for the holidays as soon as you can if you receive a negative test result from routine testing this week. If you are not planning to leave this week, I urge you to test twice before heading home for break. The first test, part of our routine weekly screening, should be today, tomorrow or Wednesday. From that point forward, before you depart for home, please be especially careful by limiting unnecessary contact with others, maintaining physical distancing and wearing a mask any time you cannot avoid being with other people. If you plan to leave next week, the second test should be on Monday or Tuesday. Regardless of your planned departure date, out of concern for the safety of your family and friends, you must wait for your final “exit test” results before you head home. Testing hours and instructions are available on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website. If you are positive you should work closely with Ohio State’s Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Team to make your plan for isolating to stop spread of the virus.
If your results are negative, remember infection can take several days to be detected, which is why we test routinely. Continuing to follow precautions when you go home is your best bet for limiting illness in your families. Among those precautions: Wear masks on the car ride home, or however you’re getting home. Crack the windows. Limit the family coming to pick you up to one person.
During break, please resist the temptation to let the expectations we’ve set at Ohio State fall by the wayside. I understand that what feels “normal” is to visit with all of the friends and family you’ve missed, but we are in a time when those visits — especially if they include many people who aren’t masked and distant — can have serious repercussions, sending ripples through multiple families and social circles. Think about ways to bundle up against the Ohio fall and winter, keep the group small and spend some time outside.
If you know you were in riskier situations on campus, and especially if you have higher-risk loved ones at home, consider a 14-day self-quarantine in a room by yourself if that is possible. Wait 14 days to visit extended family who are vulnerable to the virus, including grandparents.
Thank you for all you’ve done this semester to keep us Together As Buckeyes and for your continued commitment to keeping your family, friends and our entire community safe and healthy.
Amy Fairchild, PhD, MPH
Dean of the College of Public Health