Thank you to our vaccination teams, campus reactivation planning, instructional breaks, focus on wellness

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

This month I have made two visits to our COVID-19 vaccination site at the Schottenstein Center – first to receive my inaugural dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and then again to greet Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and connect with our health care professionals, facilities support staff and volunteers. What an impressive operation! I am so proud of the efficiency, ingenuity and care that has ensured this vital undertaking is successful.

Here’s an amazing statistic to consider: Through yesterday, our Wexner Medical Center had administered more than 89,000 total vaccinations. This effort, in accordance with state guidelines, has ramped up over time to include close to 3,000 doses per day at the Schottenstein Center and Ohio State East Hospital.

Buckeyes make a difference in the lives of people and families the world over. What we are witnessing and experiencing every day at our own vaccination locations and sites across Ohio is nothing short of history being made. My deepest appreciation and thanks go to everyone in our Buckeye family for their extraordinary work to care for and protect one another.

Today, our medical center and health sciences colleges are recognizing the one-year anniversary of the pandemic and honoring the lives lost and the sacrifices made by so many with a Day of Reflection. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the hope we feel as our vaccines are administered and positivity rates go down. Together, we will overcome this public health challenge – one vaccine at a time. 

COVID-19: vaccinations updates
As a reminder, the state of Ohio has expanded vaccine eligibility to include people ages 50-59 as well as those with Type 2 diabetes or end-stage renal failure. Today, Governor DeWine announced that people 40 and over and those with certain medical conditions will be eligible starting March 19, and people age 16 and over will be eligible starting March 29. Eligible individuals can schedule an appointment via the Wexner Medical Center by logging into their MyChart account. (See this step-by-step guide to assist with scheduling.) Individuals who are not patients of the Wexner Medical Center or don’t have a MyChart account can call 614-688-VAXX (8299) for assistance.

On Thursday, St. John Arena will become the location of a temporary state-sponsored, pop-up vaccination site for the broader community operated by Kroger in cooperation with Columbus Public Health and Franklin County Public Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidance that says it is safe for fully vaccinated people to relax safety measures in non-public, indoor spaces. While this news is encouraging, it is important to remember that, regardless of vaccination status, everyone on our campuses should continue following safe and healthy behaviors, including wearing masks, physically distancing, avoiding crowds and practicing good hygiene. More guidance and FAQs for those who have been vaccinated can be found on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website.

Please also remember to mark April 12 at 5:30 p.m. on your calendars for the next university-wide COVID-19 virtual town hall. You can view previous town halls here.
COVID-19: campus reactivation planning
As you know, planning is underway for a reactivation of our campuses this fall with the aim of offering significantly more safe and robust in-person experiences. That work is going well, including plans for course and classroom configuration and, beginning March 17, an extension of our employee testing program to allow for weekly tests of all asymptomatic faculty and staff regularly working on the Columbus campus. This new testing program is available due to increased capacity at the university’s Applied Microbiology Services Laboratory.

On March 8, we began twice-a-week testing for students living in university housing or university-managed facilities on the Columbus campus following an uptick in the positivity rate of that population. Though our overall positivity rate was below 1% at the time – and remains so today at 0.36% – we took this step to more quickly identify COVID-19 cases on our Columbus campus and quickly reverse an upward trend. Since that time, our on-campus student positivity rate has fallen from 1.02% to 0.29%. Thank you for your collective efforts, Buckeyes!

Spring instructional break
The second of our spring instructional breaks, designed with student wellness in mind, will take place on March 31 and April 1. I strongly encourage everyone in our university community to use these days to take some time to recharge and refresh. We’ve gone through a lot over the past year, and we all need to put some space between day-to-day responsibilities to engage in some self-care. No classes will be held on these days. Academic assignments should reflect that students are not expected to be completing work during these days. At the same time, all Buckeyes should maintain established safe and healthy COVID-19 practices, including limiting travel and avoiding large gatherings.

While students and nine-month faculty are not expected to work during the instructional break, many other employees will be on duty. Managers should consider what they can do to lighten the burden during the instructional break and as a part of normal work cycles. Please consider what you can do to take care of your colleagues. I also encourage everyone to take a moment to review the wellness resources at the bottom of this email.

Our own health and the health of others remain vital areas of focus for us all, and that should always include managing stress and addressing mental health and wellness whenever and wherever possible.

Community outreach and engagement
I enjoyed a virtual visit, hosted by Dean Henry J. Mann, to our College of Pharmacy last week. I was impressed by the efforts of the college’s students, faculty and staff to address diversity, equity and inclusion – and the work being done in drug discovery and development, including an integrated partnership with the Wexner Medical Center.

I participated in my first “Conversation with the President” town hall hosted by the University Staff Advisory Committee. The event provided an opportunity to engage with Buckeyes across our colleges and units on a number of topics important to staff and the university. You can watch it here. Finally, I had a virtual visit with students in COVID-19 isolation and quarantine as part of the Pop-In with the Prez program. I also visited with students during office hours.

Discovery, learning and impact
Congratulations to the recipients of our 2021 University Outreach and Engagement Awards. The awards honor faculty, staff, students and partners for outstanding achievement in producing engaged scholarship and community impact. This year saw 13 recipients across four categories: Community Engaged Scholar, Community Partner, Community Engaged Champion and Community Engaged Program. You can read more about the winners here.

We were excited to announce a $5 million award from the Department of Energy to optimize fuel efficiency in connected and automated vehicles. The project is being led by the university’s Center for Automotive Research in the College of Engineering. Collaborators include the Transportation Research Center and BorgWarner.
Our Affordable Learning Exchange (ALX) has awarded grants to 16 instructors in 2021. This new cohort will use the funds for a range of projects, including creating free and openly licensed textbooks, “lending libraries” of classroom materials and resources for students that will center on diverse voices and exercises for critical self-reflection on the topic of racial justice. The work of these 16 instructors will result in more than $350,000 in direct savings to students. To date, ALX has funded over 100 faculty-led projects, saving students at Ohio State more than $12 million.

Be well, Buckeyes. Have a great rest of your week and a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday. 

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD