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Ohio University COVID-19 Update Delivered by Chief Medical Affairs Officer

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On September 28, Ohio University started Phase 2 of its academic year with about one-third of its total student population back on the Athens campus.

Since classes began in late August, university officials have been monitoring the impact of students on the overall COVID-19 situation in Athens County, according to Dr. Kenneth Johnson.

Dr. Johnson is the Executive Dean of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Chief Medical Affairs Officer at Ohio University.

Over the past several weeks, new cases in Athens County have begun to rise. Athens has the third largest of number of new cases per 100,000 population in the state. The county is averaging 208.18 cases per 100,000. This rise is a concern.

Since the inception of the pandemic, Athens County has had 843 cases. Of that total, 600 have been people ages 20 to 29 and 100 have been from ages 0-19.

Although the student age population is predominant in the number of new cases, numbers in other age groups are increasing as well.

Dr. Johnson says part of the reason is that people want to be social and too often they choose being social over safe social distancing practices. Many are suffering fatigue from being isolated from normal social encounters.

Enforcement of public health regulations also is difficult.

Initially, Ohio University was only testing symptomatic people. In that category, 706 people have been tested with 289 having positive results. That means a positive ratio of 41 percent.

Since late August, 1,256 asymptomatic people have been tested with a 5.3 percent positive rate. This is just slightly higher than the expected percentage.

If students, who live on campus, are exposed to the virus or have contracted the virus they are placed in quarantine or isolation on campus. These facilities, however, are not available to students in outside housing, says Dr. Johnson.

Data is constantly being analyzed by University and the City-County Department of Health to adjust policies and procedures and to plan for the next semester starting in January. Cold weather and the advent of flu season is a concern.

Dr. Johnson says a “safe and effective” vaccine will be the event that will most likely turn the tide of the pandemic. He feels it will be widely available in 2021.