Ohio State will have shorter quarantine time, more social activities planned for spring semester

Ohio State will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends at the university and in Ohio to assess the safety of in-person activities. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Lantern Photo File

Ohio State students are accessing their schoolwork with slow and fast internet — but even with super-fast bandwidth, they can still struggle to connect socially.

Students who struggled to form or maintain meaningful relationships in the fall semester might see some lights on the horizon in the form of reduced quarantine periods from 14 days to 10, the new Buckeye Connection Cohorts program and in-person activities scheduled to resume on February 1.

Senior Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers and Dean of the College of Public Health Amy Fairchild said Ohio State will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends at the university and in Ohio to assess the safety of in-person activities, but after hearing reports of student social struggles in the fall semester, they said increased interaction was needed.

“We want to make sure that (what) we’re able to do is be able to provide opportunities for them to be able to connect with other people,” Shivers said.

The university will launch Buckeye Connection Cohorts, informal get-togethers to connect small groups of students with student leaders. Shivers said it would start in February – and be virtual, at first. Students can enroll in Buckeye Connection Cohorts here.

Although the Buckeye Connection Cohorts mark a shift in student social life, Fairchild said the two biggest semester changes are requiring off-campus students to be tested weekly and requiring a “green check mark.” on which daily health report to use. recreational facilities.

“This is going to allow us to control the spread in a much faster way than what we saw last semester, if you look at the data you saw that the rates on campus started to come down much faster than the off-campus rate,” Fairchild said.

About three weeks after Ohio State’s student population hit its single-day peak of 6.7% test positivity for COVID-19, the seven-day average positivity rate on campus was less than 1. .5%; at the same time, that number for off-campus residents fell to less than 4%.

The quarantine policy change stems from recent changes to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Fairchild said.

The CDC announced the his website on December 10 this quarantine could be limited to 10 days without symptoms or seven days with a negative test result on the fifth day or later.

However, due to the uncertainty of the virus, Fairchild said the university is ready to change its position at any time.

Fairchild said the fall semester experience has improved the university’s contact tracing, which will help the university respond to off-campus students.

“One of the things we know is that the more time students spend off campus, the more likely they are to become infected,” Fairchild said.

Although the university is aware of the risk of off-campus transmission, it will not change its disciplinary actions for violations of the off-campus COVID-19 policy, Shivers said.

Before the start of the fall semester, Ohio State threatened students with suspensions and other penalties for violating COVID-19 policy, but despite 5,443 charges being laid – only 32 suspensions were issued until now.

Student-driving vans patrolled the off-campus area for mass gatherings, noting addresses of those who violated university and state COVID-19 guidelines and rewarding those who organized and attended. to gatherings of 10 people or less.

“We will continue to take our carrot and stick approach,” Shivers said.

Shivers said she expects reports of mass gatherings to increase when in-person classes return, but the university will continue to use the conduct process to address off-campus mass gatherings.

The university will also continue to work with the city attorney’s office to remind off-campus bars and restaurants of safety and health guidelines, Shivers said.

“We will continue our partnership and continue our accountability efforts in the hope that people will start to understand and want the virus to be gone as much as we do,” Shivers said.

Joel C. Hicks