New Mask Guidelines Issued by Ohio University

Ted Rivers

Ohio University has written to its campus community with updates to it's COVID-19 mask guidelines. A message sent out on March 1st, 2022 sets out the University's plan to transition out of previous restrictions put in place.

Masks are no longer required in non-classroom spaces as long as the campus is located in a low or medium COVID 19 community level. The exception to this is the Chillicothe and Souther campuses which remain at the high community level.

Students and staff on the Cleveland Campus will still be required to wear masks on University grounds as per the Cleveland Clinic.

Indoor spaces such as classrooms, labs, clinics, and studios will still require masks at all community levels.

A letter from President Hugh Sherman, Dr. Ken Johnson, and Dr. Gillian Ice explains the new guidelines going into effect immediately.

We are writing today to share next steps in our transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on new guidance issued on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), metrics for our communities indicate we are in a position to relax certain prevention protocols on most of our campuses.  
The new COVID-19 Community Levels – low, medium and high – take into consideration community hospitalization rates, strain on local health systems, and local case rates. CDC measures COVID-19 levels by county and recommends individual and community precautions – including masking.
Our cases have continued to trend down since January 5, a pattern that is happening across the United States. The sustained downward trend in COVID-19 transmission on OHIO campuses, paired with this new CDC guidance and OHIO’s strong COVID-19 vaccination rate, gives us the confidence to relax face covering requirements on OHIO campuses.
Effective immediately, masks are no longer required in most non-classroom public spaces on OHIO campuses located in counties with low or medium COVID-19 community levels. In accordance with CDC guidance, masks are required in all indoor public places in counties with a high COVID-19 community level. 
Currently, all OHIO campuses are in counties with low or medium COVID-19 community levels, except for the Chillicothe and Southern campuses, where masks are still required in all indoor public spaces due to being in counties with a high community level. Students, faculty, and staff on the Cleveland campus should note the Cleveland Clinic still requires masking in public places.
Masks are still required in classrooms, laboratories, studios and clinical settings as well as on campus transportation regardless of COVID-19 community level.  The Ohio University Child Development Center will continue to require masks as well.   Individual campus events may have additional masking requirements based on policies in place with participating organizations or contracted performers.
The CDC advises that individuals with certain medical conditions or who live with someone who is at risk for severe illness consult with their health care provider about masking in counties with a medium COVID-19 community level. Anyone is welcome to wear a mask to protect themselves and others from disease transmission.
The CDC created this new guidance to provide communities and individuals the flexibility to increase and relax precautions based on local conditions and personal risk factors. We will continue to follow CDC guidance and monitor community levels, adjusting protocols as appropriate.
As is recommended by CDC, we have the following public health measures in place, which are available to all students, faculty, and staff: High-filtration masks, Access to COVID-19 testing, Availability of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
Using these tools to prevent transmission will help our campuses reduce the case rates and health care system impacts that determine COVID-19 community levels.
This pandemic has required that each of us adapt fundamental work, family, and social activities to a rapidly changing environment. The OHIO community has risen to these challenges with creativity, resolve and collaboration, and we are thankful for the role each of you has played in keeping our communities safe. 
Moving forward, it is important for each of us to remember that we have colleagues and friends that may be at higher risk for serious illness or live with a family member who is at high risk. We hope we will all be kind and respectful to one another as we navigate this new phase of the pandemic.

COVID cases at the University have been on a downtrend which is why the University has decided to update the guidelines. They remain in line with the official advice by the CDC.

The University is committed to following the protocols set out by the CDC and will look to review their guidelines again when it is appropriate to do so. For now, those at a campus in at a low or medium community level will no longer be required to wear a mask in non-classroom spaces.

Are you a student or faculty member at Ohio University? How do you feel about the recent guideline updates?

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