Experts predicting DeWine will not lift health orders until summer, photo courtesy of Vivien McClain Photography.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine released plans in early March for when Ohio will lift state-wide health mandates, such as social distancing and masking requirements.
With the end of COVID-19 on the horizon, the University of Dayton is still staying vigilant on keeping students safe through the spring semester.
DeWine’s plan to release health orders is based on case numbers. Ohio must keep COVID-19 cases to 50 positive cases per 100,000 people for 14 days for the mandates to be lifted.
During the weeks of March 3 to March 16, Ohio reported 143.8 cases per 100,000 people. The last time Ohio had reported fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people was back in June 2020.
The numbers look hopeful for Ohio, with an overall decline in cases between December 2020 and the present. However, cases will most likely not drop at or below 50 per 100,000 before the summer.
Robin Oldfield, associate vice president of audit, risk and compliance, and chief risk officer for UD, said that this is due in part to Ohio’s size. Oldfield also said that the rising variants of COVID-19 could set back the goal as well.
“There are some models that show July, but that modeling doesn’t take into account how the variants or additional outbreaks are going to affect that model,” Oldfield said.
Vaccine distribution in the state could help Ohio reach DeWine’s threshold as well. Starting March 29, vaccines will be available to everyone in Ohio 16-years-old and above. The Director of the UD Health Center Dr. Mary Buchwalder said that while UD is authorized to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, there is no word as to when UD will receive vaccines. However, Buchwalder still encourages students to receive vaccines as soon as they can.
“We are anxious for students to be safer, for them and all their friends and family to be safer, and vaccines are the way out of this,” Buchwalder said.
Buchwalder said that as of now, the COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for emergency use only. This means that while the vaccines have proven to be safe, they have not gone through the full FDA approval process.
Buchwalder said that because the vaccines are only approved for emergency use, UD will most likely not require them for students and faculty for the time being. However, Buchwalder does recommend that people receive their vaccines.
“I would hope that everyone would want to get a vaccine because I think that they are incredibly important,” Buhwalder said. “They have proven, so far, to be extremely safe, and look to be very effective.”
UD students who live at an Ohio residence, even if it is UD housing, can sign up to receive a vaccine here.
Oldfield said that students who may need transportation to a vaccine clinic can take advantage of the Flyer – the free bussing service that travels from Keifaber St. to downtown Dayton. The Flyer’s bus route includes stops at the Dayton Convention Center, which has been selected as a vaccination site.
“We’re very blessed in Montgomery County that we are one of 15 mass vaccination sites, so there is a lot of vaccines coming into the area,” Oldfield said. “So even if we aren’t able to bring them directly onto campus, there is a lot of opportunities.”
While the health mandates in Ohio will most likely stay in place for the rest of the spring semester, there is hope that the fall of 2021 could look more like a normal year.
Many colleges have announced plans to reopen more fully next semester, including UD. Oldfield said that official plans are still unknown, and UD will follow the guidance of the Ohio Department of Health and the CDC when making decisions about the fall semester.
Dr. Buchwalder added that while life might be starting to feel more normal, and hope is on the horizon, COVID-19 is still very prevalent on campus, and the UD community needs to stay safe for the time being.
“We’ve seen so many cases here that I think we get a little numb to the fact that people die from this,” Buchwalder said.
“So I think that you don’t want people to get numb to the fact that this is a potentially dangerous disease. And so we have to be vigilant, we have to follow the mandates. We hope to have pretty normal stuff this fall but we have to be ready to change that if things go sideways. Which, you know, that’s COVID.”