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Student Senate advisers warn students of rising cases of COVID-19

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Student Senate. Photo by Tim Zelina.

Student Senate faculty advisers Jenny Hall-Jones and Jason Pina warned students of a continued increase in COVID-19 cases if students continue to ignore precautions to reduce the virus’s spread during Wednesday night’s virtual Senate meeting. 

Hall-Jones, who is also the current interim vice president for student affairs, said recent COVID-19 spikes taking place in residence halls at Ohio University resulted in all residents of Tiffin, Jefferson and Boyd Halls quarantining. With a positivity rate of 39% as of Tuesday night, Boyd Hall has the highest positivity rate of the three quarantined dorms. 

“We have to remain vigilant and make sure everyone’s being careful,” she said, cautioning students to take protocols seriously in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19

Hall-Jones also advised against students gathering in dorm rooms, saying that such gatherings are the cause of the uptick of COVID-19 cases.

“What’s happening is that people are gathering just with close friends — two, three, four people in a room,” Hall-Jones said. “These aren’t big parties, but they’re small gatherings, and that’s what’s causing the spread.” 

Hall-Jones did not disclose how she knew what caused the recent increase in coronavirus cases on campus.

In regards to guests, the current 2020-2021 housing contract states that a resident “is not permitted to have any guests” in their room. The contract also legally obligates students to comply with any quarantine orders that may be put into place by the Athens City-County Health Department.

Pina, the departing vice president for student affairs, shared Hall-Jones’s concern. He stressed the impact students’ actions can have on their peers to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

“It’s really going to be each person taking individual responsibility for their own behavior and when they see peers and they know folks in the community who are not social distancing,” Pina said. 

In his closing statement, Pina issued a desperate but optimistic plea to students. 

“Please wear a mask, please keep physical distance from folks, and you all will continue to learn and be in each other’s presence in small numbers, at a distance, for the rest of this semester and for the rest of this year,” he said. 

Hall-Jones and Pina’s reminders come amid rising numbers of COVID-19 in Athens County and at Ohio U. As of October 14, there have been 1,073 total cases of COVID-19 in Athens County since March*, 700 of which have occurred after the start of the fall semester on August 24. There are currently 254 active cases in Athens County.

In addition to the dorms currently under quarantine, numerous other residence halls such as Sargent, James, Sowle and Tanaka are being monitored for rising COVID-19 cases, according to an email from Dr. Gillian Ice, the special assistant for public health operations.

*Based on the most recent Athens County data from the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard 

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