Home Campus Student Senate questions Gillian Ice about Ohio U’s COVID-19 response

Student Senate questions Gillian Ice about Ohio U’s COVID-19 response

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Student Senate members voiced concerns with Ohio University’s handling of COVID-19 outbreaks to Gillian Ice, the special assistant to the president for public health operations, at Wednesday night’s Student Senate meeting. 

Senators expressed frustration with Ohio U’s handling of blanket quarantine orders for Boyd, Jefferson and Tiffin Halls, all of which have since been lifted. College of Business Senator Tyce Patt, who was formerly quarantined with residents of Boyd Hall, spoke of his concern for the wellbeing of students in quarantine.

“A lot of these regulations as a whole need to be looked at from a student standpoint. We need to put education and student’s mental health above everything else.” Patt said. 

Patt described his quarantine dorm as “one of the worst learning environments, one of the worst mental health environments that I have ever been in as a student.” 

Patt said he was also concerned with Ohio U’s lack of communication with students in quarantine, saying he believed it has encouraged students in isolation housing to gather. 

Patt had tested negative for COVID-19 the week before the blanket quarantine order was announced. He asked why Ohio U students with negative test results were quarantined, and Ice cited the CDC’s 14-day incubation period for COVID-19 infection.

“A negative test does not change quarantine,” she said. 

Ice also said the blanket quarantine order came from the Athens City-County Health Department, not Ohio U. Ohio U is currently seeking to strengthen its current partnership with the Athens City-County Department of Health so the isolation and quarantine process occurs more smoothly for students, she said.

Student leaders asked Ice about the student confusion caused by a lack of information regarding the initial blanket quarantine orders. Ice admitted that Ohio U was not prepared for the quarantine of an entire dorm.

“We were overwhelmed with the number of students. We did not expect an entire hall to be put into quarantine, and so we were really scrambling,” Ice said.

Ice also said since blanket quarantine orders became an issue, Ohio U has hired additional full-time staff and assembled “strike teams” to help address surges of COVID-19 cases on campus. 

Ice encouraged Senate leaders to submit feedback about their quarantine experiences to administrators.

“We can’t fix a problem after you’ve moved out,” she said.

Senate Vice President Elizabeth Lily asked students to bring concerns regarding quarantine to the Senate. 

“If you don’t know who to talk to, if you don’t know who to contact, anyone in Student Senate can get you the right contact information,” Lily said. “Please ask questions, please submit your feedback.” 

The COVID-19 positivity rate for asymptomatic and random testing at Ohio U has decreased to 1.6% from a high of 10.5%, Ice said. Nevertheless, Ice reminded students to remain vigilant against the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak. 

“Hopefully people continue to take those precautions so that we can avoid the outbreaks that we had in the residence halls who were issued a quarantine order by the health department,” Ice said.

Ice discouraged students from going to Logan Health Urgent Care to receive COVID-19 tests. While results from tests performed at Logan Health may be recieved a day faster than those administered by Ohio U, tests from Logan Health are not as accurate, Ice said. She did not elaborate on how the tests differ. 

Ohio U is currently administering about 200 COVID-19 tests per day, and starting Nov. 7, tests will also be available on weekends. Ice said Ohio U hoped to add an additional 38 tests per day to asymptomatic testing efforts but was unable to due to technical difficulties.  

Ohio U plans to increase COVID-19 testing for the spring semester. Ice said her goal is to test students in university housing once a week and test students in off-campus housing at least once every two weeks. 

The Ohio University Board of Trustees will be meeting on Oct. 29 to discuss Ohio U’s plans for the spring semester, including spring break, which have not yet been announced. 

Planning for the spring semester comes amid news that Ohio U has lost $26.7 million so far due to lost funds from tuition, room and board, athletics and other traditionally reliable sources of revenue.

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