Campus Bulletin: Current Students, Faculty and Staff, Parents, ObieSafe

Coronavirus Update (Feb 4)

February 4, 2020 4:15 PM

John Harshbarger, Director, Student Health and Counseling Services

Dear Oberlin College community,

As promised, we wish to keep you up-to-date regarding the novel coronavirus and events on campus.

The Ohio Department of Health has stated that there are zero confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state and 11 confirmed cases in the United States.

Late yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised the guidelines governing the evaluation of people who recently traveled from China and are demonstrating flu-like symptoms. Based upon these revised public health guidelines, one Oberlin student was temporarily placed in isolation in off-campus housing.

Yesterday morning, a student with a low-grade fever visited Student Health Services for evaluation. Following protocol, Student Health Services contacted Lorain County Public Health, which traveled to campus to evaluate the student. Officials decided the student did not meet the criteria to be considered a person under investigation for novel coronavirus, but it was determined that the student should be temporarily isolated off campus overnight before returning to campus this morning.

Barring a change in health status, the student will remain in isolated housing and participate in classes remotely until February 15. Meals will be delivered. Also as a matter of protocol, the student’s dorm room was sanitized and their roommate, who has no symptoms of illness, was allowed to remain in their room.

The College will continue to collaborate with Lorain County Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health with regard to the coronavirus. Please remember it is far more likely that college students, and all Ohioans, will contract seasonal flu than the coronavirus. 

As a reminder, everyone can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and public health professionals recommend that we:

  • wash our hands often with soap and water; if that is not possible, use hand sanitizer
  • cover our mouth and nose with our sleeve or a tissue when we sneeze or cough
  • avoid close contact (touching or shaking hands) with people who are sick
  • avoid touching our mouth, nose, and eyes
  • stay home when we are sick

As the health and safety of our campus community is our highest priority, the College is taking additional steps.

We are providing hand sanitizer stations in residential areas and public spaces throughout campus. Personal-use hand sanitizers for students and employees will be made available through student health and other locations on campus. Signs have been posted reminding people to wash their hands and practice good hygiene. The College also is increasing the frequency of services to clean and disinfect high-use areas. Disinfectant wipes are available to clean common-use items such as public computers, desktops, and pianos and other instruments.

The coronavirus is primarily spread through respiration, which means to become infected, people generally must be within 6 feet of someone who is coughing or sneezing. Symptoms of the coronavirus appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. Reported cases have ranged from mild illness (similar to a common cold) to severe pneumonia that requires hospitalization.

Some members of our community have chosen to wear masks in public which, while not necessary, is completely acceptable. If you see someone wearing a mask, please do not be alarmed.

The CDC continues to say that the risk for coronavirus in the U.S. is low. One of the biggest challenges in instances of a public health concern is to take prudent steps while not stereotyping individuals. Please remember to be considerate to others as we seek to address concerns about this disease.

We are communicating often to address events as they unfold, but we do not expect there will be an ongoing need for daily updates.

For more information, please see our coronavirus FAQ page and the archive of previous messages on this topic that have been sent to the community. To submit a question, please send email to


John Harshbarger
Director, Student Health and Counseling Services