March 15, 2020 10:45 PM
Carmen Twillie Ambar, President

Dear Oberlin College Community,

As we have been preparing to face the challenges associated with COVID-19, one aspect that has become very clear is that this pandemic will continue to impact us in stages. The decision to require students, who are able, to leave campus by noon tomorrow is one example of our effort to get ahead of these stages. Another is the decision to complete the semester’s classes via remote learning.

Lorain County Public Health alerted us this evening that one of our employees in College Dining Services has tested positive for the virus. Public health researchers will be contacting individuals with whom this person has been in close contact so health officials can follow up appropriately. We expect additional information from the health department soon.

Out of respect for the employee’s privacy and in accordance with federal regulations, we are not identifying this person. The employee worked in Stevenson Hall and last came to work on Wednesday. As a result, all grab and go meals will be distributed at Decafe on Monday. We will be sanitizing and cleaning Stevenson as soon as possible. Stevenson will reopen only after consultation with Lorain County Public Health.

This news, while difficult, is not unexpected. All of the readily available information about this virus tells us that many of us have been exposed. As testing becomes more available, we will invariably see the number of cases rise nationally and in our community as well. This is why our efforts at social distancing are so important. We of course will continue to communicate broadly and specifically, when appropriate, with the guidance of Lorain County Public Health.

I know that this news might bring additional anxiety as the spread of COVID-19 hits closer to home. Health officials stress that anyone who feels ill should not come to work, or be around other people.

Students:

If you have flu-like symptoms, you should contact Oberlin Student Health Services at 440-775-8180 or the Ohio Department of Health at 833-427-5634. If you need to be seen by a healthcare provider, you will be advised where to go and how to get there. If your concern occurs after hours, please call Campus Safety at 440-775-8444. Mitigation protocols require that you not come to Student Health or Campus Safety unless instructed to do so. If you are off campus, and you have a fever or respiratory symptoms, we urge you to call Oberlin Student Health Services or your healthcare provider before traveling to a healthcare facility. Calling first helps ensure appropriate measures to prevent COVID-19 are in place.

Oberlin faculty and staff:

Even as we do our part to slow the advance of COVID-19, we still must continue the work of the institution. It is important that we serve our students and maintain the College. But, we want to do this work with your health and safety at the forefront of our mind. If you are feeling ill, please do not come into work. While we develop an appropriate telecommuting policy, if you cannot come into work, you should reach out to your chair, head of your administrative unit, or supervisor to use your leave time during your absence. If you have any questions regarding leave time contact Human Resources.

Self-health tips:

Health officials stress that our goal in addressing this pandemic is to slow the spread of COVID-19. To accomplish that goal, it is important that we all practice good self-health, such as constantly being aware of the need for social distancing, consistent hand-washing, and covering sneezes and coughs. I am including these tips below as a reminder.

The most effective steps to slow the virus’ spread involves the following self-care steps:

  • 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

The College has provided hand sanitizer stations in residential areas and public spaces throughout campus. Please use the sanitizer. 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.

Remember how COVID-19 is spread:

The virus 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.

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 Health.Info@oberlin.edu.

Conclusion:

The full extent of this pandemic will not be known for some time. We do know that it will likely get worse before it gets better. We are all working through this challenge at our own pace and in our own way. I want you to know that we are here to help as we all work to make the best decisions we can to support our entire community.

Carmen Twillie Ambar
President