Given what we have learned about the spread of COVID, it has been impressive indeed that Oberlin has been able to enjoy this summer without a single case. I attribute this strong record to the fact that so many of us are vaccinated, low rates of infection in the region, increased outdoor activities and our good health habits.
Today we learned that a student on campus likely has a case of COVID. Their rapid test was positive. We expect the results of their PCR test early next week.
Last year when we had a positive test, the news triggered a series of actions, including isolation and quarantine, governed by the fact that we did not have widespread vaccinations on campus. In fact, for much of the year, we didn’t even have a vaccine available.
Today, we have far more effective ways to combat the spread of COVID on campus. First and foremost, of course, is the vaccine. Health officials assure us that anyone who is fully vaccinated is extremely unlikely to become seriously ill. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that less than one percent of those fully vaccinated become ill with COVID. This means we can approach isolation and quarantine much differently.
Of course, we still must investigate each situation. As you know, Oberlin conducts contact tracing for anyone who tests positive. This includes asking students what classes they attended during their infectious period so that the contact tracers can discern if there is a need for testing or quarantine of exposed individuals.
In this case, we have identified a few students who were exposed, and all of them are fully vaccinated. Out of an abundance of caution, we will test these students with a PCR test on Monday and Tuesday. Based on CDC guidance they will not be quarantined. Of course, everyone should continue to wear a mask while indoors according to the college's mask policy announced earlier this week. There are also protocols for management of unvaccinated individuals which will be used when needed.
Due to the high vaccination rates on campus, risk of spread is extremely low. There is no need for the campus to alter behavior or dining patterns. We will monitor the data and consult with the health department if the number of infections increases to determine if additional measures are required.
As I said before, we have come far. We understand COVID far better than we used to. This situation drives home the fact that with very few exceptions, we all should become fully vaccinated. The higher the number of vaccinated people on campus and in our community, the better off we all will be.
Please remember that in addition to being vaccinated, we have had great results employing a multi-layered strategy of social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks, and other responsible behavior. We require all students, faculty, and staff to wear masks indoors when they are not alone.
We base our ObieSafe policies on data and the guidance of public health professionals. It is critical that students demonstrate proof of vaccination by uploading their vaccination card to Student Health or filling out the health or religious exemption form.
It appears that COVID finally found our campus this summer. We are responding appropriately. Please enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Carmen Twillie Ambar