September 1, 2020 5:00 PM
Office of Communications

Contact tracing explained; navigating community policies

Obie Safe Weekly: Caring for Our Community. (The squirrel mascot is wearing a mask.)


Coronavirus Testing Results
Total Tests Processed to Date
Tests Administered 2,640
Positive Tests 6
% Positive 0.23%
Results include students, faculty, staff, and vendors.
Visit the ObieSafe website for more information about testing.

What you need to know about contact tracing

Contact tracing is a public health technique and part of Oberlin's layered strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  An effective contact tracing program will be pivotal in keeping the campus open for the 2020-21 academic year. Oberlin has a team of contact tracers who will call individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or who have symptoms that are highly associated with COVID-19. The questions focus on identifying close contact with Oberlin students or employees.

Close contact is defined as less than 6 feet of separation for more than 15 minutes. The tracers ask if all parties were wearing masks during the contact, which is critical. Subsequently, the contact tracers call every contact, obtaining key information. The college collaborates with the Lorain County Public Health Department to determine who among those exposed need to be placed in quarantine, which lasts for 14 days from the day of the last contact with the person who tested positive.

Employees quarantine at home, while students quarantine in specially designated residential spaces. Honesty is very important when speaking with a contact tracer. The only way we can prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to decrease exposure through isolation and quarantine.

Protecting our community: Helpful reminders

As the semester progresses, ObieSafe will offer reminders and clarifications regarding specific policies meant to protect our community.

Q. When am I required to wear a mask?

A. Students, faculty, and staff must wear masks while on campus, except when you are actively eating (consuming food or beverage at a natural pace) or alone in a room with the door closed. Students are permitted to gather outside in groups of 10 or less, physically distant, and masked. Indoors, students are permitted to gather in groups consistent with the room capacity, while physically distant and masked. Students are not to hold gatherings in their dorm rooms.

Q. Can I eat with my friends?

A. Students may eat together if you are outdoors and be physically distant, meaning that you maintain a separation of at least 6 feet. You may remove your mask while actively eating, defined as taking bites of food or sips from a beverage. The college is asking students to avoid eating together indoors in spaces that do not allow for adequate physical distance. As a reminder, students will be expected to avoid congregating in common areas such as laundry rooms, kitchens or lounges.

A student and his parents carry luggage. All are wearing masks.A physically distant move-in week

As new and returning and students made their journey to campus, this past week saw the reopening of the Allen Memorial Art Museum and the Shanks Health and Wellness Center.

See more photos from move-in week and the museum reopening to faculty and staff.

A sign with the ObieSafe graphic is posted outside a building.
ObieSafe signs around campus. 
Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

ObieSafe...and Smart

One of the best ways to stay safe is to stay informed. ObieSafe is here to get you the data, news, tips, and best practices you need to keep yourself and our whole community healthy. 

Here's how to you can stay up to date

Report instances of noncompliance

Faculty, staff, and students can issue comments when they believe members of the campus community were not following the COVID-19 guidelines of the Community Agreement.

Submit to the noncompliance form (Oberlin login required)

Unclaimed masks will be distributed to employees

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety is preparing delivery of reusable masks for employees who have not yet had the opportunity to pick up masks during our Mask Monday events over the course of the summer. Packages will be labeled for the employee and will be distributed by campus mail to your campus office. Anticipate their delivery next week.

Get in touch with the ObieSafe team

Have something to share in a future issue of ObieSafe Weekly? Email obiesafe@oberlin.edu with story ideas or information you’d like to have considered for publication.


ObieSafe Weekly provides the news, information—and the occasional smile—we all need to navigate the pandemic and help our community thrive. Find the tools you need in your inbox at noon every Tuesday.