Oberlin College is communicating with Lorain County Public Health and is tracking developments in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection) originating from Wuhan, China.

Frequently asked questions:

Updated March 13, 2020 at 5 p.m.

What is the timeline for departing campus?

Key Dates
Friday, March 13 Last day of classes. Distribution of packing boxes for students begins at 10 a.m.
Monday, March 16 Students depart campus housing no later than noon.
Monday, March 16-20

Classes suspended.

Saturday, March 21-Sunday, March 29 Spring Recess.
Monday, March 30 Remote classes begin.

Why is Oberlin requiring students to depart campus and providing remote classes for the remainder of the semester?

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced recently the first community spread of COVID-19. This means that Ohioans who have not traveled outside the country recently and have not knowingly come into contact with people who have, are getting sick. State health officials say the spread of the virus has advanced to a new phase. Our goal is to slow the advance of this disease, and we can do that most effectively by dramatically reducing the number of students on campus in the coming days. This is why Oberlin is requiring all students who are able to travel to leave campus by noon on Monday, March 16.

Only international students who would be unable to return to the United States, or students with extraordinary circumstances, will be allowed to remain in residence halls during the Spring term.

What will happen with athletics during the Spring term?

All athletes have been asked to depart campus with the other students. Athletic competitions are cancelled for the remainder of the semester.   The most recent statement from our athletic league states in part the following:

Due to the rapid and evolving nature of COVID-19, the North Coast Athletic Conference presidents made the difficult and challenging decision to cancel the 2020 conference regular season and championships, effective immediately.

How will large gatherings be addressed on campus?

Large scale public and co-curricular events that attract more than 50 people may be canceled, or may be held with either a no-audience policy or live-streamed.

How should students plan for the remainder of the semester?

Students should pack all the belongings they can take home, as they will not return to campus for academic coursework this spring. Students should make sure they take with them the essentials they will need to complete their classes. Those items include books, papers, electronic documents, notebooks, and technology including laptops, tablets, and related chargers as well as personal items. If students are unable to take all of their items, we are providing boxes to pack whatever items remain in their dorm room.  

We are still determining when students might return to collect the balance of their personal belongings.

When will students be able to return to campus?

Our priority is the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. It is unclear when students will be allowed to return. We will make a determination based upon information from the Lorain County Public Health Department.

Will the dorms be cleaned and sanitized during students’ departure?

Yes.

Will Oberlin pay for the added transportation costs students may incur when they leave campus?

It is regrettable that this pandemic has impacted so many lives. During a recent press conference, Governor DeWine cited the growing social disruptions impacting Ohio from this pandemic. We appreciate the financial impacts involved in these announcements and are examining our options.

Will Oberlin offer reimbursements for room and board?

These are extraordinary circumstances. At this point in the academic year, most of our costs are fixed. For instance, it is past the point where students can drop classes and be reimbursed. Still, we are examining our options.

How will remote instruction work?

The College will be prepared to use Zoom technology to provide academic coursework remotely.

What academic accommodations will be made to help students who will be impacted by these events?

The President and deans of the College and Conservatory are in contact with faculty and have discussed the need to be flexible with student needs, given the extraordinary circumstances we all face.

We expect that even as remote learning occurs, students will be able to attend office hours virtually. We will continue to explore the variety of options that may be available for group study.

Oberlin recognizes the emotional strain these events place on students. Student Health (440-775-8180) and the Counseling Center (440-775-8470) will be available for informational telephone consultation for students. State law prohibits care to be administered to individuals who are out of state. Students may access a professional counselor after hours by calling the Counseling Center and selecting option 2.

Will students continue to receive financial aid while finishing the semester off campus?

Yes. Students who remain enrolled at Oberlin will still be eligible to receive grants, scholarships, and loans if applicable.

How do changes in course load affect my financial aid?

Financial aid awards are determined by the number of credits students are enrolled in. As long as there are no changes to the course load, your aid should remain the same. Note that course changes that result in falling below full-time status may have an effect on your aid.

Will student employment continue for the rest of the semester?

While students are away, we expect that the College will continue to operate. Jobs that can be completed remotely may continue. More information will be forthcoming.

Federal law includes a provision allowing an institution to make federal work-study payments under certain limited circumstances to disaster-affected students who are unable to continue working. Oberlin will be able to continue paying student’s federal work-study wages while students are off campus or if the job is discontinued because of steps taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.  We are still making decisions regarding students employed on campus not in a work-study program. 

What if I have more questions?

If you have questions about your financial aid package, please contact the Office of Financial Aid (440-775-8142 or financial.aid@oberlin.edu).

Will Commencement and the reunions planned for May still take place?

This situation is changing so rapidly that it is impossible to determine the conditions we all will face in late May. As soon as it is possible, and in consultation with Lorain County Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health, we will determine whether it is safe to hold large events on campus in May.

Is College-sponsored travel allowed?

College sponsored international travel is not permitted at this time. Additionally, we are discouraging all personal international travel. All non-essential work-related domestic travel for faculty and staff is not permitted.  We will re-evaluate this matter on March 30.

How will this affect employee work schedules?

We will be providing guidance shortly about questions related to telecommuting, use of leave time, technology and other important topics.  Faculty and staff should return to their regular schedules as we resolve these various issues.

Should employees still come to work if they are sick or have health complications?

Employees who have flu-like symptoms should stay home. Those with health complications should contact their supervisor who should then reach out to Human Resources for guidance (440-775-8430). All others are expected to maintain their regular work schedule.

What can each of us do individually to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Our goal is to reduce to as low as possible the number of students who remain on campus during the coming weeks. Once we determine that number, we will deploy healthcare protocols to help maintain the health of everyone who is living and working on campus.

All students and employees are reminded to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, to use the hand sanitizer available around campus and to practice good healthcare habits such as sneezing into a tissue and throwing it away.

Should international students travel internationally?

It is Oberlin's recommendation that international students do not travel internationally at this time. International students are welcome to remain on campus. Please complete the Campus Registry and Petition form if you'll be staying.

The U.S. government has added almost all of Europe to the list of travel restricted countries along with China and Iran. More countries could be added at any time and we do not have an indication of how long the travel restrictions will last, which could result in travel difficulties through summer or even the start of Fall 2020.

Will my F-1 or J-1 status be affected if courses are taught remotely?

If the College temporarily moves to teach classes remotely rather than in person, the guidance from the government is that we have permission to teach you remotely and you can maintain your F-1 or J-1 status.

Updated guidance (added March 13): 
The government has provided updated guidance that students engaging in remote teaching from outside the US will not have their immigration records terminated.

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people such as has been seen with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2014 and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and now with 2019-nCoV.

What is the novel coronavirus?

2019-nCoV is part of a large family of coronaviruses, some of which cause illness in people and others that circulate among animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people. This happened with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2014, and now 2019-nCoV. These viruses may cause mild to severe respiratory illnesses with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

What are the symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus?

They can be similar to the flu or cold: fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

What steps are being taken to protect students from the novel coronavirus?

We have no reason at this time to believe anyone on our campus is infected with the novel coronavirus and we will update you as appropriate.  Please visit the CDC website for further information. Oberlin College will continue to monitor the situation and postings will be sent out as needed. Please call Student Health Services (440-775-8180) or Lorain County Public Health (440-322-6367) if you have any questions.  Thank you for helping us keep our community well.

What is Oberlin College Student Health Services doing in response to the current 2019-nCoV situation?

Oberlin College is working in conjunction with Lorain County Public Health to prepare for the potential presence of 2019-nCoV infection on campus. Oberlin College Student Health Services (SHS) is staying up-to-date on the latest information about signs and symptoms, diagnostic testing and treatment plans. SHS is prepared to screen patients with flu-like illness (fever with cough or shortness of breath) for this infection. SHS plans to contact Lorain County Public Health and Mercy Allen Hospital if a patient is at risk and under investigation for this virus so the situation is handled appropriately and with the most current CDC guidelines and recommendations.

Is the College screening students? 

There are currently no recommendations for screening healthy people returning from China or any other country other than what is occurring at airports.

Will Oberlin begin passing out masks to students?

Neither the CDC, the Ohio Department of Health nor Lorain County Public Health recommend distributing masks at this time. If this changes, we will reassess the situation. 

However, some students may be more comfortable wearing masks as a precaution or for mutual protection. Students should feel free to wear masks if they wish to do so.

Is Oberlin planning to cancel sporting or other campus events?

Oberlin College is in close contact with Lorain County Public Health and is monitoring communications from the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public health authorities are not urging the cancellation or postponement of public events, so events at Oberlin will continue as planned.

Will Oberlin cancel classes?

There are no plans to cancel classes. If students miss class for reasons related to illness, they should contact their professor. The College has urged faculty to be flexible and sensitive to student concerns about the coronavirus.

How can I ask questions to get more information about the coronavirus?

If you have additional questions or concerns, please send them to Health.Info@oberlin.edu. Watch your email and this website for responses.

How can I avoid getting sick?

It is flu season and it is always a good idea to protect yourself and others from infection by following these practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading any virus to others. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes in your elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. When used correctly, commercially available disposable disinfectant wipes, cloths, or towelettes are effective for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
  • Avoid sharing household items like dishes, cups, eating utensils, bedding and towels.

What can you do to limit risk?

If you suspect you may have been exposed to 2019-nCoV because you have traveled to China or have been around people who may have been exposed and/or are exhibiting symptoms, contact your health care provider and let them know you may have been exposed to 2019-nCoV before visiting the health care facility. This will help the health care provider’s office take precautionary steps to keep other people from being exposed.

Just as with influenza and other illnesses, it’s critical to protect yourself. Experts at the Ohio Department of Health recommend these tips:

  • The most effective means of protection is the same as those things that prevent other illness such as flu.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Follow appropriate cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Don’t go to work or class when you feel ill. Stay home and rest.
  • Avoid exposure to others who are sick.

What is Oberlin doing to raise awareness about the steps people can take to remain healthy?

Handwashing signs are being posted on campus as a reminder. One of the most effective ways we can stay healthy and avoid the spread of illness is to wash hands!

Another way to keep our campus healthy is to use hand sanitizer, particularly prior to eating. Sanitizing stations have been posted at locations around campus. Please use them!

What should I do if I become ill with fever, cough or shortness of breath after traveling to China and returning to Oberlin?

If you have traveled in or through known affected areas in the past 14 days and have any of the above symptoms, you should seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office,  contact Oberlin Student Health Services at 440-775-8180 or Mercy Allen Hospital at 440-775-1211, if Student Health Services is closed. If you need to be seen by a health-care provider, you will be advised on where to go and how to get there. If you have severe symptoms, you will be advised to go to Mercy Allen Emergency Room. If you are ill, do not go to class or public gatherings. Do not travel.

Students who choose to remain in their assigned campus residence due to illness should call the Dean of Students office at 440-775-8462 during business hours for assistance, including food and water delivery. After business hours, please call Campus Safety at 440-775-8444.

What should I do if I or someone I know needs to be transported to a health care or other facility equipped to provide appropriate isolation?

Students may contact Campus Safety at any time for assistance. Campus Safety will direct the student in accordance with the most current public health guidance to ensure that individuals providing transport are appropriately protected. Any transports provided by Campus Safety will include appropriate disinfection of equipment including vehicles in accordance with public health guidance. Individuals requiring isolation will be assisted in moving to locations that meet the criteria provided by public health authorities.

If I traveled to areas with the coronavirus, and I am not experiencing any symptoms, should I quarantine myself? If I do, will I suffer consequences if I miss classes?

Under the guidelines of the CDC, the Ohio Department of Health and Lorain County Public Health, there is no need for any person who is not exhibiting flu-like symptoms to self-quarantine. It is understandable that students who feel they may have been exposed to the coronavirus may wish to self-quarantine themselves, but there is no medical reason to do so.

The consequences for not attending class because of the virus would need to be discussed with your professor.

What do I do if I have a friend/roommate with flu-like illness (fever with cough, shortness of breath and/or sore throat)?

Encourage your ill friend to contact Student Health Services and to wear a mask if they are going to be near others. Masks are available at Student Health Services (SHS). If your friend has traveled to China in the past 14 days, call Student Health Services, Mercy Allen Hospital or Lorain County Public Health (440-322-6367) for advice on what to do right away.  

Monitor your own health and be particularly stringent in following the self-care guidelines below.

If your roommate is ill and you need assistance with alternative housing, please call the Dean of Students office or Campus Safety at the numbers listed above.

What if I am studying abroad this semester in an area that becomes affected by the novel coronavirus?

The College is actively communicating with its study away partners, including those in potentially impacted locations.  Please reach out to Director of Study Away Programs Mike Rainaldi (mrainald@oberlin.edu) with questions or concerns about your specific program.  If you need immediate assistance outside of business hours, please call Campus Safety at 001-440-775-8462.

If you traveled to affected areas outside the United States where 2019-nCoV outbreaks have been identified (e.g. Wuhan, China) and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Should I cancel a public event I've helped to organize on campus, or should I avoid attending such events?

Lorain County Public Health states, “There is no need to change any routine activities or behaviors at this time.”

This is a stressful time. What do I do if I am worried about my friends or even my own health?

We recognize that some of you are feeling growing concerns about family or friends in China, or about your own health. The Counseling Center offers walk-in appointments during weekday office hours, as well as a 24-hour, 7 days-a-week counseling line at 440-775-8470 (option 2).

Should students continue to use the dining halls and student housing?

Oberlin is taking steps to keep the dining halls, dorms and all facilities as clean and free from viruses as possible. Hand sanitizing stations are available to students, faculty and staff across campus. Cleaning protocols have been expanded. These steps have been taken to keep the dining halls, dorms and other facilities clean and safe.

How is Ohio tracking 2019-nCoV?

Ohio’s public health system includes a team of state experts, local health departments, and local partners that perform daily monitoring of reportable diseases, including 2019-nCoV. ODH is closely monitoring the 2019-nCoV situation in lockstep with the Centers for Disease Control and is ready to respond if a case is reported in Ohio.

What happens if a case is reported?

  • A case or suspected case of 2019-nCoV is reported to a local health department.
  • ODH reports to the CDC and, if indicated, patient specimens will be collected and shipped.
  • Currently, testing for this virus must take place at CDC.
  • ODH will work with local, state, and federal partners to investigate reports of 2019-nCoV in order to identify cases and prevent the spread of infection.

When did the first case of 2019-nCoV occur in the United States?

  • The first U.S. case was announced January 21, 2020 in Washington State. There are ongoing investigations by the CDC to learn more. There are currently no known cases in Ohio. ODH is providing guidance to state and local health agencies and health care providers.
  • Amy Acton, MD, MPH, director of ODH, declared novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a Class A reportable infectious disease on January 23, 2020.
  • Classifying a disease as Class A means that confirmed or suspected cases of nCoV must be reported immediately to the local health district where the person lives (or the local health district where the person is being evaluated if the person’s residence is unknown or not in Ohio). Required reporters include physicians providing care, administrators in charge of hospitals, clinics or other institutions providing care or treatment, laboratory administrators, or any individual having knowledge of a person with nCoV.

What is public health doing to protect Ohioans?

  • Ohio’s public health system includes a team of local and state partners who perform daily monitoring of reportable diseases, including 2019-nCoV (educating about what public health does).
  • ODH is monitoring this situation, in lockstep with the CDC, and will be ready to respond if a case should be reported in Ohio.
  • CDC considers U.S. risk low at this time.

Below are links to trusted sites where you can find additional information: