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Ohio State Will Require Weekly COVID-19 Tests For Dorm Residents

Ohio State University seal on The Oval
Ohio State University

Ohio State University’s incoming president says every student living in on-campus dorms will have to be tested weekly for the coronavirus if they hope to keep students in classrooms.

Ohio State president-elect Kristina Johnson says that Franklin County must drive test positivity rates “well below” the current rate of 5.5% if they hope to have in-person classes. Positivity rates are simply the percentage of people who test positive for COVID-19 out of the total tested.

“If we cannot reduce the rate of infection and hospitalizations, we will return to remote instruction and have to close residence halls,” Johnson wrote in a letter to the campus. “Avoiding this means we will all have to shoulder a measure of the burden and adhere to stricter health and safety guidelines."

Johnson says students can opt out of testing, but that may result in them moving to fully online courses and not being able to live in university housing. She says the university will also offer testing to students living in high-density housing, and to faculty and staff who are working on campuses.

Other new safety protocols announced by Johnson on Tuesday include a daily health check, beginning August 14, to report body temperature and health status for all students, faculty and staff every time they come to campus or are working in the community on behalf of the university.

Masks, which are being provided to students as part of a return-to-campus kit, must be worn in indoor settings including classrooms, common areas, conference rooms, shared office spaces, hallways, buses and shared vehicles on all Ohio State campuses. Masks will also be required outside, even when people are keeping space for social distancing.

The university is limiting in-person classes to 50 or fewer students, and all fall semester events to 10 or fewer people. And in the event of positive COVID-19 cases, the school will undertake a contact tracing effort in conjunction with Columbus Public Health.

On Tuesday, the Big Ten Conference announced that the fall sports season, including football, would be postponed possibly until spring.

"We are in discussions about what this decision will mean for our entire athletics program," Johnson wrote, "and I will continue to work closely with Athletics Director Gene Smith, Coach Ryan Day and all coaches and other leaders, to return our student-athletes to competition as soon as possible, while staying safe and healthy."

Ohio State has already required students and faculty to sign a so-called Buckeye Pledge that lays out best practices and acknowledges there's some risk in returning to campus.