Dear NEOMED Community:
For the first time since the Ohio Department of Health implemented its COVID-19 risk alert system, it was announced yesterday that Portage County is transitioning to the “red” status on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. Described as a “level 3 public emergency, “red” means that there is very high exposure and spread and that one should limit activities as much as possible. The heightened alert level was triggered by the county having met four indicators:
- new cases of positive tests per capita (63.4 cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks)
- sustained increase in new cases (from a daily average of 5.6 cases on Aug. 26 to 10.9 by Sept. 4)
- proportion of cases not in a congregate setting
- sustained increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness (from 6.3 average visits on Sept. 10 to 9.3 on Sept. 15)
We have also learned that the county is experiencing such an increase due to nearly three dozen cases linked to the spread at Kent State University in off-campus settings. These cases make up approximately one-third of all cases in the county over the past two weeks.
This increased alert level, and the known cases of off-campus spread, remind us of the importance of continuing to strictly adhere to our campus safety expectations, including daily self-health assessments, wearing face coverings and practicing physical distancing. In addition, the Ohio Department of Health urges people living in counties designated as red to decrease in-person interactions with others, consider only necessary travel, and limit participation in gatherings of any number. Clearly, the precautions we take when we are off campus are as critically important as when we are here.
We will continue to encourage employees to learn more about the Flexible Work arrangements policy and process and to connect with Human Resources with questions regarding specific situations.
Through the commitment of our students, faculty and staff, our campus remains quite safe, and we continue to have a lower incidence of reported COVID-19 cases here than are being reported at other Ohio universities. As our county disease rates climb, our commitment to remain safe will continue into the foreseeable future.
John T. Langell