University President Michael V. Drake met with 13 other university presidents and Vice President Mike Pence to discuss reopening college campuses in the fall Wednesday, according to a White House press release.
The group — which also consisted of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx — discussed guidance released by President Donald Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that requires universities to “develop, implement and maintain” plans to respond to COVID-19 by reviewing and updating current plans as necessary, according to the press release. Although Ohio State has not yet released its plan for classes in the fall, the call discussed CDC recommendations for universities planning their fall semesters.
University spokesperson Ben Johnson said he would not comment on what was discussed during the Wednesday call, but said in an email Ohio State “has formed a task force that is guiding the university’s return to on-campus operations.”
“President Drake participated in this week’s meeting, and we appreciate our strong and ongoing partnerships with federal, state and local government officials as we continue to plan for fall,” Johnson said.
The CDC guidance outlines three categories universities could fall under upon returning to campus depending on the level of community spread: No community spread, minimal to moderate community spread and substantial community spread. Community spread occurs when there are cases of infection in an area with no known source.
If there is no community spread, the guidelines recommend for universities to prepare by reviewing and updating their emergency operations plans, develop information-sharing systems with university partners, reinforce healthy hygiene habits, routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and review attendance and sick leave policies.
“Students, staff, and faculty should not attend class or work when sick,” the guidelines read.
Ohio State’s first two confirmed COVID-19 cases were announced March 18, and the university said March 26 that it would not be announcing the number of cases in the Ohio State community to “respect everyone’s medical privacy and ensure the accuracy of information.” At the time of publication, there were 26,954 confirmed cases in Ohio and 4,330 in Franklin County, according to the Ohio Department of Health website. Franklin County has had 156 deaths related to the virus.
The guidelines also recommend universities assess group gatherings and events, require students, staff, and faculty to stay home if they are sick and ensure that higher education health clinics prepare for COVID-19 cases.
According to the guidance, regardless of community spread level, if an infected person has been on campus, universities are advised to work with local health officials and consider closing campus buildings for two to five days.
Other university presidents on the call included the University of Notre Dame, University of Florida, University of Virginia, Purdue University, among others. Of those on the call, Purdue, Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Alabama System, Marquette University and Hillsdale College have announced that they plan to hold classes in-person this fall.
For the full list of guidance, click here: