Students walk outside of University Hall on a sunny day

As part of Ohio State’s return to campus, the university will begin testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic students, staff and faculty. However, the university has yet to announce specific guidelines or the number of cases required before closing campus in the fall. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Former Managing Editor for Digital

Updated Aug. 3 to include information about when a student may be exempt from random sample testing

As part of Ohio State’s return to campus, the university will begin testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic students, staff and faculty. However, the university has yet to announce specific guidelines or the number of cases required before closing campus in the fall.


According to a universitywide email Friday, Ohio State’s testing will include randomly testing undergraduate students; testing symptomatic and exposed students, faculty and staff; having voluntary asymptomatic testing for faculty, staff, graduate students and professional students; and conducting targeted testing if a hotspot of COVID-19 cases is identified. The university also announced that it would share aggregate information, such as the total number of positive cases, with the public.

Out of the more than 40,000 undergraduate students at the Columbus campus, a random sample of 6,500 undergraduate students will be selected by the Student Life Student Health Services to be tested before classes begin in the fall. This testing, which will begin Aug. 5, will “be used to establish the baseline prevalence of positive cases on campus. This will be monitored and compared to results from ongoing student testing that will occur over the course of the semester. The prevalence data will inform any future actions we may need to take in helping to ensure the safety of the university community,” the email reads.

According to updated guidance from Student Health Services, the random sample testing will be free for students who are tested at the Wilce Student Health Center. Students will be assigned a testing appointment and for those who miss their appointment or do not get tested before Aug. 25 will lose access to non-residential buildings and a report will be filed against the student with Student Conduct.

Students may be exempt from random testing if:

  • A disability would preclude them from being tested
  • They are tested by another facility and have results shared with Ohio State
  • A religious belief precludes them from being tested
  • They are currently sick and cannot be tested
  • They are taking all online courses, do not live in Franklin, Delaware, Fairfield, Licking, Pickaway, or Union counties, and will not be on campus during the semester

Students who test positive will be required to isolate at their home or on campus if they’ve returned already. 

If a student is too ill to continue classes, they will be asked to complete a special COVID-19 accommodation form online with Student Advocacy and Disability Services so they will not be academically affected, a spokesperson for the university said.

Students, staff and faculty who have symptoms of COVID-19 during the semester will be referred to Student Health Services, the Wexner Medical Center or an alternative health care provider.

Those who are asymptomatic may volunteer to be tested at a Wexner Medical Center testing site. The university will cover the cost of asymptomatic testing, according to the email.

“The university will monitor closely and adapt our approach based on evolving information, guidance and scientific evidence. Compliance with testing, isolation and quarantine procedures is expected as one of the conditions of returning to campus,” the email reads.

Contingency plans

Unlike some other institutions, Ohio State has not announced the specific number of cases or other factors that would require campuses to close and all classes to be moved online.

“The university recognizes the need for contingency plans, and we are preparing for a variety of situations … Likewise, any decision about adjusting our plans will be made on the totality of the facts, in consultation with public health authorities, and based on the latest science and data,” university spokesperson Ben Johnson said in an email.

Syracuse University — which has about one-third of the students Ohio State does with just more than 20,000 enrolled — has five levels of shutdown procedures which range from quarantine procedures to an immediate evacuation of campus, according to The Daily Orange, the university’s student newspaper. Each shutdown level is dependent on the number of cases on campus or the university’s ability to contain the spread of the virus.

Johnson said Ohio State will continue to monitor the situation.  

“The health and safety of our community continues to be our top priority. As we have from the beginning, we will continue to closely monitor a number of different indicators, follow guidance from local, state and federal authorities and continue to consult with our own experts to make decisions in this fluid environment,” Johnson said.


The university has established procedures for when students, staff and faculty refuse to wear masks, sign the “Together as Buckeyes” pledge or complete the “Safe and Healthy Return to Campus” online training module, according to the Safe and Healthy Campus Expectations and Accountability Measures.

Students who are not wearing masks should be asked to do so before receiving any formal reprimand or sanction. If they continue to not wear a mask, the student should be reminded about the health and safety requirements and then be asked to leave the area if they do not comply. The Office of Student Life Student Conduct will take disciplinary action for students who do not “quickly comply when reminded” and if a person’s name is reported to the office, according to the guidance.

Faculty members who do not comply with the mask requirement can first meet with their department chair but continued refusal would lead to possible disciplinary actions under Rule 3335-5-04 of the Ohio Administrative Code, including termination or reduction in salary.

Staff members who refuse to comply with Safe Campus requirements may not be sent home and required to take leave.

Students living on campus are required to sign the pledge before they move in, and all students, faculty and staff must sign the pledge before the semester begins Aug. 25, according to the email. If a student fails to sign the pledge by Aug. 25, Student Conduct will send them a notification to complete the pledge within five days.

Those who do not sign the pledge within five days of receiving notice from Student Conduct will be prohibited from taking in-person classes, entering any campus buildings and participating in on- and off-campus university events. Students with housing contracts will not be permitted to move in until they sign the pledge. 

Faculty and staff members who do not sign the pledge will be reminded by their chair or dean and will still be expected to comply with measures within the pledge. 

Students who do not complete the online training will be contacted by Student Conduct and advised they must complete the training within five days or will only be permitted to take courses virtually, and may not physically participate in any university activity on or off campus.

Faculty who do not complete the online training will be asked to meet with their chair or dean, and staff will face corrective action.