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OSU Welcomes Back Students, Implements New COVID Testing Measures

The Ohio State University campus.
The Ohio State University

There is no convincing needed for Ohio State Junior Seth Teeters.

The Troy, Ohio native and marketing major could be a one-man campaign for the university's new guidelines that officials believe will keep students in classrooms and keep COVID numbers down.

“Overall, getting your booster shot and just being safer all together can only benefit people, “ said Teeters.

During a Virtual Town Hall on Thursday, university officials offered a realistic outlook as students return to campus.

"Right now we feel good about where we are," said OSU President Kristina Johnson. "We know that there are going to be infections. We know there'll be infections from the students that come in this weekend. But we're committed to having that in-person experience.“

Students arriving for classes who live in the dorms are required to get a rapid covid test before moving into their rooms. Those who tested negative were given the green light to move in. Those who tested positive had to isolate at home or at a local hotel.

A new requirement for the spring semester, all students living in the residence halls and in sorority or fraternity houses will also have to test once a week throughout the semester regardless of their vaccination status.

Although boosters are voluntary, the university that is now 92% vaccinated is encouraging everyone to get one.

Melissa Gilliam is the Executive Vice President and Provost at Ohio State.

“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our first priority. And the decisions that we're making related to their health and well-being will continue to be based on the latest scientific data, “ said Gilliam.

Dr. Andy Thomas of OSU Medical Center said the rising numbers of COVID infections hits close to home.

“On Tuesday morning I woke up with a runny nose and just a little mild cough," said Thomas. "Most physicians, you know, we sometimes catch a cold in the winter, and in most seasons, you would go in and work and see patients. But as I was talking with my wife; as usual she's a good ballast for me and a good bellwether for me in what I should or shouldn't be doing, she said, 'Don't you have patients this morning? You can't go in with a runny nose, you might have COVID.'“

Dr. Thomas did test positive for the virus.

“Now the good news is I'm vaccinated and boostered. My symptoms have been incredibly minimal. I'm working from home as I normally would, my normal schedule, just doing virtual meetings, and I feel great," he said.

The highly infectious omicron variant continues spreading rapidly. It is the cause of over 90% of the recent cases diagnosed in the state. There are nearly 14,000 COVID-19 patients in Central Ohio.

"We know that we are experiencing a lot, and especially those who continue to deal with the pandemic themselves or how it's affected their loved ones. But as we prepare to begin in-person teaching and learning, we do so with the understanding that flexibility and adaptability are going to be essential to our progress, “ said Gilliam.

OSU's Melissa Shivers who heads up the Office of Student Life said safety measures have worked.

"Fortunately, given our extraordinary vaccination rate, and the university's ongoing efforts to build in health and safety protocols, we aren't going all the way back to the beginning, but we will need to put some additional levels of precaution in place, “ said Shivers.

Engineering student Vlad was born in Ukraine. He said it was his choice to get vaccinated but supports other students who think differently.

“Everybody has their freedom of choice because we still live in America. I don't believe that any institution should force anybody to get vaccinated against their will, “ said Vlad.

President Johnson said their goal is to keep everyone safe but they are preparing for all scenarios.

“We recognize at the same time that we need contingency plans, and we're preparing for a variety of the situations,” said Dr. Johnson.

Seth Teeters said at this point, he is willing to do whatever it takes. He sees the testing as part of the system the school has to go through to get back to some type of normalcy.

"I honestly don't mind getting tested if we need to get tested weekly," said Teeters. "If that's something that they need to implement, I'm completely for it. "

Other schools around the state including Ohio University are implementing similar measures to OSU for the spring semester and are banking on the success they had with policies they implemented in the Fall.

Williams was a reporter for WOSU. Natasha is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and has more than 20 years of television news and radio experience.