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Ohio State Appears To Flatten COVID-19 Curve Following Back-To-School Spike

Ohio State students line up for COVID-19 tests before the Labor Day weekend on Sept. 4, 2020.
Ohio State students line up for COVID-19 tests before the Labor Day weekend on Sept. 4, 2020.

Ohio State’s latest COVID-19 testing data shows a steady downward trend in positivity rates, although figures for students living off-campus remain higher than those in dorms.

The seven-day rolling average of the school’s positivity rate—that is, the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID—maps a flattened curve. Ohio State president Kristina Johnson says rates reached their high earlier this month but are now moving downward.

“We peaked at almost 6% for our positivity rate on campus,” Johnson says. “So that was alarming and I’m so pleased after three weeks, a lot of work on behalf of our students and staff, that our 24-hour positivity rate is less than a percent.”

The rolling average is slightly higher at 1.1%. While trends are moving in the right direction for all students, those living away from the school have a seven-day average positivity rate of 3.2%

"Off-campus we don't have that same kind of control,” Johnson explains. “We can ask people to wear their masks, we can encourage people to stay socially distant, but then if they go out to restaurants and bars it's up to those local owners to help enforce good practices that we know work."

The figures could bode well for fall sports. When the Big Ten Conference decided to go forward with a shortened football season,it laid out seven-day positivity rate thresholds at which games would be suspended. Those benchmarks are more than 5% of players, coaches and trainers, or more than 7.5% of the broader population.

With the university as a whole turning in a positivity rate of 1.9%, Johnson believes there shouldn’t be a problem going forward with the football season.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.