COVID-19 task force adjusts plans for the spring

by Grace Hamilton, staff writer
Photo courtesy of Desmond Fischer
The university will increase testing as infections rise in surrounding area.

As the new semester begins, Xavier has adjusted plans for COVID-19 testing to match a higher number of positive cases in Hamilton County and to ensure a safer semester for all students.

Hamilton County turned purple on the Ohio heat map for COVID-19 cases on Jan. 14, indicating a Level 4 Public Emergency with widespread cases and exposure. 

Hamilton County’s active cases are above 60,000, while Ohio’s cases are almost at 850,000.

Jeff Coleman, the chair of Xavier’s COVID-19 task force, described the task force as being made up of 15 members dealing with COVID-19 issues affecting academics, student life and experiences.

The task force meets daily to develop testing plans with TriHealth; these plans then get reviewed and approved by Father Michael Graham, president.

When discussing the biggest change to how Xavier is dealing with COVID-19, Coleman detailed an increase in surveillance testing. 

Last semester, between 100 to 150 students were getting tested each day either through close contact tracing or walk-ins.

That number has now increased by 15%, as the task force is taking a more risk-based approach to testing. Students in high-risk groups will be chosen at random to get tested. 

The students will receive an email instructing them to enter login information and get tested at the Health United Building.

Coleman and the task force believe that the amount of COVID-19 cases will increase this semester as students are coming back from break and since Hamilton County hit Level 4. 

Coleman says numbers may increase to 35 or 45 active cases, whereas last semester the numbers ranged from 25 to 30 cases.

Coleman stresses that students and faculty must continue to follow COVID-19 safety protocols.

“We want to reinforce the message that we have to keep following the safety procedures,” he explained.

As for the COVID-19 vaccine, Coleman believes that the university is a ways away from being able to receive it. 

All students are part of the TriHealth pod, which will issue the vaccine in the summer or in the beginning of the fall semester. 

Coleman still encourages students and faculty who are able to receive the vaccine earlier to do so. Once TriHealth has the vaccine, students will be able to get it.

Even so, the task force is still meeting every day to discuss dealing with COVID-19 and testing. 

Coleman remains “cautiously optimistic” about Xavier’s campus remaining open for the remainder of the academic year, especially because of the success of the fall semester.

Coleman concludes, “We’re not resting on our laurels from last semester. We’re fullsteam ahead.”