On June 24, 2020, the ONU Board of Trustees endorsed the University’s COVID-19 safety plan for resuming in-person education for fall semester 2020. The plan was developed by incorporating the informed efforts of several work groups and special teams, leadership reviews undertaken over several weeks, and helpful suggestions during a campus comment period. The plan was reviewed and fine-tuned throughout the summer to ensure continued compliance with guidance from federal and state governments and the local health department. This fall, ONU executed its implementation plan derived from the work done over the summer. Students, faculty and staff have worked tirelessly over the past seven months to ensure that the health, safety and well-being of every member of the ONU community remains our top priority. These are their stories.
In normal times, the Ohio Northern University Health Center is responsible for delivering health care to residential students, and for supporting the overall physical and mental health and wellness of the campus community. During a pandemic, it’s responsible for all that and more. The Health Center, under the direction of Karen Schroeder RN, has become the nexus for ONU’s pandemic response.
In May, when the University’s coronavirus task force first began planning for students to return to campus for in-person instruction in the fall, the Health Center was looked to for leadership and guidance. As heroic as the efforts have been from so many individuals and departments across campus in addressing the pandemic, many of those are noteworthy because of how far they went above and beyond what was expected of them. For the Health Center staff, keeping students safe is the expectation. And pandemic or not, they know that it always will be.
Faced with an unparalleled increase to her job’s degree of difficulty, Schroeder set out to learn everything she could about COVID. Being a new virus, the information available to her changed from day to day as doctors and scientists learned more. The U.S. Center for Disease Control routinely issued new guidelines, and the state of Ohio and the Kenton-Hardin Health Department often followed with new rules and restrictions. Schroeder soon learned that a good plan today might not be the best plan tomorrow, but her commitment to staying informed of new data and making the necessary adjustments to campus safety protocols proved vital to ONU’s successful fall semester.
“My goal from summer was to assist all departments in hopes of allowing students to complete the semester as close to normal as possible,” says Schroeder. “At times I was not sure we would make it, but through everyone’s support, we made it.”
The Health Center was also the logical choice to investigate and monitor all positive cases of COVID-19 on campus. Any student who felt ill was instructed to call the Health Center first. If it was determined that the student had COVID-19 symptoms, the Health Center arranged for the student to be tested through the on-campus testing program. Students that tested positive or came into contact with a confirmed COVID case then entered a quarantine or isolation period overseen by the Health Center.