July 22 – With the entire Miami Valley now at high risk for COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control, many area colleges and universities are not requiring masks or vaccinations for all students on the campus.
This trend has continued since last spring, when most universities and colleges in the region dropped mask mandates after Omicron peak passed. But some universities are implementing new precautions due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and the changing nature of new variants, which spread more easily.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have skyrocketed over the past three weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Cases are up 41% in Ohio and hospitalizations are up 68% from three weeks ago. Many counties, including Montgomery, Greene, Butler, Clark, Champaign, Darke, Miami, Preble and Warren are labeled high risk by the CDC.
All universities and colleges surveyed said they would continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in the region and make decisions based on COVID-19 data.
Most universities surveyed – Central State University, Clark State College, Wright State University, University of Dayton, Ohio State University, Sinclair Community College and Edison State College – do not require masks, but recommend wearing them indoors , especially as COVID-19 cases climb. The University of Miami requires masks indoors at the red or high risk level for the spread of COVID-19 in Butler County.
More universities require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than require masks on campus. Ohio State and Miami require all students to be vaccinated. Wright State requires student employees and all employees to be vaccinated. Incoming students at UD are required to upload proof of vaccination, as are students living on the Central State campus.
“Although it feels like COVID is a thing of the past, we are still seeing cases on and off campus,” said University of Miami spokeswoman Jessica Stark Rivinius. “Continue to take precautions and test if you have any symptoms – it may not be a cold or allergies.”
University of Dayton officials said incoming students will receive an email next week outlining what students and their families need to know about coming to campus. The university dropped the requirement for university employees to get vaccinated in January.
The three community colleges do not have vaccine mandates except in health care settings. Each college said it would continue to monitor the situation, but community colleges typically don’t have as many students living together in a dorm as area universities.
“Based on the information available at this time, we are proceeding with caution, as we did last spring,” said Matt Franz, senior vice president for technology, security, and strategic initiatives at Clark State College. “We are in frequent contact with local health authorities and meet regularly to assess the impact of the disease on students and operations.”
Cathy Petersen, spokesperson for Sinclair, said the college is monitoring the situation closely, but noted that Sinclair has a lot of flexibility in how he can deliver classes.
“COVID-19 is still around, and new variants are emerging,” she said.