COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A number of large off-campus parties during the first Buckeye game of the season have health officials concerned about the possible spread of COVID-19.
Videos of the large gatherings, near the campus of The Ohio State University, have been widely shared online.
“Any gathering of any size greater than 10 concerns me, whether it’s on game day or any other day,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, the Columbus Public Health commissioner. “Some of the pictures I saw over the weekend – I’m very concerned.”
NBC4 discussed the weekend’s gatherings with Roberts at a press conference in which she, along with Mayor Andrew Ginther and officials from Central Ohio’s four largest health systems, spoke about the rising number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Columbus.
To date, the city has recorded 24,953 cases and 489 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitalizations also continue to rise.
“Hospitals in Franklin County haven’t been this high since our summer surge,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, from Ohio Health. “Our census, most recently, has hit a number of 190 patients. That is a substantial increase from our recent low just 36 days ago of 110 patients.”
While doctors say the region’s hospitals are doing well in terms of capacity, they will closely monitor the situation as the number of COVID-19 cases rises.
According to Roberts, any possible spike in cases resulting from the weekend’s large gatherings, would start to be detected within the next few days.
“I would anticipate that if it leads to more cases, we would start to see that increase in the next five to seven days,” she said.
Ben Johnson, a spokesperson for The Ohio State University, issued the following the statement regarding the gatherings over the weekend:
While it appears the vast majority of fans cheered on the Buckeyes safely from home, we have seen some pictures of individuals who gathered in large groups without observing proper public health protocols such as physical distancing or wearing masks. We want to remind everyone that we only have one shot at this season, and every member of Buckeye Nation has a role to play in supporting the team and keeping our community healthy. Please make it a point to:
1. Make every game a home game by “homegating” safely and responsibly; and
2. Continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing and maintain good hand hygiene.
We want to finish the semester strong and see the Buckeyes play into December and beyond. To do that, we must stay vigilant and follow the safety protocols that have been in place since the start of the pandemic. Ohio State is continuing efforts that have been in place all semester – partnering with Columbus Public Health, area businesses and landlords. We are also continuing our extensive efforts to engage with students off-campus. This past weekend, university staff stopped at more than 200 homes off-campus to reward students engaging in safe game-watching behavior.
Roberts said she is in regular communication with Ohio State leaders, and she will be in touch with them again this week.
“I will be talking with them this week about more we can do come next weekend, and the games to follow, so that we can control the spread of this virus not only on campus but also in the greater community,” she explained.
The Buckeyes next game is scheduled for Saturday evening, against Penn State.