COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Ohio State University is updating its guidelines for the return of students in fall 2021. How much will feel normal will largely depend on vaccination status, both individually and collectively at the institution as a whole.
Wednesday, the University announced it was lifting mask requirements to better align with state and national health leaders. Students, faculty, and staff who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to take off facial coverings both indoors and outdoors. Mandatory COVID-19 testing will also be reduced to once per month or less and those who’ve had their shot series will not be required to quarantine if exposed to the virus.
Unvaccinated individuals will continue COVID-19 testing 1-2 times per week at the beginning of the term. They’re expected to follow masking and social distancing guidelines.
Class registration opened in late March, with 75 percent of available classes set to be held in-person.
“I like going at my own pace sometimes, but sometimes I do miss being in person, being with the professor, and having discussions with students,” said MaryBeth Hurley, a rising OSU senior.
Hurley took all of her classes remotely and moved back home during her last school year. Now living back near campus, she said she was excited to see restrictions, like mask-wearing and social distancing, lifted.
“There were students here, but it was just the masks. And you could definitely feel like people were worried about getting the virus and everything like that,” she said of earlier months.
Lindsey Warick was walking through campus with her mother Thursday morning. She’s hoping to transfer to OSU by the fall and play softball for the school. As an athlete, she said she looks forward to fans eventually returning to college sporting events, but she also looks forward to the traditional college experience.
“With COVID it was all settled down… gotta quarantine, can’t really go out, you had to wear masks,” Warwick said. “I just want it to be back to normal.”
Across High Street, Buckeye Donuts owner Jimmy Barouxis had a similar hope.
“We’re right in the heart of campus. And with students gone, it just wasn’t the same no matter what we did. You can’t recreate that,” he said.
The 24-hour donut shop profits from the overnight bar scene, as well as Buckeye football home games. It felt the sting of a temporary curfew, crowd restrictions, and canceled events.
“Game day is the whole weekend,” he explained. “It’s the Friday, it’s the Saturday of the big game and it’s the Sunday afterwards.”
When the 11 pm bar and restaurant curfew was lifted, Barouxis said his business increased by 30 percent the same night. It also received a boost when the state health orders expired and again when Columbus nixed its mask mandate.
“It feels like old times pretty much,” he said. “We’re back at where we were, pre-covid levels of business.”
Barouxis said additional students and faculty on campus would also help as the longtime business recovers from the pandemic.
“Just full classes, back to business as usual is what we’re hoping for,” he said, “We’re pretty much at the five-yard line at this point, ready to push through to the other side.”
Ohio State said it will not require the vaccine, but it is asking the community to voluntarily report whether or not they’ve been vaccinated. It explained the data will be used for contact tracing and quarantine protocols in the event of an outbreak.
Fall classes begin on August 24. For those still working remotely, managers are expected to announce a return to campus at least 30 days prior.
You can read OSU’s entire Autumn Campus Reactivation plan by clicking here.