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The Athens City-County Health Department on West Union St.

Coronavirus: Athens County reaches level of substantial COVID-19 transmission

Athens County reached the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 substantial transmission indicator Aug. 9, which recommends that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when in indoor public spaces. 

In the past seven days, 35 new Athens COVID-19 cases have been reported, which is a 66.67% increase, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker website. 

Athens wastewater COVID-19 surveillance testing has also revealed elevated levels of coronavirus gene copies, an indicator of potentially increasing cases in the community. Data from Aug. 3 detected 15,000 million gene copies, or MGC, per day, an increase from the 1,400 MGC per day reported on Aug. 1. 

The Athens City-County Health Department tweeted Aug. 10, alerting individuals of the county’s elevated transmission levels and emphasized the CDC’s recommendation that everyone resume wearing masks. 

“While we are not moving in the right direction, we have the tools to correct the course,” the health department said in the tweet. “Unvaccinated individuals should get vaccinated now as high vaccination coverage will reduce spread of the virus and help prevent new variants from emerging.”

As a result of the rising viral spread and due to the recent substantial transmission warning, Athens City Council discussed the potential of reinstating a mask mandate for Athens residents when in indoor public spaces on Monday, according to a previous Post report.

Currently, 41.3% of the total Athens County population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s website. 

Despite Ohio University’s efforts to encourage its students to get vaccinated and report their vaccination status through the Testing Pathway Program, as of Aug. 4, approximately 45% of students have provided proof of vaccination, according to a university press release. 

However, despite those vaccination numbers, Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, said she is confident the university will be able to minimize spread of COVID-19 and disruption to campus activities. 

In addition to the recently reinstated mask requirement for all returning students, all residential students will be required to participate in asymptomatic testing within 24 hours of their arrival on campus. 

In an effort to minimize the potential of an outbreak on campus, OU has organized nearly 20 campus vaccination clinics, Ice said. Furthermore, safety measures such as physical distancing in the classroom and weekly asymptomatic testing for unvaccinated students will remain in place.

“Please remember, even if you are not worried about contracting COVID-19, getting vaccinated will help to keep others around you from getting sick,” Ice said. “It helps to protect the children you encounter who are not old enough to receive the vaccine; it helps to protect people with health issues that are made worse by COVID-19; and, it helps to slow down the spread of this deadly virus throughout our community.” 


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