COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State University announced new COVID-19 protocols Tuesday, taking a different approach from what other schools are planning to do this fall.
By Aug. 5, students and staff must report whether they have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are unvaccinated will need to undergo weekly testing.
President Kristina Johnson said in a press release Tuesday that at least 70% of the students and staff have received the vaccine so far, but added there may be more since not everyone has reported their status yet.
Along with the reporting, Johnson said students living on campus — either on the main or regional campuses — including sorority life housing will need to take a COVID-19 test seven days before moving in. They will also be tested again once they arrive.
Vaccinated individuals will not be required to wear masks except on public transportation, at the Wexner Medical Center and in Student Health facilities. Unvaccinated students will be asked to wear masks indoors and to maintain social distancing.
Johnson said once House Bill 244 goes into effect on Oct. 14, which prohibits schools from requiring unauthorized vaccines and bars them from discriminating based on vaccination status, all students will be testing for COVID-19 and not just unvaccinated individuals.
This year, the university plans to limit isolation and quarantine areas compared the number of rooms they made available last year.
"As we have throughout the pandemic, we will adjust our testing, masking and other health protocols as appropriate and will share updates with you as we have them," Johnson said. "We will also continue to monitor guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Ohio and local health authorities as well as the impacts of the delta variant to inform our decisions."
Other Ohio universities are taking similar steps. Cleveland State University announced earlier this month that all on-campus students must be vaccinated. Private institutions, such as Kenyon College, the College of Wooster and Ohio Wesleyan are requiring students and staff to be vaccinated before classes resume.
In an attempt to boost vaccination rates, Johnson said the university will be offering $50,000 in gift cards, football tickets and parking passes to vaccinated students, faculty and staff starting next month.
Ohio Wesleyan took a similar step Tuesday, offering new, vaccinated students — incoming or transfers — a $25,000 renewable grant. Only 50 students will get the financial aid.
On Monday, the Ohio Department of Health issued recommendations for schools, urging them to continue to implement masks, and encourage students and staff to get vaccinated.