Working Our Plan Makes Us All Safer

Dear Kent State University Students, Faculty and Staff,

As we approach the start of the third year of this pandemic, I continue to be impressed by the dedication of our students, faculty and staff. If you are like me, sometimes you may feel overwhelmed by the daily barrage of case totals, hospitalization reports and other statistics. It’s only natural to focus on ongoing problems and worrisome developments, and it’s easy to forget all that we have accomplished, both in our response to COVID-19 and in myriad other areas of university life.

Today, I can say without hesitation that there is good news to report to our Kent State community: Our strategy for addressing the challenges of the pandemic is working. For two years, semester by semester, we have developed successful plans to keep our community healthy and safe. In the early days of the pandemic, this meant closing our campuses and holding classes remotely. Now, we have effective vaccines, which when combined with face coverings and regular testing, create an environment that minimizes virus spread and keeps our community as healthy as possible.

Our Strategy Is Working

We are now on the downside of the omicron variant, which caused the biggest surge of COVID-19 cases in Northeast Ohio since the start of the pandemic.

As new cases of omicron variant COVID-19 soared in December and early January, we monitored these developments and crafted a strategy for the spring semester to meet this new challenge. Our robust plan included continued vaccinations, distribution of KN95 and surgical-grade masks across all campuses, wastewater testing, testing of residential students before their return, regular testing of the unvaccinated, converting our dining halls to carryout only in January and a strong inventory of isolation rooms to stop community spread in our residence halls.

Our later start date for the spring semester also meant that we were not in session during the omicron spike, and cases were declining by the time our classes resumed. That fortunate timing and our detailed strategy resulted in case numbers that were far lower than we projected at the university. At Kent State and across our region, the number of new cases has returned to the levels of early November 2021.

Vaccines Are Working

We know that one of the reasons we weathered the omicron storm as well as we did is because such a large percentage of our university community is vaccinated. Across all campuses, more than 83% of our employees and 72% of our students are vaccinated, and we’ll continue to pursue this strategy and push for full compliance. Our vaccination rates are higher than the state of Ohio and higher than all the counties in which our campuses are located.

We know that vaccines work. They help stop COVID-19, and they help prevent serious illness and hospitalizations for those who get breakthrough cases. Beginning today, you’ll be able to track our vaccination rates on our COVID-19 dashboard.

We’ll Stick to Our ‘Flashes Take Care of Flashes’ Planning

I want to remind everyone that the fundamental principle driving our successful COVID-19 response is that we follow the science and trust the experts. We will continue to observe guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we’ll follow the advice from our own experts from Kent State’s College of Public Health: Tara Smith, Ph.D., Chris Woolverton, Ph.D., and Melissa Zullo, Ph.D., who have shown great wisdom and provided outstanding leadership since the first days of the pandemic. Our strategy is continually vetted and improved by the hard-working members of our Pandemic Leadership Committee, under the steady guidance of its chair, Associate Provost Manfred van Dulmen, Ph.D.

For two years, we have planned, strategized, tested and vaccinated, and we won’t let up because we know it works. We may not always agree on every decision – in times of pandemic uncertainty, healthy debate over policy is to be expected. But we’ll continue to do what we have been doing – look for common ground and trust the knowledge and advice of our experts. We have learned how to keep our campuses open and vibrant and keep our community safe, and we’ll continue to do just that.

Of course, we still have plenty of COVID-19 challenges ahead. We know that the pandemic will be with us for months, perhaps years to come. We’re already planning for the summer and fall and how to keep our people safe during semesters abroad. But our successes are many, and they are the result of our community coming together during unprecedented times.

Students, thank you for your grit and determination to persevere and succeed during these trying times.

Faculty and staff, we know that you often have been called upon to set aside your own needs and beliefs to accommodate the needs of our students and the greater university community. Thank you for all that you do to help us keep it all in balance.

Sincerely,

Todd Diacon
President

POSTED: Thursday, February 3, 2022 - 9:02am
UPDATED: Thursday, February 3, 2022 - 11:25am
WRITTEN BY:
President Todd Diacon