The COVID-19 vaccine will be available for all Ohioans 16 years and older beginning March 29, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday. Those who are 40 and older can receive the vaccine starting Friday.
“It’s a moral imperative that we move as quickly as we can to vaccinate all Ohioans who wish to be vaccinated,” DeWine tweeted. “We expect a significant increase in vaccines coming to Ohio soon, so we will expand vaccine eligibility.”
A news bulletin sent to students and faculty Wednesday morning shared upcoming changes in vaccine eligibility, and encouraged students to register for Knox Public Health’s (KPH) vaccine waitlist. Eligible students have several vaccination site options, including Kroger and Rite Aid in Mount Vernon, as well as KPH’s weekly vaccination clinic, held on Wednesday’s from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School’s Energy Fieldhouse. In Ohio, 1,883 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday, and the number of new cases reported daily has decreased by 15% in the past two weeks.
This news comes as cases of COVID-19 on Kenyon’s campus are the lowest they have been since the start of the semester, with no active cases and only one student in “precautionary quarantine.” Yet, on Sunday, Smith announced that residents of the Gund, Lewis and Norton Residence Halls would need to test this week, in addition to students already scheduled to get tested, after a rise in wastewater levels of the virus was detected in this zone. However, the most recent report shows decreased levels of the virus in that area.
Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 said that the wastewater test data is “very sensitive” and that “it’s hard to know exactly what the implications of the spike are.”
Director of the Cox Health & Counseling Center Chris Smith didn’t rule out taking further measures, including possibly re-implementing quiet period restrictions, as results come in from this week’s round of testing and the situation continues to develop. “The COVID-19 Steering Committee will consider all options to keep students safe,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.
President Sean Decatur said he has been in conversation with state policymakers and administrators at other colleges about prioritizing distribution of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to college campuses. “A one-dose vaccine is logistically better — not only for the institution, but for the folks being vaccinated,” Decatur said.
This week, KPH’s weekly vaccination clinic expanded its eligibility to everyone over 40, as well as those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic pulmonary disease, heart disease and obesity. The Wednesday-morning news bulletin acknowledged reports of people not currently eligible receiving doses at these clinics, yet strongly discouraged students from showing up hoping to get vaccinated this way.
However, College administrators encouraged faculty and staff to get the vaccine on Wednesday after they were notified that there were unused, leftover doses available. “Our communications office put out a notice saying, ‘We’ve been informed that there are additional vaccines available, if you have time to head down to the energy field house at Mount Vernon High School, you certainly can do so,’” Bonham said. “And indeed quite a few faculty and staff did, which was great.”
Some colleges have plans to vaccinate students quickly as soon as vaccines become available to them. Oberlin College and Conservatory, which is comparable to Kenyon in size, location and endowment, is a state-approved COVID-19 vaccination center. “The Lorain Public Health Department advised the College that applying to be a distribution center could lighten the health department’s burdens and facilitate earlier access to the vaccines for students, faculty and staff,” Katie Gravens, COVID-19 campus health coordinator at Oberlin, wrote in an email to the Collegian. This will allow Oberlin students to get vaccinated on campus as soon as vaccine doses are available, eliminating the need to travel off campus.
Smith did not mention any plans to vaccinate students on campus, though Kenyon is in communication with KPH regularly. In February, the College hosted a one-day vaccination clinic in the Lowry Center for eligible Knox County residents, but, currently, students who are eligible for the vaccine will need to travel off campus to receive it.
Decatur believes that students may be able to receive the vaccine on campus as supplies increase. “To do a clinic on campus, we need a larger influx of vaccine into the County,” he said.
Chris Smith echoed this sentiment. “I am cautiously optimistic that Knox County will receive the needed vaccine supply to expand access for those who wish to be vaccinated,” he said.
Ongoing updates about COVID-19 at Kenyon can be found on the College’s COVID-19 Dashboard.