Health leader to UD students: Outbreak a major threat to public

A jogger runs by UD housing that is sending a message to other students in this photo from Thursday, Sept. 3.
Caption
A jogger runs by UD housing that is sending a message to other students in this photo from Thursday, Sept. 3.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

The health commissioner today called the University of Dayton student outbreak “a major threat to the public’s health and the well-being of our citizens,” and urged students to do their part now to control the spread of coronavirus.

Jeffrey A. Cooper, health commissioner, credited UD leadership and challenged the students. The letter also included the potential for the health department to recommend UD extend its remote learning program through the entire first semester, something students and many in the university community have hoped to avoid.

“University of Dayton Administration, faculty and staff did their part. It is now time for all students to do their part,” Cooper’s letter said.

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The campus has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases since Aug. 10.

To ensure safe return to campus, students were issued directives on the use of masks, social distancing, limitations on group gatherings, hand washing and off-campus activity.

“Unfortunately, citizen complaints and direct observation by Public Health personnel demonstrate that some students are not meeting this expectation and have ignored the University’s guidance. Those behaviors have placed the wider Dayton and Montgomery County community at greater risk,” the letter said..

Cooper said the community was making great progress in controlling the spread of the virus and transitioned to a lower risk level in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. In the past two weeks, however, the outbreak at the University of Dayton has reversed that trend, elevating Montgomery County to having one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita among all Ohio counties.

“The outbreak at the University of Dayton has become the largest outbreak in Montgomery County. University of Dayton cases are now equal to half of the total of all cases combined in the other 60 outbreaks in Montgomery County since April,” the letter said.

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The letter said the outbreak has implications beyond the campus footprint.

“It potentially subjects us to greater restrictions on the rest of our population, mandated business closures and stay at home orders if the outbreak worsens. No one wants to return to those previous conditions,” Cooper wrote.

The UD campus is in a level 4 Red Warning until Sept. 14, which means students should not leave campus unless for approved educational reasons, employment or for essentials such as groceries and medications.

“If the situation does not improve by September 14, Public Health will advise the University of Dayton to continue the current remote learning mode for the semester. This action will be necessary to protect our community,” Cooper wrote.

The letter ended with: “The University of Dayton and Montgomery County would not be in this situation if all students had complied with the University’s plan for returning to campus. University of Dayton students have a long history of service and support to our community. Now is the time to honor that tradition so that Montgomery County can continue to be a healthy, safe and thriving community.”

The University of Dayton issued a response to the letter that read in part: “The University of Dayton understands and respects the Health Commissioner’s important responsibility to the health of everyone in Dayton and Montgomery County. We fully support his message to UD students and appreciate his support for our efforts to mitigate the virus on campus and curb its spread into the larger community.”