COVID-19 update— Antioch College reports outbreak
- Published: December 18, 2020
After reporting just one COVID-19 infection during the fall quarter, Antioch College now has seven active cases on campus.
Six students and one staff member tested positive for the virus over several days late last week, according to college spokesperson Christine Reedy.
Fewer than 20 students are currently living on campus during the college’s November–December block term, Reedy said. That means the outbreak involves around one-third of students presently in residence at Antioch.
One student tested positive on Thursday, another four students on Friday, and the college was informed on Sunday that one additional student and one staff employee had also tested positive for COVID-19, Reedy wrote in a series of emails to the News. The students are isolating on campus, with no other members of the campus community in quarantine for potential exposures.
The staff case is the first such case reported by the college. While some of the recent cases have been covered by area newspapers, the college as of Wednesday morning had not posted information about the outbreak on its website or social media platforms.
Antioch previously announced a student case on Nov. 2, its first and only case of the fall quarter, which began with the start of classes on Aug. 31 and ran through Nov. 13. The individual has recovered.
Antioch this fall enrolled 116 students, 81 of whom chose to live on campus during the fall term under the college’s flexible educational model that incorporated remote and in-person learning, as well as on-campus and off-campus residential options.
Asked for information regarding how the recent outbreak might have occurred, Reedy stated that classes and meetings are online only during the present block term, and parties and large gatherings have not happened at the college since March, “per policy and practice.” She also emphasized the pervasive nature of the virus.
“Unfortunately, cases continue to spread in Ohio and throughout the country,” she wrote.
The college has been testing 5% of its student body weekly, slightly more than the 3% recommended by the governor for colleges and universities. Antioch is now using a highly accurate rapid testing system that avoids the false positives seen with rapid antigen testing, Reedy previously said.
No specific changes to the college’s health and safety guidelines are planned as a result of the outbreak. The campus community continues to follow the guidelines developed at the start of the academic year. According to a description on the college website, these guidelines include social distancing, the wearing of face masks, enhanced cleaning protocols, a community agreement signed by all members of the campus community and consequences for those who violate safety procedures.
Asked whether there had been any disciplinary actions related to health and safety violations this fall, Reedy said the college doesn’t publicly share such actions, including in the context of COVID-19.
The November–December block term ends this Friday, Dec. 18, and is followed by winter break, during which time some students will remain on campus.
According to Reedy, college leaders continue to plan for a return to campus for the winter term, which begins Jan. 11. Antioch’s COVID Safety Team, composed of faculty and staff from all units of campus, has been meeting regularly toward that goal.
Slowdown in local cases
Reported cases continue to grow in the 45387 zip code, but at a somewhat slower pace than previously. The zip code includes Yellow Springs and nearby portions of Greene and Clark counties for a total population of 5,456 people, about 1,800 more than the village alone.
As of Tuesday, Dec. 15, there were 136 cases reported in our zip code. Fifty-five of those cases, or 40%, were infections that developed within the prior 30 days. By contrast, 47% of cases reported on Dec. 2 had an illness onset date from the last month. The first couple of days of December appear to represent a peak of the illness in our zip code since Ohio began releasing zip code data on Nov. 12.
The 45387 zip code continues to see a significantly lower infection rate, currently 2,492.7 per 100,000, than surrounding communities. Fairborn (45324) has about double the number of cases on a per capita basis, and Xenia (45385) has well over double.
While Greene County Public Health previously shared a spreadsheet of local cases with first responders in each community in the county, that spreadsheet is no longer being maintained and distributed by the county health department. The spreadsheet listed addresses with active cases of the virus to help first responders appropriately protect themselves on service calls, according to previous information from Greene County Public Health.
But local first responders are already taking safety precautions for all service calls, according to Fire Chief Colin Altman, who addressed the change at Yellow Springs’ virtual town hall on Dec. 9.
“We are at a point now where we just assume that everyone we contact is a positive patient,” he said.
The Yellow Springs-specific COVID figures previously reported in the News derived from that spreadsheet, with the wider zip code data now taking its place.
Spirited Goat closes
In other local COVID-19 news, a business previously served a “notice to abate” for mask violations appears to have closed its doors for good.
The Spirited Goat Coffee House at 118 Dayton St. is reportedly shuttering its business. It was not shut down by the local health department or Yellow Springs police, as some commenters on social media speculated, but was closed to the public by the owner on Thursday, Dec. 3, following the abatement notice, according to Police Chief Brian Carlson. Carlson clarified that the notice was a warning only. Under Ohio’s revised mask order, a first violation at a retail establishment triggers a written warning, while a second violation results in a forced 24-hour closure.
Attempts by the News to reach Spirited Goat owner Michael Herington in recent days were unsuccessful. Building landlords Christine Monroe-Beard and Don Beard declined to comment on their tenant’s status.
Villager Herington has owned and operated the coffeehouse since 2011, when he purchased the business, then named Brother Bear’s Coffeehouse, from Patrick and Mindy Harney.
Patrick Harney — also known as “Brother Bear” for his popular local coffee-roasting business Brother Bear’s Coffee — is now seeking to repurchase the business, according to a GoFundMe fundraising page posted on Monday. Within 24 hours, the page had raised close to $2,000 from 39 donors toward a reported purchase price of $35,000, plus $10,000 in start-up expenses. The purchase deadline is stated as Dec. 21. A News call to Harney regarding the potential purchase was not returned.
In a statement on his GoFundMe page, Harney explained his decision to attempt to repurchase the Dayton Street coffeehouse.
“In 2011 I made the tough decision to sell my coffee shop and focus on personal matters,” he wrote. “Now almost ten years later after selling the shop, the owner is ready to move on to his next adventure and has given me an opportunity to move back in.”
In that same statement, Harney also pledged to “make sure that myself and all my staff follow CDC guidelines while we all work through these trying times with COVID-19.” The sentence appears to reference Herington’s public stance against the necessity of masking and other measures related to the pandemic, whose seriousness he disputed on social media.
The Spirited Goat has been controversial among some villagers over the years as a center of a bohemian subculture, attracting local and out-of-town artists, musicians, transients and people with potential mental health or substance abuse issues. Controversy has intensified during the pandemic, with the apparent flouting of masking by Herington and some patrons.
The Spirited Goat has been the subject of numerous recent posts on local social media, with many, though not all, commenters expressing negative views connected to its lack of masking and other factors.
Chief Carlson said on Monday that service calls to the Spirited Goat had been “higher by far” than calls to other businesses since the start of the pandemic. Some of those calls involved alleged masking violations, following Village and statewide mask orders in July.
But Carlson also emphasized the role of the coffeehouse in providing a sense of community for “bohemians and wanderers” in the village. And he noted that the Spirited Goat has at times served as “our ad hoc shelter,” providing a measure of shelter for a few individuals without housing in Yellow Springs.
Police are working with two of those individuals on housing options now that the Spirited Goat is closed, he added.
“From the police standpoint, there’s been a lot of human complexity,” Carlson said.
“The vaccine is now in Ohio.”
With those words, Gov. Mike DeWine hailed the arrival of the new Pfizer vaccine just before 9:45 a.m. on Monday. The governor spoke to reporters over Zoom from outside the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, where the first doses of the vaccine were administered to a handful of frontline healthcare workers shortly thereafter.
A second set of doses was delivered to UC Health in Cincinnati later that morning, with each hospital receiving 975 doses. On Tuesday, eight more hospitals around the state received 975 doses each, including Mercy Health Springfield Regional Medical Center in Clark County.
Beyond those initial 9,750 doses to 10 hospitals statewide, an additional 88,725 vaccines will go to Walgreens and CVS for congregate care settings. Other doses will follow, from both Pfizer and a second vaccine manufacturer, Moderna, whose vaccine the FDA is expected to approve this week.
A total of approximately 660,000 doses of the two new vaccines are expected to be distributed to “first priority” Ohioans during December, following a timetable previously outlined by the governor.
Priority groups include healthcare workers and personnel involved in the care of COVID-19 patients; residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities; patients and staff at state psychiatric institutions; people with intellectual disabilities and individuals with mental illness who live in group homes, as well as staff in those settings; and EMS responders.
Nursing home distribution will begin with an “early scaled launch” on Friday, Dec. 18, at fewer than 10 Ohio nursing homes, followed by rollout to other nursing homes statewide beginning on Monday, Dec. 21.
According to Friends Care Community Executive Director Mike Montgomery, the local nursing facility does not yet know when it will receive its vaccine doses. CVS will be administering the vaccine for Friends Care, he added.
And according to Greene County Public Health spokesperson Laurie Fox on Tuesday, the local health department does not yet have a confirmed date for the arrival of the first vaccines in Greene County. When they do arrive, the health department will be responsible for coordinating the vaccinating of congregate care residents and staff, EMS responders, home healthcare workers and others, DeWine has stated.
Overall vaccine rollout will occur over many months, the governor emphasized at his press briefing on Monday.
“It’s going to take a while,” he said.
State leaders expect to receive another approximately 660,000 vaccine doses during January, DeWine added. At that point, about 1.3 million Ohioans will have been vaccinated, or about 11% of the total state population of 11.7 million people.
That’s far short of “herd immunity,” the point at which a significant proportion of people are immune to an infectious disease. The World Health Organization has estimated herd immunity for COVID at 65% to 70% of the population.
DeWine has yet to announce the next groups of Ohioans to be vaccinated. A new vaccination dashboard will go online at the state’s coronavirus website in the coming days to allow the public to track the numbers, demographics and geographic distribution of vaccinations in Ohio.
The new vaccines are approved for people 16 and older, so it remains unclear when children would be vaccinated. Younger children appear to be less susceptible to the illness, though they can pass it to others.
DeWine emphasized on Monday that vaccination does not mean people should immediately let their guard down against the virus. For one thing, it’s unknown to what degree the new vaccines prevent the spread of the virus, as opposed to protecting the vaccinated individual from disease effects. He urged Ohioans to continue to observe the state mask order and other safety measures.
“When someone gets a shot, it does not mean they should stop wearing their mask,” DeWine said.
A variety of pandemic-related safety measures remain in place through the holidays. They include limits on mass gatherings, a reissued mask order, an extended curfew and a newly unveiled “Stay Safe Ohio” protocol.
The curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. was originally put in place for three weeks on Nov. 19, and has been extended for another three weeks until Jan. 2. The new “stay safe” protocol includes 10 steps: stay at home; wear a mask; keep interactions short and stay apart; wash your hands; work from home; celebrate safe and small; don’t eat or drink with anyone outside your household; limit travel; keep weddings and funerals safe and enjoy safe holiday activities.
Due to the mass gathering restrictions and the curfew, the Village of Yellow Springs has canceled its New Year’s Eve ball drop this year.
State, county numbers
• Ohio continues to report soaring numbers of cases. Comparing December so far to November, Ohio has seen about 138,721 cases during the first 15 days of this month, while the state saw about 212,593 cases during the whole of last month. (These figures “correct” for the backlog of 13,000 positive antigen test results that caused a one-day spike on Dec. 8 and resulted in underreporting from Nov. 1 onward.) December so far has added about 9,248 cases each day, as compared to November’s average of about 7,086 per day. The two months together account for at least 60% of the 579,357 cases reported in Ohio throughout the pandemic. There are currently an estimated 174,547 Ohioans sick with the virus.
• Ohio is also facing record numbers of hospitalizations and ICU admissions. As of Dec. 15, there were 5,296 people in the hospital, including 1,311 in the ICU. The current number of ICU patients is higher than the total number of patients hospitalized throughout the previous peak last summer, according to Gov. DeWine. Ohio reported 614 new hospitalizations on Dec. 15, its highest ever single-day figure. (A previous higher figure on Dec. 8 included a backlog of unreported hospitalizations.) The state is now adding 379 cases each day, based on a seven-day moving average. There have been 32,878 people hospitalized for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, with 13,658, or over 40%, in the last month-and-a-half alone.
• Greene County has seen proportionally more cases this month than in any prior month. There have been 2,002 cases in the first 15 days of December, as compared to 3,086 throughout November and 1,170 throughout October. So far during December, the county added an average of 133.5 cases per day, versus 102.9 cases in November and 37.7 cases in October. On Dec. 15, Greene County added 218 new cases, its highest day ever (excluding Dec. 8, which reflected a reporting backlog). The county has now seen at least 8,031 cases throughout the pandemic, with an estimated 2,399 county residents currently sick with the virus. In addition, a total of 423 county residents have been hospitalized with the virus, including 89 in the past 15 days. Ninety-two people have died here.
• Greene County remains at alert level “red” on the state’s COVID-19 heat map, for the eighth straight week. Three indicators are flagged, down from four last week. The flagged indicators are new cases per capita, cases outside of congregate settings and — for the second straight week — ICU bed capacity. The ICU bed capacity indicator is flagged if capacity goes above 80% for three days in the prior week, with COVID patients accounting for more than 20% of that capacity.
• Once among the top 20 counties for COVID-19 occurrence, Greene County now ranks at number 48, out of 88 counties, as cases have surged statewide, particularly in rural parts of Ohio. Twenty-nine Ohio counties now have a case rate above 1,000, or 10 times the CDC’s threshold for high incidence. Greene County’s case rate is 928.7 per 100,000 population — more than nine times that threshold.