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COVID-19 vaccines coming to local college campuses

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Local colleges are preparing to begin offering vaccines against COVID-19, and guidelines for proms, graduations and other events have been posted on the Responsible Restart section of coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Gov. Mike DeWine set the goal of making the vaccine available to any college student who wants an injection by May 1, prior to schools letting out and the risk that vacationing students might spread the virus.

Julie Keck, spokeswoman for Belmont College, last week said the college would begin working with the Belmont County Health Department. On Tuesday, she reported the college had finalized arrangements to provide a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for Belmont College students and employees.

“Belmont College students, faculty and staff who are age 18 and older and interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine can sign up at the Main Campus Academic Technical Center front desk now through Monday, April 12,” she said in an email. “Vaccines will be given on Tuesday, April 13 from 11 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Health Sciences Center in room 108. We will not accept walk-ins; those eligible must have an appointment before arriving.”

Keck added the COVID-19 vaccine is not required for students, staff or faculty but is strongly encouraged. The Belmont County Health Department will be distributing the Moderna vaccine, which is given in two doses about one month apart. Belmont College will provide both doses to eligible individuals. For more information, visit the Moderna vaccine website at www.modernatx.com.

The campus is serving as a site where faculty, staff and students can choose to get the vaccine as supply allows and they become eligible based on state guidelines found at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

During his press conference last week, DeWine had said he hoped to provide the single-dose Johnson and Johnson version of the vaccine to colleges in the interest of convenience.

Keck said education has continued through the pandemic and classroom capacity at the college is not restricted.

“Classroom counts as well as common areas have been modified and partitions are in place where six-foot distances couldn’t be maintained. Everyone on campus is required to wear a facial covering. We did implement hybrid classes last spring due to the pandemic, however we have always had hybrid courses and online offerings so this was not anything new for us,” she emailed.

“In regard to this coming fall, we offered our full course offerings on campus starting with this past fall and will continue to do so, while we continue to put our students’ needs and safety first as well as that of our employees.”

At Ohio University Eastern David Rohall, dean of campus and community relations, said the college has been working with Belmont County Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Sproul. OUE has about 400 full-time students. The college hopes to offer 60 percent of its normal course programming in fall. Facility usage is restricted to 25 percent of capacity, and hybrid learning is likely to continue.

Meanwhile, the Responsible Restart page at coronavirus.ohio.gov now lists guidelines for events such as proms and graduations. Organizers are asked to consider local conditions such as rate of spread and infection in their areas, and to hold events outdoors if at all possible and offer online attendance options. Other guidelines include limiting attendance or seating capacity to allow for social distancing, or holding multiple, smaller events in larger spaces.

Other advice includes maximizing ventilation while indoors and making use of partitions and touchless devices for ticketing and other services.

Organizers are also reminded to take such precautions such as creating pathways for attendants, putting up signs and sanitizing items such as microphones that multiple people might touch.

On Monday, DeWine consolidated those elements of prior orders that had been found most effective into a single, new order emphasizing masking, social distancing, and attending events in groups no larger than 10 to avoid spreading the virus.

Vaccinations are now open to all Ohioans ages 16 and older. For more information or to register, visit the Belmont County Health Department website at belmontcountyhealth.com or gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.

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