Chief Health Officer addresses questions about possible shutdown

Chief Health Officer addresses questions about possible shutdown

Hallie Riley and Hallie Riley

During Monday’s Graduate Student Senate meeting, Chief Health Officer Ben Batey addressed questions surrounding the likelihood of the university shutting down in the case of a major outbreak.

“My response to that is . . . everybody wants one metric. If we hit an ‘x’ number of cases, everything shuts down. However, this fall semester looks very different than what anyone is used to. We’re used to the spring when everything shut down and we sent everybody home. And so that’s what everybody has in the back of their minds,” Batey said.

When the virus started to spread, Ohio saw drastic increases in positive cases, as well as increases in mortality, Batey noted.

Universities, as well as healthcare systems nationwide, were faced with a shortage of protective equipment.

“You couldn’t get masks, you couldn’t get gloves . . . hand sanitizer –– you couldn’t purchase it in any capacity. There were all sorts of things that we were up against in the spring that made it the best public health decision to send everybody away and shelter at home,” Batey said.

Overall, the lack of preparation, metrics and information on COVID-19 forced universities to close their doors.

“Now, in the fall, we have a lot of metrics to look at. It’s not only the number of cases we’re seeing in students. It would be the number of cases in faculty and staff, . . . in the general Bowling Green community, across Wood County, across Ohio along with tying that to direct impacts like increases in healthcare visits . . . as well as hospitalizations,” Batey said.

Batey emphasized shifting the conversation from an immediate university closure to discussing ways to limit exposure on campus.

“What we would probably be discussing would be . . . Are we going to do away with certain in-person activities, so in-person classroom environments, in-person labs, in-person events?” Batey said.

Furthermore, Batey stressed that a university shutdown would be “terrible public health practice.” 

Students who have been exposed to a large number of positive cases could increase the risk of further contaminating other communities outside of Bowling Green. 

“That’s not really good public health practice, to say take this to someone else’s community –– we don’t want it here in ours. And so we may have to adapt over the course of the fall semester, but I don’t think it will look like the spring. So when everybody says when are we just closing everything down –– I honestly don’t think that we will,” Batey said.