Community urges compliance amid surge in COVID-19 cases


A picture of the COVID-19 virus provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By Blake Boyd

Some Oxford residents feared students’ irresponsible behavior and recent travel would lead to a local surge in COVID-19 cases. Those fears were realized by at least 125 students testing positive for the virus.

“Since Aug. 17, 125 positive cases have been reported from local labs from (Miami University) students, with at least 100 tests pending at this time,” the Butler County Department of Health said in an Aug. 26 press release. “This does not include students who received tests at labs in other cities or states.” 

Three university employees have also tested positive, according to Miami’s COVID-19 dashboard, and student-athletes have been put on a blanket quarantine after 27 tested positive with links to an off-campus party.

The positive COVID-19 tests could have ramifications on the community and whether Miami is able to return to in-person instruction this fall. Carole Johnson, interim director of university news and communications, gave a statement on behalf of the university regarding the concerns.

 “The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and local communities is our paramount concern,” Johnson said, “and the increasing number of positive COVID-19 test results among students is concerning. It reinforces the absolute need for physical distancing, facial coverings, and those practices which limit the spread of COVID-19. We continue to collaborate with the Butler County General Health District to help safeguard the health of our communities.”

David Prytherch, a member of Oxford city council, said he’s worried if effective measures aren’t taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, Oxford‘s surge in cases could continue.

“Before the students arrived we had a handful of cases in Oxford and now we have, likely, hundreds,” Prytherch said. “We may be in the process of becoming a hotspot… It means everyone needs to be doubly careful because the risk is not low in Oxford right now.”

Kimberly Moore, associate vice president and dean of students, sent an email to the Miami student body Thursday night urging students who are living in Oxford to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.

“Our ability to come together- and then stay here together- this semester hinges on students who are already here committing to the health and well-being of the entire community and following protocols,” Moore wrote in the email.

Moore stressed that students who attend off-campus mass gathering could face legal and academic repercussions. The Oxford Police Department currently has an ordinance limiting mass gatherings of more than 10 people not living in the same household. 

“The Oxford Police Department sends student violations to Miami, and we are charging these – and some other violations – as Endangering Public Health & Safety under the Code of Student Conduct,” Moore wrote. “A typical sanction for this offense is suspension.”

Prytherch said he’s worried about the possible economic impacts a local outbreak could have, with many community members financially dependent on Miami students returning to in-person instruction.

“If COVID cannot be contained then Miami’s in-person semester is jeopardized,” Prytherch said. “If that’s the case, then I think that furloughs and layoffs might be in Miami’s future.”

“We still have time to get COVID under control,” Prytherch said. “But we don’t have much time… I would like to believe that it’s not too late, but if it’s already become widespread then we might be there already.”