Breaking the bubble: COVID-19 safety

NOTE: While Dr. Ohl’s comments are directed at students, his advice is relevant to faculty and staff as well. 

Infectious disease expert Christopher Ohl says that he’s been impressed with Wake Forest students this semester. “I wish I could personally thank each one of them for getting vaccinated and wearing a mask indoors,” said Ohl, who works at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.

A high vaccination rate and student adherence to the campus and city mask mandate has kept the daily case counts displayed on the University’s COVID-19 dashboard in the single digits for most of the semester. Other university campuses, U.S. cities and some global destinations have had less success mitigating the spread of the virus.

However, the Wake Forest community must remain vigilant, especially during travel.

“When students break the Wake Forest bubble for Thanksgiving travel or for any other reason, they need to be even more diligent about wearing a mask and avoiding large indoor crowds than they do when participating in activities on campus,” Ohl advised. “I feel confident that the necessary safety precautions are in place and generally followed when traveling through airports, but once we reach our destination it is easy to let our guard down and give the virus an opportunity to spread.

“For extra insurance right after returning to campus a student could take an “at-home test” available at many pharmacies. If positive, they should alert the Student Health Service for confirmatory testing.”

The University and the city of Winston-Salem continue to require masks indoors. While this measure is not required uniformly across the U.S., it is a relatively easy way to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

“I want students to continue to protect themselves, especially when away from campus,” Ohl said. “Returning from Thanksgiving for final exams is stressful enough without being sick.”

Students studying or traveling abroad should follow the same advice and remain diligent about taking all necessary safety precautions. They may also be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination and/or proof of a negative COVID-19 test result by the destination country or the country or study-abroad program to which they will return after travel.