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Ohio State University Extension


Thoughts from the Director – COVID-19 Updates

Hi friends...

I was reading a special edition message from Korn Ferry that really struck a chord with me this week. Gary Burnison (Korn Ferry CEO) wrote, “Arguably, this has been the biggest collective learning moment in decades. It’s like studying for an exam but you don’t know when the test will be given, and the curriculum changes almost every day. Your only choice is to learn it all.” 

He went on to mention a call he received from Paula Schneider, President & CEO of Susan G. Komen, a leading breast cancer organization in the U.S. She reflected that, ‘‘We have made more major decisions in the past 90 days for our organization than in the last 10 years,” Paula told him “Most will be right; some will miss the mark, but all have been thoughtful…. Sometimes things that transpire (both good and bad), inspire. We have harnessed the power of the moment to propel us forward.” -- Source: Burnison, G. Special Edition: Learn It All, Korn Ferry, (July 12, 2020). 

This really resonated with me as we continue to face nearly daily changes and challenges, with many “test questions” and not all of the answers. Each of the aspects of navigating COIVID-19 has brought with it many unknowns… 

How can we transition to telework? How long will we be working from home? How do I balance work in a home environment? What tools are available to help me succeed in a virtual environment? When can we safely return to offices? When can we return to offering in-person programming? The list goes on and on. 

We have had to often learn and sometimes design on the go, to be agile and to be flexible, but to always be responsive. We have been working hard to slowly return to statewide campuses, to offer time-sensitive programs (virtually and through some Extension exemptions), and to look toward readying for additional chances to engage in-person with our partners and stakeholders when it is needed or is allowable within the Responsible Restart Ohio and university guidelines. I appreciate your continued patience and your willingness to ensure the safety of your colleagues, volunteers, community partners, and clientele as we expand (and sometimes contract) our efforts, depending on the local situations with COVID-19. Beginning this week, we will provide the process for the expansion of the Research and Extension Activities exemption to include in-person programming for educational events up to 100 people that cannot be accomplished virtually. 

Per the announcement from Ohio State late last week, virtual events should continue to be conducted when feasible, as the health and safety of our community remain our top priority. If an event must take place in person, appropriate measures, such as physical distancing, must be preserved. All events must include registration or attendee lists that include participant contact information to facilitate contact tracing if needed. 

Events at Ohio State may be held at a limited number of venues, provided the events comply with building reopening requirements and all rules mandated by the university, and state and local governments. All events must adhere to these requirements as a basis for minimal acceptable practices, understanding that individual units or facilities may issue additional guidelines for permissible events. Guidance on events is as follows: 

  • University-sponsored events should be limited to fewer than 100 total individuals and must be approved by the sponsor’s vice president or dean. 

  • Any university-sponsored event with 100 or more individuals must be approved by President’s Cabinet and flow through the dean for consideration. 

  • Events sponsored by groups not affiliated with the university may take place in approved venues and must follow all university, state and local guidelines. 

  • Athletic events are not included in the 100 total individual threshold. Discussions remain underway about Ohio State athletics events for autumn, and an announcement will be made in the coming weeks. This week, the Big Ten Conference announced (link is external) that it will move to a conference-only schedule for fall sports. 

  • Information about schedules and formats for Welcome Week events will be updated at (link is external)

Venues now permitted to hold events are: Blackwell/Pfahl Hall, the Club, Covelli Center, Fawcett Center, Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, Ohio Stadium Club and small meeting spaces, outdoor athletics facilities, Schottenstein Center, Wexner Center for the Arts and Wooster Conference Centers. Our COVID-19 Transition Task Force, including its events group, will continue to review these facilities and consider the opening of additional event spaces.  

Facilities on regional campuses and other university-owned properties will be evaluated by a vice president or dean to determine readiness and appropriate dates to open.  

What does this mean for Extension in-person programs/educational events? 

I will be finalizing a process for submitting Extension educational events for in-person programming that will parallel the process used for the Research and Extension Activities exemption process used to date and identifying a review team similar to the previous review team but fully made up of professionals with Extension appointments. I will release this process and any additional guidelines for in-person programming by this Wednesday COB. If there are statewide programs that can be submitted in bulk as a blanket request (e.g., CARTEENS, Successful Co-Parenting, PAT/FACT), I would prefer to receive a submission from the assistant director to streamline the process for the reviewers and the dean. The goal is to begin reviewing these as early as next Wednesday and then weekly, as needed. Ultimately, this option should be implemented when virtual programming is not feasible, when program topics are time-essential and cannot be further delayed, when contracts and grants would be jeopardized through further delay, and when the safety of the participants can be addressed in accordance with CDC, ODH, and university guidelines. In addition, we will also be paying attention to the readiness of employees and clientele for offering such educational events.