Protecting Ohioans’ job opportunities

Ohio’s community colleges are among the state’s most important resources for equipping Ohioans with the knowledge they need to get ahead in life. Our close ties with local employers means that we have a good understanding of the skills they need their workers to have in order to be a success.

Right now, what Ohio’s employers are telling anyone who will listen is that they want to help their workers stay healthy, so that they can come to work.

That’s right, as Ohio struggles to push back against the economic headwinds imposed by the pandemic, the new wave of illness that is currently sweeping the state is an added setback for many Ohio employers. With a new, dramatic uptick in cases of COVID-19, many Ohioans are unable to go to work, which is dealing a major blow to some businesses’ ability to operate or even to keep their doors open.

So, just as Ohio’s community colleges pay close attention to employers so that we can help lead our students to successful careers, in this instance we are also listening to the health and safety needs of our business partners and we are joining them in their fight against COVID-19.

It’s all part of our overall commitment to helping our students, their employers and Ohio get quickly back on their feet.

That’s why we are supporting the economic opportunities of our students, Ohio workers and Ohio’s businesses by partnering with Ohio’s leading employers in the Stop the Spread campaign.

This comprehensive, statewide effort is working to make sure Ohioans have the information they need to stay healthy, keep their families healthy and be able to keep going to school and work to keep themselves, their communities and our state strong.

Simple, easy steps are the most powerful ones for protecting ourselves and those we care about. As uncomfortable as they are, facemasks make a big difference in combating the spread of COVID-19, because they do help stop the spread of the virus.

Wear one whenever you’re out in public. Staying six feet away from others not in your household and washing your hands regularly helps also, as does avoiding large gatherings.

We’ve all heard this advice before and perhaps like me, you’re tired of hearing it again and again. However, only by being disciplined in our practices with these few, simple safety measures, will we make any real headway in overcoming this challenge.

With any talk of discipline, I immediately hear the words of several Ohio State football coaches ring in my ears. For those who may have thought COVID-19 to be just an abstraction, the Ohio State Buckeyes helped make it real for everyone across the state recently when Head Coach Ryan Day and a number of Buckeye players had to sit out a game due to illness, despite having a world-class team of health experts committed to keeping them as safe as possible.

COVID-19 even found a way to break through Ohio State’s front line. Now, with recent news that OSU’s reviled football rival — hit by a serious COVID-19 outbreak of their own — has canceled the season’s most anticipated game, that message hits home with even greater force.

As seemingly inconsequential as college football is to some—and certainly compared to the thousands of lives that have been lost it is inconsequential—the fact that the pandemic could reach into a program with such high aspirations on the field this year, with the team being both closely monitored and routinely tested, demonstrates just how real, pervasive and “everywhere,” this problem is.

So far approximately 7,000 Ohioans have lost their fight with this disease, more than 30,000 have spent time in the hospital and approximately 470,000 have become sick. These are enormous numbers, and behind each one is a story of sadness, disruption and challenge.

Not only is the current spike in illness once again jamming our hospitals to the point of overload, which poses a risk to others who may need medical care for other conditions, it risks putting our state in a very dark place just at the time that we should be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of vaccines.

Over many generations, Ohioans have become experts at hunkering down for the winter.

Joining together for one final push to get us through this winter and keep each other safe is what we need to do to keep Ohio strong and position all of us for better times ahead. They’re coming.

Jack Hershey is CEO of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.

Jack Hershey

Contributing columnist