Editor's Note: This ongoing thrive series looks at how students on college campuses are innovating, overcoming challenges and living healthy lives.
ONTARIO — With the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Richland County, the community has felt its impact, including college students.
Both Ohio State University at Mansfield and North Central State College (NCSC) students had extended spring breaks, and all classes will be moved online for the rest of the semester.
The respiratory illness that was first identified in Wuhan, China, COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), has now spread to 10,442 Americans according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
As of right now (March 20) there are 169 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout Ohio, which can be seen on the Ohio Coronavirus Outbreak Map.
On Wednesday, March 18, Ohio State University President Michael Drake announced that two members of the university community tested positive for COVID-19 late Tuesday evening.
According to President Drake, the cases are unrelated to each other and both university members are now in self-isolation at home.
“Both returned to central Ohio following separate out-of-state domestic business trips - one to the east coast and one to the west coast,” President Drake said.
Students residing in OSU Mansfield’s university housing were required to return to their permanent residences for the rest of the semester.
Jon Black, a sophomore at OSU Mansfield, was residing in the Moylet Village Apartments on campus this semester. After this announcement, his father helped him pack his belongings and move back to their home in New Waterford.
Although Black understands the university’s measures to ensure student safety, he is still hoping for a refund for housing costs which are around $4,000 per semester.
According to an email President Drake sent to residence hall students on Monday, March 15, the university will provide an appropriate prorated refund of housing and dining to those departing the residence halls.
Black is a mechanical engineering student and said his professors have not yet communicated the details regarding the transition to online courses.
His physics and engineering classes have required labs, which are difficult to change into online activities.
College students in the area are not only facing changes to college life, but also to their social life and workout habits as well.
With gyms, restaurants, movie theaters and even the Richland Mall closed down, how are college students in the area maintaining a healthy physical, mental and relational lifestyle?
Garry “Matt” Rice, a pre-med student at OSU Mansfield, worked out five times a week at a local gym called Crossfit Katana; that is, before they closed their doors Monday evening, per Governor Mike DeWine’s announcement that the Ohio Department of Health will indefinitely close all fitness centers and gyms.
Although Rice has stayed home since the closure of most businesses, schools and gyms, he has found a way to maintain his physically active lifestyle.
“I have a small home gym setup that I have been using along with the bodyweight home workouts programmed by Crossfit Katana,” Rice said. “I have also taken my dog on walks around my neighborhood.”
The 19-year-old has also adapted to social quarantine by staying in touch with his friends through Snapchat and online video games.
With a lot of his schoolwork online, Rice said most of his assignments will be unaffected by OSU’s switch to all online courses.
Although lectures changing from in-person to online will be a different experience for both students and professors, Rice said that OSU provides many helpful tools to assist them during this change.
“The best way to get through this is together, as a team,” Rice said. “By being supportive and also receiving support from others, the rapid changes we’re facing will be made much easier. By staying together through friendship and faith we can all weather the storm.”
Even with a chain and padlock around the door, owner of the downtown fitness center, J.P. Pocock, stresses that physical activity is more important now than ever before.
“We know that exercise helps with stress, it helps with your immune system, it makes us stronger and more durable,” Pocock said. “(And) we can’t rely on systems to care for our health. Health care is an individual responsibility first and foremost. Relying on other support can put ourselves in jeopardy.”
Pocock and the coaches at Crossfit Katana plan to announce a homebody-fitness challenge. The team will communicate with their members over social media and are using #HomebodyFitnessChallenge.
“We’re going to try to keep everyone engaged and encouraged to be exercising by putting together (online) teams which all of our coaches will captain,” Pocock said.
OSU pre-med student Matt Rice said that Crossfit Katana’s Facebook group, which includes all members, have done well to stay in touch.
Pocock said members can come to the center at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and check out workout equipment like dumbbells. Their daily online workouts will keep things simple, including only a few pieces of equipment like a jump rope and a pair of dumbbells.
“When it’s dark, it’s really easy to see the light,” Pocock said. “My prayer is that this would be an opportunity for me to share the love and light of Jesus with people.”
Although this dark time has had serious negative effects on small, local businesses like Crossfit Katana, Pocock remains positive, viewing it as an opportunity to spread encouragement and love.
“In times like this, health should be the biggest priority,” Rice said. “(And) we all need to take care of our mental health just as much as our physical health. Find something to keep yourself busy and calm, work off all the extra energy and take care of your body and mind."