OU’s Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said he thinks it’s likely classes won’t be in person after Thanksgiving and discussed greater enforcement of masking at football games during the SGA Undergraduate Congress meeting Tuesday.
Bratzler answered questions from congress members and said he thought masking and distancing precautions were obeyed insufficiently during the game last Saturday.
“I think a lot of us were disappointed with some of the fan activity at the game,” Bratzler said. “Nobody should be surprised that we’re going to see person-to-person transmission if we don’t do the only public health interventions that we know help reduce the spread of the virus.”
Bratzler also said university leadership has been in talks for ways to limit the risk of transmission of the virus at the next football game.
“I was very upfront, I told leadership on Monday after I saw the game that we need to take some action that shows we have every intention of enforcing those policies,” Bratzler said, “particularly inside of the stadium where it is a university facility, and we have the right and authority to do so.”
Bratzler also said he believes OU may follow universities like OSU and Notre Dame, among others, in making the decision to not come back to campus after Thanksgiving break.
“I think the Board of Regents were a bit reluctant to make the decision too early, as some universities have, but it is an ongoing discussion,” Bratzler said. “If I were a betting person, I’m going to bet that we won’t come back after Thanksgiving break, but I can’t guarantee that, and I can’t read President Harroz’s mind.”
Bratzler said he believes the Synexis micobe-fighting air purifiers installed in some dorms aren’t effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
In the announcement of the installation of the devices, OU President Joseph Harroz said the devices, along with the rest of the university's Clean and Green initiative, are "two of the ways we are diligently preparing for our return to the in-person OU experience.”
“I think they were putting those in for reasons beyond (COVID-19),” Bratzler said in the meeting. “I'm not aware of a single study that shows that a dry hydrogen peroxide generator can change (COVID-19) infection rates.”
According to Bratzler, no student has been quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure in a class, and contact with someone infected in class isn’t considered direct contact.
“Direct contact or close contact is explicitly defined as more than 15 minutes of contact within six feet of a person,” Bratzler said. “We're not isolating hardly anybody around classroom exposure because most of you will never meet that definition of more than 15 minutes within six feet of a person.”
Bratzler said he hopes the university can enforce mask policies on campus and show those who choose to not wear a mask the university is serious about these precautions.
“I think we need to do something to make people understand that we are serious about the mask mandates and things like that,” Bratzler said. “What students do once they leave campus, we can’t control. But what they do when they’re on campus we should be able to.”
The congress also unanimously passed a resolution to push voter registration and a bill to assign congress members to committees. The voter registration resolution cited a 48.6 percent voting rate for the 2016 presidential election at the university. The resolution’s authors said they hope to assist in any way possible to increase the voting rate for this coming election.