Ann Arbor campus COVID activity trending downward

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The number of COVID-19 cases on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus is trending downward as the university community rounds out its first month of a more traditional fall experience with robust in-person teaching and events. 

The U-M COVID-19 data dashboard reports that total weekly cases peaked the week of Aug. 29 at 195 and have decreased each week since, with last week’s total at 102 cases and this week’s preliminary case count at 22.

U-M public health officials have said that strong vaccination levels and the indoor face-covering requirement are effective measures that have produced the downward case trend.

Test positivity rates for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals also have decreased to 1 percent last week, down from 1.7 percent the previous week. 

“We attribute all of this to our very high levels of vaccination providing significant protection against infection and creating low rates of transmission to other vaccinated persons,” President Mark Schlissel said at the Sept. 23 Board of Regents meeting. 

There have been 567 positive cases among the U-M community since Aug. 21, with 160 cases in faculty and staff and 407 cases in students.

U-M’s wastewater surveillance program which monitors sewage on and near campus has shown findings that correlate very closely with the identified case counts; showing an initial increase followed by a progressive decline.

Currently, 95 percent of students, 95 percent of faculty and 82 percent of staff have self-reported and are verified as fully vaccinated, making the U-M community one of the highest vaccinated populations in the state.

By comparison, 68 percent of individuals 16 or older in Washtenaw County are vaccinated, which is still among the highest vaccination rates in the state.

University Health Service reports that students are being treated for a variety of illnesses including COVID-19, strep and upper respiratory illness. For the COVID-19 cases diagnosed at UHS this past week, officials say all have been either without symptoms or mild illnesses with a runny nose and sore throat.

Case investigation suggests the majority of identified cases within the student community continue to be linked to social gatherings without masks.

Schlissel noted that unlike last academic year, the university is not seeing clusters of COVID-19 cases in residence halls or in off-campus group housing, with the exception of a single 15-case cluster in one off-campus house earlier this term.

U-M officials continue to reiterate that classrooms have not been associated with COVID-19 transmission, stating this is likely due to the university’s indoor masking requirement, high vaccination and ventilation rates that exceed CDC recommendations.

Overall activity in the surrounding community has otherwise remained relatively stable, but at a “high level,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Risk scale. The U-M community is encouraged to continue to practice prevention measures both on and off campus.

The university has updated its COVID-19 vaccination dashboard to include those who are in the process of being vaccinated, in the queue for their information to be reviewed, approved for an exemption, and those who have not yet submitted information or had their submission rejected.

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