Latest state order imposes further restrictions on campus activity


All college and university courses statewide, except for those in the health professions and first-responder training, must be delivered remotely beginning Nov. 18, under the latest state order issued to stem increases in Michigan COVID-19 cases.

Intercollegiate athletics may continue, although no spectators will be allowed, including parents who had been able to watch in person on a limited basis. Most other campus gatherings also are prohibited.

The new order by the state Department of Health and Human Services takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 18 and will last for three weeks, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Nov. 15 announcement.

The University of Michigan “will carefully examine the details of the order to make sure we are in compliance starting Wednesday,” the university said in a statement.

The university reiterated that 90 percent of undergraduate classes on the Ann Arbor campus already are being taught remotely, and that all undergraduate classes are scheduled to be fully remote after Nov. 20 through the end of the fall term Dec. 18.

Whitmer said the latest order follows a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks.

Michigan has a seven-day average of 512 cases per million people, five times higher than the case rate on Oct. 1. The current death rate is four times higher than it was in early October, with more than 300 COVID-related deaths weekly. Whitmer said one model predicts that without aggressive action the state could see as many as 1,000 deaths per week.

“As hard as the first months were for our state, the next few are going to be even harder,” she said. “This new epidemic order is geared toward stopping the spread by limiting indoor gatherings. These steps are what the public health experts say we must take to avoid overwhelming hospitals, and death counts like we saw in the spring.”

The order states that gatherings at colleges and universities are prohibited for the purpose of holding in-person classes, extracurricular events, or other events except under specific exemptions. It prohibits workplaces from opening if work can be done from home.

Residence halls and dining facilities can remain open. U-M dining currently is by take-out only. Campus recreational facilities are limited to 25 percent capacity, and 12 feet of separation must be maintained at exercise stations.

The U-M football and hockey teams will be able to continue practicing and competing since student-athletes and staff are in a daily testing protocol. No spectators will be allowed to attend games during the three weeks covered by the order. Basketball also is moving forward, although schedules have not been announced.

The university’s recently announced plan for the winter semester that begins Jan. 19 calls for undergraduate students who don’t need to live on campus to remain at their permanent residences to reduce density in U-M residence halls.

The plan also says U-M will continue the approach to instruction it has implemented in recent weeks, with more remote classes, and in-person classes limited to those most effectively taught through this format or required for licensure.

There also will be increased testing, mandatory each week for undergraduates who live on campus or attend in-person classes or activities, perform research, use facilities such as libraries, unions or Recreational Sports, or work on campus.

Weekly asymptomatic testing will be available for all graduate, professional and undergraduate students who are not otherwise covered by a mandatory program, as well as staff and faculty working or teaching on campus.


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