University of Michigan students preparing to return to campus for a hybrid model of remote and in-person instruction this fall are being informed of new procedures to minimize the impact of COVID-19.
Measures include enhanced social distancing for all students before arriving on campus, pre-arrival coronavirus testing for those moving into U-M residence halls and apartments, and class schedule adjustments to reduce density in classrooms and academic buildings.
Martino Harmon, vice president for student life, and Robert Ernst, associate vice president for student life and executive director of University Health Service, emailed all students Aug. 3 to update them about U-M’s fall plans.
They stressed that the first weeks of the semester will be a high risk for spreading COVID-19, and reminded students to wear face coverings anywhere on campus or U-M transportation, to maintain social distancing, practice frequent hand washing, avoid large gatherings and stay home when sick.
“Each of these actions are an important part of our multilayer approach to reducing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting you and everyone else in the U-M community,” they wrote. “The Division of Student Life worked closely with U-M students across campus this summer to develop the Wolverine Culture of Care — a commitment to keeping the U-M campus community as healthy and safe as possible.”
President Mark Schlissel sent a pair of email messages Aug. 4 to reinforce the messages sent Aug. 3 by Harmon and Ernst. The president’s emails were sent to faculty and staff on the Ann Arbor campus, and to students studying on the Ann Arbor campus. He further outlined measures the campus is taking to keep the campus community safe from COVID-19 as some students return to Ann Arbor in the month ahead to begin the fall semester.
While reiterating that all campus employees who can work from home should continue to do so, the president said all campus units are finalizing plans to protect the health and safety of faculty and staff who do need to be on campus.
“Everything we do to decrease on-campus density will make our campus spaces safer for those who are teaching or have to work on campus,” Schlissel said.
He said that over the summer more than 7,000 U-M researchers have resumed working in campus labs. “There is no indication of any virus transmission between laboratory or research coworkers at work, though there have been three positive COVID-19 cases among these approximately 7,000 faculty, students and staff working in our labs this summer.”
Students can review and edit their class schedules in Wolverine Access beginning Aug. 7. Depending on their courses, most students will be able to choose whether to return to campus or continue to study remotely from their permanent residence.
Currently available data and registrations imply that approximately 70 percent of credits for undergraduates can be taken remotely this fall. Many hybrid courses also offer the option to attend remotely as well.
New international students who plan to study in the United States this fall must choose some in-person or hybrid classes, and be enrolled full time.
Students who signed housing contracts will be allowed to cancel without penalty until Aug. 14. Those who study remotely in the fall semester may apply for housing in the winter semester if conditions allow.
Those moving into U-M residence halls and apartments are expected to be tested and cleared for the virus that causes COVID-19 before arriving in Ann Arbor. U-M is partnering with Quest Diagnostics to provide students with self-testing kits that will be mailed to Quest for analysis.
All U-M students who return to campus must observe a 14-day period of enhanced social distance at home before arriving in Ann Arbor or on campus. During that time, they must monitor their health, reduce contact with others and follow guidance consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also will be asked to complete an online learning module that serves as an overview of COVID-19.
Students arriving directly from international locations will begin their 14-day enhanced social distancing in their residence on- or off-campus when they arrive, and are expected to not go to in-person classes if the social-distancing period overlaps with the start of classes.
Students arriving from designated domestic locations who may need to practice enhanced social distancing after arrival will be expected to observe guidance from the state of Michigan or Washtenaw County Health Department. Currently, there is no additional guidance to observe.
Harmon and Ernst wrote that the university is building a robust plan to evaluate students with suspected symptoms of COVID-19, including testing when indicated, through University Health Services.
Environment, Health and Safety will continue to work closely with local public health officials to perform contact tracing for all infected students, faculty and staff. Support and space will be available on and off campus for students who develop symptoms or test positive, and need to quarantine or isolate safely.
In addition, students will be expected to check themselves for COVID-19 symptoms each day by answering a small set of questions using U-M’s daily symptom checker tool that offers advice on where to seek care if needed. Currently, faculty and staff returning to campus use the health screening tool, which is being modified to also include information for students.
— Editor’s note: This story was updated after President Mark Schlissel emailed faculty, staff and students