The University of Michigan has discontinued its broad, generalized COVID-19 case notifications for classrooms and building spaces following recent changes to state guidance and community feedback that the general notices were confusing and of limited benefit. The change is effective Sept. 14.
All COVID-19 case data remains publicly available on the university’s dashboard. U-M’s Environment Health & Safety unit will continue to reach out directly to those identified as close contacts through case investigation and will provide information on next steps.
Classrooms have not been associated with COVID-19 transmission due to the university’s masking requirement, high vaccination rates in the U-M community and ventilation standards.
U-M officials note that simply attending the same class or being in the same building as someone with COVID-19 does not qualify as a close contact requiring quarantine or testing when all individuals are wearing a face covering and the vast majority are vaccinated.
Robert Ernst, director of U-M’s COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee, noted that the state of the pandemic called for a change in the university’s approach to notifications.
“We are in a very different place than where we were when the university first started sharing community notices last August. At that time, general public notices provided an added layer of awareness. Today, much of society has transitioned to a more protected post-vaccine phase of the pandemic and many restrictions have been adjusted,” Ernst said. “Targeted individual case investigation and associated contact tracing are more effective parts of the mitigation strategy designed to limit spread.”
Officials note the U-M community should continue to follow recommended public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
U-M began issuing building notifications in August 2020 to share information regarding positive cases that were present in U-M buildings during their infectious period as required by the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration COVID-19 rules. As of June 2021, the notifications are no longer required under MIOSHA and there are more effective ways to reach individuals who are close contacts to reduce potential community spread.
Classroom notifications were also used to alert a class roster of a possible COVID-19 exposure in the classroom setting, and were sent prior to the completion of case investigation, which determines whether the positive student had even attended in-person class.
To date, 94 percent of students, 90 percent of faculty, and 80 percent of staff are fully vaccinated and masking is required in all classrooms and buildings.
Asymptomatic testing is available through the U-M Community Sampling and Tracking Program for students, faculty and staff who are concerned about potential exposures. For symptomatic individuals, testing is available for students at University Health Service or Occupational Health Services for employees.