University issues public health updates ahead of fall term

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The University of Michigan is sharing updates ahead of the fall term to its COVID-19 testing requirements and Vax Viewer, a tool that allows campus community members to submit and view the status of their COVID-19 vaccination information all in one place.  

The Public Health Response team, part of U-M’s new public health structure focused on infection prevention, continues to monitor COVID-19 and the monkeypox virus, and is planning for a more robust flu season, said Robert D. Ernst, chief health officer and associate vice president of student life.

“The knowledge and infrastructure built during the pandemic have better positioned U-M to respond to COVID-19, MPV and other illnesses that may occur this academic year,” Ernst said. “While news of MPV may be concerning to our campus community, it is not nearly as contagious as COVID-19, while we also now have better COVID-19 treatments that are more widely available.”

COVID-19 community updates

The U-M COVID-19 Vaccination Policy remains in place requiring that all faculty, staff and students complete their primary COVID-19 vaccination series and one booster, with limited exemptions. Individuals should submit COVID-19 vaccination information through Vax Viewer. Additional information, such as a second booster, can also be submitted through Vax Viewer, though it is not required.

Effective Aug. 29, weekly testing is no longer required — though it is strongly encouraged — for members of the campus community who have an exemption from COVID-19 vaccination. Michigan Medicine employees should continue to follow the established protocols.

Community testing continues to provide helpful surveillance information. Testing for asymptomatic COVID-19 will remain available through the Community Sampling and Tracking Program for U-M employees and students.

All campus community members are encouraged to test at home before returning to campus and to have antigen tests on hand for immediate testing should symptoms develop at any point during the semester. These are now widely available through many government resources, at local pharmacies, and at CSTP sites.

The U-M Face Covering Policy, which has not changed, indicates:

  • Masking for most indoor spaces on campus, including instructional spaces, is not required. Faculty members and instructors cannot require masks in classrooms but are encouraged to remind individuals of actions each can take, such as masking, based on their own individual risk assessment.
  • Masks remain required in patient-care areas such as Michigan Medicine, University Health Service and the Dental School clinical areas, and at U-M COVID-19 testing sites as noted under the U-M Face Covering Policy.
  • Masking recommendations are aligned with the CDC’s COVID-19 community level. Two of the three counties with a U-M campus — Washtenaw and Wayne —are listed as “high” as of Aug. 25, and it is recommended that everyone should wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Genesee County is “medium,” and it is recommended masking decisions be based on an individual’s personal risk.

In ongoing consultation with the Washtenaw County Health Department, the U-M Public Health Response team will continue to monitor COVID-19 activity and may revise masking requirements as indicated.

ResponsiBLUE, U-M’s daily symptom-checker app, will continue to be the personal tool to track compliance with the university’s vaccination policy and other COVID-19 requirements. All members of the U-M community and guests coming to campus are encouraged to use ResponsiBLUE for daily screening as it will continue to be required to access certain buildings, and to seek appropriate care and testing if they have symptoms.

Individuals are advised to stay home if they are sick, with support from their supervisors and instructors, to help reduce the likelihood of spreading a range of infections including COVID-19.

For the latest information and updates related to COVID-19, visit the U-M Health Response website.

MPV awareness and prevention 

The university’s Public Health Response team continues to closely monitor the potential impact of the monkeypox virus on the U-M community. The risk of MPV to the general public remains low.

Unlike COVID-19, MPV is transmitted by close physical contact — usually skin-to-skin — and the current understanding is that spread from asymptomatic individuals is unusual.

Isolation guidance for those testing positive for MPV is established in consultation with the Washtenaw County Health Department, and at this time the duration of isolation will be established based upon an individualized clinical assessment. Priority groups for vaccination also are established by the health department.  

For U-M students, the University Health Service can perform clinical evaluations and testing of suspected student cases, and is prepared to support vaccination and treatment of priority groups identified by the health department.

Faculty and staff members who have a suspicious rash or believe they were exposed to MPV should contact their health care provider immediately. Those without a health care provider should call the Washtenaw County Health Department at 734-544-6700.

Seasonal influenza (the flu)

Many of the same tools and practices used to protect against COVID-19 are effective against influenza, such as:

  • Getting vaccinated against influenza when available.
  • Wearing a mask if one is worried about catching the disease from others around them.
  • Staying home when sick.

Details about flu vaccine clinics on campus will be announced soon.

(Note:  This story has been updated to reflect the CDC’s COVID-19 community level for Genesee, Washtenaw and Wayne counties, which refreshed after 5 p.m. Aug. 25.)

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