The number of COVID-19 cases among University of Michigan students has declined significantly over the past two weeks, but people still need to wear masks and take other precautions to control the coronavirus’ spread, university officials said in a Nov. 3 email to students.
The message from Martino Harmon, vice president for student life, and Robert D. Ernst, associate vice president of student life for health and wellness, and executive director of University Health Service, came the same day the Washtenaw County Health Department’s two-week stay-in-place order for U-M undergraduate students expired.
Harmon and Ernst thanked students for their efforts to keep the community safe. They said even with the positive progress, it’s important to remain vigilant.
“Across the state of Michigan and nationally COVID-19 cases are on the rise,” they wrote. “Even within our own campus and near campus communities the rate of new cases remains high despite the improved trends outlined above. For this reason, we ask for your continued effort to control the spread of COVID-19 by wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and staying home when sick.”
In a Nov. 2 press release, the health department said cases associated with U-M now represent 33 percent of the county’s total number, compared with 60 percent when the stay-in-place order was issued Oct. 20.
Harmon and Ernst said while the order was in place, public health response teams were able to improve response times for case investigation. The occupancy rate of U-M Quarantine & Isolation Housing also improved considerably, they said.
Overall, the number of cases in Washtenaw County remains high, according to the health department. Washtenaw County reported more than 6,000 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 as of Nov. 2. Its weekly test positivity rate increased to 3.8 percent.
The county said that since most COVID-19 cases continue to be related to social gatherings and events without preventative measures, limiting social gatherings is critical to keeping new case numbers lower.
Harmon and Ernst noted in their email that the stay-in-place order was paired with various measures from the state, including limits on table occupancy in restaurants and on the sizes of outdoor and indoor gatherings. In addition, restaurants are now required to collect customer contact information to assist with any contact tracing that may be necessary.
U-M has established a required departure protocol for students living in residence halls, and testing also is strongly encouraged for students living off campus. The protocol asks that students schedule a COVID-19 test prior to leaving campus for the semester and report their results to the university.
“Also important is the need for enhanced social distancing upon arrival at your final destination,” Harmon and Ernst wrote. “This is particularly important if you have recently traveled, attended gatherings with others outside of your household, or if you will be in contact with vulnerable individuals at your permanent residence.”