The University of Michigan has updated its COVID-19 health and safety measures to provide a safe and robust on-campus experience for students beginning the winter semester this week.
The measures, which include enhanced indoor masking policies and new quarantine and isolation guidelines, are designed to reduce the risk of severe illness as the campus repopulates and in-person activities resume, according to a Jan. 3 email from President Mark Schlissel and Provost Susan M. Collins.
“Our goal remains to prioritize our educational, research and service missions, including providing the best possible educational experiences for our students, largely in person, while doing so as safely as we can for all members of the community,” they wrote. “We need everyone’s help to make this happen.”
The requirements were put in place in anticipation of rising cases stemming from COVID’s omicron variant, Schlissel and Collins said. University officials will continue to monitor the spread of the delta and omicron variants and adapt health and safety strategies accordingly.
U-M’s latest health and safety measures include:
- A broadened indoor masking requirement. Students must wear face coverings in the common areas of residence halls and in Recreation Sports facilities, at least through Jan. 17. U-M’s indoor and transit mask requirements remain in effect. In addition, the university recommends using face coverings that meet higher standards (such as N95 or KN95 masks) during air travel.
- Required COVID-19 boosters. A COVID-19 vaccine booster is required for all students, faculty and staff on all three campuses, including Michigan Medicine. The deadline for reporting is Feb. 4. Booster information can be reported by clicking the featured COVID-19 link in Wolverine Access.
- Updated testing guidelines. All students living in campus residence halls must take a COVID-19 test upon arrival at a Community Sampling and Tracking Program testing site or using the two-pack rapid antigen test kit that will be placed in each student’s mailbox. U-M strongly encourages testing for everyone else, regardless of vaccination status, especially for people who traveled over the break.
- Updated quarantine and isolation guidelines. Information about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently updated guidelines, which shorten the recommended time for isolation after infection or close contact with an infected person, has been added as an FAQ to the Campus Maize & Blueprint.
- Vaccination or negative test requirement for ticketed events. Attendees of ticketed events, including on-campus performances and athletic events, must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours. For the U-M community, vaccination verification can be done through the ResponsiBLUE app. Face masks must be worn during all home indoor athletic events.
- The recommendation that no food or drink be served at on-campus gatherings to minimize the need to remove face coverings.
Schlissel and Collins previously announced that in-person classes would resume Jan. 5. That decision was based, in part, on the success of the fall semester, which saw high levels of compliance with the university’s vaccine and mask policies.
“With the vast majority of students back in Ann Arbor, we do not believe that a period of remote instruction would appreciably decrease the predicted spread of COVID-19 in the weeks ahead,” they said in their Jan. 3 message.
Schlissel and Collins reaffirmed the importance of in-person engagement but also said they recognize the need for flexibility as the new semester begins. They encouraged instructors to be flexible with students who are sick, and said sick faculty and staff members should not come to campus.
“We expect these first few weeks of the semester to be challenging and ask everyone to care for yourselves and for one another by staying safe and practicing kindness during what will be a stressful time for many,” they said. “Cases are very likely to increase, regardless of decisions we make about in-person work or classes.
“Hospitalizations locally and around the country may also surge in coming weeks. Current data suggest that masked, vaccinated, boosted individuals interacting with other masked, boosted individuals won’t substantially increase the health system burden.
“Recognizing this in advance can help to make a surge in cases less stressful. Unlike in 2020 when we all needed to stay home to flatten the curve, today we know that together, we can take the steps that have been demonstrated to prevent severe illness and ensure that we can have a successful semester.”
The safety protocols were developed by the Campus Health Response Committee in collaboration with the campus executive team, deans of the schools and colleges, and other academic leaders.
Officials will continue to work with campus health experts and academic leaders to advance U-M’s mission safely, monitor COVID-19 cases and respond as conditions change.
Schlissel and Collins said the university is closely monitoring its health care infrastructure, which continues to have adequate capacity to care for COVID-19 patients. They also said more widespread vaccination and boosting in the region would diminish the number of COVID-19 patients in U-M’s hospitals and clinics.