The University of Michigan will make face masking optional, starting March 14, for most indoor spaces on campus, including offices, residence halls and athletic events.
Masks will remain required in classrooms and other instructional spaces during class times, and in patient care areas, campus COVID-19 testing sites and on campus buses at least through the end of the winter semester. Instructional spaces include those that are an extension of classrooms, such as teaching laboratories and performance spaces.
The policy change is possible, campus officials say, because of the high vaccination rate among students, faculty and staff as well as improving conditions in the region.
The updated policy applies to all students, faculty, staff and visitors — regardless of vaccination status — on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses. The Dearborn and Flint campuses will communicate the policy directly to their respective campuses.
In addition, the COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee has issued new guidance for the community that no longer calls for guests attending indoor ticketed Michigan Athletic events to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
The CHRC continues to recommend using ResponsiBLUE as a symptom screening tool for the campus community as well as for guests at in-person events and programs, and notes that food and drink are now acceptable for in-person gatherings.
The guidance reflects the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is supported by a majority of the U-M community being up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations — 89 percent of students and 85 percent of employees, excluding Michigan Medicine — according to the university’s vaccination dashboard.
“As the rate of COVID-19 activity decreases on campus and our state and region move from a ‘Response’ to ‘Recovery’ phase of the pandemic, the Campus Health Response Committee is issuing new guidance regarding COVID response on campus,” said Robert Ernst, associate vice president for student life for health and wellness and CHRC director.
“Mask use is still an effective strategy for enhanced personal protection, especially for those with compromised immune status, those who are not vaccinated or up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, and anyone with a perceived increased situational risk.”
Campus leaders urge the community to recognize and respect that some on campus will choose to continue to wear masks in spaces where they are no longer required, and they encourage all individuals to be kind and respectful of that personal choice.
Certain units, such as Michigan Medicine and the U-M Children’s Centers, may issue local-level policies that supersede the broader policy. Masks remain required in all patient care areas including in Michigan Medicine, University Health Service and the Dental School clinical areas.
The timing of the policy change takes into consideration the recent break in the academic term when many individuals traveled. Individuals experienced an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, and campus experts anticipate some increase in COVID-19 cases following travelers’ return to the campus community.
Under the latest guidance from the CDC, mask use is not listed among the recommended prevention behavior guidance for most individuals in areas with a “Medium” COVID-19 Community Level, which is the current level for Washtenaw County. Those who may be at higher risk for severe illness are encouraged to speak with their health care provider about guidance for masking when around others.
Masks remain required for all indoor spaces if an individual is completing the full 10 days of an isolation and quarantine period as outlined in the guidance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Other COVID-19 mitigation measures that remain in place include:
- The U-M COVID-19 Vaccination Policy that requires students, faculty and staff to remain up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.
- Maintaining the availability of free, COVID-19 testing on campus through the Community Sampling and Tracking Program.
- Weekly testing remains required of U-M community members who have an exemption from the vaccine policy.
- Meeting or exceeding standards set by the CDC for classroom ventilation, as well as Michigan Building Code heating and cooling system requirements for airflow at maximum occupancy.
- Quarantine and isolation housing space remains available for students who need space to quarantine or isolate.