U-M to focus on ‘mission critical’ operations while addressing virus


The University of Michigan will continue operations that are critical to its core missions of education, research and patient care, while further adjusting other functions as faculty, staff and students deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a March 18 email to faculty and staff, President Mark Schlissel acknowledged the pandemic has “turned our personal and professional lives upside down,” but added it “also is a challenge we face together, supporting one another and helping how we can.”

Among the developments Schlissel announced:

  • The university is working to change the majority of buildings on campus to “controlled access” until April 21, meaning only authorized community members may enter a building using their Mcard.
  • Researchers across the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses should “ramp down all noncritical laboratory research activities” by 5 p.m. March 20.
  • Parking enforcement in Ann Arbor campus lots and structures will be temporarily modified, including the suspension of regular enforcement on North, Central and South campuses. Medical Center Campus parking and some individual spaces will remain enforced.
  • University Housing and Michigan Dining staff will continue to assist students who remain on campus.
  • U-M’s Property Disposition unit has closed to the public, but can be contacted regarding technology it may have available that is useful to faculty and staff working remotely.

The COVID-19 coronavirus has spread to more than 150 countries, with more than 200,000 confirmed cases and 8,000 deaths as of March 18, according to the World Health Organization. Confirmed cases have been reported in all 50 U.S. states.

In Michigan, the number of confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. March 18 was at least 80, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. One person, a patient at Beaumont Hospital in Detroit, was reported to have died as result of complications from the disease.

The total case count for Washtenaw County, as of 10 a.m. March 19, stands at 14, according to the Washtenaw County Health Department.

Describing the status of university operations going forward, Schlissel stressed U-M is not activating its existing “Emergency Reduction in Operations” or “Reduction in Operations” protocols, and that managers and units are to evaluate planning for continuity of operations.

“In almost all cases, this will consist of changing the way we work. In some cases, this approach may mean modifying activities, determining which projects can be postponed, or redeploying employees to appropriate work that is mission critical,” Schlissel said.

“Generally, work that is currently being done or can be done remotely should be done that way with supervisor approval. … We’ve significantly reduced density and made our community safer, and I thank everyone who has helped us achieve this.”

A few key buildings will remain unrestricted to the public to meet mission critical needs, and others may have different hours or close completely. Those remaining open for full or modified hours include University Health Service, Trotter Multicultural Center, Pierpont Commons, Palmer Commons, the Michigan League and Michigan Union.

While ramping down non-critical laboratory research, U-M will maintain minimal access to labs so that critical activities, including the maintenance of animals, unique reagents, and essential equipment and materials, along with research related to COVID-19, can continue. U-M also has placed temporary restrictions on human-subject research through May 1.

“This decision did not come easily, and we know that it has a large impact,” Schlissel said. “We are working across the academic enterprise to minimize the impact this poses to your professional advancement, the advancement of your colleagues, and to your ability to return to fully functioning labs.”



  1. James Shurlow
    on March 21, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    It is unfortunate that Michigan Medicine once had arguably the largest home ventilator program in the world. I believe that we can offer that assistance again.

    Administration terminated that world class program.

    Now we all suffer.

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