Note: This article was updated May 21 from an earlier version.
An updated University of Michigan face-covering policy allows individuals to go mask-free while outdoors on all U-M campuses, provided they avoid gatherings of 100 or more, but face coverings remain required while indoors or on U-M transportation.
The change went into effect May 10 and updates the previous requirement — issued in July 2020 — that all students, staff, faculty and visitors wear a face covering anywhere on U-M property, including indoors, outdoors and while on U-M transportation on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses.
The updated policy states individuals must wear a face covering when “inside buildings, on U-M transportation, participating in organized contact sports, and when outdoors in gatherings of 100 or more.” This approach aligns with the latest guidance from the state of Michigan and applies to all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.
Since the policy change went into effect, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state of Michigan released additional guidance on gathering sizes, distancing and face coverings.
President Mark Schlissel said in the May 21 weekly COVID-19 message to the U-M community that the university is waiting for guidance from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration — which still has workplace health and safety measures in place — before the university can reconsider its distancing policy, density guidelines in research labs, and the indoor and outdoor masking policy. Schlissel noted he expected new guidance in the coming weeks.
“We are aligning with the current Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Gatherings and Face Mask Order, as well as current evidence-based studies, to alter our requirements for outdoor face coverings,” said Preeti Malani, U-M’s chief health officer and professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases at Michigan Medicine.
“As our community vaccination rates increase, we would expect masking rules to adjust as well. Your best defense against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, so if you haven’t already done so, please get vaccinated.”
Members of the campus community are encouraged to still carry a face covering while outdoors on campus in the event masking is needed.
Face coverings help slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and are part of a multilayered approach for COVID-19 prevention. Other preventive measures — including getting vaccinated, physical distancing and frequent hand washing — need to be maintained even while wearing a face covering.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued updated safety guidance regarding mask use for indoor and outdoor activities following vaccination, and highlighted the reduced risk of transmission in various settings.
Benefits of COVID-19 vaccination include: the ability to gather with other vaccinated individuals unmasked in outdoor settings, although masks are still recommended for indoor settings; no need to test prior to and following domestic travel; and no requirement to quarantine following a close-contact exposure to COVID-19, provided the individual remains symptom free.
U-M continues to strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Appointments remain available at many local vaccination clinics.
Second-dose-only appointments also are available through U-M, and nationwide through retail pharmacies, in the event individuals need to schedule their second dose elsewhere. For a second-dose appointment through U-M, individuals should call 734-763-6336 to provide information on their first-dose manufacturer and be scheduled.
After their final dose, students are strongly encouraged to submit their vaccination information through Wolverine Access to verify with the university they are fully vaccinated, which will exempt them from weekly mandatory testing and potential quarantine requirements.
At this time, the university is not collecting information regarding employee vaccination status.
Students planning to live in Michigan Housing in the fall will be required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or request a vaccination exemption. Details on the Michigan Housing vaccination exemption process will be shared in the coming weeks.
Students who are still in need of vaccination in the fall will have the opportunity to get vaccinated upon their arrival to Ann Arbor. This includes students arriving to campus from domestic locations as well as from abroad.
Quarantine period reduction
As a result of the current low transmission rate of COVID-19 in the university community, U-M — in alignment with the Washtenaw County Health Department — adopted a 10-day period of quarantine for unvaccinated individuals following a close-contact exposure.
If the COVID-19 exposure is to a known or suspected case of variants P.1, B.1.351, B.1.617 or travel related to India, individuals are instructed to quarantine for 14 days.
Any individual who develops symptoms during their quarantine period should get evaluated and tested.
This change was announced last week during the weekly message from President Mark Schlissel.
Fully vaccinated individuals who remain symptom-free are not required to quarantine following a close-contact exposure to COVID-19, which follows guidance from the CDC.