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U-M president: Social gatherings ‘main cause of recent COVID-19 spread on campus'

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel (Photo: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy)
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel (Photo: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy)

ANN ARBOR – In a statement issued Tuesday following the announcement that all undergraduate students at the University of Michigan must stay-in-place for 14 days, university President Mark Schlissel said that the majority of COVID-19 cases on campus were linked to social gatherings.

“Most of the cases on our campus can be traced back to small- and medium-size gatherings without appropriate face coverings and social distancing,” Schlissel said in the statement.

On Saturday, residents of Mary Markley Hall were ordered to stay home from classes and practice enhanced social distancing after a cluster of cases were identified. According to school and county health authorities, the measure was taken since most students in the residence hall skipped mandatory COVID-19 testing.

This also comes after reports of unsanctioned partying between the disaffiliated Delta Chi fraternity and Chi Omega sorority on campus led to a cluster of cases within the sorority.

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With a rise in cases on campus and quarantine and isolation housing occupancy passing 50%, Schlissel said the school’s contact tracers and case investigators have been under increasing pressure.

The emergency order comes just as U-M rolled out its voluntary asymptomatic saliva-based testing program for all members of its community. The program, in partnership with U-M spinoff startup LynxDx, has the capacity to test 3,000 individuals each week, but as of Oct. 9, the weekly testing rate was estimated to be 1,200.

With the first Michigan football game of the season set for Saturday, the measure comes at a time when social gatherings would be at their peak in any normal year. As things stand, opponent Minnesota has already announced that it will have several players unavailable on Saturday due to COVID-19.

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