Washtenaw County Health Department officials said the order will expire at 7 a.m. Tuesday (Nov. 3).
“The proportion of local COVID-19 cases associated with U of M has decreased, and importantly, this reduction in new, university-associated cases has allowed case investigators and contact tracers to catch up,” health officials said in a release. “Overall, the number of cases in Washtenaw County remains high and weekly test positivity has increased to nearly 4%.”
Since most COVID-19 cases continue to be related to social gatherings and events without preventative measures, limiting social gatherings is critical to keeping new cases lower, experts said.
“We are grateful for the cooperation of the university and its students on this order," said Jimena Loveluck, MSW, health officer for Washtenaw County. "We know this is incredibly difficult for all of us. We’re thankful for this small bit of good news, but we all must continue to do everything we can to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on each of us and on our community.
“Recent weeks have left no doubt that the virus continues to circulate and have also confirmed that we can minimize its negative impacts by continuing to use face coverings and distance and cooperating fully with all public health guidance."
When the stay-in-place order was issued two weeks ago, more than 60% of Washtenaw County cases were associated with U of M students, and case investigators and contact tracers were unable to keep up with the sharp increase in these cases, experts said.
Student cases now represent about one-third of local COVID-19 cases, though local cases overall remain high and resources for investigating and tracing are still stretched. Washtenaw County has reported more than 6,000 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 as of Nov 2. The weekly test positivity rate has increased to 3.8%, according to the health department.
“With Thanksgiving and the winter holiday season approaching, the health department reminds everyone that COVID-19 continues to circulate in our community and cases are increasing in non-campus areas," the release reads. “Limiting gatherings as much as possible over the holidays and continuing to use COVID-19 precautions is strongly encouraged. If individuals or students plan to return home or visit family or friends, they should consider staying away from others as much as possible for two weeks prior, wearing a mask in public, and getting tested for COVID-19.”
Under the order, undergraduate students were told to stay in their residence unless attending class, accessing dining services or carrying out approved work that couldn’t be done remotely.
Students who wished to return to their primary residence could do so only if they have completed the university’s procedures for leaving campus safely, health officials said.
“The situation locally has become critical, and this order is necessary to reverse the current increase in cases,” Loveluck said at the time. “We must continue to do what we can to minimize the impact on the broader community and to ensure we have the public health capacity to fully investigate cases and prevent additional spread of illness.”
The order was intended to limit socializing among students and slow down the spread of COVID-19, officials said.
Under existing state orders, everyone has to keep at least six feet of distance from others who don’t live in their household and wear a face covering when out in public or in common areas.