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U-M implements mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for graduate, professional students

In this June 23, 2020 photo provided by UC Berkeley, a student provides saliva for an experimental COVID-19 coronavirus test for asymptomatic people. Scientists at the university are collecting samples from volunteers in hopes of finding asymptomatic people to stop them from unknowingly spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Irene Yi/UC Berkeley via AP) (Irene Yi, Irene Yi/UC Berkeley)

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan has announced that all graduate and professional students who live on or frequent campus will have to undergo mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing.

The testing, as part of U-M’s Community Sampling and Tracking Program, will begin on Feb. 16. Undergraduate students on campus already undergo required weekly testing for the virus.

“Regular testing of the U-M community - including you as a student - is an important part of the multilayered strategy to help identify COVID-19 in the community and reduce potential further spread by quickly moving infected individuals and all of their identified close contacts into isolation,” reads a letter that was sent to students on Friday by U-M’s chief health officer, Preeti Malani, and executive director of University Health Service, Robert D. Ernst.

According to the letter, testing through Michigan Athletics, University Health Service or Occupational Health Services meets the weekly requirement.

“Case management and contact tracing efforts on campus have consistently demonstrated that social gatherings among graduate and undergraduate students alike continue to fuel the spread of COVID-19 within our community,” reads the letter.

The health officers said that some in-person learning, teaching and research will continue as usual since there is no indication that COVID-19 has spread during these activities.

According to U-M, weekly COVID-19 testing through the school is required for all students who live on or visit campus, including those who are:

  • Living in Michigan Housing.
  • Registered for or teaching any in-person courses that meet on campus, regardless of how frequently the course meets in-person.
  • Employed in a position that requires you to come to campus.
  • Conducting research in an on-campus facility/building.
  • Coming to campus to use facilities (e.g. libraries, unions, Rec Sports, dining).

Students who previously tested positive for the virus are excluded from testing from the date of their test for a 90-day period.

Starting on Monday, all graduate and professional students will see a weekly testing status box appear in their ResponsiBLUE app. For those up-to-date with testing through the university, their last test date will be displayed. For those who are not, their test status will be defaulted to “Completed” with Feb. 16 as the expiration date, upon which weekly testing must be completed. Members of the U-M community are required to use the tool to visit campus.

On Feb. 2, U-M reported a rise in cases that made up for a total of one-third of all cases in Washtenaw County. Three days later, the Washtenaw County Health Department confirmed that all 23 local cases of the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant are associated with U-M.

All U-M athletics were recently shutdown for two weeks at the recommendation of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services after an outbreak of the new variant among department members. Additionally, the Washtenaw County Health Department issued a stay-in-place recommendation for all U-M students that expired on Sunday in order to curb the spread of the virus.

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.