University of Michigan updates COVID protocols as students prepare to return to campus

U-M aligns with CDC’s new shortened isolation guidance

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

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan has released an updated COVID-19 safety plan as students prepare to start the winter semester in person on Wednesday.

An email sent to the school community on Monday by President Mark Schlissel and Provost Susan M. Collins outlined the new measures, which include new isolation and quarantine guidelines and upgraded masking policies for indoor settings.

“Our goal remains to prioritize our educational, research and service missions, including providing the best possible educational experiences for our students, largely in person, while doing so as safely as we can for all members of the community,” wrote Schlissel and Collins. “We need everyone’s help to make this happen.”

They said that the new requirements were developed with the highly contagious omicron variant in mind.

According to a news release, the school’s U-M’s latest COVID-19 protocols include:

  • A broadened indoor masking requirement. Students must wear face coverings in the common areas of residence halls and in Recreation Sports facilities, at least through Jan. 17, 2022. U-M’s indoor and transit mask requirements remain in effect. In addition, the university recommends using face coverings that meet higher standards (such as N95 or KN95 masks) during air travel.
  • Required COVID-19 boosters. A COVID-19 vaccine booster is required for all students, faculty and staff on all three campuses, including Michigan Medicine. The deadline for reporting is Feb. 4, 2022. Booster information can be reported by clicking the featured COVID-19 link in Wolverine Access.
  • Updated testing guidelines. All students living in campus residence halls must take a COVID-19 test upon arrival at a Community Sampling and Tracking Program testing site or using the two-pack rapid antigen test kit that will be placed in each student’s mailbox. U-M strongly encourages testing for everyone else, regardless of vaccination status, especially for people who traveled over winter break.
  • Updated quarantine and isolation guidelines. Information about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently updated guidelines, which shorten the recommended time for isolation after infection or close contact with an infected person, has been added as an FAQ to the Campus Maize & Blueprint site.
  • Vaccination or negative test requirement for ticketed events. Attendees of ticketed events, including on-campus performances and athletic events, must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours. For the U-M community, vaccination verification can be done through the ResponsiBLUE app. Face masks must be worn during all home indoor athletic events.
  • The recommendation that no food or drink be served at on-campus gatherings to minimize the need to remove face coverings.

In their email, Schlissel and Collins explained why they decided to move forward with their original plan to resume in-person classes on Jan. 5, saying that high compliance with the school’s mask and vaccine mandates contributed to the fall semester’s success.

“With the vast majority of students back in Ann Arbor, we do not believe that a period of remote instruction would appreciably decrease the predicted spread of COVID-19 in the weeks ahead,” they wrote.

They did, however, encourage both students and instructors to be flexible as the new semester begins under the cloud of the state’s highest COVID surge to date.

“We expect these first few weeks of the semester to be challenging and ask everyone to care for yourselves and for one another by staying safe and practicing kindness during what will be a stressful time for many,” they wrote. “Cases are very likely to increase, regardless of decisions we make about in-person work or classes. Hospitalizations locally and around the country may also surge in coming weeks.

“Current data suggest that masked, vaccinated, boosted individuals interacting with other masked, boosted individuals won’t substantially increase the health system burden. Recognizing this in advance can help to make a surge in cases less stressful. Unlike in 2020 when we all needed to stay home to flatten the curve, today we know that together, we can take the steps that have been demonstrated to prevent severe illness and ensure that we can have a successful semester.”

School officials will continue to monitor cases on campus and develop changes, if necessary, alongside U-M health experts and academic leaders.

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.