1. A new phase in our COVID-19 recovery

    June 2, 2020

    To All Members of the University Community:

    I am writing today to share the good news that our state has entered a new stage in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday that she has rescinded the Stay Home, Stay Safe order for all parts of our state and we are transitioning to the “Improving” phase of the MI Safe Start Plan.

    I know many of you have questions about how this affects our campuses, employees and students. For now, much of what we are doing on our campuses will not change, but cautious reactivation of various in-person activities will continue with additional details provided below.

    Our ability to feel positive, however, is diminished by the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor that represent a different kind of pandemic – racism that continues to plague our communities. Earlier today, I sent a message to our community inviting everyone to a virtual student town hall planned for Friday at noon to attempt to promote healing and examine these essential issues.

    I again want to thank everyone in the U-M community who has spoken out, advanced peaceful protest, offered support and sent the message that we won’t tolerate any form of racism or vile acts that end the lives of our fellow human beings.

    U-M’s next steps in the COVID-19 recovery

    Gov. Whitmer’s announcement Monday demonstrates that together, we are gaining the upper hand in our work to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing and stepped-up hygiene practices are working.

    I applaud the experts from our School of Public Health and other parts of our campuses who have helped to inform decisions at the state and campus levels. All of Michigan is in a better place thanks to the scientific understanding, professionalism and dedication of many members of our community.

    I want to emphasize that public health guidelines will remain in place for many operations, even as we continue our gradual reactivation. We need to ask you to help us implement and follow these guidelines and consider next steps as conditions improve, just like we came together to flatten the curve.

    • If you can work from home, please continue to do so. Working from home when possible follows the governor’s ongoing guidance, as well as the recommendations of our own public health and medical professionals. This remains crucial to our efforts to keep density low on campus to prevent a second wave of infection from affecting us, our colleagues and loved ones. Please do not come into work on campus unless directed by your supervisor. If conditions allow more in-person work to occur in the weeks ahead, we will share that information.
    • Research labs will continue their gradual ramp up. Our Office of Research’s careful, deliberate plan for the orderly and gradual resumption of research is working well and will continue. This is the result of extraordinary collaboration among many units, including our schools and colleges, Facilities and Operations, our Division of Public Safety and Security, and Information and Technology Services. I know that other units are using this work as a template for their own preparations.
    • Fall planning will continue. Our schools, colleges and departments will continue to engage in their thorough planning for the fall semester. We will announce details later this month. Many dozens of individuals are engaged in these efforts across our university, and I thank them for their considerable efforts. I remain cautiously optimistic that we will be able to deliver a public health-informed fall semester on our three campuses safely and with as much in-person instruction as possible.
    • Social distancing and wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces remain essential. This component of the governor’s guidance has not changed. We also continue to urge everyone to follow smart hygiene practices, such as hand washing. And please continue to monitor any symptoms you may have, and stay home if you’re sick.
    • Employees already working on campus may continue to do so. Faculty and staff in some units have been working in person, following public health guidelines. This will continue as well.
    • Plans for museums and libraries will be shared soon. The new executive order permits the opening of museums and libraries on June 8, with public health precautions. We’re working on what this specifically will look like on our campuses and will share details, including when we will open these resources, as soon as we can.

    The governor’s announcement also permits outdoor social gatherings and events of up to 100 people with everyone maintaining six feet of distance. Indoor gatherings and events continue to be limited to 10 or fewer, however. Additionally, some restrictions on retail and dining-in are being relaxed.

    I know that after such a long period of being asked to stay home, the temptation is strong to return to “normal” activities. I urge everyone to follow social-distancing guidelines when going out. Our continued success and improvement in controlling this pandemic depend on all of us. We will share more information on how these and other changes will affect our campus operations – but for now, the bulleted items above remain in place for our university.

    All of you have my most sincere gratitude for your help in saving lives while continuing to fulfill the mission of the university during this pandemic. I look forward to the day when we can all be together again.

    Sincerely,

    Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.
    President