1. Campus COVID-19 Update: Winter term safety, case update, Omicron variant

    December 17, 2021

    To All Members of the Campus Community:

    COVID-19 cases on campus decreased from the previous week, and we continue to see an average of about 10 employee and six student cases per day. Cases in the surrounding community continue to be high.

    Many of you will be traveling in the coming days, so please take advantage of our COVID-19 testing through UHS and the Community Sampling and Tracking Program and get a vaccine and booster if you’re eligible. Michigan Medicine experts also have shared information on “How to safely celebrate the holidays during COVID-19.”

    Omicron variant

    We have detected a case of the Omicron variant in a student living off campus and will continue to monitor for it as we have since its emergence worldwide in the recent weeks. The individual did not attend classes during the infectious period. U-M is working in coordination with the Washtenaw County Health Department on case investigation and additional preventive measures for those who may have been exposed. U-M and the county are not recommending additional measures for the general community currently.

    We also urge everyone to be safe during the holiday break by avoiding indoor gatherings with large groups, masking up, isolating if symptoms develop, and getting a booster.

    We are tracking carefully Omicron spread in our state and on campus, as well as emerging data regarding how well vaccination and boosters prevent infection and serious illness. Currently, data suggest that the severity of illness caused by omicron is no worse and may be less severe than that caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19 and that vaccination remains highly protective against hospitalization and death.

    Additional safety measures for winter term

    U-M will implement additional health and safety measures for the upcoming winter term following recommendations from our Campus Health Response Committee. These important strategies will add key preventive measures to diminish spread of COVID-19 when our campus repopulates in January and in-person classes resume.

    The additional winter term health and safety measures are:

    • COVID-19 boosters required – We will require booster shots for all Ann Arbor faculty, staff and students and Michigan Medicine under the U-M vaccination policy by Feb. 4 or as soon as you’re eligible thereafter. The Dearborn and Flint campuses will share details soon about boosters. Each campus and Michigan Medicine will provide implementation details when they are finalized. Get a booster shot as soon as possible once eligible and wherever the booster is available. Don’t wait. We’ll announce details in January on how you can self-report COVID-19 booster status.
    • Increased testing expectations – We will require all students living in the residence halls to test for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus through the CSTP. We strongly encourage all students, faculty and staff, regardless of vaccination status, to get tested upon returning to the area. Please do this before attending any social gatherings.
    • Face coverings in the residence halls – Initially, we’ll require everyone to wear a face covering, regardless of vaccination status, while in common areas of our residence halls. This change will be effective Jan. 2 through at least Jan. 17. Previously, fully vaccinated students were able to forgo masking while in the common areas of their assigned residence hall.

    The set of preventive measures I’m announcing today are steps we’re taking in advance to prepare to have a safe and successful winter term on our campus. We’ll also continue to track case numbers, severity of illness and Omicron during the break. If conditions worsen significantly and Omicron data changes, we’ll be ready to make further changes.

    Early data is just starting to become available regarding the effectiveness of boosters in preventing infection or serious illness by the Omicron variant, but there is some suggestion that Omicron may produce a less severe illness. Masking remains an important preventive measure for the transmission of COVID-19. The CHRC and other U-M experts will be following the quickly developing understanding of the new variant and we can adjust our plans as warranted.

    Additional details are available in the University Record. These additional measures are in addition to the face covering requirement, vaccination requirement, testing requirement and ResponsiBLUE self screening we already have in place. We appreciate everyone’s diligence and compassion for one another as we seek to keep everyone healthy.

    I will continue to provide COVID-19 updates when needed to help keep everyone informed, address concerns and respond to feedback and questions from our community. You also may read the University Record for the latest stories and the Campus Maize and Blueprint site for updates.

    Sincerely,

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