To All Members of the Campus Community:
We are monitoring and helping members of the U-M Ann Arbor community who have tested positive for the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7. The variant strain was identified as a result of regular university testing followed by additional testing in U-M labs. We know the variant is here and will likely see more cases.
The three cases we’ve previously identified and investigated are connected, and all are in isolation. All of the individuals’ close contacts have been identified, tested and are currently in quarantine. Additional details are available in the University Record.
University health officials are working closely with state and local public health officials and continue to recommend that in addition to those who are required to be tested, all undergraduate and graduate students in the Ann Arbor area – even those taking all their classes remotely – be tested weekly to help slow the spread and contain the virus.
The science about new COVID-19 variants is rapidly emerging. Currently, the variants are considered more contagious but do not necessarily cause more severe illness. It remains of utmost importance to protect one another by following public health best practices, which include: avoiding large social gatherings, wearing a face covering on campus and when around anyone outside your immediate household, practicing social distancing, watching for symptoms, and isolating and seeking medical care immediately if symptoms develop.
I cannot overstate the importance of these public health measures as two of our Campus Response Metrics are currently being met: the local community metric for Washtenaw County of more than 70 new cases per million and five days of sustained increases in cases in the U-M community.
I thank all of the U-M undergraduates who have been participating in our weekly asymptomatic testing program and using the ResponsiBLUE app to indicate their testing status. We’ve updated our ResponsiBLUE FAQ to address recent questions about previous positives and vaccines.
A Compliance and Accountability Team has been established to monitor participation in the mandatory testing program, follow up with students to encourage and facilitate compliance, and escalate issues of non-compliance as appropriate. This work to promote compliance will ramp up Jan. 25.
We are also evaluating the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Interim Guidance for Higher Education COVID-19 Testing issued earlier this week and determining how this may affect our community.
We continue to urge all U-M community members to fill out the Blue Queue questionnaire. This is the method we will use to schedule all faculty, staff and students who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The COVID-19 data dashboard on the Campus Maize and Blueprint site now includes vaccination data.
Michigan Medicine provides daily updates on U-M’s vaccination program. Michigan Medicine employees receive the update email already, and members of the university community from our three campuses may opt to receive the email by following directions posted here in the Blue Queue section.
In response to questions, we have posted information and a graphic in the prioritization section of the page of who gets the vaccine in each phase, and we continue to monitor the state and federal guidelines that inform our prioritization.
Michigan Medicine Town Halls and Campus COVID-19 Briefings
Michigan Medicine’s next town hall will be today at 3-4 p.m. Information on joining is available here. This is an hour later than previous town halls.
Next Friday, we will schedule our usual biweekly 1 p.m. COVID-19 briefing with Provost Susan M. Collins, Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon, and Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani. We’ll send out the invitation next week, which will include the form to submit questions. Previous briefings are posted here.
During the semester, I will continue to provide weekly COVID-19 updates to help keep everyone informed and address concerns and respond to feedback and questions from our community. You may also view the University Record for the latest stories and the Campus Maize and Blueprint site for updates.
Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.