To All Members of the Campus Community:
During the semester, I am providing weekly COVID-19 updates to our community. You may also view the University Record for the latest stories and the Campus Maize and Blueprint site for updates. We have modified the design of the Maize and Blueprint site based on community feedback to make it easier to access the latest information, and we’ve added a new public health notices page to proactively make the U-M community aware of positive cases on campus and potential exposures.
Our case numbers remain low – and currently are lower than many other campuses who have different mixes of remote and in-person instruction. This is the result of excellent diligence from many in our community. Thank you for going above and beyond to help keep everyone safe.
Current data from the week beginning Aug. 30, as our semester was getting underway, show 19 new cases (12 students, 7 non-students). As our data dashboard notes, non-student cases include remote employees and exposures outside of campus.
It is important that students who get tested privately, off-campus, notify the University Health Service of their test results to assist in our ongoing assessment of COVID-19 spread in the university community. We’ve also created graphics to help students living on and off campus know what to do in various COVID-19-related scenarios.
Although our lower case numbers are good, the number of contacts per case continues to be high. This is very much a concern. We urge everyone to continue to practice social distancing and limit gathering sizes to help prevent further spread of COVID-19. We have to maintain our vigilance to keep case numbers low.
Helping us with contact tracing for close contacts of positive cases is our new Contact Tracing Corps, which we announced last week.
We have also been hearing that some individuals who are positive are reluctant to disclose all of their contacts so as not to get them “in trouble.” Please be forthcoming with our contact tracers. Being able to reach everyone who may have an exposure is essential to our efforts to control spread and accurately assess risk in our community.
ResponsiBLUE self-screening tool
Use of our ResponsiBLUE self-screening tool has grown, especially among students. I thank everyone who is using this tool to self-monitor their health. Usage is up about 25 percent since residence hall move-in for students, faculty, staff and visitors.
As a reminder, each day, all members of our campus community who enter campus buildings and facilities are required to check themselves for COVID-19 symptoms by answering a brief set of questions using ResponsiBLUE. The tool offers advice on where to seek care if you are not well and provides insights and visibility to the state of public health at U-M.
Self-screening was a key element of the safe ramp-up of our research operations.
Voluntary surveillance testing program
Testing has begun this week for our voluntary COVID-19 Community Sampling and Tracking Program. So far, more than 4,800 U-M community members have signed up. We continue to seek volunteers, especially among students who live in on-campus housing, to fulfill our initial goal of 3,000 tests per week. We are examining ways to further increase this capacity. Surveillance testing, suggested by many in our community, is just one part of our multi-tier testing and monitoring approach to help us limit the spread of COVID-19.
Get your flu shot
I encourage everyone to get a flu shot as soon as possible. The flu vaccine is important for individual and community health, but it’s also an important tool in our plans to combat the pandemic. Because the symptoms of flu are very similar to COVID-19, fewer cases of the flu will help us devote testing and other coronavirus resources to those who need them most.
I’ll be getting my flu shot on Monday.
The University Health Service now has the flu vaccine. For U-M students, there is no out-of-pocket expense this year. Your health insurance will be billed and any cost not covered by your insurance will be covered by the university.
The University Record shared information from MHealthy on flu vaccinations for employees.
- We have heard a number of requests for more information about the metrics we are using to monitor conditions on our campus and adjust our plans. These include considerations such as the rate of growth in the number of COVID-19 cases and clusters, the percentage of positive tests for the virus, our capacity for case investigation and contact tracing, quarantine capacity, the level of COVID-19 in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County and the capacity of Michigan Medicine. The COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee is working to formalize these metrics and provide greater details, and we’ll share more as soon as we can. We’ll also be posting more detailed information on frequent questions from our community. I know that there remains a great demand for different types of information.
- We have posted information on the university’s proposal to the Graduate Employees’ Organization to end the strike. The proposal was supported by GEO leadership but rejected by a membership vote. Please see the message sent to campus earlier today from the provost and me for more thoughts on this situation and our challenges as a community.
I again thank everyone for their hard work and diligence as the semester continues. Our progress thus far is because you care so deeply about your classmates, colleagues and fellow community members.
Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.