1. Weekly U-M Ann Arbor COVID-19 Update

    October 9, 2020

    To All Members of the Campus Community:

    The video for this week’s Campus Weekly COVID-19 Briefing is available here. I thank everyone who watched or submitted questions. Some of the questions we were not able to get to during last week’s briefing are now answered here.

    During the session, Associate Professor of Epidemiology Emily Martin and Director of COVID-19 Campus Health Response Dr. Rob Ernst discussed our status in the context of our campus response metrics, as well as the actions we are taking to prevent spread of the virus.

    We are finalizing plans to provide regular updates about the metrics, as well. Also at this week’s briefing:

    • Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani shared an update on campus conditions.
    • Provost Collins discussed midterms, increasing study spaces for students, and support resources during these stressful times. She also reiterated that junior faculty who are dealing with research disruptions are encouraged to request a clock extension using our existing policies.
    • Vice President for Student Life Martino Harmon discussed socialization and engagement opportunities for students to combat isolation and loneliness, football safety and alternative activities for students not interested in fall sports, and compliance with safety measures in University Housing.
    • I spoke about our COVID in the Classroom chart and the new COVID-19 hotline (734-936-7000).

    Dr. Malani has shared some additional details about our campus in her video message today.

    Overall case counts have been lower this week compared with recent weeks at both the campus and county level. We identified some small clusters in residence halls, but none of the clusters has had more than 100 close contacts, nor have we exceeded capacity for contact tracing, determined in collaboration with Washtenaw County health officials.

    All positive cases and known close contacts were isolated or quarantined. Additionally, we conducted broader pop-up asymptomatic testing in several residence halls as a precaution. For Mary Markley, South Quad and West Quad, this included offering tests to more than 700 residents.

    Several large off-campus houses were under quarantine as a targeted response, as well, following consultation with our Department of Environment, Health & Safety and the county health department. We also offered broader asymptomatic testing of individuals living in those settings. An ongoing review of the situation is being conducted by campus and county public health officials to determine what additional mitigation strategies may be considered.

    Saliva testing expansion

    Our Community Sampling and Tracking program is switching to a saliva-based collection method for U-M surveillance testing. At the same time, we’re streamlining the sign-up process, expanding campus testing locations and increasing capacity for testing of students, faculty and staff on the Ann Arbor campus.

    I urge everyone on campus to sign up for this program. Currently, we are testing about 1,200 individual volunteers per week with this program, despite having the capacity to test more than twice that number. The change to saliva-based collection will further increase capacity to 6,000 per week by the end of month – but you must sign up to be tested under this program. More details on this important change are available in the University Record.

    Additional Updates

    • The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Washtenaw County Health Department announced emergency measures Monday to keep COVID-19 prevention and control strategies in place, after a Michigan Supreme Court ruling last week created uncertainty for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders. The measures include wearing face coverings, limiting gathering sizes and mandatory daily health screenings of employees. U-M and the county have existing measures in place for these orders. Additional details are available in the University Record.
    • A reminder that although the University of Michigan is currently under spending/hiring restrictions, these measures do not apply to the spending of federal or sponsored funds including hiring for the purpose of completing the aims of a sponsored project. Faculty are encouraged to work with their schools and departments to process hiring and equipment spending on their externally funded grants.

    During the semester, I am providing 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.

    Sincerely,

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