To All Members of the Campus Community:
The fall semester is underway here at the university, and I want to reach out and thank everyone for the impressive amount of preparation that it took to get us to this point.
During the semester, I’ll be providing weekly updates to our community. Additionally, the University Record’s daily email will feature a link to U-M news about COVID-19 and its impact on the university.
I thank everyone in our community who helped to make the move-in to our residence halls go smoothly. We spread move-in over six rather than just three days, helping decrease crowding. Student Life has reported that face coverings were worn by a high percentage of parents and students.
Overall, we estimate that our efforts to reduce density in campus housing decreased occupancy by about a third. Additionally, 78 percent of our undergraduate credits are being taught remotely according to the most recent data.
We know there have been long lines in dining halls for students, and over the weekend, staff have made progress on reducing lines and encouraging students to use different locations for meal pickup. We’ll sort this out together.
More than 5,800 students who live on campus completed their pre-arrival COVID-19 testing. Of those, 21 tests came back positive. University Health Service nurses contacted each of the 21 students to encourage an evaluation with their local health care provider, and we helped make plans for their delayed arrival to campus.
Students who arrived without a negative COVID test were tested here and asked to practice enhanced social distancing in their campus housing rooms until they got their test results. Overall, we’ve now tested more than 6,000 students who live in campus housing under this program with 22 total positives.
Students living in fraternity and sorority chapter facilities are also participating in a separate voluntary virus testing effort that began this week. The students expressed interest, and we’re pleased to help implement this additional testing measure in partnership with the same company that did our pre-arrival testing. Five hundred tests per week for three weeks are available under this testing effort. (We appreciate that our fraternities and sororities decided not to host parties in their chapter facilities this fall.)
Testing will be available through the University Health Service for any student that has symptoms that might indicate COVID-19 infection. Additional space for this purpose is being opened in the lobby of the Power Center.
Voluntary U-M surveillance testing
The University of Michigan COVID-19 Community Sampling and Tracking Program is launching today with registration open to students, faculty and staff on the Ann Arbor campus. Initially the test will use material from a self-administered nasal swab, but we are investigating using a saliva test as numerous faculty have suggested.
This surveillance program, designed by experts from our School of Public Health, will help us monitor levels of COVID-19 in the community among people who are asymptomatic. We will use this information to better target interventions throughout the semester and as an early warning system for possible outbreaks.
This program is open to U-M students as well as to staff and faculty working on campus.
Testing will begin next week and will ramp up to approximately 3,000 individuals weekly by the end of September. The program will run throughout the fall semester. I thank Michigan Medicine for providing access to this testing capacity.
For additional details, please see the announcement in today’s University Record.
The Michigan Ambassador program had a busy and productive weekend as teams were canvassing areas near the campus and promoting COVID-19 health and safety measures.
In response to feedback from our community, the ambassador canvassing teams no longer include armed sworn law enforcement officers. Teams are composed of students, staff/faculty and community volunteers and include Division of Public Safety and Security staff members who do not carry firearms.
As always, police may be called to activities that present a safety risk or are in violation of the law, but the idea is for Michigan Ambassadors to first proactively provide outreach in the community to communicate and remind students about public health best practices. The program is designed by Student Life specifically to reduce the need for law enforcement interventions by providing guidance from peers and volunteers from our community and provide residents with an opportunity to immediately address any concerns reported at their address.
Overall, there were far fewer large parties and alcohol transports than we would see during a typical welcome week. I want to thank everyone who is practicing safe behaviors.
Most of the calls made over the weekend to our COVID-19 Concerns Reporting Line (734-647-3000) were noise complaints regarding gatherings where people were complying with public health recommendations. They were outside and under the 25-person limit as prescribed by the Washtenaw County Health Department.
Gatherings that were inappropriate resulted in formal warnings, referrals or citations. Students involved may be referred to the Office of Student Conflict Resolution or other group accountability processes.
U-M COVID-19 data
As a reminder, anyone may view campus data and informational updates on cases, testing and quarantine and isolation housing on our COVID-19 dashboard.
The Aug. 30 dashboard update says: A reminder to all students, faculty and staff coming to campus and all students living in residence halls to fill out ResponsiBLUE every day. If you are a student with symptoms, contact University Health Service (UHS) and faculty or staff should contact Occupational Health Services (OHS). Early symptom identification is an important step in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The state has reported a case level of 34 new cases per million per day in Washtenaw County as of August 25 (mistartmap.info) with an average of 12 new cases per day. Case levels have plateaued in Ann Arbor and are decreasing in Ypsilanti. Michigan is currently ranked 32nd in COVID-19 incidence nationwide.
- Researchers from our School of Public Health are conducting experiments to determine how much coronavirus is present in the campus environment. Their work includes studying samples from sewers, wiping down classrooms and buses, and taking measurements of air. The team seeks to understand whether the presence of the coronavirus has any relationship to COVID-19 infection rates within the university community. They also will explore developing additional tools for early warning and early intervention. We wait anxiously to apply to our campus what these researchers learn.
- Michigan Medicine is launching a Phase 3 clinical trial to test a vaccine against COVID-19 in partnership with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The study will look at how well the investigational vaccine works and how safe it is. U-M will begin recruiting hundreds of participants for the trial immediately, until the trial is full.
We’ll continue to post updates and information to the Campus Maize and Blueprint site. Stay healthy and safe, and have a great semester.
Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.