Campus COVID-19 Update: Travel testing, booster recommendations, flu update

To All Members of the Campus Community:

I want to thank everyone who got a COVID-19 test last week in preparation for holiday travel. We saw an increase in testing right before Thanksgiving – and recommend that anyone who traveled over the break be tested again, regardless of vaccination status.

Testing is an important tool for diminishing possible spread. Additional popup rapid antigen tests have been scheduled in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to support domestic holiday travel needs.

We’re seeing similar moderate numbers of COVID-19 cases among students and employees thus far after the Thanksgiving recess. We need everyone’s help to finish the semester healthy and strong, for our peers, colleagues and loved ones. Please get vaccinated for flu and COVID-19, wear a mask in crowds and indoors, and take care when gathering with new groups of people. If you are sick, stay home and seek testing when appropriate.

Please get a booster shot: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot as soon as they are eligible—six months after completing either the Pfizer or Moderna RNA vaccines or two months after the single dose J&J vaccine. Our University Health Service and Michigan Medicine are scheduling booster shots (in addition to first and second doses), and UHS and Kroger Health are partnering on upcoming clinics to provide COVID-19 and flu vaccination at the Indoor Training Center at 1150 State St. U-M currently will follow CDC guidelines that recognize individuals who have completed a two-dose or single-dose vaccine series as fully vaccinated – so a booster, while recommended, is not required under our vaccination policy at this time. This may change as CDC recommendations change.

Hospital update: Michigan Medicine data on hospitalization, intensive-care demand and patients on ventilators reinforce what we’re seeing elsewhere: Vaccination is crucial for preventing serious illness among those who otherwise are not in a high-risk group.

Omicron variant: U-M health experts are taking steps to monitor and prepare for the Omicron variant. It may take a couple weeks for us to understand the impact of the variant – including its clinical severity, how fast it spreads, and the efficacy of vaccines and therapeutics – but in the meantime Michigan Medicine is sequencing viral samples from our community and closely monitoring global conditions. The first U.S. case was identified earlier this week in California and there have now been others in different parts of the country. It remains important to get vaccinated, including a booster when eligible, and continue best practices around masking and handwashing.

Flu investigation: An investigation into the sudden and large rise of influenza cases among students diagnosed last month on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus has led to several recommendations from the CDC.

ResponsiBLUE update: Individuals out of compliance with U-M’s COVID-19 vaccination policy, the daily symptom check or weekly required testing (if applicable) will have a RED X appear on their overall ResponsiBLUE App screen beginning Jan. 3.

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.


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