Washtenaw County Health Department will not extend the stay-in-place order issued on Oct. 20 for undergraduates at the University of Michigan, according to a Monday press release. The two-week mandate will expire at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
“The proportion of local COVID-19 cases associated with U-M has decreased, and importantly, this reduction in new, university-associated cases has allowed case investigators and contact tracers to catch up,” the release read.
However, the release also noted that overall cases in the county remain high, with a weekly COVID-19 test positivity rate of nearly 4%.
Washtenaw County health officer Jimena Loveluck expressed appreciation to students for cooperating with the order for the last two weeks.
“We are grateful for the cooperation of the university and its students on this order. We know this is incredibly difficult for all of us,” Loveluck said. “We’re thankful for this small bit of good news, but we all must continue to do everything we can to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on each of us and on our community.”
The order was originally issued to combat high rates of transmission among people in the county aged 18-22 but still allowed undergraduates to leave their homes for certain reasons like getting medical care, attending class and turning out to vote. Local officials and U-M leadership repeatedly reminded students they could participate in activities related to the election under the order.
At the time the restrictions were put in place nearly two weeks ago, over 60% of Washtenaw County cases were related to U-M students, and “case investigators and contact tracers were unable to keep up with the sharp increase in these cases,” according to the Monday press release. Now, U-M student cases account for about a third of local COVID-19 cases.
However, the release warns, “local cases overall remain high and resources for investigating and tracing cases are still stretched.” As of Monday, Washtenaw County has reported more than 6,000 cases of COVID-19, including confirmed and likely cases.
U-M administration worked with the county in devising the stay-in-place order after the school’s response metrics for reevaluating campus operations were triggered.
University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen said that despite the order being lifted, students and Washtenaw residents must remain vigilant as COVID-19 cases spike across the country.
“While we’ve made significant progress, there is reason to remain concerned and maintain our vigilance,” Broekhuizen said. “Across the state of Michigan and nationally COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Even within our own campus and near campus communities the rate of new cases remains high despite the improved trends outlined above. We ask students to continue their effort to control the spread of COVID-19 by wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and staying home when sick.”
Despite the order being lifted, all residents must still abide by social distancing guidelines and mask mandates in public spaces. Additionally, precautions and limits on public gatherings are still in effect, with the risk of fines of $500-$1000, but local authorities will seek to educate violators before issuing financial penalties.
As Thanksgiving approaches and many students plan to return home, the release also urged increased testing and precaution.
“Limiting gatherings as much as possible over the holidays and continuing to use COVID-19 precautions is strongly encouraged,” the release read. “If individuals or students plan to return home or visit family or friends, they should consider staying away from others as much as possible for two weeks prior, wearing a mask in public, and getting tested for COVID-19.”
Daily News Editor Ben Rosenfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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