All University of Michigan students are encouraged to leave campus and return home and Spring Commencement has been canceled amid an outbreak of COVID-19, University President Mark Schlissel announced Friday. All final exams will take place remotely.
The Washtenaw County Public Health Department has also verified that a member of the University community has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual will be self-isolating in Ann Arbor.
“The university encourages students to go home to their permanent residences if possible,” Schlissel said. “At the same time, we are taking additional precautions across the university to protect health and safety for everyone who remains on our campuses, including those who may not be able to leave. These include restricting traffic flows, stepping up cleaning, and canceling events to prevent interactions in large groups.”
Schlissel noted that campus will remain open.
“U-M housing and dining operations, the University Health Service, and libraries will remain open to serve students who stay,” Schlissel said. “We continue to urge everyone to practice social distancing of 5 to 6 feet when you are engaging with others.”
The move looks to reduce density in physical spaces to combat the spread of coronavirus. Other organizations and government bodies have sought to encourage social distancing. This follows 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Michigan as of late Thursday evening. Four more were announced Friday.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closure of all K-12 buildings in the state at a press conference Thursday night, followed by a temporary ban on events with more than 250 that was announced Friday morning.
When announcing plans on Wednesday to move classes online, the University called off all events with a planned audience of more than 100 people. Schlissel’s Friday directive enhances this restriction and cancels major events planned for the spring.
“We are canceling all Spring 2020 commencement activities across our three campuses,” Schlissel said. “This includes both the large campuswide ceremonies and individual school, college and group recognition ceremonies. We know that this is very disappointing to many, and we are looking at ways to celebrate 2020 graduates in the future.”
To slow the spread of COVID-19, Schlissel encouraged all managers “to provide opportunities for employees to work remotely when possible, while keeping their units open for business.” He noted the University has created a one-time paid time-off bank for employees to rely on during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schlissel noted that this change in employee protocol differed from a reduction in operations.
“(W)e recognize that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan that covers every U-M unit, given the size and complexity of our enterprise,” Schlissel said. “This action to encourage working remotely will remain in effect until further notice, and we recognize there are additional challenges for many faculty and staff presented by the closure of K-12 schools.”
In a Tweet posted Friday night, Schlissel assured students a new date would be found for commencement, where former Vice President Al Gore was scheduled to speak.
“Commencement is a special time for our @UMich graduates and their families,” Schlissel wrote on Twitter. “We also want it to be safe. The Class of 2020 deserves to be celebrated, and we will work with grads to find a new date for a commencement ceremony.”
Other services and events have been canceled as well. The Michigan Flyer bus service, which transports students from both the University’s Ann Arbor campus and Michigan State University to the Detroit Metro Airport, will suspend all of its daily runs until April 16 due to “a sharp decline in demand.” Travel is strongly discouraged to limit the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control also recommends people wash their hands often and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call their health care providers or the nearest hospital.