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The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.

Monday marks the beginning of the fourth academic year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as the U-M community embarks on another school year, The Michigan Daily has you covered with the most frequently asked questions about health and safety on campus.

With the state of Michigan still grappling with COVID-19 and the monkeypox virus (MPV)  reaching the state in June of this year, campus leaders have been tasked to make preparations for the viruses’ impact on campus this fall.

COVID-19  

Who was consulted in making plans for Fall 2022?  

In preparation for the Fall 2022 semester, the University created the Public Health Infection Prevention and Response Advisory Committee to advise on safety plans, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald told The Daily in an email.

The committee includes specialists from Michigan Medicine on infection prevention, University Health Services (UHS), the School of Public Health, athletic department, leadership from all three U-M campuses and other university professionals according to Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald also wrote that University established the Department of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology in 2020 within UHS to oversee aspects of the University’s infectious disease response. 

What percentage of classes will be taught in person for the Fall 2022 semester? 

The University did not provide an exact percentage of classes taught in person during the Fall 2022 semester. Fitzgerald confirmed that the University will be welcoming everyone back for a “fully residential” semester, but also recognized “the important role of technology, in the classroom and for other academic activities, to augment the learning experience and to address accessibility needs, consistent with pedagogical and programmatic needs.” It is expected that some courses will continue to be fully remote.

Why are vaccine-exempt students no longer required to test weekly? 

Robert Ernst, U-M chief health officer, announced in an email to the campus community on August 18 that testing would be optional but “encouraged” for anyone who is not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations required by the University last fall and winter.

Fitzgerald wrote that the University’s COVID-19 response has shifted to encouraging individual risk assessment related to adoption of vaccination, testing, masking and social distancing. 

Will the University continue to offer free single-use antigen tests at on-campus COVID-19 testing sites?

Single-use antigen tests will be available at Community Sampling and Tracking Program sites for U-M students and employees. Fitzgerald did not confirm how many tests the University has reserved for the fall semester, but he wrote that “everyone is encouraged to have antigen tests on hand” in case they develop symptoms and need to test quickly.

How will students be able to report COVID-19 results taken on an at-home test?

Students can report positive at home test results here.

Will students who test positive for COVID-19 living in on-campus housing have to isolate themselves outside of their dorm room?

Fitzgerald announced that students — including those who are living in on-campus housing — should make individual plans in case they test positive for COVID-19, and that the University continues to have a limited supply of Quarantine and Isolation Housing. The available Quarantine and Isolation Housing will be prioritized for students living in residence halls through Michigan Housing, with the exception of the Northwood Apartments that are currently under construction.

According to Fitzgerald, there will be 104 beds available for these students in case they need to isolate outside of their dorm rooms, but he did not specify where Quarantine and Isolation Housing spaces will be this semester. 

What kind of contact-tracing measures does the University have in place for Fall 2022?

The University will continue to maintain case investigations and contact-tracing teams throughout the Fall 2022 semester to identify close contacts. Close contacts of COVID-positive individuals will be notified by the contact tracing team.

How many testing locations will be in use during the fall semester?

The University has five asymptomatic-testing locations throughout campus. Exact hours and locations can be found here. Symptomatic students can still schedule testing appointments through UHS.

Though instructors cannot require students to wear masks in classrooms, will exceptions be made for faculty members who are immunocompromised?

Ernst wrote in his August email that faculty members cannot require students to wear face-coverings in classrooms under any circumstances.

Fitzgerald confirmed that instructors are unable to require masks in class but are “encouraged to remind individuals of actions each can take, like masking, based on their own individual risk assessment.”

Masks are still required in patient care areas, including Michigan Medicine, UHS, the Dental School clinical areas and at U-M COVID-19 testing sites.

According to the Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD), the county is at “high” community transmission. Does the University plan to make any changes to its plans before the Fall 2022 semester?

According to Fitzgerald, the current University COVID-19 guidance is aligned with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. He wrote that the Public Health and Response Team will continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions in collaboration with the Washtenaw County Health Department as the pandemic evolves.

Does the University have any plans to mandate a second COVID-19 booster shot during the upcoming academic year?

Before the start of the Winter 2022 semester, the University made the decision to require a COVID-19 booster for students, faculty and staff in wake of the highly transmissible omicron variant.

The CDC is now recommending a second booster shot for individuals over the age of 50 and those with certain underlying health conditions. The University does not currently require a second booster for those groups or anyone else on campus this fall.

MONKEYPOX VIRUS 

Whom does the University consider to be in a priority group for MPV vaccination? Is it the same as the Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD)?

Fitzgerald announced that UHS has obtained a limited supply of the MPV vaccine and plans to administer doses to students 18 years old and up based on eligibility criteria established by the WCHD.

According to the WCHD, the specific criteria include anyone who had physical contact with someone who tested positive for MPV in the past two weeks, as well as:

  • Individuals engaged in any type of sex work.
  • Partners of individuals who engage in higher-risk sexual activities.
  • Close/household contacts of individuals who have been exposed to MPV or engaged in higher-risk activities.
  • Men who have sex with men and have a history of STI in the last year.
  • Individuals who plan to have multiple sex partners.
  • Individuals who plan to have close contact at a high-risk event or high-risk venue.
  • Individuals taking HIV PrEP or those living with HIV.

Fitzgerald wrote that the priority groups may change throughout the year, so the University does not have an estimate of how many students might qualify for the MPV vaccine over the course of the year at this time.

Does Michigan Medicine have any plans to offer the Monkeypox Vaccine to priority groups outside of the ones defined by the Washtenaw County Health Department?

Fitzgerald announced that all Michigan Medicine patients eligible for the monkeypox vaccine should consult the WCHD and its eligibility requirements.

Daily News Editors George Weykamp and Roni Kane can be reached at gweykamp@umich.edu and ronikane@umich.edu.