The University of Michigan plans to move ahead with in-person classes starting January 5, according to a Tuesday email from University President Mark Schlissel and University Provost Susan Collins. Additional public health measures — such as requiring proof of vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test for all on-campus performances and athletic events — will also be implemented, according to the email.
“In addition, our classrooms — with required vaccination and masking — have remained safe throughout the pandemic. Therefore, in Ann Arbor, we do not believe an initial period of remote education will significantly diminish spread of COVID-19,” the email reads. “In recognition of the activity of COVID-19 locally and nationally, however, we will implement additional public health measures with the goal of limiting spread of the omicron variant virus and continuing our important work.”
The email comes after an open letter with over 1200 signatures, as of Tuesday, was sent to President Schlissel on Dec. 17 urging the University to modify its plans for in-person instruction for the Winter 2022 semester in light of the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. An additional open letter with over 900 signatures, as of Tuesday, was sent to President Schlissel on Dec. 24 urging the University to remain on course and resume in-person instruction on Jan. 5.
Schlissel wrote the decision for classes to remain in-person was due to high levels of vaccination and successful face-covering mandates that would prevent transmission.
Based on previous semesters conducted remotely, Schlissel wrote that students typically return to campus near the start of the term, regardless of if classes are in-person or online, and that changing the class format wouldn’t necessarily impact transmission.
Among the new public health protocols, the University will require everyone attending an indoor athletic or performance event to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result starting Jan. 1. The email says more details will be shared soon, and the U-M community may use the ResponsiBLUE app for vaccine conformation. Additionally, the University is discouraging food and drink from being served at on-campus gatherings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The changes come in addition to public health protocols announced on Dec. 17, which include mandatory COVID-19 booster shots for all students, faculty and staff on all three University campuses as well as Michigan Medicine. The deadline to report COVID-19 booster shots is Feb. 4, and further details on how to do so will be released soon, according to the email. Schlissel estimated 25% of students on the Ann Arbor campus had already received booster shots.
Students living in residence halls are also required to wear face coverings and receive a COVID-19 test upon arrival to campus. Face coverings will also be required in University recreation centers until at least Jan. 17.
Students, faculty and staff who traveled over winter break are also encouraged to receive a COVID-19 test before returning to campus.
Schlissel wrote that while the Omicron variant is currently the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States, individuals who received full vaccination and a booster shot rarely got seriously ill and it is important the University remain vigilant in this next stage of the pandemic.
“The more-rapid spread of the omicron variant, now the dominant strain in the United States, means that greater case numbers are likely here, as they have been in around the state and nation,” the email reads. “These cases seem to be milder than earlier in the pandemic, and those who are vaccinated and boosted almost never get seriously ill. We ask for everyone’s continued vigilance and care as we tackle this next phase of the pandemic. Both of these qualities were essential to our fall term’s success.”
Daily News Editor George Weykamp can be reached at email@example.com.