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With one month of the Winter 2022 semester remaining, COVID-19 cases at the University of Michigan are trending upward again after weeks of declining cases, according to a Friday email from Robert Ernst, associate vice president of student life and director of campus COVID-19 response, and Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani.

Ernst and Malani wrote that most of these cases are likely linked to unmasked social gatherings on campus and suggested steps U-M community members can take to address rising COVID-19 case counts in an email to the campus community.

According to the University of Michigan’s Campus Maize and Blueprint, the University saw a rise in weekly cases since March 5, with the largest rise in weekly cases since Jan. 8 — at least an additional 72 cases — coming in the week ending on March 26. This increase mirrors the trend of COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County, where case counts increased by 32.9 cases per 100k residents from the week beginning with March 16 to the week beginning with March 23. 

“Many of these cases can be linked to unmasked social gatherings,” Ernst and Malani wrote. 

U-M students accounted for 26% of Washtenaw County’s cases in the week prior to March 30, according to the dashboard. The increase in case counts comes after the University lifted its mask mandate on March 14 for most indoor spaces, including offices, residence halls and at athletic events. Masks are still required in classrooms, patient care areas, campus buses and COVID-19 testing sites.

Ernst and Malani pointed to an apparent increase of transmissibility of the BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant in comparison to the BA.1 subvariant as one factor contributing to the rise in cases. The BA.2 subvariant has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the midwest, now representing 50.4% of cases in the region, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to Ernst and Malani, the rise in cases can be addressed by acting with an emphasis on “prevention and protection.” 

Ernst and Malani said U-M community members should monitor for symptoms each day using the ResponsiBLUE app, get tested for COVID-19 before and after traveling, consider wearing a mask for large indoor gatherings or moving the gathering outdoors, cover their coughs and sneezes and wash their hands frequently. 

Additionally, they recommended U-M community members pick up a free box of at-home antigen tests, which will become available at all CSTP testing sites on central or north campus after April 4. An Mcard is needed to collect the at-home test. 

“​​With only a month of classes remaining, now is the time for our community to finish the winter semester strong,” Ernst and Malani wrote. 

Daily News Reporter Eli Friedman can be reached at