The coronavirus pandemic has created a hectic news cycle. Here’s our most up-to-date COVID-19 news for the University of Michigan and Washtenaw County.

The latest:

April 30: For the weekend of graduation, the University will be offering “pop-up” rapid COVID-19 testing for free. The tests will be offered and administered on campus to all U-M and general community members that are in Ann Arbor to celebrate graduation festivities.

According to the Campus Blueprint website, this includes friends and family members of graduates, other out-of-town visitors and employees from local Ann Arbor businesses. The tests will be available on May 1 and 2 from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M.

The tests will be administered at 600 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, Mich at the Triangle parking lot W16. Community members can register at this link. Registration will also be available on-location upon arrival at the testing site.

April 13: A second wave of students had their Mcard access to non-residential buildings on campus deactivated on April 12, according to The University Record. The most recent group includes 718 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Mcard access was also deactivated for 385 undergraduates on March 2.

The University of Michigan requires all students on or near campus to get tested weekly through the U-M COVID-19 Community Sampling and Tracking Program, and access to buildings is granted with a green check mark on the ResponsiBLUE application. 

The testing program was expanded for the winter semester after the administration faced criticism during the fall from the Graduate Employees’ Organization and other students over inadequate testing and safety measures on campus.

The students whose Mcards were deactivated were shown to have recently used their Mcard on campus and had not completed a COVID-19 test through CSTP in the last month or more. 

Following the first lockout, 136 students were able to have their Mcard access regranted, in most cases because they then completed a COVID-19 test, according to the Compliance and Accountability Team.

The University has also canceled housing contracts and put students through a formal conduct process to enforce COVID-19 guidelines.

“Despite our excitement and optimism around expanded eligibility and opportunities for COVID-19 vaccines, at this point of the pandemic, when around others we must continue the practices of social distancing, wearing a mask, routine testing and other proven mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” Robert Ernst, UHS director, told the University Record.

Cases among students continue to rise, with students now making up about 16% of county-wide cases, as Michigan faces the worst COVID-19 surge in the country. Two University Campus Response metrics — more than 70 cases per million and five days of increased infection rates — are currently being met. 

Here’s what else you need to know:

April 1: As of April 2, visitors for adult patients at Michigan Medicine will not be allowed unless medically necessary, a practice similar to one implemented at the beginning of the pandemic. 

According to an email from Michigan Medicine, hospitalizations from COVID-19 across the state have increased substantially. Hospitalizations at Michigan Medicine have doubled over the past few weeks to 68 COVID-19 patients as of April 1. 

The state of Michigan is experiencing the worst COVID-19 outbreak per capita in the nation, with a 124% case increase in the last two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Ann Arbor ranks 10th in the nation in fastest-growing COVID-19 caseload, according to The Times, on a list full of Michigan cities. 

Jeffery Desmond, chief medical officer at Michigan Medicine, said that while ceasing visitors is a difficult decision, it is to ensure the safety of patients and their families.

“We have also seen rising rates of COVID-19 in the surrounding communities and rising rates of positive tests,” Desmond said in a press release from Michigan Medicine. “The safety of our patients and staff is our top priority, along with doing what we can to minimize the spread of disease. Restricting visitors is not something we do lightly because we know this is difficult for our patients and their families and friends.”

Michigan Medicine’s visitor policies can be found here and are updated in accordance to the April 2 guidelines. 

Desmond encouraged people to continue following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and when possible, take the opportunity to get vaccinated. 

“All vaccines are reducing serious disease, hospitalization and death,” Desmond said. “Every shot counts. If you are not yet vaccinated, please consider getting your vaccine as soon as possible. We need to work together to stop the spread.”

March 31: University of Michigan officials have identified a “noticeable uptick” in COVID-19 cases among the U-M community, which now represents 15% of the cases in Washtenaw County — a 6% increase from March 23, though still far from early February when student cases made up 62% of county cases. The uptick in University-related cases aligns with a similar trend across the state and across the country, which is also seeing a spike in the positivity rate amid fears of a fourth wave.

The dashboard reported that social gatherings were identified as a significant factor of transmission. Currently, two Campus Response Metrics are being met: more than 70 new COVID-19 cases per million in Washtenaw County and five days of sustained increases in positive cases, according to the dashboard update. The Campus Response Metrics were created in collaboration between the University and the county to continuously monitor COVID-19 testing and transmission as well as to anticipate the need for response measures, the most drastic of which have been stay-in-place orders.

According to the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, student cases have been increasing the past few weeks, with 167 positive cases the week of March 21 compared to roughly 60 or less cases per week from the week of Feb. 28 to the week of March 14. Case numbers from the week of March 21 are on par with those of mid- to late-November 2020 as well as those of early- to mid-January, though still half the numbers seen at the peak of cases at the University during late January and early February.

On March 12, the University announced their plan for most small classes, seminars and discussions to be taught in person for the Fall 2021 semester. The University also anticipates opening residence halls to 80% capacity with the expectation that 50% of students in residence halls will be vaccinated.

As of March 31, Michigan Medicine has fully vaccinated 38,207 people and is continuing to administer doses for individuals within Phase 1A and 1B and have begun to send invitations to those in Phase 1C. University President Mark Schlissel noted in a March 19 COVID-19 briefing email that because most of the state’s doses are now being distributed to pharmacies and local health departments, students should “explore additional opportunities to be vaccinated through a variety of local options as soon as you can.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced March 12 that all Michigan adults will be eligible for the vaccine beginning April 5. Whitmer also declared the opening of a mass vaccination site at Ford Field in Detroit, which will have the capacity for 6,000 vaccine doses per day. The Biden administration along with the Federal Emergency Management Authority selected the site under their pilot vaccination program.

March 8: People 50 years or older with specific medical conditions or disabilities, as well as caregivers of children who have special health care needs, are now eligible to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments, the Washtenaw County Health Department announced Monday on Twitter.

The department also announced that on Monday, March 22, everyone 50 years or older will become eligible to request vaccine appointments.

As of Mar. 5, 26% of University of Michigan students and employees have been fully vaccinated. Michigan Medicine’s distribution plan has previously been expanded in prior months to include additional age groups at the recommendation of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Due to nationwide limitations in supplies, Michigan Medicine experienced a shortage of vaccines last month and did not offer first-dose appointments the week of Feb. 10. The county health department addressed this challenge in their announcement, stating that supplies are increasing.

“Vaccine supplies have been increasing but are still limited,” the tweet says. “A large number of people are now eligible and it will take time to get to everyone. It may take several weeks or more to schedule everyone eligible, depending on supplies.”

They also specified those eligible in earlier vaccine distribution stages will be prioritized in making appointments, even if others have become eligible to receive the vaccine, as well.

Those eligible can schedule their tests online or over the phone at (734) 544-6700.

March 3: 375 University of Michigan undergraduate students lost Mcard access to non-residential buildings on campus following their failure to comply with mandatory COVID-19 testing requirements, the University Record announced Tuesday.

Mcards were deactivated for students who have not taken a COVID-19 test in more than 3 weeks and are part of the weekly mandatory testing cohort. This cohort includes students living in University Housing and others who access campus buildings and facilities. The announcement specified that students who live in University Housing and lost Mcard access are still able to enter their residence halls. 

Email notifications were sent out yesterday to inform students about their denied Mcard access after multiple reminders to get tested were sent out via email and the ResponsiBLUE application.

According to the University’s Compliance and Accountability team, which was established at the beginning of the Winter semester to track participation in the mandatory testing program, about 98% of undergraduate students who live in residence halls have followed the weekly testing requirements. 

In addition to Mcard deactivation, the University could implement other “accountability measures” for students who fail to comply with mandatory testing such as probation, cancellation of housing contracts and referral of the complaint to “formal student conduct processes” to determine any possible consequences. 

In order for students to regain access to their Mcards, they will need to receive a COVID-19 test through the Community Sampling and Tracking Program, if asymptomatic. If the students are symptomatic, they are required to get a test through the University Health System. Students may also submit an exemption indicating that they do not fall in the mandatory weekly cohort. After this material is verified, students can make a request to the Compliance and Accountability team to have their Mcard reactivated. 

U-M students made up 62% of total COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County on Feb. 17. According to the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, student cases have been decreasing in past weeks, with 94 positive cases the week of Feb. 21 compared to 177 for the week prior. As of Tuesday, U-M students represent 27% of total cases in Washtenaw County, according to the University Record.

Here’s a link to the University’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard for the latest on-campus data.

Feb. 23: The University of Michigan’s daily COVID-19 information application, ResponsiBLUE, will soon feature new updates, according to a Feb. 19 article from The University Record. These new updates include a quarantine and isolation indicator for students, an additional daily question related to international travel and improved user experience based on community feedback.

“As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to make updates and improvements to the ResponsiBLUE app that best support the health and safety of the campus community,” Jim Behm, executive director for enterprise application services in Information and Technology Services, said in The University Record’s article.

When the app was first launched last semester, ResponsiBLUE received mixed reviews from students, some appreciating the reminders to get tested while others questioning its effectiveness. In preparation for the Winter 2021 semester, the University made a number of updates, which includes tracking of students’ mandatory weekly testing and enforcing a completed ResponsiBLUE survey for entry into University buildings.

One of the latest updates will now include a new quarantine and isolation indicator box, which only students who are placed into or asked to quarantine or isolate will be able to see. The indicator will state that the student is in quarantine or isolation but will not specify which, according to The University Record. Users may also view their final day of quarantine or isolation by clicking on the Q/I indicator, which will read “Required.”

The daily questionnaire will also include an additional question: “Have you returned from international travel in the past 10 days?” If the user has traveled internationally within the last 10 days, the app will provide instructions on how to safely return to campus.

COVID-19 testing data from the COVID-19 Community Sampling and Tracking Program will be updated “almost immediately” on the app, while data from University Health Service or Occupational Health Services will have a short lag.

Previously, users who opened the app would see a red “X,” which indicated the result of an expired symptom check. The new update will show a yellow indicator box that reads “Start Screening Check,” which will prompt the user to complete the questionnaire, according to The University Record. When the user completes the questionnaire, the screening check indicator will turn green for the next 18 hours.

Read The Daily’s previous COVID-19 coverage here.

COVID-19 numbers around the state:

Here is a link to two interactive COVID-19 data graphics, and here is a link to get more county data in the state of Michigan.

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