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The University of Michigan announced it is “optimistic and hopeful” for a more normal semester in Fall 2021 on Monday evening, though no official decisions have been made. A tweet from the official U-M account said U-M staff and faculty are working hard to go back to more in-person classes in the fall.

“While no decisions have been made regarding fall term, we remain optimistic it will be much more normal,” the tweet reads. “Faculty, staff & leadership are all eager to do their part to return to as normal a semester as possible & appreciate your patience & understanding.”

In a longer announcement sent to U-M parents, U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald emphasized the administration’s eagerness for greater normality in the fall. He wrote the University will continue to follow public health recommendations going into Fall 2021, meaning campus will likely not be completely as it was pre-March 2020.

“The university will, of course, make decisions about the fall term that are informed by the then current status of the pandemic in our region and heed the advice of our campus, local and state public health officials,” Fitzgerald wrote. “It is likely that some public health safety precautions will remain in place in the fall, such as wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing.” 

In the University’s COVID-19 briefing on Feb. 12, Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani reiterated the hope that things will continue to get better on campus. Martino Harmon, vice president for student life, said Student Life and Michigan Housing are continuously working to find a best-case fall housing situation and planning for multiple possible scenarios, though he did specify what scenarios Student Life is considering. 

Rich Holcomb, associate vice president for human resources, said at the briefing that most non-teaching staff hope to continue to work from home in the fall, which he said would not impact a potentially “in-person” semester. According to a survey released in last Friday’s briefing, 87% of the U-M staff is interested in continuing remote or hybrid work after the pandemic.

While the University eventually aims to distribute vaccines to everybody who wants one, Fitzgerald wrote they still don’t have enough to make this a reality. Fall semester hinges on vaccine availability, Fitzgerald wrote.

“The big unknown remains the availability of the vaccine, which today is in very short supply,” Fitzgerald wrote. “We have developed the capacity to vaccinate as many as 25,000 persons per week and remain ready to provide vaccines for all members of our community who wish to be vaccinated according to state guidelines once supplies are adequate.”

Fitzgerald concluded the announcement by acknowledging the toll the pandemic has taken on both the University and the nation. 

“Finally, we want to acknowledge that the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic is wearing on all of us,” Fitzgerald wrote. “It’s been emotionally draining as each of us has had to adjust our work and personal lives to appropriately respond to this public health crisis that already has claimed the lives of 485,000 Americans.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Paige Hodder can be reached at phodder@umich.edu.

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