On Tuesday, the Washtenaw County Health Department issued a stay-in-place order for University of Michigan undergraduate students following an uptick in campus COVID-19 cases. Here’s what you need to know.
Who is impacted by the stay-in-place order?
The order affects University of Michigan undergraduate students living on and off-campus.
How long will the stay-in-place order be in place?
The order is expected to last until at least 7 a.m. on Nov. 3, though it is subject to change based on campus outcomes.
Under what circumstances can you leave your residence?
Undergraduate students are allowed to leave residences for a variety of reasons, including voting, getting medical care, attending class, participating in varsity sports, going to work or exercising in groups of no more than two people.
There should be no in-person gatherings with anyone outside of an individual’s household.
How hard is the pandemic hitting Washtenaw County, and what’s driving it?
Spikes in cases among young people in Washtenaw County have pushed local public health officials and U-M leadership to reevaluate their protocols.
Social gatherings “have been identified as the main cause of recent COVID-19 spread on campus, in the surrounding community and the broader region,” a Tuesday email to the campus community from University leadership reads. “Most of the cases on our campus can be traced back to small- and medium-size gatherings without appropriate face coverings and social distancing.”
As of Monday, Washtenaw County reported a total of 4,229 confirmed cases, with more than 600 confirmed and probable cases in the past week. According to a press release from the health department, 61% of those cases are connected to students living on or off-campus, “many in congregate or group settings.”
Clusters have emerged at dorms across campus. Over the weekend, students living in Mary Markley Residence Hall were told to follow enhanced social distancing and not attend in-person classes for two weeks after new cases were confirmed in the building.
Will all classes be moved online?
According to the county’s press release, the University will take steps to “provide choices for students and instructors, including moving more undergraduate courses to fully remote instruction for the remainder of the fall semester.” Classes that are significantly enhanced by in-person learning do not have to move to remote instruction, but most undergraduate classes will be taught fully remotely.
Students without COVID-19 or symptoms are still able to attend in-person classes while following public health guidelines. U-M administrators said each college will manage the process for granting exceptions for faculty members who still want to teach classes in person “for instructional reasons.” Instructors who will keep teaching in person must inform their students.
Prior to the announcement, approximately 78% of undergraduate credit hours were offered virtually.
Will campus buildings be open for use?
Most on-campus services and buildings will remain open as they have so far in the semester, including the Michigan Union and the University of Michigan Museum of Art, where the Ann Arbor city clerk has set up a satellite office to help students vote on campus. Libraries will also continue to stay open and offer more remote elements, but study spaces will not be offered given that under the order, undergrads are not allowed to leave their residences to study on campus.
While outdoor physical activity is encouraged, undergraduates will not be permitted to use indoor gyms, including those operated by the University.
What does this mean for athletics?
Under the order, students involved in intercollegiate varsity sports can attend practices and games if certain protocols are followed, such as having athletic medical staff present and conducting testing in line with the policies of the governing athletic organizations, like those established by the Big Ten.
In a Tuesday email to the campus community, top U-M administrators wrote there “has not been documented transmission of COVID-19 among student-athletes in our athletics facilities.”
The Michigan football team is scheduled to play the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis on Saturday.
Do students in Ann Arbor have to stay there? Can students in residence halls get refunds if they choose to leave?
According to the county’s health department, all students in Ann Arbor should remain at their current address if they are able to. Students in residence halls who wish to return to a primary residence may do so only if they have completed the University’s procedures for leaving campus safely and get tested for COVID-19 to avoid bringing the virus back to their home with them.
Students who return home from campus should remain at home for safety reasons.
According to the email from U-M leadership, for students in Michigan Housing or those who have dining plans and want to return to their permanent residences, the University is “working out details to provide prorated room and board refunds or credits. Such refunds will be subject to potential financial aid implications that will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”
Can undergraduate students continue doing research in-person?
Undergraduate students will not be allowed to conduct in-person research. Seniors are able to request an exception in the case of a thesis project or research for specific coursework.
How will the order be enforced? What happens to students who violate it?
This order will be enforced similarly to how other state and local health orders have been enforced previously, according to Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, public information officer for the Washtenaw County Health Department. Those who violate the order could face fines, but the University and county will look to educate students before penalizing them.
Ringler-Cerniglia said the hotline for reporting groups violating public health orders will still be available. The Washtenaw County Health Department and University are also both prepared to step in to educate students and mitigate non-compliance, she said, adding that local law enforcement can be contacted for emergencies that require urgent attention.
“The first approach is really going to be about education,” Ringler-Cerniglia said. “We prefer to have compliance and people doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do to prevent the spread of disease versus trying to levy fines at everyone.”
Where can students get tested for COVID-19?
Members of the campus community with symptoms should isolate and contact University Health Service at 734-764-8320 for a free COVID-19 test. People with mild symptoms can use the University’s online assessment to initiate the testing process.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 after visiting a testing site not affiliated with the University should report their case here.
What happens if things get worse?
According to the county’s order, if the incidence of COVID-19 among U-M students and staff continues to be “substantially above” the rates observed among other Washtenaw County residents and/or the University continues to exceed its thresholds for reevaluating campus operations, the order may be extended beyond Nov. 3 and more restrictive measures may be implemented.
What does this mean for next semester?
University leadership has indicated plans for the winter semester will be announced in early November. In the spring, Schlissel said that the decision regarding classes for fall would likely last through the academic year, including the winter 2021 semester.
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