University of Michigan officials reported an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among U-M students Friday, mainly attributed to large off-campus social gatherings. According to an email from U-M President Mark Schlissel, University-related COVID-19 cases currently comprise nearly half of total cases in Washtenaw County — up from a third of total cases on Feb. 3.  

“We are seeing increases in student COVID-19 cases, spread across all levels of students and largely due to social gatherings,” Schlissel’s email reads. “New cases amongst faculty and staff are at a low level and are not increasing. Overall, U-M cases represent about half of the total cases in Washtenaw County.”

This increase occurred one week after the end of Washtenaw County Health Department’s stay-in-place recommendation and Michigan Athletics’ two-week halt on all athletic activity. The recommendation and athletic pause were mainly in response to diagnosed cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant among U-M students. 

As of Feb. 5, there are 23 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant diagnosed in Washtenaw County. All cases are associated directly or indirectly with the University.

Under the stay-in-place recommendation, students were permitted to leave their residence for in-person classes, work and research. Students were also permitted to obtain food and medical supplies, among other exceptions. 

At Friday’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Robert Ernst, director of University Health Services and chair of the Campus Health Response Committee, said the rate of off-campus positive cases flattened during the stay-in-place recommendation but have once again spiked.

“We’re worried because we are tracking these cases back to off-campus social activity,” Ernst said. “When we see bunches of cases come in after a party or something like that, it really is disruptive to the system.”

In the past two weeks, there have been 1103 positive cases in Washtenaw County and the weekly positivity rate is 2.6%.

As of Feb. 16, graduate students coming to campus regularly are required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing through the Community Sampling and Tracking Program. Undergraduates living on campus or using campus facilities have been required to participate in mandatory testing since the beginning of the semester. The compliance rate for mandatory weekly testing among undergraduates on campus has been 95% or higher, Schlissel wrote. 

Due to a nationwide shortage of the COVID-19 vaccine, Michigan Medicine did not schedule first-dose vaccination appointments this past week for employees and patients, Schlissel wrote. U-M employees above the age 65 and frontline essential workers are recommended to sign up with local health departments and retail pharmacies to increase their chances of scheduling a vaccination appointment. 


Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at


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