The University of Michigan will once again require everyone on all three of its campuses to wear a face covering indoors amid the rapid rise of the delta variant of COVID-19. The University announced the new policy Wednesday in an email sent to members of the University community. The new mask mandate is separate from the existing face covering requirement in Michigan Medicine facilities.
The policy contains several narrow exceptions such as actively eating or drinking. In addition, students are not required to wear a face covering when in their own residence hall, including in common areas. Students living in dorms had to report their vaccination status or request an exemption by July 15.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends all individuals wear masks regardless of vaccination status when in areas of “sustained” or “high” community spread. Washtenaw, Wayne, and Genesee Counties have substantial spread. None of the counties have imposed mask mandates, but all three have recommended residents wear masks.
University President Mark Schlissel cited the delta variant’s ability to spread through fully vaccinated individuals as the motivation for the new restrictions.
“I know that we’ve already become accustomed to not wearing a face covering if vaccinated, but we want everyone in our community to be as safe as possible, especially as the highly infectious delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread,” Schlissel said. “‘Breakthrough infections’ can occur in vaccinated persons, but while they rarely lead to serious consequences, they can spread to others.”
After reporting zero new cases of COVID-19 the week of July 4, the University has seen an uptick of COVID-19 spread, reporting 46 new cases the week of August 1.
Schlissel also emphasized the importance of vaccination in fighting the high community spread and the University’s commitment to an in-person fall semester.
“Widespread vaccination remains the primary and most effective tool that will bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, and our vaccination requirement will ensure that all of U-M can have a vibrant and engaging academic year,” Schlissel said. “We’re continuing to prepare for a fall semester that has more than 93 percent of Ann Arbor classes in person, residence halls at nearly full capacity, athletic and cultural events with fans and patrons, and outstanding in-person experiences for our students.”
University community members must be fully vaccinated or receive an exemptionor postponement by August 30. As of Wednesday, 84 percent of students and 69 percent of employees on the Ann Arbor campus had been fully vaccinated. Community members seeking more information about the vaccines can request an appointment with University advisers.
Summer News Editor Dominic Coletti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org