Quarantine housing spikes as ‘U’ cases cross 1,000 since start of school year
As of Friday, more than one thousand cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed since move-in and quarantine housing is at 46% capacity, according to the University of Michigan’s COVID-19 dashboard. This comes less than two months after move-in and the start of classes.
During move-in, resident advisers and students living in University housing raised concerns that University Housing was not taking enough precautions to protect their residents. Members of ResStaff went on strike and called upon the University for better personal protective equipment and enforcement of Housing policies.
There has also been a city-wide impact, with Washtenaw County Health Department reporting the possibility of exposure at two Ann Arbor restaurants, Brown Jug Restaurant and Chapala Mexican Restaurant earlier this week.
Washtenaw County COVID-19 cases also crossed University metrics for reevaluation of campus operations earlier this month. These metrics include exceeding five days of increases in new infections using a seven-day average and more than 70 new cases per million. Meeting these metrics could prompt “further responses and strategies regarding campus operations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Michigan News. In-person classes are still being held, though 70% of University coursework has been online since the start of the school year.
During the University’s weekly COVID-19 briefing Friday, Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani said the current rate of students entering quarantine or isolation housing is “not sustainable” for the rest of the semester. According to Malani, this rise could prompt a change in the University’s current plan for a hybrid semester if quarantine housing fills to capacity.
“This is very concerning — in the last week, there’s been a very robust increase in these numbers and I know many people are following them on the COVID tracker,” Malani said. “There still is plenty of housing available, but at the current rate, we will go through it within a couple weeks.”
When asked whether quarantine housing is projected to reach capacity in two weeks, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald directed The Michigan Daily to the COVID-19 dashboard and said the number of students in quarantine housing continues to grow as more positive cases are revealed.
“Quarantine and isolation housing is running at 46 percent of capacity,” Fitzgerald wrote. “As you may recall, we have 600 rooms reserved for isolation and quarantine. It's clear from the graph that the numbers have been increasing steadily since about Oct. 9.”
Fitzgerald did not confirm whether “not sustainable” meant that quarantine housing was projected to reach capacity in two weeks, instead echoing Malani’s point that students need to practice enhanced prevention measures in order to slow the spread.
“It's critical that each one of us act as if we are contagious by wearing masks, gathering only in small groups, maintaining social distancing and following public health guidance,” Fitzgerald wrote.
Quarantine and isolation housing saw an average of 51 students check in between Oct. 13-15, Fitzgerald confirmed.
LSA freshman Emma Dwoskin said she is concerned about the lack of testing taking place, especially for freshmen living in residence halls.
“If there’s 1000 cases, there’s probably four times as much because they’re not testing us, which is very alarming and concerning,” Dwoskin said. “I'm sure so many people are asymptomatic that it would be really beneficial to just be testing us.”
According to the dashboard, as of Oct. 16, quarantine and isolation occupancy is at 46.2%. If a student living in a residence hall tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to either quarantine or isolate on North Campus or return to their permanent residence. They may also choose to book a room at a local hotel.
Since move-in, there have been nine clusters identified in the residence halls. The first cluster was reported in South Quad Residence Hall on Sept. 17. The most recent cluster was identified in Mary Markley Residence Hall on Oct. 13.
In a recent interview with The Michigan Daily, University President Mark Schlissel discussed University Health Services increasing their testing capacity.
“We’re telling (UHS) to ease up because we want students to use UHS,” Schlissel said. “It’s free, it’s convenient, there’s a one-day turnaround time, and we can work with students immediately when they get a positive result to help assure their health and to make sure it doesn’t spread to others, so we’re going to have the UHS folks be a little more relaxed.”
Dwoskin said she was aware that UHS is providing more tests but became concerned when she was unable to receive one, even with cases on her dorm floor.
“(The University) said that UHS would start allowing testing to anyone who wants it, and then I called UHS, and they were not aware of this and were not able to give a test just if you want it, only if you're extremely exposed,” Dwoskin said.
As of Friday, 322 positive cases have been confirmed in the past 14 days, according to the dashboard. 2.3% of tests administered since Oct. 11 have returned as positive for COVID-19. Additionally, 142 students are still in quarantine, meaning they have either been exposed to the virus or are still waiting for test results.
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 an off-campus testing site should report their case here.
The University plans to reach a decision about the winter semester by Nov. 1.
Daily News Editor Claire Hao contributed reporting.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.