‘U’ to close libraries, move dining halls to take-out only in response to coronavirus spread

Monday, March 16, 2020 - 4:07pm

The University of Michigan closed libraries and moved dining halls to take-out only meals Monday afternoon.

The University of Michigan closed libraries and moved dining halls to take-out only meals Monday afternoon. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

Shortly after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order to close all restaurants, bars and entertainment venues in the state on Monday, the University of Michigan closed libraries and moved dining halls to take-out only meals as fears about the spread of coronavirus continue to grow. The closure went into effect at 3 p.m. and will affect all Michigan Dining locations and University libraries. 

In a message on the University Library’s Twitter account, University officials announced that libraries would close at 3 p.m. but assured students, faculty and staff that most library resources would remain available online. 

A separate post on the Michigan Dining Twitter account notified students that beginning Monday night, dining halls across campus will not offer seating and will only serve takeout meals. Though residential halls remain open, University officials continue to encourage students to leave campus if they are able to in order to promote responsible social distancing. 

Social distancing includes limiting large gatherings of people, maintaining a distance of six feet in between one another and staying home as often as possible. 

In a press release, Whitmer said closing public spaces and disrupting daily routines is necessary in order to combat the virus and slow its spread. Whitmer highlighted the need for people to make individual sacrifices that contribute to these efforts. 

“This is about saving lives,” Whitmer said. “Michiganders are tough and we are going to get through this, but it will require everyone doing their part. That means making smart choices and not putting yourself or others at risk by going out in public unless it is absolutely necessary.” 

In an email to students sent Monday night, Simone Himbeault Taylor, interim vice president for student life, and Robert Ernst, University Health Service executive director, noted that UHS will remain open in addition to a modified version of housing and dining, consisting of boxed take-out meals served during specific hours. 

Jeff Donofrio, the director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said in a press release the closure of businesses will impact workers and the local economy but reiterated that these measures were put in place to protect the public from infection. 

“We understand that these decisions will impact the way we do business, but the decisions we make now will allow us to get our economy back on track sooner rather than later,” Donofrio said. “We are putting measures in place to help protect the employers, employees and individuals that will be impacted.” 

LSA junior Kimiko Varner said she was planning on checking out books from the University libraries for an Asian Studies research methods class before she learned they closed indefinitely. Now, Varner said she may struggle to find the resources necessary to finish the project. 

“A lot of the stuff I’m looking at is not available online,” Varner said. “So I was planning on getting more so I had more material ... I definitely was not able to pick up everything I wanted to, so I guess I’m going to have to work with what I have and what’s online.”

Additionally, Logistics, Operations & Parking are continuing all services at a reduced rate, according to a statement released Momday morning. The statement notes the operating schedule is now equivalent to the service level when classes are not in session. 

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People who believe they have been exposed to coronavirus should call their health care providers or the nearest hospital.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said while dining halls will offer take-out meals only during selected hours, Maizie's Kitchen in the Michigan League will remain open as a convenience store. The cafes in the libraries and in the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) will close. 

Susan Pile, the director of University Unions and Auxiliary Services, said the businesses in the Union were still open as of Saturday afternoon. Subway and Panda Express, the businesses in the basement of the Union, opened the first week of March. These businesses are now take-out-only because of Whitmer’s order.

Himbeault Taylor and Ernst echoed earlier calls from President Mark Schlissel to return home as soon as possible if circumstances allow, writing that several community members have tested positive for COVID-19. Dozens more are awaiting test results. These quantities, they wrote, are increasing daily.

“For those of you who still remain on campus, especially in residence halls, you need to return to your permanent residence, if that is an option for you,” Himbeault Taylor and Ernst wrote. “New developments and guidance in the COVID-19 pandemic make it clear that now is the time to return home if you can. To diminish ongoing transmission of this dangerous infection, we need to decrease the density of people on our campus, in our residence halls and in group living circumstances off-campus.”

 

Daily News Editor Liat Weinstein can be reached at weinsl@umich.edu.