The morning after the stay-home order was put in place for University undergraduates last week, Ann Arbor mayor Christopher Taylor was asked whether he thought it would change anything with the first home football game right around the corner — a perfect storm of Halloween, Michigan-Michigan State and a worsening public health situation.
“Oh, you tell me,” he told The Daily. “I don’t know.
“… It should. Undergrads are supposed to stay at home, right?”
The question mark, though, underscores the situation. Over a week into the stay-home order, the University sent an email from Vice President of Student Life Martino Harmon laying out explicit enforcement mechanisms for students who host or participate in large gatherings, including suspension. Through all of the University’s public messaging surrounding COVID-19, it’s the first time there’s been an active emphasis on consequence.
Public messaging has been clear — a joint letter from Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman and the deans of students at both schools was sent out to students on Wednesday, asking them to “cheer on your school from the safety of your own home, and not with a large group of people.” University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said two videos were sent to the fraternity and sorority life community, both emphasizing the need to stay home, wear masks and take other public health measures. An athletic department press release this week stated that tailgating won’t be permitted on campus or in stadium parking lots, with no parking available at Pioneer High School or the golf course near the stadium.
The other deterrent, obvious as it may be, is that cases have risen enough to result in a stay-home order for undergrads. According to the U-M COVID dashboard as of Thursday night, there were 400 cases the week of Oct. 11 and 268 the week of Oct. 18.
Will that be enough?
“Well we can’t put up gates, right?” Taylor said. “In the end, if people are gonna come, they’re gonna come. What we are doing is we’re communicating that tailgating really shouldn’t be a thing.”
A Daily story last week featured numerous students expressing doubt that — even after the stay-home order — undergrads would stay indoors instead of partaking in tailgating activites. Whether public messaging and clear, punitive measures will be enough remains to be seen.
DPSS spokeswoman Melissa Overton said in an email that fraternities and sororities are under the Ann Arbor police department’s jurisdiction and the stay-home order will be enforced by the county health department.
“Certainly Ann Arbor police will respond when they’re called,” Taylor said when asked about enforcement. “And they’ll seek to enforce law and lawful orders. And the health officer’s declaration falls within their jurisdiction.”
Taylor added that AAPD increases staff for both home football games and Halloween. And, he said, the stay-home order could be extended if things continue to go south.
“The duration of the order will depend upon the public health numbers,” Taylor said. “So we’re gonna be looking for, bending the curve was the order of the day in the spring. That’s I think what we’re striving to do with respect to this student population where the COVID outbreak is located.”