University of Michigan tells students to stay home this winter amid COVID-19 spike

The University of Michigan is moving more classes online and largely shutting down residence halls this winter as COVID-19 cases rise on campus and throughout the state.

In addition to canceling winter semester on-campus housing contracts for undergraduates, the university will implement mandatory weekly testing for anybody who comes to campus, the university announced Friday.

“This was a very difficult decision we had to make to support health and safety, and we apologize for the disruption it will cause,” President Mark Schlissel said in a letter to faculty and staff. “I join all of you in wishing that our winter term could be normal, and we could enjoy the transition into spring free of the anxieties of this pandemic.”

Students who need to remain on campus for their health and wellness can request to do so, and dorms will be one person per room. Anyone coming to campus must test negative for the virus first and will encounter a “strict, no-tolerance approach” to enforcing the policy.

The “public health informed” fall semester plan hatched by Schlissel has not exactly gone according to plan as numerous outbreaks have been tied to the university. However, trends appeared to be going in the right direction for the university following a two-week stay-in-place order issued by the Washtenaw County Health Department for undergraduate students, which was lifted Monday.

The emergency order resulted in a steady drop of cases among students since Oct. 21, according to the university’s COVID-19 tracking data. There were 88 positive cases reported in the UM community this week, down from a peak of 409 the week of Oct. 11.

Still, the weekly test positivity rate in Washtenaw County has increased to nearly 4 percent, and the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge throughout the state.

For the winter semester, UM will cut the number of hybrid classes and will not require instructors to teach in person. Students and teachers much test negative for the virus before coming to campus.

Penalties for violating the policy range from automatic probation to removing university recognition for student organizations hosting or participating in social gatherings, the university said.

Other changes for winter include the addition of two midweek, one-day “well-being breaks” on Feb. 24 and March 23 with no scheduled academic activities.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines are scheduled to take on the Hoosiers in Indiana on Saturday with attendance limited to family members. Games played at Michigan Stadium are also closed to the public.

A UM spokesman said the university’s changing course amid the coronavirus spike does not impact the football season.

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