Dear U-M Ann Arbor community member,
In less than two short weeks, a new academic year will be underway on the Ann Arbor campus. To help prepare for the fall term, I wanted to share updates on our campus’s preparations for and community expectations around COVID-19, mpox and seasonal influenza.
Our ability to protect ourselves against COVID-19 has evolved as our knowledge of the disease has increased and better treatments have become widely available. In many ways the response to COVID-19 has shifted to individual risk assessment and adoption of vaccination, testing, masking, and interaction with others (including travel) that align with that individual risk. Members of our campus community are encouraged to take several actions to further reduce the spread of the virus and the disruption it can have on our daily lives.
The following COVID-19 guidance from the university’s Public Health Response team for the Ann Arbor campus for fall is based on current conditions, and may change depending upon the ongoing evolution of the pandemic or emerging guidance from the broader public health community:
- Vaccinations: The U-M COVID-19 Vaccination Policy remains in place requiring that all students, faculty and staff be up-to-date on their vaccinations by completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series and one booster, with limited exemptions. Report COVID-19 vaccination information using the Vax Viewer tool.
- Reporting additional doses: Members of the university community who have received a second COVID-19 booster dose or any additional doses now have the option to submit that information to the university. Submitting second booster/additional COVID-19 vaccination information is not required under the U-M COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.
- Students should plan to test before traveling to Ann Arbor. Anyone who tests positive should delay their arrival until they have completed their isolation.
- Effective August 29, 2022, weekly testing is no longer required, though strongly encouraged, for members of the university community who have an exemption from COVID-19 vaccination. At this phase of the pandemic, testing of the community continues to provide helpful surveillance information. Michigan Medicine employees should continue to follow the established protocols.
- Testing for asymptomatic COVID-19 will remain available through the Community Sampling and Tracking Program (CSTP) for U-M students and employees who are interested in testing. Those who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations are encouraged to test regularly, but are no longer required to do so.
- Everyone is encouraged to have antigen tests on hand for immediate testing should you develop symptoms. These are available through many government resources, at local pharmacies, and at CSTP sites.
- Masking for most indoor spaces on campus, including instructional spaces, is not required. While faculty members and instructors cannot require masks in classrooms, they are encouraged to remind individuals of actions each can take, like masking, based on their own individual risk assessment. Recommendations will be aligned with the CDC’s COVID-19 community level for Washtenaw County. Please note, the COVID-19 community level for Washtenaw County currently is “Medium,” and it is recommended that individuals who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease wear a mask while indoors.
- Masks will however remain required in patient care areas (e.g. Michigan Medicine, University Health Service, and the Dental School clinical areas) and at U-M COVID-19 testing sites as noted under the U-M Face Covering Policy.
- Please respect the decisions of others in our community who choose to wear a mask based on their own individual risk assessment.
- In ongoing consultation with the Washtenaw County Health Department, the U-M Public Health Response team will continue to monitor COVID-19 activity and may revise masking requirements as indicated.
- Vaccination policy compliance: ResponsiBLUE, the daily symptom checker, will continue to be the personal tool to track compliance with the university’s vaccination policy and other COVID-19 requirements. All members of the U-M community and guests coming to campus are encouraged to use ResponsiBLUE for daily screening as it will continue to be required to access certain buildings, and to seek appropriate care and testing if they have symptoms.
- Stay home when sick: Individuals are advised to stay home if they are sick, with support from their supervisors and instructors. This helps reduce the likelihood of spreading a range of infections including COVID-19 and other illnesses.
- Treatment: COVID-19 treatment options should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Students can contact University Health Service regarding treatment options.
- COVID-19 isolation: All students should have individual plans for isolation in the event they have a positive COVID-19 test. A limited inventory of isolation housing space will remain available and this space will be prioritized for use by students with a residence hall contract who test positive for COVID-19 and must relocate.
For the latest information and updates related to COVID-19, please visit the U-M Health Response website at: https://healthresponse.umich.edu/.
Mpox Awareness and Prevention
On Aug. 4, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared mpox a public health emergency. This action may have caused concern and anxiety in members of our campus community; however, the risk of mpox to the general public remains low.
Working closely with the Washtenaw County Health Department, the university’s Public Health Response team continues to closely monitor the evolving mpox situation and its potential impact on the U-M community. UHS is prepared to provide testing of suspected student cases and to support vaccination and treatment of priority groups identified by the Health Department.
Understanding how mpox spreads and what symptoms to look for are among our greatest protective tools available against the disease’s spread. Unlike COVID-19, the current understanding is that mpox is transmitted by close physical contact and spread from asymptomatic individuals is unusual, so the indications for isolation and quarantine are very different. Isolation for those testing positive for mpox is based upon an individualized clinical assessment.
- All students should have individual plans for isolation in the event they have a positive mpox test. Students who have a suspicious rash or sores and/or believe they were exposed to mpox should contact the University Health Service (UHS) immediately at 734-764-8320.
- Faculty and staff members who have a suspicious rash or believe they were exposed to mpox should contact their health care provider immediately. If you do not currently have a health care provider, call the Washtenaw County Health Department at 734-544-6700.
For answers to common questions about mpox, visit the University Health Service website.
Influenza (the flu)
Influenza is an infectious disease that can disrupt daily routines. Many of the same tools and practices used to protect against COVID-19 are effective, such as:
- Getting vaccinated against influenza when available.
- Wearing a mask if you are worried about catching the disease from others around you.
- Staying home when you are sick.
Details about flu vaccine clinics on campus will be announced soon.
Traveling to Campus from Abroad
Students traveling to campus from abroad must follow exit requirements of their departure country and follow CDC guidance for travel to the United States related to COVID-19. See the “Entry / Exit Requirements” section on Global Michigan for details. International students are strongly encouraged to review the International Center’s travel guidelines and contact the IC for any questions related to the US student visa or updated travel signature on the I-20 or DS2019 if needed.
We understand that news of a new infectious disease following the last few years of the COVID-19 pandemic can be concerning and result in feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty. Mental health resources are available for those who may want support.
Faculty and staff resources:
Thank you for your continued vigilance. I look forward to a vibrant fall term.
Robert D. Ernst
Chief Health Officer
Associate Vice President of Student Life
Note: On January 20, 2023, this message was updated to align with the CDC and WHO usage of the term “mpox.”