ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Washtenaw County Health Department issued a public health emergency stay-in-place order for University of Michigan students, effective immediately through Nov. 3.
The health department says the number of COVID-19 cases among students is increasing and represents over 60 percent of local cases.
The order is intended to limit socializing among students, slow down new cases and allow for effective contact tracing.
The health department says most infections are the result of social events and gatherings.
“The situation locally has become critical, and this order is necessary to reverse the current increase in cases,” Jimena Loveluck, MSW, health officer for Washtenaw County, said in a press release. “We must continue to do what we can to minimize the impact on the broader community and to ensure we have the public health capacity to fully investigate cases and prevent additional spread of illness.”
Under the order, undergraduate students must remain in their residence, unless attending class, accessing dining services, or carrying out approved work that cannot be done remotely. Students who wish to return to a primary residence may do so only if they have completed the U-M’s procedures for leaving campus safely.
Under existing state orders, everyone must continue to separate themselves from others not already in their household by at least 6 feet and wear a face covering when out in public or in common areas.
A stay-in-place order is not the same as quarantine, the health department said.
During the stay-in-place order, official and essential activities are allowable when carried out using COVID-19 prevention measures including wearing face coverings, social distancing and frequent hand cleaning. While this order allows students to work and participate in official activities with preventive measures in place, it also limits the impact of exposures on local businesses, workers and community members.
In support of the county order, the university also will take the additional steps to provide choices for students and instructors, including moving more undergraduate courses to fully remote instruction for the remainder of the fall semester.
“The university has been working closely with the Health Department all along in response to the pandemic and supports this decision to issue this stay at home order,” says Robert Ernst, executive director of U-M’s University Health Service and associate vice president for Student Life, in a press release. “This action is intended to reduce the strain on our capacities for contact tracing and quarantine and isolation housing. Many individuals and off-campus residences are cooperating fully, and we hope this additional guidance on limiting social activities reverses the trend of increased cases related to social gatherings.”
Violations of the local order are subject to citations and penalties.
The health department said Washtenaw County has reported a total of 4,229 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Oct 19. More than 600 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in Washtenaw County in the past week (since Oct 12), and 61% of these are connected to University of Michigan students living on or off campus, many in congregate or group settings.
All U-M students who have been identified as testing positive or as a close contact as determined through case investigation are offered the opportunity to move into U-M quarantine and isolation housing and utilize other U-M resources.