This week, the University of Michigan reported that its preliminary count of new COVID-19 was 22. That represents a nearly 89% decline from its peak of 195 new cases notched the week of August 29. That was the first week of in-person classes at UM. Since August 21, UM has reported a total of 567 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Nearly 72% of UM’s reported cases occurred among students.
UM President Mark Schlissel credits the University’s multi-pronged approach to reducing COVID-19 cases on campus. That approach includes mandatory vaccinations for all faculty, students and staff; ventilation changes to university buildings; and enforcement of the University’s indoor masking policy. In addition, the University employs a wastewater surveillance program to identify outbreaks associated with university buildings and residence halls.
According to the UM COVID-19 dashboard, 96% of its students are fully vaccinated. Similarly, 95% of faculty members and 82% of staff are fully vaccinated.
UM also reported that it will no longer issue community notifications to individuals in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. In reporting the change, UM also indicated that due to its indoor masking requirements combined with its vaccine mandate and its ventilation standards, its classrooms did not represent a source of transmission of the virus.
COVID-19 cases drop when institutions take the pandemic seriously
UM has more than 500 classroom spaces. Only three classrooms on campus do not have mechanical ventilation combined with a MERV 13 air filtration system. It also reports that it has disabled any demand-based ventilation systems in its buildings. Demand-based ventilation uses occupancy sensors to detect people in specific spaces and adjust ventilation accordingly. Its ventilation strategy also includes introducing more outside air and operating HVAC systems before buildings open and after they close to permit additional air filtration.
Simple steps have allowed UM to restore face-to-face instruction while increasing the safety of its faculty, students and staff. In addition, UM provides a continuously updated dashboard to keep its community informed of rapidly changing COVID-19 conditions. Eastern Michigan University also has a dashboard, which keeps track of case counts, testing results, the positivity rate of its tests and more.
WCC should also have a dashboard, showing case counts, test counts, positivity rates, 7-day case counts, ventilation standards and more. Instead, the WCC Administration is asking the general public to stay out of the library until further notice. Being a community college is no excuse. Money isn’t an excuse, either. The federal government has dumped millions of dollars of pandemic related support on WCC.
Students, faculty and staff on WCC’s campus will not be safe until the WCC Administration starts taking this pandemic seriously.
Photo Credit: Tim Reckmann , via Flickr