Skip to main content
Office of the Provost

U-M updates mask guidelines, other COVID-19 policies

March 9, 2021

Dear U-M Ann Arbor Community Member,

As a result of the high vaccination rates among students, faculty and staff as well as improving conditions in the region, the COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee is issuing new guidance regarding COVID-19 response on the University of Michigan campuses.

Effective March 14, 2022, masking will be optional in most indoor spaces on campus including in offices, residence halls and at athletic events.

Masks will remain required in classrooms and other instructional spaces, patient care areas, campus buses and in campus COVID-19 testing sites at least through the end of the winter term.

The Dearborn and Flint campuses will communicate this policy change directly to their respective campuses.

Mask use still is suggested as an effective strategy for enhanced personal protection, especially for those with compromised immune status, those who are not vaccinated or up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, and anyone with a perceived increased risk of complications from infection.

Please recognize and respect that some in the community will choose to continue to mask and should be empowered to do so. Please be kind and respectful of these personal choices.

The following additional guidance also is effective beginning March 14, 2022:

  • The U-M COVID-19 Vaccination Policy remains in effect for the University community.
  • It is expected that all individuals of the U-M community and guests stay home when they are not feeling well (do not attend work, class, gatherings or events).
  • Individuals are expected to continue to use ResponsiBLUE and ResponsiBLUE Guest as a daily symptom checker.
  • In-person gatherings and events may occur and food/drink can be provided. Continued use of ResponsiBLUE and ResponsiBLUE Guest is recommended for these events.
  • Individuals attending indoor athletic events will no longer need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
  • Spring and Summer programs with non-university individuals that will have on-campus residency will be required to show proof of vaccination or negative test.
  • Units can plan and implement their event plans at the local level; units are no longer required to submit event plans or summer programs for review by U-M’s Environment, Health & Safety or the Provost’s Office. Please refer to the U-M COVID-19 Guidelines for Campus Facilities for ideas of levels of risk associated with gatherings and events.
  • The changes are reflective of the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Human Health Services. As always, we will remain vigilant in monitoring the COVID-19 situation in our community and will revisit these guidelines accordingly

For the latest information and updates related to COVID-19, please visit the Campus Maize and Blueprint: https://campusblueprint.umich.edu.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Ernst
Associate Vice President of Student Life
Director of Campus COVID Response

Preeti Malani
U-M Chief Health Officer

Updated indoor mask policy and other COVID-19 guidance

Dear U-M Ann Arbor Community Member,

As a result of the high vaccination rates among students, faculty and staff as well as improving conditions in the region, the COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee is issuing new guidance regarding COVID-19 response on the University of Michigan campuses.

Effective March 14, 2022, masking will be optional in most indoor spaces on campus including in offices, residence halls and at athletic events.

Masks will remain required in classrooms and other instructional spaces, patient care areas, campus buses and in campus COVID-19 testing sites at least through the end of the winter term.

The Dearborn and Flint campuses will communicate this policy change directly to their respective campuses.

Mask use still is suggested as an effective strategy for enhanced personal protection, especially for those with compromised immune status, those who are not vaccinated or up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, and anyone with a perceived increased risk of complications from infection.

Please recognize and respect that some in the community will choose to continue to mask and should be empowered to do so. Please be kind and respectful of these personal choices.

The following additional guidance also is effective beginning March 14, 2022:

  • The U-M COVID-19 Vaccination Policy remains in effect for the University community.
  • It is expected that all individuals of the U-M community and guests stay home when they are not feeling well (do not attend work, class, gatherings or events).
  • Individuals are expected to continue to use ResponsiBLUE and ResponsiBLUE Guest as a daily symptom checker.
  • In-person gatherings and events may occur and food/drink can be provided. Continued use of ResponsiBLUE and ResponsiBLUE Guest is recommended for these events.
  • Individuals attending indoor athletic events will no longer need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
  • Spring and Summer programs with non-university individuals that will have on-campus residency will be required to show proof of vaccination or negative test.
  • Units can plan and implement their event plans at the local level; units are no longer required to submit event plans or summer programs for review by U-M’s Environment, Health & Safety or the Provost’s Office. Please refer to the U-M COVID-19 Guidelines for Campus Facilities for ideas of levels of risk associated with gatherings and events.
  • The changes are reflective of the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Human Health Services. As always, we will remain vigilant in monitoring the COVID-19 situation in our community and will revisit these guidelines accordingly

For the latest information and updates related to COVID-19, please visit the Campus Maize and Blueprint: https://campusblueprint.umich.edu.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Ernst
Associate Vice President of Student Life
Director of Campus COVID Response

Preeti Malani
U-M Chief Health Officer

Religious Holiday Schedule and Scheduling Final Exams

[Email to U-M community]
Jan. 6, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to draw your attention to the religious holiday schedule and to the University’s long-standing final exam policy.

Religious Holiday Schedule:

Although the University of Michigan, as an institution, does not observe religious holidays, every reasonable effort should be made to help students avoid negative academic consequences when their religious obligations conflict with academic requirements. Faculty are expected to provide reasonable accommodations, if possible, when religious observances cause a student to miss classes, examinations, or other assignments. If there will be a conflict, students are expected to give notice to their instructors by the drop/add deadline for the term. The information that we provide to students regarding their obligations is copied at the end of this message for your information.

The list of some of the religious holidays that might pose conflicts for many of our students in 2022 is posted online. Please be aware that this is not an exhaustive list and there may be other holidays that pose conflicts for students. When such conflicts do occur with regard to class attendance or the scheduling of examinations, it is my expectation that faculty will make alternative arrangements when students request them.

Such alternative arrangements should not unduly inconvenience other students or faculty. Faculty should make every effort to avoid scheduling required work that is difficult to reschedule, e.g., lab exams or high-profile non- classroom activities, on religious holidays. Some holidays extend over many days, and instructors should take special care to schedule work so that students who observe these holidays have opportunities to complete their work in a way that does not conflict with their religious observance. Faculty members whose classes conflict with their own religious obligations may reschedule these classes at times that are mutually convenient to themselves and their students.

If you have any questions or problems with this approach, please consult with your department chair, program director, or dean. Students will also be informed of this policy, in order to clarify for them their role in this process. Your efforts to resolve potential conflicts and to accommodate the students affected by them will be greatly appreciated.

Final Exam Policy:

The Final Exam Policy was developed to ensure that finals are spread over several days to help eliminate the scheduling of multiple exams per day for our students. By scheduling study days before and during the exam period, we also provide students with sufficient time to study for their finals.

Every term we receive complaints from students who were reluctant to express their concerns when a faculty member asked whether the students in a class objected to a final being moved. The lack of any objections does not necessarily mean that the students are in agreement with the change; they may simply be unwilling to incur peer pressure or the tacit disapproval of their instructor. I also am aware that students often purchase airline tickets home at the beginning of a term based on the final exam schedule only to have the date for the final changed and their travel plans disrupted.

For these reasons I am writing to ask that you please familiarize yourself with the University’s final exam policy and arrange to have finals on the scheduled date. aculty in Business, Dentistry, Law, Medicine and Social Work should check with their respective schools for academic calendar information, including registration dates.

The University’s Final Examination Policy and Schedule may be accessed online. You may also view the Senate Assembly’s statement on final exams.

Any questions or concerns should be directed to your department chair, the dean’s office, or the Registrar’s Office. You may also write to me at provost@umich.edu.

Sincerely,

Susan M. Collins
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Edward M. Gramlich Collegiate Professor of Public Policy
Professor of Economics

Instructional Update from Provost Collins

January 5, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

It is very challenging to be starting another new semester with COVID-19 still surging, while grappling with associated concerns about health, navigating childcare, a shift to remote education in AAPS this week, flight delays, and more. Thank you for your continued commitment to our community and mission in these difficult times.

I write specifically to you, our faculty and graduate student instructors, in response to the concerns and questions many have raised about our decision to provide a residential experience for our students in W22, offering as much in-person instruction as possible. Concerns about health and safety are understandable in such uncertain times. This message is intended to address some of the most common questions we are hearing as classes begin this week.

The video from Dr. Preeti Malani, U-M’s Chief Health Officer, provides some context and framing.

Why did we decide to begin the semester in person, rather than with a couple of weeks of remote instruction?

The decision to proceed with an in-person start to the semester was not made lightly. Monitoring the ever-evolving context of the pandemic is an ongoing process, involving collaborative work among the Campus Health Response Committee, executive team, deans and other academic leaders, and the Washtenaw County Health Department. Our shared goal is to continue to provide the best possible educational experiences for our students as safely as we can and largely in person.

  • We are in a very different place from where we were a year ago. While we are still learning, we know much more about the virus, and have documented evidence of the effectiveness of vaccination (including boosters) and masking for mitigating disease spread and minimizing the severity of illness. Our significantly increased testing capacity is also an important tool for limiting spread.
  • Existing evidence indicates that our classrooms are safe for instructors and students, given the protocols in place.
  • We’ve seen first-hand how valuable in-person engagement is for our students – in terms of wellness as well as the quality of teaching and learning. We are deeply concerned about the isolation and mental health problems associated with online-only activities. Furthermore, remote instruction may provide less structure and may lead to more travel and greater risk.
  • Going remote for two weeks would be arbitrary. It is unclear what will be better two weeks from now, given that COVID-19 continues to evolve and is becoming endemic. Our decision-making is guided by science and advice from our experts; our recent decisions hinge on a high vaccination rate, effective masking requirement, sufficient testing capacity and our ability to require and provide boosters in our community.
  • The University adopted a number of additional mitigation measures, in advance of starting a residential winter term. These are outlined in our December 28 message and January 3 message.
  • We recognize that many uncertainties remain and that the on-going course of the pandemic is difficult to predict. We will continue to monitor response metrics, and will adjust mitigation strategies proactively.

COVID cases are surging; even some fully vaccinated people are getting really sick. Do vaccines and masking really work against Omicron?

As Dr. Malani and her co-authors noted in a December 22 JAMA Viewpoint article: “[m]ost current hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated individuals; however, so-called breakthrough infections are increasingly being diagnosed among individuals who have been fully vaccinated and even among those who have received booster doses. To date, most of these infections have not resulted in clinically severe disease. While vaccination does not prevent all infections, thus far vaccination has provided protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. The degree to which current vaccines will be protective against severe illness related to the Omicron variant will require careful monitoring.”

Michigan Medicine hospitalization data reflect this. Most patients hospitalized, in intensive care, and on ventilators with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Almost everyone who is vaccinated and in the hospital for COVID also has serious underlying medical conditions.

Vaccination continues to protect against severe complications from COVID-19, even though vaccination effectiveness against symptomatic infection with Omicron is somewhat diminished. Booster doses of vaccines improve vaccine effectiveness, although precise estimates of protection against infection (including mild and asymptomatic infection) are not yet available. As described in the January 4 message from Drs. Ernst and Malani, boosters will be available on campus at a number of pop-up clinics both this week and next.

Although we know that Omicron is more transmissible and has the potential for evading the immune protection provided by antibodies from vaccines or prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, it is not a smaller particle than prior variants, and there is no evidence to suggest that masks are less protective than they were in the fall. Thus, a high quality, properly fitting mask will continue to provide strong protection. We do suggest that our community members upgrade their masks, such as to surgical or KN95 masks if feasible. Individuals can get masks at all Community Sampling and Tracking Program testing locations while supplies last.

How safe are our classrooms and how do we know this?

Data from Fall 2021 shows U-M classrooms to be one of the safest environments in our community with low (if any) transmission noted. We constantly monitor the characteristics of spread in our community. Key sources of data include information from contact tracing as well as wastewater analysis. It is indoor social gatherings without consistent mask usage that continue to be the most prevalent driver of spread.

Our campus remains one of the most highly vaccinated populations in the state and the country. As shown on the campus dashboard, 98% of our faculty and students are fully vaccinated, and those with approved exemptions from the vaccine mandate participate in required weekly testing. The addition of a vaccine booster requirement, announced in late December, will only strengthen our already strong vaccine protections.

As discussed above, masking also remains a very effective tool in preventing spread and is an important part of our mitigation strategy. Allowing food and drink in classrooms results in temporary unmasking, increases risk, and should be minimized.

U-M Facilities & Operations has taken steps to ensure high-quality ventilation in our classrooms to provide safe classroom environments. Our systems are designed to meet or exceed the Michigan Building Code requirements for airflow at maximum occupancy. For more detailed information, please see this

We are continuing to monitor classroom spaces closely, and will make any necessary adjustments if conditions change.

The Path Forward

All of us are committed to providing our students with academic and co-curricular programs of high quality, including the in-person engagement that is a key component of a Michigan education. We are deeply appreciative of the thoughtfulness and creativity with which you have worked to ensure our students have a rich academic experience. As the very high policy compliance among them suggests, students want to be on campus, enhancing their opportunities to learn from and with you.

While these are challenging times to be sure, absent illness or significant COVID-19 exposure, we expect our faculty to deliver their courses using the planned and promised modality. Our Regents, campus leaders, students and their families see in-person education as a hallmark of our university. Our students choose courses and develop their academic schedules with this expectation. Wherever possible, we have a commitment to fulfill our promises to them to the greatest extent possible.

Our success in the current uncertain circumstances is dependent on each of us continuing to act with kindness to others and to be flexible as we continue to adjust to unexpected developments. Offering understanding and support to others, and receiving it ourselves, strengthens our community and enriches our lives. We recognize that the coming weeks will be difficult, and we ask every member of our community to do what each of us can to advance our shared mission.

Best,

Susan M. Collins
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Edward M. Gramlich Collegiate Professor of Public Policy
Professor of Economics

U-M outlines COVID-19 measures for winter semester