COVID-19 Update to Campus: March 27, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

Today you may have heard Governor Whitmer confirm that it is unlikely Michigan K-12 students will return to the classroom this school year. While summer registration at Eastern Michigan formally begins Monday (3/30) for Honors students, the University is looking closely at the summer schedule in terms of maximizing the online class delivery model we are currently using. We will have more to share about that in the days ahead as we work out the details with our faculty leadership.

With more than 3,600 COVID-19 cases and 92 deaths in Michigan as of this morning, it is becoming increasingly clear that the duration of our health crisis may extend for some time and we need to prepare, as uncertain as it may be at this time. 

The pandemic is causing extreme stress on our state’s hospitals and health care system. The health care workers and first responders who continue to work extraordinarily long hours and under highly stressful circumstances deserve our support and praise. They are our heroes in this crisis.

So too are the individuals who are supporting others in our community: students, faculty and staff who are volunteering to collect food, medical supplies, and those who are delivering these items to the places, and the people, in need.

I continue to see great collaboration among the Eastern community throughout this challenging period. I am particularly grateful to the leadership of our faculty and labor partners across the University. They have expressed their unity, support and ideas every step of the way. We would not be able to get through this effectively without that level of collaboration and commitment to our students and institution. This unity and shared effort represents the very best we can be as a University, serving and supporting one another and our students.

I know all of you join me in trying to stay positive as we confront this crisis. At times it may not be easy. But it is more important than ever to search for and embrace those things that give us solace, hope, peace and happiness. As we head into the weekend, it is a good time to think about how we can mentally get away. How we can recharge. The massive effort over the past two weeks to transition to online classes did not come without a lot of anxiety and stress – for our students, our faculty and our staff.

Practice self-care. Search for moments of peace. Find creative outlets for positive energy. It may be reading, taking a walk or a hike and enjoying nature, meditating, or even putting on that energizing Zumba home workout video! Binge watch a program. Listen to music. And how about this? Don’t check your email or phone messages for an hour or two. Whatever you do, find a break from the turmoil, even if just briefly. Take care of yourself!

As we wrap up the week, I have a couple of updates as well as some reminders for students about campus resources to support your online/virtual learning.

Extension of eligibility for Temporary EMU COVID-19 Leave

The 80-hour Temporary EMU COVID-19 Leave for full-time, benefits eligible employees continues to be available through Monday, April 13, 2020.  Due to the Washtenaw County Health Department's Order dated March 25, 2020, which requires University employees to answer certain screening questions before working on campus, EMU employees may not be permitted to work because of their answers to the questions.  EMU employees who are sent home because of their answers to the screening questions are permitted to use the Temporary EMU COVID-19 Leave for this reason.

Update to operations of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Counseling support has been transitioned to fully phone and video sessions with Zoom. If students have questions or need to speak with a counselor, they should email CAPS at [email protected] and communicate their interest. Phone messages can be left at 734.487.1118 and will be returned as soon as possible. CAPS will also continue to offer after-hours (after 5 p.m. and on weekends) phone support through its main CAPS phone line, 734.487.1118. 

Important March 31 deadline reminder for students living in residence halls

To be eligible for the housing and/or dining credit previously announced, all personal items must be removed from on-campus housing and formal checkout and keys must be returned no later than March 31 at 5 p.m. Students will not receive a credit if they have not removed their belongings and completed the formal checkout process/key return by that date and time.

A few students and parents have asked if coming to campus would violate the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. The Governor’s executive order does not prohibit travel for such purposes. Section 7 of the Governor's executive order states:

Section 7(b): Individuals may also travel:
(1) To return to a home or place of residence from outside this state.
(2) To leave this state for a home or residence elsewhere.
(3) To travel between two residences in this state.

Students moving their belongings from campus to their permanent residence fall within these exceptions.

Online resources to assist students -- Holman Success Center and Halle Library

Services at the Holman Success Center have been adjusted during this period of modified operations in order to continue to support students through online offerings. Please visit the website for details and contact information.

Services at Halle Library also have been adjusted during this period of modified operations to support students’ online learning needs. Visit the website to explore how the library can assist and to find contact information.

The Dean of Students Office

The Dean of Students Office is a resource for students on any issues or concerns they are facing. Like other campus offices, the Dean of Students Office is operating remotely. It is prepared to assist with student questions or concerns of many types, including food insecurity, academics, technology, health and wellness, or any other challenges a student may face. Please contact the Dean of Students at [email protected].

Supporting our Asian American community

There have been ongoing reports nationally of COVID-19 related racism and discrimination targeting the Asian American community. As we stated in one of our initial messages about the crisis: It is not an illness associated with contact with Asian community members. The Washtenaw County Health Department states, “Let’s fight this public health concern with compassion and science, not fear and discrimination.” As we proudly say here at EMU, “You Are Welcome Here!”

WEMU essential coverage of COVID-19 and community impact

On March 12, WEMU made the painful but necessary decision to postpone its spring on-air fundraiser. While WEMU’s needs for funds are essential to its survival, it was more critical to concentrate on serving the community with real-time news and information: global and national coverage from NPR, local news from the WEMU news team, and coverage of the arts and cultural community through the music programs.

Since that time, WEMU has been tirelessly on the job, with daily updates from elected officials, community leaders, the medical community, EMU faculty, public safety and public health officials, and the EMU administration. Morning and afternoon news hosts David Fair and Lisa Barry have spent hours gathering information, speaking to news leaders, doing key live interviews, and keeping up with breaking news. The music team has covered the local music scene and its loss of performance income and live concerts. The behind the scenes staff has provided support wherever it’s been needed including the endless updating of social media.

Putting aside their own anxiety for themselves, family, and friends, the WEMU team has been on the job every day (at a social distance and in a carefully sanitized environment) to make sure the community has all the critical information they need.

While this critical coverage has been ongoing, WEMU decided to do a soft fundraiser. This was done using a mix of recorded and live donation requests for online gifts to try and offset some of the loss from not producing a full-fledged on air fundraiser, with program breaks, special guests, and in-studio volunteers answering telephones.

And the community responded in amazing fashion with $93,925 from 455 donors over 8 days, 24 of whom gave $1,000 or more as part of WEMU’s Community Champions giving circle.

Samples from the many comments that accompanied these gifts are below.

  • “In these times, it is this independent reporting and news that is crucial to deliver to local residents, thank you for all of your work!”
  • “WEMU is doing a heroic job of keeping the community informed.”
  • “Keep the light of music coming in these dark days.”
  • “I really appreciate your coverage of our community and its efforts to help.”
  • “Thank you for keeping things ‘jazzy’ during a difficult time for us all.”
  • “To the wonderful WEMU crew in this time of crisis, thank you for supporting the community with your timely and accurate news coverage. We appreciate your dedication to serving all of us.” 

We send our sincere gratitude to our colleagues at WEMU!

Inspiring stories of support

This section continues to be dedicated to sharing positive efforts among those in our campus community to support others.

Zuzana Tomaš, EMU associate professor of ESL/TESOL, is feeling extra proud of her children after they designed and created a flyer for Swoop's Food Pantry donations and organized a food drive in their neighborhood! Professor Tomaš and her children were able to deliver a trunk full of goods to the pantry. During the 10 minutes she and her children were at Swoop's, three other cars came by to drop off donations. Professor Tomaš stated in an email, "It is incredible to see our community stepping up and thinking of others during these difficult times.”

Photos of Professor Tomaš and her children’s efforts are highlighted on a new photo gallery designed to showcase these fine efforts among our campus community. Visit Everyday Eagle Heroes and please continue to forward stories and photos to [email protected]. We will highlight more of these wonderful initiatives in future communications.  

Again, as we head into the weekend, please take the time to recharge and get away. Continue to follow social distancing guidance, as well as hand washing and other prevention measures. Follow your University email, the University’s COVID-19 website and our Frequently Asked Questions for additional information and updates, as well as resources to help keep you safe.

With appreciation,

James Smith, Ph.D.

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