COVID-19 Update to Campus: July 24, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

We continue to move forward cautiously and pragmatically toward the opening of the fall semester on August 31. University planning teams continue to provide great expertise and a deep commitment to best practices -- incorporating the most up-to-date science about the epidemiology of COVID-19 and its spread as well as public health guidance to minimize risk factors. As I’ve noted on several of these messages, ensuring a safe and healthy experience for our students and employees remains the University’s number one priority.

The most significant contribution to these efforts has been the work over the spring and summer of the Public Health Work Group, which is chaired by College of Health and Human Services Dean Murali Nair. The group, appointed in early May, has made an invaluable contribution to our University. In many cases they have met daily. They held countless meetings, and used their expertise in conducting an enormous amount of research into the science and guidance surrounding all aspects of COVID-19 – its epidemiology, spread, the various tests -- their shortfalls and pros and cons, as well as the directives from government and public health experts.

The members of the Work Group deserve the full appreciation of our University community, and I will acknowledge them individually for the fine work and outstanding contribution:

  • Dr. Murali Nair, Dean, College of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Sherry Bumpus, Associate Professor and Director of Nursing Operations
  • Ellen Gold, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
  • Dr. Beverly Mihalko, Associate Professor of School of Health Sciences
  • Dieter Otto, Director of Custodial Services & Grounds
  • Elizabeth Radzilowski, HR Business Partner, University Human Resources
  • Dr. Karen Saules, Director of the Community Behavioral Clinic & Professor of Psychology
  • Dr. Michael Williams, Director of the School of Nursing
  • Dr. Andrea Gossett Zakrajsek, Professor of School of Health Sciences
  • William Pollard, Office of the President, provided administrative support

The Group has issued its final report and recommendations, which can be found on the University’s COVID-19 information website.

Among the areas in which detailed recommendations are provided:

  • Screening, Testing, & Contact Tracing
  • Travel Reporting
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Personal Hygiene Practice
  • Physical Distancing
  • Environmental Cleaning & Disinfecting

I encourage everyone in our campus community to review the report and recommendations, as these will guide the University’s actions in the days and weeks ahead.

I will review the Work Group’s final report and recommendations and am receiving feedback from others on campus before making a final decision about the scope of our return to campus plan. 

Importantly, the report articulates a key point that I have been making for several weeks. The completion of the Public Health Work Group’s work and the issuance of its report and recommendations are by no means the end of the planning process. I understand, as do the members of the University’s Safe Return Steering Committee, that the report is based on where things stand today and what we know about the virus and its spread. If we know one thing about COVID-19, it’s that constant change, led by new research and government and public health guidance, is the norm.

Implementation of the recommendations, as well as an ongoing systematic process to monitor the latest updates and information regarding the disease as we proceed through summer into fall, must continue. University expertise from faculty and staff will continue to be a part of these important and ongoing efforts.

As I noted in last week’s message, our plans for fall include:

  • Wearing of face coverings while on campus;
  • Most classes will be offered in modified formats this fall, including in fully online, remote (synchronous meetings online) and hybrid designs;
  • The University’s facilities team plans a detailed and proactive cleaning and disinfecting regimen;
  • Highly visible hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout campus; and,
  • #EMUSafe signage, window/mirror clings and floor markings promoting a safe community will be placed across campus.

Updates for non-instructional staff

University Human Resources shared an important update yesterday for non-instructional staff. The update included information concerning the continuation of working remotely beyond August 3; the end of the Work Share program effective August 1; and, the expiration of the weekly $600 federal CARES Act supplemental payment as of this weekend. The federal government is continuing to consider another stimulus package at this time. You can monitor news reports to see if anything changes.

Please view yesterday’s message here if you did not see it.  

Swoop’s Food Pantry update

Next week, Swoop’s will be open on Tuesday (7/28) from 12 – 5:30 p.m. and Thursday (7/30), from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Clients are requested to complete an Online Shopping Request Form before arriving. Items will be bagged by staff and brought out to clients when they arrive. Visitors to Swoop’s can enter through the main entrance on the north side of Pierce Hall near the elevator. Swoop’s requires any student who has not used the pantry this year to complete the Swoop's Food Pantry Intake Form.

If you wish to donate items – those most needed are tofu, flour, and ready-to-eat items such as canned ravioli, rice side dishes and canned beans.

Items can be dropped off Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – noon at 104 Pierce Hall. Swoop’s can also pick up items from your porch for those in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. Send an email to to arrange a donation pickup.

Please maintain physical distancing guidance when picking up or delivering items to the Pantry.

Faculty and alumni in the national spotlight

When the expertise of Eastern Michigan University students, faculty, staff and alumni makes the national stage, it is always worth noting and sharing. This week, we have two such examples, both of which focus on one the most critical issues facing America today, systemic racism targeting our Black community and the determined effort to create change.

Two individuals with strong connections to Eastern, one a faculty member and the other a noted alumnus who served as a cabinet secretary under President Clinton, contributed their voices to addressing these challenges in recent weeks.

Associate Professor of History and Philosophy Mary-Elizabeth Murphy wrote a column that was published in the Washington Post: Black women are the victims of police violence, too. The article examines the killing of Breonna Taylor as the most recent example of the history of attacks against Black women. Professor Murphy previously authored “Jim Crow Capital: Women and Black Freedom Struggles in Washington, D.C., 1920-1945."

Eastern Michigan University alumnus Rodney Slater, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and current vice chair of the National Archives Foundation Board of Directors, authored an article published in USA Today: July Fourth: Frederick Douglass found hope in our Declaration of Independence. So can we. The article discussed Secretary Slater’s personal challenges with racism and his positive faith in the future.

Both articles provide powerful perspective and context to the issues that are so critical in our society today.

As we head into the weekend, please continue to:

1)    Practice effective hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers;

2)    Wear face coverings; and,

3)    Observe physical distancing from those around you.

These three actions, when taken together, dramatically reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Please continue to follow the University’s COVID-19 website and the EMU Safe website for ongoing updates.

Have a safe weekend.

James Smith, Ph.D.