COVID-19 Update to Campus: August 21, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

This week, we have witnessed numerous alarming incidents around the country of large groups of college students participating in parties as they return to their campuses for the start of the fall semester. These students are ignoring the warnings and concerns of physical distancing, and in many cases, the wearing of face coverings. In some cases, the crowds are upwards of 100 people.

These cases have been met with swift condemnation from the universities involved – from their leadership, employees and from fellow students. Large social gatherings and parties, which could become “super-spreader” events, are one of the primary fears I have had since the start of our planning for the fall semester. I am watching these developments extremely closely to determine any necessary modifications to our current re-opening plans. Please watch your e-mail for any further developments in this regard.

Washtenaw County takes action to limit indoor and outdoor social gatherings

I was pleased to see Wednesday’s emergency order from the Washtenaw County Health Department to prohibit indoor gatherings in the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti of more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people. These restrictions on social gatherings are important for students to follow. My hope is that through this effort and the proactive efforts of our student leaders and Campus Life staff, we will avoid the scenarios that have occurred at other institutions.

New policies and procedures

I know students and employees are both nervous and excited about the fast-approaching fall semester. The campus will look different this fall, with many activities occurring remotely. 

We will continue sharing information about new policies and procedures for employees and students. Most of these topics have been addressed in previous communications, and are outlined the University’s Safe Return-to-Campus Plan, but it will also be helpful to have these policies spelled out in emails covering individual topics.

As part of our recent communications efforts, earlier this week we distributed a message to students from Student Government encouraging them to “Take the Pledge. Stop the Spread.” encouraging grassroots support for actions to stop the spread of COVID-19. The pledge is open to all members of our campus community and I ask you to join our students and colleagues in taking it. In addition, all employees received a message about the ordering of face coverings, hand sanitizer and similar health-related supplies for their work area(s). These important messages will continue over the next week and I ask again that you continue to closely monitor your email.

Building entry, exit and circulation information

As we have discussed in previous messages, every building on campus will have a designated entrance door and a designated exit door. A building access webpage has been developed listing each building with corresponding entry and information.

Swoop’s Food Pantry will be closed next week

As noted in last week’s message, the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room will be closed to shoppers next week in order to prepare for the start of the semester.

Swoop’s will continue to take donations of items during the week. Items most needed are razors, toothbrushes, dish soap, salad dressing and tofu.

Please email [email protected] in advance to make sure someone is present to handle your delivery.

Highlighting success

As always, I’m extremely proud to shine a light on another academic success: Tsu-Yin Wu, professor in the College of Health and Human Services, was named the winner of the 2020 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) National Civic League Health Equity Award.

Professor Wu was recognized virtually for her accomplishments during a livestream award ceremony last Tuesday.

During her acceptance speech, Dr. Wu thanked both RWJF and the National Civic League for the recognition, stating that she’s grateful to be part of the University’s Center for Health Disparities, Innovations, and Studies team.

Congratulations Dr. Wu! 

Health and safety reminder

As I do each week, I will conclude with an important health and safety reminder as we head into the weekend. Please continue to:

  • Practice effective hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers;
  • Wear face coverings; and,
  • Observe physical distancing.

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.