COVID-19 Update to Campus: Sept. 18, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

Today marks the second day of our “official” move-in for students living in residence halls and apartments. I reference “official” in quotes because we actually have nearly 1,000 students living on campus already – including graduate students who live here year-round, residence hall staff, and other students who notified us of special circumstances and requested to move in as initially planned starting on August 27. To all new residential students, welcome! Our Housing and Residence Life staff has been working incredibly hard to make your move-in experience as safe and smooth as possible, with a staggered schedule of check-in times throughout the weekend and a maximum of two guest helpers for each student to ensure physical distancing.

For the rest of our campus community, an important reminder is that all students who moved in previously as well as those students who are moving in over the course of the next few days must have screened negative for COVID-19 in order to move in. Mandatory COVID-19 tests were provided free of charge by the University.

We have several important announcements in today’s communication and I encourage you to read it fully:

  • Class formats beginning Monday, Sep. 21
  • COVID-19 dashboard
  • Wastewater monitoring
  • Important reminders: Updates to processes and procedures
  • Swoop’s Food Pantry update
  • Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence

Class formats beginning Monday, Sept. 21

On Monday, Sept. 21, the University will transition a limited number of classes that have been online to in-person and hybrid delivery. On-campus, in-person instruction will take place primarily in subject areas where in-person teaching is necessary to achieve the learning outcomes for the course. These courses are most commonly science, technology and engineering labs and in the fine and performing arts, but are scattered among other areas as well.  

Our initial plans for the start of the semester included 20-25 percent of classes with an in-person component. We have reduced that number over time as we reviewed and considered safest practices, as well as input from members of our campus community including the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. As of today, we estimate that 10-14 percent of classes will have some in-person component during the remainder of the semester.

Students with scheduled on-campus courses should follow these steps to see their fall 2020 schedule in totality: 

  • Log in to my.emich
  • Click Student across the top
  • Scroll down and click the link for Student Schedule
  • Submit to accept the Fall 2020 semester
  • Building and room will display in the Location column

If students have questions about course requirements after checking this information, they should first contact their course instructor and then the offering department to inquire. 

COVID-19 public dashboard

The initial version of the University’s COVID-19 dashboard has been posted and is available for viewing at EMU COVID-19 Dashboard. We have received considerable insight on the dashboard from members of the Safe Return Steering Committee and members of the University’s Public Health Work Group. The dashboard reflects the number of University-administered COVID-19 tests conducted each week, along with the number of positive COVID-19 cases identified by those tests. The dashboard also provides weekly updates on the number of positive cases among students and employees, with student data segmented by whether the positive test was for a student on-campus or off-campus. The dashboard also includes a breakdown of residence hall units reserved for students in isolation or quarantine and the usage of those spaces.

This dashboard is an excellent starting point for effective and transparent testing and case reporting. As I indicated, we will continue to seek insights from faculty and staff experts, so as to make additions to the site going forward. 

A reminder that the Washtenaw County Health Department, with University support and assistance, conducts contact tracing on positive cases related to on-campus activities. Any Eastern community members who are deemed to have had close contact with someone on campus who tested positive, are notified directly and provided information about what they should do. It is the responsibility of every EMU student and employee to submit the COVID-19 Report Form should you become aware of a case or test positive yourself, so that we may follow up and mitigate future spread of the virus.

Wastewater monitoring

I am pleased to report that we are adding another layer of testing to our return-to-campus plan and thus will soon begin testing wastewater for infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.

The University is partnering with the Michigan-based firm Aquasight to track the presence of the virus in wastewater flowing from residence halls and apartment complexes on the EMU campus. This monitoring process, while not diagnostic, may provide early detection of asymptomatic cases.

Click on the Wastewater Testing Photo Gallery for a look at Aquasight’s preliminary work on campus to prepare for the testing.

Wastewater surveillance, as practiced by Aquasight, is a fast-evolving science. It works for both asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals, an important distinction, because it has been shown that individuals with COVID-19 may not display symptoms at all or it may take two weeks to show symptoms. Other universities, such as University of Arizona and Utah State University, are doing similar testing.

Tests have shown that wastewater contains infectious biomarkers such as COVID-19 RNA, which can signal the growth or reduction of the virus in a community or around a campus such as Eastern’s.

Such scientific advance notice will provide vital information for EMU and local healthcare officials to both predict potential outbreaks and to monitor whether infectious diseases are lessening in the University community.

The results of the tests will help us pinpoint any concerning trends and expand individual testing among specific populations as necessary. 

Important reminders: Updates to processes and procedures

We continue to provide regular updates to students, faculty and staff on important matters or changes in processes and protocols. Over the past week, we have issued the following messages. Please make sure you have reviewed these and are familiar with the information.

Messages to Students, Faculty and Staff:

  • Rec/IM Building to Reopen Oct. 5

Messages to Employees:

Messages to Students:

Swoop’s Food Pantry update

The John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room fall hours are: Mondays and Thursdays from 12 - 5 p.m., Wednesdays from 12 - 6:30 p.m.

Shoppers 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 new 2020-21 Swoop's Food Pantry Intake Form.

If you wish to donate items – those most needed are pasta, tea, razors, rice and dish soap.

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

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

Please join me in celebrating Swoop’s five-year anniversary on Monday, Sept. 21! Watch for a special video and help us celebrate by participating in Swoop’s 5 days to $5,000 goal. You can access both the video and crowdfunding page by visiting Swoop's Food Pantry website on Monday!

Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence

We received a great visual reminder about Eastern Michigan University excellence. It was provided by Art Professor Amy Sacksteder.

This photo gallery captures the images of students in Professor Sacksteder’s 302/502 painting class, as they used the beauty of Eastern’s campus, the necessity for a physically-distanced class format and the safety of outdoor space to take their work outside of Sherzer Hall.

Professor Sacksteder is teaching the course as a hybrid, combining a heavy outside painting component with video demonstrations, video lectures, and the use of the Canvas platform.

In an interview with EMU media relations, she said, “The outdoor painting came about because I was feeling that nature was one of the things that was helping me cope.” She said the French call it “en plein air” painting, that is, painting in the open air. Professor Sacksteder drew upon her rich and varied experiences painting outside as a student in Provence, France, as an undergraduate in Dayton, Ohio, and as a graduate student in DeKalb, Illinois, at Northern Illinois University. She added, “EMU has a gorgeous campus. It’s been really nice to experience it."

A great way to wrap up this week’s message – thank you and your inspiring students Professor Sacksteder!

Health and safety reminder

As I do each week, I will conclude with an important health and safety reminder. 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. As Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week: “These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have ... we have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense. I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine."

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

James Smith, Ph.D.