COVID-19 Update to Campus: Nov. 12, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

I have several items to cover in this week’s update:

  • President’s remarks
  • COVID-19 testing
  • State of Michigan recommendations for students returning home for the holidays
  • Emotional and mental health support services available to students and employees
  • Swoop’s Food Pantry update/Thanksgiving baskets
  • Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence
  • Health and safety reminder


President’s remarks

Two weeks ago, in my October 29 weekly message to campus, I expressed my serious concerns about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in our community, state and nation, and the impact that our colder weather and the Halloween weekend might have in further increasing positive cases. Unfortunately, consistent with the rapidly increasing number of positive cases in our region and nation, the number of positive cases among our students is increasing as well.

As is the case at most universities, the source of exposure to the virus occurs mostly off-campus and is the result of the widespread community spread that is underway.

Even with the increasing numbers, our positive case numbers remain well below many of our peer institutions and for that I thank the many professionals on our team who have done excellent work in planning our strategy and executing it in order to help ensure the health, safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff.

I also thank our students for their efforts to protect one another by wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distancing, and following our #EMUSafe protocols such as participating in our widespread testing efforts, completing the COVID PASS Daily Health Screening, and reporting cases as required through the COVID-19 Report Form. I have noted previously the great compliance to our safety protocols among our students -- and their safe practices continue to this day.

In the seven days ending Nov. 10, the University administered 1,154 tests that resulted in 12 positive cases, for a positivity rate of 1.047 percent. This is the largest number of tests conducted in one week at the University thus far, and represents our strong commitment to identifying cases and supporting our students and employees. During this time period, we identified a total of 55 positive cases. Of those, 22 were students who live off-campus and had no contact with campus prior to the time they tested positive; 30 were on-campus students – defined as a student who was living on campus or had visited campus during the applicable time period prior to the time they tested positive. Three cases were reported among University employees.

Since Aug. 12, the University has administered a total of 8,610 tests that resulted in 62 positive results for a positivity rate of 0.72 percent.

To reiterate a point in last week’s message that remains important today: Not a single positive case in these totals is the apparent result of a contact or exposure that took place in an EMU classroom. 

Other metrics from our Safe Return-to-Campus Plan Campus Operation Levels and Decision Making website remain stable, such as transmission rate compared to the community rate (which is also increasing dramatically), compliance with COVID protocols on campus, access to testing and face coverings, campus bed counts, and community hospital capacity.

As I indicated earlier, Eastern’s number of positive cases remains less than at most other Michigan universities as evidenced in their most recent seven-day reporting period:

  • UM - 222
  • GVSU - 175
  • WMU - 109
  • CMU - 84
  • MSU - 71
  • OU - 68
  • EMU - 52


While our overall number of cases is lower than others, the situation requires close and ongoing monitoring. Our response and contact tracing teams remain fully mobilized in this effort and are responding with urgency as pockets of cases or possible exposure are identified.

Our determination to rapidly address situations as they develop is a significant reason why we have been able to maintain a relatively low number of cases. Please join me in acknowledging the extraordinary efforts of Ellen Gold, Sherry Bumpus, Calvin Phillips, Jeanette Zalba and the many others who are working night and day to keep our community safe. 

COVID-19 testing

As indicated above, the University administered the highest number of tests last week since we launched our testing efforts late this summer. Eastern’s testing process includes the following elements: 

  • Testing is free, saliva-based, and conducted on-campus;
  • EMU’s testing programs focus on populations at higher risk of exposure, including:
  • Housing students and employees
  • Student-athletes
  • Facilities, DPS, and Dining employees
  • Instructors and students with at least one on-campus course
  • Wastewater analysis is used to target housing resident testing;
  • EMU’s testing program continues to expand; and,
  • Employees and students will be notified when they are eligible for testing.


State of Michigan recommendations for students returning home for the holidays, new app

This week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released guidance for students returning home of the holidays:

For the two weeks before leaving campus, students should self-quarantine away from others (i.e., leave only for class, work, to get food, and medical appointments) and always wear a mask while around others.

For the two weeks after departing campus:

  • Wear masks at all times around anyone you weren’t living with on campus (even around family).
  • Where possible, stay 6 feet apart from everyone, including family, particularly if anyone must remove their mask (such as during meals).
  • Where possible, avoid physical contact with others (for example, avoid hugging elderly relatives or others in high risk groups).
  • Do not attend gatherings outside the home (for example, do not meet up with high school friends in town).
  • Monitor for symptoms twice a day.
  • Check your temperature.
  • Review a symptom checklist.
  • Test if you become symptomatic at any time, and if possible once at five to 10 days after departing campus.

For students who leave and return multiple times (i.e., go home for Thanksgiving, then go back to school for two to three weeks, then go home for Christmas), this guidance applies each time they leave or return.

  • Students should consider remaining remote if they cannot be confident in their ability to follow these guidelines.

MDHHS, as part of its “Spread Hope, Not COVID” campaign, also launched the MI COVID Alert app to assist with detection of exposure to COVID-19. MDHHS describes MI COVID Alert as a free, easy to use, and anonymous app to help individuals stay informed and protect themselves and others from spreading COVID-19. You can learn more at the MI COVID Alert webpage.

MI COVID Alert is not intended to replace the procedures the University has in place, such as the COVID PASS Daily Health Screening and the COVID-19 Report Form. Please continue to use both of these important tools.

Emotional and mental health support services available to students and employees

As we have communicated on several occasions during the course of the pandemic, it is important that we remind one another of some of the supportive resources the University offers.

  • For students: Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is dedicated to addressing the mental health needs of Eastern Michigan University students. CAPS offers free and confidential counseling by calling 734-487-1118 during business hours and after-hours in the evenings and weekends. For additional information, visit the CAPS website or contact the office by email at [email protected].

  • For employees: The University’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available for expert advice and support. EAP provides free, confidential help with personal and work-related issues, 24/7. The EAP is available to employees and their family members. Information and contact information about the EAP can be found at the EMU Employee Assistance Program webpage.


Swoop’s Food Pantry update/Thanksgiving baskets

The fall hours for the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room are Mondays and Thursdays from 12 - 5 p.m., and 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 rice, peanut butter, large and small packages of snacks, cat food and condiments (such as ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, and salsa).

Please email [email protected] 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.

Swoop's has had a great initial response to its sixth annual Thanksgiving Basket drive! The goal is to provide 50 Thanksgiving Baskets to students. Individuals who wish to donate items can visit Swoop’s Food Pantry Thanksgiving Baskets 2020.

Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence

Tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 13) is the final day of the weeklong online Digital Marketing Workshop, organized by the Eastern Michigan University Center for Digital Engagement and its director, Professor Bud Gibson. The programs offer expert insight into the fields of marketing, entrepreneurship, digital infrastructure, PR, and more. Additional information and registration for tomorrow’s session can be found on the event webpage. For those who were not able to attend the sessions earlier this week, recordings can be found on the Center for Digital Engagement Facebook page.  

Also tomorrow, the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) will virtually host more than 200 students and faculty from eight different CHHS programs in the largest interprofessional education gathering to take place at Eastern Michigan. “EMU Excellence in IPE” will take place from 3-5 p.m. The purpose of the event is to engage participants to interprofessional education and examine an actual case study where interprofessional practice – collaboration between professionals from various healthcare areas – is in place.

This year’s event was created in lieu of CHHS’s annual IPE Simulation Day, where students would normally get to work in simulated medical situations in person. This was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however the CHHS hopes to make EMU Excellence in IPE an annual event in addition to the annual in-person event in future years.

The event is part of EMU’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) initiative, a collaborative approach to develop healthcare students as future interprofessional team members. IPE fosters an educational culture that provides pre-professional learning opportunities that integrate disciplines and teach the teamwork approach to patient/client care.

To learn more about the event, contact EMU Associate Professor and Co-Director of Nursing and IPE Simulation//EMU Excellence in IPE, Kathy Seurynck, at [email protected] or EMU Associate Professor and Co-Director of Nursing and IPE Simulation/EMU Excellence in IPE, Linda Myler, at [email protected].

In my acknowledgement last week of individuals associated with Eastern Michigan University who were elected to public office, I was not aware that a graduate student in biology, Maria Goodrich, was elected to the Ypsilanti Community Schools Board of Education.

Congratulations to everyone involved in these fine efforts!

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.

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

James Smith, Ph.D.