Another winter with COVID-19

Nov. 19, 2021

To All Members of the Campus Community:

We’ve seen a stabilization in the number of U-M COVID-19 cases on campus after Halloween and the first week of November, and the positivity rates from the Community Sampling and Tracking Program and University Health Service testing are similar to last week. Spread continues to be traced largely to indoor social gatherings where vaccination prevalence is unknown and to household exposures.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I urge everyone to take appropriate precautions when traveling and gathering. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in Southeast Michigan, throughout the state, and in many parts of the country. There is increasing strain on health care providers and hospitals. Please wear a mask indoors, get tested if you have symptoms, wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you’re sick. These measures protect you and others against COVID-19 and flu.

Our community members are most at risk in activities off campus, given the high transmission rates in the surrounding community. We can protect ourselves by following the face-covering guidelines established for campus in other parts of our lives.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services plans to issue a Public Health Advisory that recommends masking at indoor gatherings for everyone over age 2 regardless of vaccination status. MDHSS will also recommend that businesses should implement a policy requiring masks indoors. The recommendation aims to slow the spread of both COVID-19 and influenza.

As Michigan Radio reports, “the reason COVID-19 is ravaging Michigan, despite millions of people being vaccinated, is that millions of other people still are not vaccinated. Across the state, the overwhelming majority of COVID patients crowding hospitals are unvaccinated.” Michigan Medicine also shares information on COVID-19 hospitalizations broken down by vaccination status, risk factors, and patients in intensive care units or on ventilators.

Earlier this week, Chief Health Officer Dr. Preeti Malani discussed influenza, demands on hospitals, and COVID-19 on Michigan Radio’s Stateside program. Her segment begins at the 36:45 mark. Host April Baer notes that flu vaccination rates statewide are trailing previous years.

Updates at a glance

Flu update: Our University Health Service is seeing high rates of influenza, and activity has increased throughout the state. Please get a flu shot. Flu vaccination rates in our community are far lower than COVID-19 vaccination rates. On the research front, federal health experts came to Ann Arbor this week to learn more about how the flu is spreading and the effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine. The effort is being led by the Washtenaw County Health Department, MDHHS, and the University with a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the analysis continues.

COVID-19 testing available: U-M and MDHHS have partnered to provide free, pop-up, rapid antigen testing on campus Nov. 19 and 20 to the University community and family members. Asymptomatic testing is available at multiple locations through our Community Sampling and Tracking Program. Members of the U-M community are reminded that you may need (or wish) to get tested before or after traveling for the upcoming Thanksgiving break. And always get tested if you have symptoms.

Booster shots: The Food and Drug Administration today authorized a single booster dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for all adults. The CDC is expected to provide recommendations on how health providers should administer this booster dose, following a meeting of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices today. University of Michigan Health is preparing to offer booster shots under CDC guidelines and will provide updates on its COVID-19 vaccine page.

Michigan Medicine update: In response to high COVID-19 transmission rates in the state and increased demand on hospitals, University of Michigan Health has implemented efforts to preserve capacity for seriously ill patients. Additional measures include a change to the adult hospital visitor policy and requesting that Michigan Medicine employees whose primary workplace is the main medical campus and who are already working remotely continue to do so.

I will continue to provide COVID-19 updates when needed to help keep everyone informed, address concerns, and respond to feedback and questions from our community. Please stay safe and healthy over Thanksgiving break. All of us can take action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the flu in our community and help us finish a successful semester on our campus.

Mark S. Schlissel, MD/PhD

Leave a comment: