To the Eastern Michigan University community:
I would like to thank the students, faculty and staff who have shared supportive messages about the three-week transition to remote operations and the extension of the Thanksgiving break by canceling classes for two wellness days on Monday and Tuesday of next week.
I am very grateful for all of the instructors who will need to again modify their courses, the staff who must again work from home every day, and for everyone’s support of our students and our overall campus health, wellness and safety. We recognize what a challenging year this has been and, as I noted in my Sunday night message, it is my hope that everyone our students will use the Thanksgiving break period this time to catch up, to rest and to recharge.
I am pleased that our offer to expand free (at University expense) COVID testing for residential students leading into the Thanksgiving break also has been widely utilized. This was designed to encourage students to get tested prior to the break, primarily those students who are considering leaving campus to return home. We encourage them to wait for their test results before departing campus to help ensure they don’t bring COVID into their home environment.
Our expanded testing process was available every day this week. As a result, more than 600 tests have been conducted in the past four days. We are pleased to be able to offer this additional and important measure of safety to our community.
I have several items to cover in this week’s update:
In the seven days ending Nov. 17, the University administered 883 tests that resulted in seven positive cases, for a positivity rate of 0.84 percent. During this time period, we identified a total of 42 positive cases, which is down 24 percent from the prior week. Of those, 21 were students who live off-campus and had no contact with campus prior to the time they tested positive; 19 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. Two cases were reported among University employees.
Since Aug. 12, the University has administered a total of 9,443 tests that resulted in 69 positive results for a positivity rate of 0.73 percent. Complete details can be found on the University's COVID-19 Dashboard.
To reiterate a point from previous messages 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.
Our overall number of cases remain lower than most of our peer universities in the state. This is due to your support and compliance with the rules and processes we have put in place over the course of the semester as the result of the extensive planning and monitoring around safe practices that began this summer and included many University professionals among our faculty and staff. We continue to actively monitor wastewater to identify biomarkers of COVID-19 and adjust our student testing plans accordingly. Our active response and contact tracing teams are working aggressively to follow up on irregularities and quarantine or isolate individuals as cases are identified.
State of Michigan Guidelines on Remote Instruction
Although most course sections have been delivered in an online/hybrid format for the current semester, the small number of course sections that had been delivered in-person moved to a fully remote format beginning yesterday, Wednesday, Nov. 18. We have granted only a very small number of exceptions for health care related course section meetings. These actions were taken in accordance with newly issued State of Michigan guidelines. This will continue through Tuesday, Dec. 8, with a scheduled return to our limited in-person scheduling on Wednesday, Dec. 9. As always, individual instructors will exercise discretion around work submission and will contact students in their courses with details. Please note that students enrolled in courses that are delivered using a fully online/hybrid format may not receive any special directions from instructors because those courses will continue to be delivered as planned.
Operational Changes - Halle Library, EMU Dining, Rec/IM
Halle Library: Two key changes are taking place at the Bruce T. Halle Library in response to the recent pandemic health orders issued by the State of Michigan. Beginning Monday, Nov. 30, only current students, faculty and staff of EMU will be permitted to access the Library, and all such individuals will be required to use their Eagle swipe card to access the building during open hours. These changes will remain in place for the remainder of the semester and may be extended depending on various conditions related to the pandemic. The Library has also modified its hours of operation for the remainder of the semester. Those entering the Library will still be required to complete a COVID PASS Daily Health Screening, which will be verified at the check-in desk. We appreciate your patience with these recent changes. You may learn more about the Library's services on the Library website.
EMU Dining: Due to the new Michigan restrictions and the resulting impact to class schedules and University operations, EMU Dining has adjusted operations and hours for this week and through the remainder of the fall semester. The updates were communicated to all students yesterday. Please visit the EMU Dining website or Dining’s social media channels for full details and complete hours of operation.
Rec/IM: The Rec/IM has posted its modified schedule for the Thanksgiving break.
Revisions to University Face Cover Requirements
I applaud students and employees for their extremely high compliance with the University's face covering policy. Your active support of this important policy will continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campus. As a reminder, everyone on campus (e.g., students, faculty, staff, and visitors) is required to wear a face covering over both the nose and mouth in all University buildings and grounds. Individuals need not wear a face covering in a private office with the door closed or in a living space. We have updated one aspect of this policy: “gaiter” coverings, which are worn around the neck instead of over the ears, and vented masks, are not permitted. You may review all of the University's Safe Return-To-Campus policies on the Safe Return-to-Campus Plan webpage.
Even Swoop is helping us spread the word about how to wear a face covering properly!
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.
Swoop’s Food Pantry Update/Thanksgiving and Holiday Baskets
Next week, due to the Thanksgiving break, the John and Angie Sabo Swoop’s Food Pantry Room will be open on Monday, Nov. 23 from 12 - 5 p.m. The Pantry will resume its regular fall hours on Monday, Nov. 30.
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 chicken ramen, mustard, grape jelly, ready-to-eat meals and hand sanitizer.
Please email email@example.com 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 had great response to its sixth annual Thanksgiving Basket drive! The goal was to provide 50 Thanksgiving Baskets to students – a total of 58 will be distributed. Swoop’s thanks everyone who supported this effort. And, there’s no time to rest. The team is now taking donations for Swoop's Holiday Baskets, which will be distributed on December 11. You can sign-up to donate items on the Holiday Baskets 2020 site.
Celebrating Eastern Michigan University excellence
I am pleased to celebrate additional examples of Eastern excellence!
Congratulations to everyone involved in these fine efforts!
Thanksgiving Break Health and Safety Reminder
As we head into the Thanksgiving break, I ask everyone to take additional precautions to stay safe. Student Body President Luis Romero issued this important video message to students. I thank Luis and all of our students for everything they are doing to comply with safe practices. Additionally, the State of Michigan offered the following guidelines for students:
For the two weeks after departing campus:
Barring unforeseen circumstances, I will not have a message to campus next week, given the abbreviated holiday schedule. I would like to take this time to wish you and your families a warm, safe and restful holiday. I thank you for your work on behalf of the University and your ongoing support of our #EMUSafe initiatives.
Please continue to follow the University’s COVID-19 Planning and Preparedness website for ongoing updates.
James Smith, Ph.D.