State encouraging colleges, universities to require COVID-19 testing for on- & off-campus students

Posted at 7:43 AM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 07:43:02-05

(WXYZ) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging colleges and universities to require COVID-19 testing of students who live in the immediate university community, even if students do not live on campus.

“We know there have been outbreaks of COVID-19 on college campuses across the country, and it has an impact on disease spread beyond the campus community,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, said in a press release. “Colleges have stepped up throughout this pandemic to slow disease spread through testing and quarantine protocols. With the arrival of the new variant in Michigan and risk of virus spread both on- and off-campus, it is best practice to implement robust testing protocols in these settings. Colleges and universities have an important role to play in ending this pandemic.”

The state cited studies published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stating that transmission of COVID-19 around colleges likely occurs primarily outside of the classroom.

In Michigan, more than 180 identified cases of COVID-19 were associated with one gathering at one bar in East Lansing.

The guidance released Tuesday identifies numerous strategies colleges and universities can use to test broadly within their communities. These include:

  • Requiring weekly testing of all undergraduate students who reside on or near the campus and who participate in social activities associated with the campus community.
  • If resources are more constrained, require testing for all students in the campus community on a regular but random basis.
  • Target limited mandatory testing resources based on information about community spread, including information from wastewater testing, provided that the information and the potential for testing reach all students living on or near the campus.

The state says the bounds of the university community generally include a surrounding area with a significant concentration of students who socialize on or near the campus. Residential fraternities and sororities would be included.

“We are grateful for all that colleges are doing so that there are fewer campus outbreaks this spring," said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “Based on what we have seen, required testing for students around universities is critical to protecting lives and minimizing interruptions to learning.”

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