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MSU, UM stop notifications for some instances of COVID-19 exposure

Michigan State Football sign on a light post.
Katie Raymond
Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan says it has ended its "broad, generalized COVID-19 case notifications for classrooms and building spaces." U of M officials cite state guidance, as well as community feedback that the notices were confusing.

Meanwhile, Michigan State University is no longer alerting faculty members about certain possible cases of COVID-19 exposure in classrooms.

MSU Provost Teresa K. Woodruff sent a message to instructors Wednesday. She says the school will no longer be notifying them about cases of so-called “informal contacts” in class.

That could be a person who tests positive for COVID-19 but was not within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes with an instructor or other students.

Officials at both universities say that being in the same classroom or building that someone who tests positive has been in does not qualify as a close contact requiring quarantine or testing.

Robert Ernst, director of U of M’s COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee, noted that the state of the pandemic called for a change in the university’s approach to notifications.

“Targeted individual case investigation and associated contact tracing are more effective parts of the mitigation strategy designed to limit spread.”

Erica Starr is a writing instructor at MSU. She says she is frustrated by a lack of transparency since face-to-face teaching resumed.

“The way that that's rolled out so far, has been really frustrating. Because it's not really clear, you know, where the numbers we're getting shown are coming from, and what sorts of contingency plans are in place. You know, what those numbers mean, what's going to happen next.”

Starr says that feeling is echoed among many colleagues. Several MSU faculty members took to social media to express disappointment with the policy change. They say the move lacks transparency and puts instructors in danger.

MSU and U of M cite their high vaccination rates, mask requirements and safety precautions, and contact tracing among its reasons for their decisions.

U of M holds Michigan Radio's license. MSU is a Michigan Radio sponsor.

As managing editor at WKAR, Karel Vega supervises news reporters and hosts of news programming, and is responsible for the planning and editing of WKAR's news content.
Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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