Eastern Michigan University extends distance learning courses by one week

YPSILANTI, MI – Distance courses will last at least a week longer at Eastern Michigan University due to the continued surge in COVID-19, officials said.

The regular class schedule that allows for in-person instruction is expected to resume on Monday, Jan. 24, EMU President James Smith said in an email to the campus community. It had previously been postponed to Monday, January 17.

The announcement comes as Washtenaw County has seen nearly 7,000 new cases of the coronavirus in the past two weeks, according to data from the county’s health department. Early results from tests by EMU health officials indicated the need to move to distance learning, Smith said.

“We understand that moving to fully remote courses for two weeks will place a burden on both instructors and students,” Smith wrote in the email. “We do believe, however, that this two-week change is important in handling the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, state and our region.”

On the last day alone, 729 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Washtenaw County, along with six hospitalizations and five deaths, according to the Washtenaw County Health Department. From Dec. 23 to Jan. 5, there were 6,896 new cases, a positive test rate of 23%, with 137 inpatients and 20 deaths, the data showed.

Read more: Michigan Medicine CEO: ‘Healthcare is Really in Crisis’ Amid COVID Outbreak and Under-staffing

While Smith indicated how data from the test center on the EMU campus helped guide the decision to delay in-person classes, the university has not released the specific data. The latest COVID-19 update to the EMU database, Wednesday, January 12, was for the week ending December 21.

However, at neighboring Michigan University in Ann Arbor, the first week of class resulted in a rash of cases. Preliminary data for the week ending Jan. 8 shows 1,619 cases, and increased processing of tests means that number will continue to rise. The previous high number of cases in one week was 410 in October 2020.

Read more: How University of Michigan’s COVID-19 Cases Compare to Other Michigan Universities

“We did not take this decision lightly, and we did so after carefully assessing the conditions in our community, the rapidly changing advice from government health agencies, and the feedback from the EMU steering committee to security, ”Smith wrote.

A small number of clinical courses at EMU will be allowed to teach in person on Jan. 17, Smith said. These are mostly located within the School of Nursing and other courses in the College of Health and Social Services, he said, adding that students will receive notifications of such exceptions.

The EMU is maintaining its other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, such as vaccination warrants and wearing masks indoors. Other protocols include students with medical or religious exemptions from the vaccine to be tested once a week, as well as daily health screenings for all individuals.

Read more from The Ann Arbor News:

More COVID-19 cases in 1 day at University of Michigan than any week in fall

Students balance COVID concerns with in-person classes in pursuit of a ‘normal’ semester at the University of Michigan

Spread of COVID-19 motivates University of Michigan faculty to push for distance learning

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