Aug. 10, 2020: Latest information on fall semester planning

Dear Spartans,

Last week, many saw my message to students and their parents answering commonly asked questions about our fall planning. My intention was to remind our students of important information and options regarding housing and classes to help everyone make informed decisions about coming to campus.

I want to make clear that MSU is carrying on with our plans to welcome students back to campus for a combination of in-person, hybrid and remote instruction. As we have from the onset of the pandemic, MSU will continue to monitor the progression of this virus and use all available information from federal, state and local health experts to adapt and adjust our plans to best protect our community.

That said, as the president of our university and a physician with a background in infectious diseases, I cannot stress enough the importance of personal responsibility for all who come to our campus. MSU has put numerous mitigating measures in place for the upcoming academic year to help reduce the transmission of the virus and protect you as much as possible. Together, we all have a vital role in doing our part, wearing face coverings — both inside and outside — maintaining physical distance, performing proper personal hygiene and caring for ourselves and one another.

Move-in underway
Thanks to the tremendous effort of the Residential and Hospitality Services team, the first phase of on-campus move-in is underway. With health and safety as the guiding principle, the apartments at 1855 Place and University Village are now welcoming students eager to begin their work. While the majority of move-in at the residence halls will take place at the end of the month, students will continue to arrive during the next few weeks. Resident Assistants arrive for final training on Aug. 15, and the students in the colleges of Human Medicine, Law, Osteopathic Medicine and Veterinary Medicine begin classes before the end of the month.

Travel protocols
All MSU students who plan to come to campus are asked to observe a 14-day period of enhanced physical distancing at home before arriving in East Lansing. This is a crucial step in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 within our community.

During this 14-day period, you should monitor your health, greatly reduce your contact with others and follow guidance consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention such as:

  • Stay home as much as possible the two weeks before coming to campus
  • Take your temperature twice a day and monitor for fever
  • Wear your face covering while in public settings
  • Wash your hands frequently and follow good hygiene practices
  • Follow physical distancing guidelines (maintain 6 feet of space between you and others)
  • Know the symptoms of COVID-19 and self-monitor for them

Additionally, no matter when students or staff arrive, it is vital we all adhere to our travel protocols. If you are traveling to campus from a U.S. state that has a risk level of “active or imminent outbreak” as defined by the COVID Act Now risk map, and have stayed there for at least 24 hours, it is strongly recommended that you self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to campus. Similarly, if you are traveling to campus from a country with a COVID-19 outbreak status, you are strongly urged to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to campus.

Health screening form
For faculty and staff returning to campus, please remember to complete the official health screening form each day before beginning on-campus work. Throughout our planning process, various units developed their own, individualized forms. I understand this was done to meet the needs at the time. But now, all faculty and staff must use the official health screening form available on the Faculty & Staff page of the Together We Will website.

Soon, students will be required to complete this daily health screening before moving around campus, as well. More information will be available in the coming days on this requirement. This official form connects directly to the MSU Health Care COVID-19 Triage Line and the Office of the University Physician, which is responsible for monitoring health trends on campus and all of our contact tracing efforts.

Campus testing
I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking medical attention and getting tested if you are exhibiting signs of COVID-19. If you are a student feeling ill, you should contact your primary health care provider or call our new COVID-19 Triage Hotline at 1-855-958-2678. Faculty and staff should contact their primary care physician. Additionally, you should self-quarantine and avoid close contact with others.

While MSU’s testing practices continue to evolve, we are maintaining our close partnership with the Sparrow Health System to perform COVID-19 diagnostic testing for the MSU community. We also are developing additional capacity to perform COVID-19 diagnostic testing on campus and MSU Health Care Inc. is organizing sites on campus to collect nasal swabs, including a drive-through collection site. A mobile collection site also can be deployed if needed.

Early detection is critical to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. That’s why MSU is launching an innovative strategy to help identify areas of concern on campus. This strategy includes:

  • COVID-19 Community Detection Program: We will be collecting saliva samples from thousands of faculty, staff and student volunteers throughout the semester to analyze and identify the presence of the virus in people who are asymptomatic. This technique allows us to process a large volume of samples, identifying carriers of the virus before outbreaks occur. Participants will receive information about their own COVID-19 status while helping health leaders identify and manage potential locations on campus that may become “hot spots” for spreading the virus. To make this effective, we encourage all who are going to be on campus this fall to enroll, especially those who live on campus or visit regularly. You can read more about the program and enroll here
  • Wastewater monitoring: Spartan researchers will be analyzing campus wastewater for the presence of COVID-19 to help pinpoint potential areas for intervention. This technique has been used for more than 70 years to help detect disease and serves as an early warning system to identify virus hot spots. 

When coupled with our return-to-campus safety protocols and guidelines, these early detection methods provide extra layers of protection for our Spartan community.  

Campus cleaning
Stringent and frequent cleaning of our campus spaces is a critically important part of our plan. Each custodial worker has received extensive training and is equipped with special tools and products to perform their job. Classrooms will be cleaned daily with a heavy focus on touchpoints such as the back of chairs, handrails, door handles and other common surfaces. Disinfecting misting systems will be used in larger classrooms. Importantly, as an added measure, all classrooms will have cleaning stations available, so students and instructors have the option to personally disinfect their spaces at the start of each class.

Similarly, restrooms, hallways, stairways and entryways will be cleaned multiple times each day, with a strong focus on handrails, elevator buttons, glass doors, door handles and other surfaces. Disinfecting procedures will be performed regularly, and frequently used bathrooms will be checked multiple times.

Events and activities on campus
Nearly every event or activity on campus has been moved to a virtual setting, postponed or canceled since the pandemic hit in March. This has been incredibly difficult for many of you, as the social fabric of our university is vital to our collective experience.

Following the governor’s executive orders and public health guidance, we will begin allowing nonacademic events and activities on campus starting Aug. 17. Scheduling these events still requires the usual processes for approval and reservation of spaces.

Any planned in-person gathering must provide a virtual option for those who do not wish to join face-to-face. In accordance with current state of Michigan executive orders, in-person social gatherings or organized events will be strictly limited to 10 people for indoor settings and 100 people for outdoor settings. In both settings, face coverings must be worn and appropriate physical distancing must be maintained. MSU may, in certain circumstances, apply more stringent limitations on gatherings. And finally, all participants — regardless of university affiliation — will be responsible for adhering to the MSU Community Compact.

Our goal is to help the community stay socially engaged while physically distanced. We are exploring ways to offer traditional fall activities we’ve all come to know and love in the healthiest and safest manner possible. Also, these videos provide ideas for ways to stay engaged, both on our campus and off.

Looking ahead
This Wednesday, Aug. 12, the Office of Student Affairs and Services is hosting another Parents Office Hour at 7 p.m. This is an opportunity to hear directly from university leaders about personal responsibility; in-person, online and hybrid classes; housing and dining operations; and cleaning protocols.

Whether we are 6 feet apart or you are 6,000 miles away, I want to make sure everyone feels part of a successful and socially engaged fall semester at MSU. In that spirit, the university is working to create the best possible working and learning environment for our Spartan family. We will continue to make your health and safety our top priority. Together, we will.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.