As the fall semester draws to a close and we continue preparations for our spring semester, I want to share a few critical updates ahead of January.
On Monday, state government leaders announced a 12-day extension to the current state order that prohibits in-person classes for colleges and universities and continues restrictions on other indoor social gatherings and group activities. It is unclear if the order will be extended again beyond Dec. 20; however, as we have from the outset, we will remain flexible and continue adapting our plans as necessary.
From the beginning of the pandemic, health and safety have been our guiding principles for the difficult but necessary actions to address COVID-19, maintain operations and support your continued success at MSU. Like this fall — and most of 2020 — things on campus will look different during the spring as we implement additional safety measures to help ensure a successful semester and best protect each of you and our broader community.
Influenza (flu) vaccination requirement
Students living on campus or coming to campus or any university-controlled property at any point during the spring semester will be required to have received an influenza vaccine. Those students will be asked to verify they have received the vaccine before coming to campus in January; more information on that process will be coming soon.
All other students, as well as all faculty and staff, are strongly urged to receive a flu vaccine as well. This flu season brings additional challenges, including exacerbating COVID-19. A flu vaccine this season is an additional, critical measure we all should take to protect ourselves and others. Many pharmacies and local health care providers offer flu vaccines. Students also can receive a flu vaccine at MSU’s Olin Health Center.
Reducing spread of COVID-19 after returning to East Lansing
Traveling increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Therefore, as we prepare for spring, we ask that students who are returning to East Lansing from outside communities — whether in-state, national or international — quarantine upon their arrival to help reduce the spread of the virus. During this time, students are to remain in their local residences, leaving only for life-sustaining activities, such as seeking medical care, purchasing food or groceries or exercising outdoors. This effort will be most effective if students adhere to this quarantine for at least 10 and up to 14 days and continue monitoring for symptoms for the remainder of the semester. Classes begin Jan. 11, and we ask students to take the quarantine into account when planning their return to the area and arrival on campus.
All students, faculty and staff members must continue to follow public health guidance, including wearing a face covering, practicing physical distancing and quarantining if identified as having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or having been called by contact tracers.
Mandatory COVID-19 testing
Help is on the way in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, current distribution plans indicate it likely will be late spring or early summer before it is widely available for the majority of our campus population. And, while cases affiliated with the MSU community are stabilizing, we must continue doing everything we can to protect ourselves and each other until that time arrives.
In October, I shared with you that undergraduate students living on campus or coming to campus any time this spring will be required to participate in MSU’s COVID-19 Early Detection Program. This requirement is one of the ways we can protect our students and the broader community while we await the mass distribution of a vaccine. Faculty and staff, as well as students living off-campus this spring semester, are strongly encouraged to participate in this testing as well.
Saliva testing will begin on Jan. 4. Information will be provided to students in the coming weeks on how to comply with this requirement.
Keeping our community safe
With the additional measures mentioned above, coupled with our existing health and safety practices and protocols that will continue in the spring, we feel confident in our ability to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19. These protections and protocols we established to keep all of us and our community safe are truly effective if every single one of us adheres to them.
As we close out 2020, I hope you will continue to do your part to protect yourself, your friends and loved ones — whether you are in the East Lansing area or have returned home for the holiday season.
There is no question that this year has been incredibly difficult. But I remain encouraged by the resilience of all of you — students, faculty and staff — and the true grit, determination and innovation that Spartans have shown to address the challenges presented to our community, our nation and the world by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is with this Spartan spirit that we will get through this difficult time together and be stronger because of it. Together, we will.
Please stay attentive to your emails over the winter break. We will share important information with you about our spring semester as soon as it is available.
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.