On Friday, state leaders announced that Michigan colleges and universities need to delay the start of online and in-person course instruction in the spring semester to help slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout our state. We understand why this is being asked of us by state leaders, and we have agreed to this request, as have our peer institutions across the state.
The health, safety and emotional well-being of our students, faculty, staff and campus community continue to be my top priority and guiding principle as I make decisions about changes in our operations as necessitated by the virus. I know these adjustments are difficult. As I’ve said before, we are on the virus’s timeline and need to be prepared to react in ways that keep us all safe. There is no doubt these are stressful times. Please know that I recognize we have asked much of you, and we appreciate that you continue to adapt. MSU’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services is on standby to help students throughout the academic year. CAPS has expanded its virtual resources to ensure you have access to the help and support you need right now. Staff, faculty, graduate student assistants and retirees have access to the MSU Employee Assistance Program, which is providing all of its counseling sessions over the phone or by videoconference. Please call 517-355-4506 to set up an appointment.
As a community, we are following the guidelines put forth by the state and local health departments and must all do our part to stop the spread of the virus and to save the lives of our fellow Spartans and those around us. The start of our spring semester 2021 will be impacted in the following ways:
I strongly encourage off-campus students to remain where they are during the winter break and refrain from returning to the East Lansing area for as long as possible. With classes starting later in January, undergraduate students do not need to be in the area until closer to the middle of the month. It is still our expectation that you will quarantine when arriving for an appropriate amount of time, monitor your health symptoms daily, wear face coverings, wash your hands often and adhere to appropriate physical distancing. The MSU Community Compact will be updated, and Spartans are expected to read the compact and follow the expectations we have set for a safe environment.
At this time, other aspects of the spring 2021 semester schedule remain. As announced in October, there will still be wellness days on March 2-3 and April 22-23. There will be no classes these days and faculty are instructed to arrange their schedules to provide students with a much-needed break from their studies.
Influenza (flu) vaccine and Early Detection Program
As I’ve communicated before, students living on campus or coming to campus or any university-controlled property at any point during the spring semester will be required to receive an influenza vaccine prior to arrival, with some exceptions. Please complete this form to verify that you received the vaccine or are exempt from the requirement.
In addition, students either living on campus or coming to campus for any reason are 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. (If you were already registered for the Early Detection Program in the fall, please note that you must re-register for the spring semester.)
Saliva testing will begin Jan. 4 for anyone already in the East Lansing community. For those students moving into the residence halls, testing will begin once you arrive on campus. All participants must be registered by Jan. 11. This is the same link used to confirm your flu vaccination status. Please note you will be expected to have received at least one negative test and be up-to-date on your weekly testing before attending any in-person classes.
Spartan Health Check
In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out “Spartan Health Check,” a new website that will be a one-stop destination for you to indicate your vaccine status, keep track of your Early Detection Program testing and results and fill out your daily health screening form. More information on this new site, to be used by faculty, staff and students, will be coming soon. While we reference above those who must participate in the Early Detection Program, we continue to encourage all faculty, staff and students who are near East Lansing to be a part of the program. If you were registered for the program this fall, please remember that you have to re-register for the program for spring semester.
I know these schedule changes are difficult and will necessitate adjustments. We must continue to rise to the challenges presented by COVID-19 to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe. I am proud of each and every one of you for all the hard work and commitment you have shown during this pandemic. Hope is on the horizon in the form of a vaccine, but until then, we need to continue with the grit and determination that exemplifies a Spartan. Together, we will.
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.