Fear of COVID outbreaks forces Eastern Michigan University online — for now

Eastern Michigan University

Eastern Michigan University is going remote for at least the first three weeks of classes as officials reevaluate pandemic safety protocols. (Shutterstock)

Fearing a repeat of the coronavirus outbreaks that have occurred on other campuses, Eastern Michigan University is moving virtually all classes online for the beginning of the semester and delaying student housing move-in for three weeks.

The announcement, made in a letter Monday to students and families by EMU President James Smith, comes on the heels of Central Michigan University reporting 38 confirmed student-related cases in the first week of classes.

“The events of the last week at campuses across the region and nation demonstrate that despite the best efforts to keep students, employees and communities safe from transmission, the dangers of increasing the spread of the virus and the challenges of maintaining physical distance and safe behavior heading into Labor Day weekend remain quite serious,” Smith wrote.

About a quarter of classes at the 21,000-student public university in Ypsilanti were previously going to be in-person for the semester, which begins Aug. 31. Now, almost all classes will be online at least through Sept. 20. Exceptions include a few classes in the schools of nursing and health and human services.

Those who had been scheduled to move into dorms this week will be given refunds for the weeks the dorms are closed, according to the letter. The delay will affect about  2,000 students, according to EMU spokesperson Geoff Larcom.

The school also plans to beef up its testing protocol before the campus reopens, beyond the established plan to test students residing in campus housing before they move in. What those new protocols will look like haven’t been determined, according to the letter.

“We understand the challenge and hardship that the uncertainty of all matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic has created for our students, their families, and our faculty and staff,” Smith wrote. “All of our campus resources are directed to working closely with students affected by this decision to help them through this transition. We are committed to supporting them.”

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