Michigan colleges set fall requirements for masks and COVID-19 vaccines
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the latest information available as of Aug. 24, 2021
As college students prepare to return to their campus, universities across the state are instituting different pandemic mandates for students this fall semester in hopes of slowing the rise in COVID-19 cases.
“One thing that the universities have become adept at is certainly monitoring and implementing any changes based on the evolving nature of the pandemic,” said Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, which represents the state’s 15 public universities.
“Seeing the Delta variant sweep the country has had an impact here in Michigan, not as profound as elsewhere in the United States but that has certainly led to the announcements (universities) have put forth,” he said.
Michigan COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise as the Delta variant spreads across the U.S. The state as of Friday had a positive test rate of 7.9 percent, the highest positive rate since it was 8 percent on May 11. In all, 59.3 percent of Michigan residents over 12 have been vaccinated.
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As of Monday, here is what some colleges and universities in Michigan are mandating to combat COVID-19 and its Delta variant:
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses): U-M announced July 30 that all students, faculty and staff on its three campuses must receive COVID-19 vaccination. This requirement applies to those who are working or learning remotely as well.
Staff, faculty and students must submit their proof of vaccination, whether they are fully or partially vaccinated, no later than Aug. 30 or apply for a medical or religious exemption.
Face coverings will also be required for anyone on campus transit or in campus buildings, regardless of vaccination status, taking effect on Aug. 11.
Michigan State University: Michigan State University announced July 30 that it will require all individuals to wear masks indoors in campus buildings and facilities in East Lansing and throughout the state, beginning Aug. 1. This requirement is set in place for at least the first weeks of the fall semester set to begin Aug. 23 for returning students.
The university is also requiring all staff, faculty and students to receive their first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination or be fully vaccinated by Aug. 31.
The university will provide exemptions for religious beliefs, medical conditions and for students that are exclusively taking online classes during the fall semester. Students requesting the online student exemption can not be on property owned or governed by MSU during the fall semester. Exemption requests are due on or before Aug. 31.
Individuals may face discipline as severe as dismissal from MSU if they do not comply with vaccination verification or exemption requirements.
Wayne State University: Wayne State University will require students, faculty and staff who plan to be on campus during the fall semester to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Those who are required to be vaccinated must submit their proof of vacation by Aug. 30 to be allowed on campus.
Staff, faculty and students working or learning remotely do not have to get the vaccine at this time. The university’s announcement detailed that those who knowingly violate the university’s vaccination mandate and come to campus after Aug. 30 unvaccinated will face consequences, but specific details for these consequences were not given.
Individuals can apply online for a health or religious waiver of the requirement. The university’s Campus Health Committee will review the requests, and anyone who is approved for the waiver will be required to be COVID-19 tested weekly.
Face masks are required indoors for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, until Sept. 15 when the university will revisit the mask requirement with hopes to eliminate it.
Western Michigan University: On Aug. 4, WMU announced that all students, faculty, staff and visitors must wear masks in campus buildings and other facilities regardless of their vaccination status.
Kalamazoo County is listed by the CDC as having “high” risk of transmission. Once the county’s risk level improves, WMU will return to its previous policy that required masks only for staff, faculty and students that have not verified their vaccination status in the Sindecuse Health Center patient portal.
The university does not have a vaccination mandate. However, on Aug. 12 the university announced mandatory COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated students, faculty and staff at the start of the fall semester and every week through the end of September.
Unvaccinated students who live on campus will start their required testing the week of Aug. 29, while unvaccinated faculty, staff and students who live off campus will begin testing the week of Sept. 5.
If vaccination records are provided to Sindecuse Health Center by Aug. 18, individuals can avoid this mandatory testing. All testing must be completed at Sindecuse Health Center.
Testing frequency after Oct. 1 is not yet determined, but can be as often as once a week.
Central Michigan University: A letter was sent to students Aug. 2 detailing where masks must be worn by everyone regardless of vaccination status on campus. These areas include classrooms, labs and other instructional spaces, communal areas, health clinic areas and indoors in any room with more than 25 individuals.
Vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks if fewer than 25 people are gathering indoors in a non-instructional, well-ventilated space. These requirements are expected at least through September, according to the letter.
Students, faculty and staff will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly.
By Sept. 3, all individuals must upload their first COVID-19 test result or upload their vaccination card information to the CMU Healthscreen website or the CMICH Healthscreen app. Individuals who complete a vaccine attestation form, and upload their vaccination cards are able to opt out of weekly COVID-19 testing.
This testing will be free and available on campus starting Aug. 30 in the Bovee University Center taking place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Unvaccinated individuals cannot request exemption from this mandatory testing unless they choose to fully vaccinate.
Central Michigan University said it expects to see classrooms back to full capacity this fall semester.
Eastern Michigan University: On Aug. 6, Eastern Michigan University’s website addressed the campus’ face mask requirement for the fall semester. All students, employees and visitors must wear face masks indoors despite vaccination status.
There are a few exceptions when indoor masking is not required. One exception allows instructors to teach without wearing a mask if they have been fully vaccinated and have verified their vaccination status with EMU.
Employees and offices cannot waive this indoor face requirement without approval from the President’s Office.
Individuals are not required to wear face masks outdoors regardless of vaccination status.
EMU requires students in university student housing to receive vaccinations. Individuals living in Best, Brown, Cornell, Downing, Hoyt, Munson, Phelps, Pittman, Putnam, Sellers, the Village, Walton, Westview, and Wise must receive their final vaccination dose and verify their vaccination status by Sept. 30.
Students may request accommodations from vaccination for medical or religious reasons.
Ferris State University: Vaccines are not mandated for Ferris State University, but are strongly encouraged.
As of Aug. 12, masks are required to be worn indoors in buildings on the Big Rapids campus by faculty, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status.
Grand Valley State University: Grand Valley State University will require all faculty, staff and students to at least have one dose of the vaccine by September 30. This decision was made in anticipation that U.S. vaccines will receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September.
Limited exemptions for medical or religious reasons will be accepted. Students can also apply for temporary postponement to address the vaccine requirement at a later date. Students who are fully remote and do not need to come to campus can apply for this.
Face coverings are required for everyone indoors on campus.
Lake Superior State University: Lake Superior State University is not mandating the COVID-19 vaccination, but "strongly" encourages all of its students and employees to receive it.
Masks are also being encouraged, especially for those who are not vaccinated, but they are not required on campus.
The university’s classes will be delivered face-to-face, with residence halls becoming fully operational and campus dining returning to buffet-style service.
Saginaw Valley State University: Saginaw Valley State University requires masks for students, faculty and staff regardless of vaccination status in classroom settings, which include labs, seminar rooms, groups study rooms and tutoring centers through Sept. 15.
As of Aug. 16, masks are required indoors for all students, faculty and staff. Some exceptions allow up to five fully vaccinated individuals to gather without masks in enclosed spaces and allow fully vaccinated individuals to remove masks in common areas when they are alone, which is at least six feet from others.
The university is not mandating vaccinations, but strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated before the fall semester.
Oakland University: Oakland University is mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for all students, faculty and staff that will be on campus this fall semester.
Unvaccinated faculty and staff working on campus or at off-site locations, as well as students who plan to attend classes and university activities in-person must receive their first vaccination dose by Sept. 3. These individuals must then receive their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna by Oct. 1.
Vaccination statuses must be uploaded through the Graham Health Center secure patient portal by each of these deadlines.
Exceptions will be made for religious or medical exemptions. Those who receive an exemption will need to complete weekly COVID-19 testings. The university is working to expand the amount of online courses being offered since students must be vaccinated to attend classes in-person.
Masks are mandatory for all campus community members and guests who are indoors, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or have the presence of virus antibodies. Masks are not required outdoors at this time.
Northern Michigan University: Northern Michigan University does not have a vaccine mandate, but strongly encourages employees and students to get vaccinated. The university’s website states that it will not lift pandemic restrictions until a high percentage of its on-campus population is vaccinated.
The university will implement a mask mandate starting Aug. 23. Regardless of vaccinations, NMU will require individuals to wear masks in classrooms and laboratories. Masks are also required in all common areas inside university facilities for those who are not fully vaccinated.
All individuals participating in residence hall move-ins are also required to wear masks while in residence hall commons areas. The campus move-in period takes place from Aug. 19 to Aug. 23.
Michigan Technological University: Masks will be required indoors for all vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals at Michigan Technological University taking effect on Aug. 15. This mandate will take effect for at least five weeks, according to a recent update from the university.
The university plans to review data during the first few weeks of the semester to continue to figure out its steps moving forward. Michigan Tech hopes to eventually return to making face masks optional on campus.
There is no vaccine mandate for the university as of August 16.
Some private universities dealing with mandates
There are 44 private colleges and universities in the state of Michigan, and similar to public universities, they are also making the calls on mandates. A few are requiring vaccinations and masks on campus.
Kalamazoo College announced April 29 that students who live on campus, attend classes or engage in in-person activities are required to receive their vaccination prior to the fall semester. The college noted it would grant limited exceptions for medical reasons.
Kalamazoo College is also requiring face coverings in shared indoor spaces for employees, students and visitors. The university encourages those who are not fully vaccinated or those who are feeling sick to also wear masks outdoors.
University of Detroit Mercy is requiring employees and students to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 16. In addition, the university reinstated that masks are mandatory indoors for everyone on its campuses.
Hope College: The college’s website indicates that starting Aug. 15, masks must be worn indoors by everyone on campus regardless of vaccinations status. The university anticipates easing up on this requirement when it is considered safe to do so.
Vaccinations are being encouraged by the university, but are not mandatory.
Some community colleges with mandates
Some community colleges also are taking action against COVID-19.
Grand Rapids Community College is requiring all individuals to wear masks in campus buildings regardless of vaccination status. The college said it plans to adjust when necessary as it continues to review federal, state and local guidance.
Instead of mandating vaccinations, Grand Rapids Community College is trying to incentivize the vaccination for students, providing a $200 credit that can be used for campus dining, parking, printing and at the college bookstore.
The school wants to make vaccinations easily accessible for interested students without a mandate, said spokesperson Dave Murray.
“We want our students to be safe (and) we want to provide a safe environment to come to campus and be safe,” Murray said.
Macomb Community College is encouraging students to wear masks, social distance in campus buildings and get a COVID-19 vaccination. However, the college is not requiring students to mask up or receive vaccinations at this time.
Macomb Community College had 19,628 enrolled students in 2019.
Despite added precautions surrounding COVID, Hurley, of the state university organization, said he’s noticed many universities are still trying to give students a school year similar to what was seen pre-pandemic by providing more in-person classes and events.
“We know students very much want to see a return to normalcy and our campus leaders, faculty (and) staff make a valiant effort to ensure that does happen when the school year gets underway,” he said.
Hurley is hopeful the state’s universities and colleges will be able to lessen restrictions soon. However, with the new Delta variant, he isn’t sure when that will happen.
“That is up to us as a society to collectively work towards it,” Hurley said.
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