Despite a public health emergency declared by local health officials, Michigan football can proceed with practice ahead of its season opener at Minnesota on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the Washtenaw County Health Department issued an emergency stay-in-place order for Michigan undergraduate students effective immediately and extending through Nov. 3 at 7 a.m. The order was issued due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases among University of Michigan students.
“The number of COVID-19 cases among U-M students is increasing and represents over 60% of local cases,” a WCHD news release says. “Stay-in-place orders are intended to limit socializing among students, slow down new cases, and allow for effective case investigation and contact tracing. Most infections are the result of social events and gatherings.”
The order mandates that U-M undergraduate students “remain in their residence, unless attending class, accessing dining services or carrying out approved work that cannot be done remotely.” A stay-in-place order is different from quarantine as “official and essential activities are allowable when carried out using COVID-19 prevention measures, including wearing face coverings, social distancing and frequent hand cleaning.”
During the two-week order, Michigan athletes are permitted to attend practices and games “provided that athletic medical staff is present during the entire process” and “actively supervises the team’s COVID-19 mitigation activities.”
Students who are associated with intercollegiate varsity sports may attend practices and competitions provided that athletic medical staff is present during the entire process, actively supervises the team’s COVID-19 mitigation activities during the practice, has the authority to suspend the practice if he or she believes COVID-19 mitigation practices require that result, and testing is conducted per governing athletic organizations’ (i.e. Big Ten) policies.
Harbaugh: No players ‘currently’ out due to COVID-19
The Michigan athletic department released its most recent testing numbers on Oct. 16. Between Oct. 10-16, 1,559 individuals were tested, including athletes, coaches and staff, and there were 11 positive test results. All 11 were athletes, but the school did not provide a breakdown of which sports were affected.
Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters on Monday that his team has had “some positives” in recent months, but said there were “not currently” any players set to miss Saturday’s game due to COVID-19. Michigan tests for COVID-19 daily, per Big Ten policy.
A total of 4,229 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Washtenaw County since Oct. 19, with more than 600 “confirmed and probable cases” emerging in the past week. Of those cases, “61% are connected to University of Michigan students living on or off campus, many in congregate or group settings.”
With the order, local health officials also hope to limit potential exposure to local businesses and community members.
“The situation locally has become critical, and this order is necessary to reverse the current increase in cases,” said Jimena Loveluck, the health officer for Washtenaw County. “We must continue to do what we can to minimize the impact on the broader community and to ensure we have the public health capacity to fully investigate cases and prevent additional spread of illness.”
After Saturday’s game at Minnesota, Michigan’s next game is at home against Michigan State on Oct. 31.
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