Though the state of Michigan is continuing to see several thousand new cases of COVID-19 per day, UM-Flint has reported 48 cases since August 31, as of Dec. 3.
In each of these 48 cases, an individual visited campus while potentially infectious with COVID-19, and reported his or her test to the university and/or the Genesee County Health Department (GCHD), according to Julie Snyder, Ph.D, Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students.
Snyder added that none of the COVID-19-positive individuals are believed to have contracted the illness while on campus grounds.
Emails were sent out notifying students of the individuals’ whereabouts following each positive test. Dr. Snyder said the Reopening Committee will continue to send out notification emails each time a person who has visited campus while infectious reports a positive test. “It’s part of our effort to be as transparent as possible…We have to make sure that the community is aware,” she explained.
Snyder went on to express her satisfaction with students who have been following the CDC’s guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at UM-Flint. 48 cases make up “less than 1 percent of what normally, from a population standpoint, we would have on campus for the fall semester. Compared to some of the other areas in our county and in our state, I think we’ve done well in mitigating risk.”
Last fall, there were 7,297 students enrolled at UM-Flint.
SVSU, which had 9,766 students enrolled in 2016, has seen 115 residential students and employees with possible/probable cases of COVID-19, and 205 non-residential students since August 17.
At Wayne State University, there have been 269 confirmed cases among students and employees since July 1. The bulk of these cases were reported between Oct. 17 and Nov. 21. WSU had 27,222 enrolled students in 2015.
At CMU, where there were 13,961 students in 2016, the total number of campus community members with positive COVID-19 tests was 709, as of Dec. 3. This total includes all CMU students and employees who have reported their positive tests since June 15.
Like UM-Flint, these universities implemented primarily online instruction for Fall 2020. It was this reduction in campus density, according to Snyder, that made UM-Flint’s case number what it is. 90% of all Fall 2020 courses were conducted remotely.
Winter 2021 will follow a similar trend, with only 10% of in-person classes actually being held in person. Departments that can operate remotely will do so, and only a limited number of faculty and staff will be allowed on campus at a time.
While another semester of remote instruction may help prevent a surge in UM-Flint-based COVID-19 cases, it poses challenges to students who prefer hands-on learning.
Caleb Watts, a junior in UM-Flint’s Social Studies Secondary Teacher’s Certification Program, doesn’t think students who value face-to-face learning are likely to perform as well in online classes. “Keeping classes like this is actually harming me,” said Watts, “I have a scholarship and if I don’t get a high enough grade point, I lose it, and that means I can’t go to school anymore.”
Watts also addressed the impact remote learning can have on students’ mental health, as they miss out on in-person engagement and must adapt to an unprecedented learning environment.
“Some teachers aren’t used to teaching online. I don’t think that’s quite fair to students. I can 100 percent understand why students chose to opt out this semester,” said Watts, who is considering opting out of Winter 2021 himself.
As the development of a COVID-19 vaccine progresses, Watts looks forward to a day when students will once again be able to receive in-person instruction.
Until then, students and teachers seeking additional help with online courses can visit the Office of Extended Learning (OEL) webpage for video tutorials on how to make the most out of their online classrooms.
Students can also utilize the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for remote therapy sessions and other helpful resources.