Wayne State officials provided updates on fall campus operations at a virtual presidential town hall Monday.
Relaxed COVID-19 restrictions for the fall are made possible by safety measures WSU took earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic and by the COVID-19 vaccine, President M. Roy Wilson said.
Wilson said that all campus social distancing requirements have been ended.
“The science, at this point, justifies that,” Wilson said. “We continue to monitor things on a routine basis. The restart committee is still meeting, the public health committee is still meeting, and if there’s one that we all know, that is that things can change.”
Wilson shared results of a recent COVID-19 vaccination survey. He said the data is based on over 8,200 responses, while about 700 responses remain under examination.
“Basically, we think that the true proportion of our entire university community that’s vaccinated is somewhere between 68% on the low end to 88.3% or 89% on the high end,” he said. “So probably somewhere right in the middle of that is where the true proportion lies, which is actually a very good result.”
College of Nursing Dean Laurie Lauzon Clabo said the results are a positive sign for WSU.
“What I found most encouraging is the increase in vaccine uptake from the last survey which, as you know, was conducted only about two months ago,” she said. “And in many areas of the country, vaccine uptake has kind of flattened but here on campus it appears that people are continuing to seek out and receive one of the three available vaccines.”
Clabo said students should continue getting vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19 variants. The Delta variant is responsible for about 83% of COVID cases nationwide, the Detroit News reported.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Mark Kornbluh said that many classes will return to campus in the fall.
“We anticipate that nearly 60% of our classes will be in person and over 70% will have an in-person component,” he said.
It’s important for incoming students to experience WSU’s campus, Kornbluh said.
“We’re also paying particular attention to first-year students, and we’re endeavoring to ensure that all who want to have an in-person class will have that opportunity this fall,” he said.
Human Resources Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Carolyn Hafner said a Return to Campus Guide for WSU employee unit leaders was released in mid-June.
The guide recommends that all in-person staff are on campus by Sept. 7, she said. It also requires 14 working days between each cohort of returning employees for safety reasons.
“So that means gradually over the summer, start bringing folks back who are going to be on campus,” Hafner said. “Start looking at your schedules and seeing who’s gonna be working remotely on what days and who’s gonna be on campus on what days.”
Facilities Planning and Management Associate Vice President Robert Davenport provided an update on the state of campus facilities. He said MERV-13 air filters and a domestic water flushing program are being used to ensure high air and water quality.
“[The domestic water flushing] is another program that we instituted when the pandemic came upon us, and we’re sure to continue that program whereby we’re flushing every fixture, and every outlet and every building on a scheduled basis,” he said.
More information on FPM operations can be found here.
Davenport also gave an update on the effects of recent campus flooding.
“The water is out of the buildings,” he said. “The wet product, including carpet, tile and drywall, has been pulled out. So, in fact, the last week, we’ve been engaged in restoration efforts. So that is coming along quite nicely.”
He said water from heavy rainfall Friday has been removed as well.
Dean of Students David Strauss said activities to start the fall semester will be held in-person again, after going virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“Orientation Part Two is happening on Aug. 30 and 31 and (New Student) Convocation and FestiFall are happening on Tuesday, Aug. 31 — planned right now, all of that, in person,” Strauss said.
Virtual options will also be available for New Student Convocation and parts of Orientation Part Two, Strauss said.
Warrior summer activities will take place every Friday from July 30 to Aug. 20 at 4 p.m. and will be open to all of WSU, he said. Assistance with financial aid and registration will be available for students.
The first warrior activity will feature a scavenger hunt followed by a showing of the film “Chaos Walking,” Strauss said.
Tim Michael, associate vice president for Student Auxiliary Services and chief housing officer, said WSU will lift COVID-19 restrictions in campus housing.
“Now as we look toward fall, we’re excited to open campus housing again to thousands of students who will call WSU their home this fall and doing so with no COVID testing, mask and social distancing requirements,” Michael said.
Several campus restaurants are reopening and new restaurants are opening, he said. Sushi Kabar, Tenders Love and Chicken, Quickly Boba Cafe, 7-Eleven, Leo’s Coney Island, 1000 Degrees Pizza, Uncle Joe’s Chicken Fingers and Beyond Juicery + Eatery are expected to be open for business before the end of August, Michael said.
Wilson said he does not want to put a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place but will if the need arises.
“I want to wait until we get the full analysis,” he said. “This was preliminary results, we don't have all the data in yet. And if we do a mandate, it’s going to be very, very targeted. It will be a targeted mandate to specific populations that are lagging behind.”
WSU parking will remain free of charge until October, he said.
“That will give us a chance to really assess the use patterns and come up with something that hopefully everybody will agree is fair,” Wilson said.
Clabo said mandatory COVID-19 testing will stop for all students except student-athletes. Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms can still get tested for free at the Campus Health Center.
Wilson said he recognized the efforts made to reopen WSU’s campus.
“I’m really proud of the university, our community, for stepping forward when we needed to step forward,” Wilson said. “We’ll continue to take the appropriate actions based on the science, but right now we’re very comfortable with the announcements that have been stated today and have been reinforced.”
Kate Vaughn is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover photo by Kate Vaughn.