Wayne State latest Michigan university to respond to omicron

December 23, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Wayne State University announced Thursday it will start the new year with remote learning as the threat of the omicron variant of the coronavirus looms over Michigan and other state universities consider what it means for campus safety.

The Detroit university will stay remote until Jan. 31, then analyze the latest case numbers and data before deciding how to move forward. Wayne State joined a few other universities this week in requiring the COVID-19 booster for the entire university population next year. The flu vaccine will also be required.

Last week, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University announced that all students, faculty and staff must receive the booster at the beginning of the next semester. Those schools required COVID-19 vaccines for the university population for the fall semester, due in part to the highly infectious delta variant of the virus.

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials on Tuesday warned that the omicron variant is expected to spread widely in Michigan in the coming days.

Oakland University in Oakland County will go remote for the first two weeks of the semester next year starting Jan. 5, the school announced earlier this week. The plan is to monitor case numbers and return to in-person instruction by Jan. 18.

Students who don’t get vaccinated at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and don’t comply with weekly testing requirements could face fines, the university said last week.

For every weekly test students miss they will be fined $50, the university policy says. After the first five fines, each proceeding fine will be $100, with no cap on how much a student can owe.

The university notes in the policy that owing more than $300 on a student account prevents students from registering for classes.

The announcement said that although faculty and staff have widely adhered to testing requirements, some students routinely skipped testing and this policy looks to establish compliance.

Bob Murphy, chief policy officer for the Michigan Association of State Universities, told The Associated Press on Thursday that local population densities and case counts are being taken into consideration by all the state universities, and schools are monitoring the situation to make decisions for the new year.

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.