MDHHS issues interim guidance for higher education COVID-19 testing; suggests mandatory weekly testing for undergraduate students living on or near campus


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On January 19, 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued interim guidance for higher education COVID-19 testing. The guidance suggests weekly mandatory testing of all undergraduate students who reside on or near campus and who participate in social activities associated with the campus community.
MDHHS points to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for expansion of asymptomatic testing for groups at heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19, including students at institutions of higher education. According to MDHHS, CDC recommendations suggest higher education institutions in all Michigan counties currently qualify for minimum weekly testing.
The MDHHS guidance provides alternative options to universities that do not have the resources to test all students on a weekly basis. MDHHS suggests testing all students on a regular but random basis, with regular testing of limited, higher risk groups.. MDHHS also suggests “[s]chools may choose to target limited testing resources for mandatory testing based on information about community spread, including information from wastewater testing.” In addition the guidance suggests, “[w]here incidence is low, universities may utilize pooled testing in order to reach a large number of students.”
MDHHS recommends that testing includes areas surrounding campus where there are significant concentrations of students who socialize on or near campus, including residential fraternities and sororities.  
To enforce testing-related requirements, the guidance suggests that schools use their “honor code” as a means to discipline students who fail to complete required testing or fail to provide a truthful account of where they reside.
Finally, the guidance addresses the familiar strategy of “immediate isolation of those with positive tests or symptoms and exposure to someone with a positive test. Robust contact tracing of roommates, classmates, and social contacts once a case is identified, quarantining close contacts of cases, and reviewing and altering infection prevention and control practices in implemented mitigation strategies.”
The MDHHS recommendations are the beginnings of what will likely be a trend in state and federal guidance suggesting increased global asymptomatic testing on and around campuses. The newly appointed CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has also shown support for blanket testing of asymptomatic students on campuses multiple times per week. Based on this trend, Michigan colleges and universities should consider increased testing capacity and budgets as they look toward increasing in person curriculum offerings.

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