Students who test positive for COVID-19 at the University of Michigan this fall will be forced in many cases to leave campus—an extreme measure that may well encourage sick people to avoid seeking medical attention at all.
Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine and health policy at Stanford University who has frequently challenged prevailing orthodoxies about pandemic restrictions, called attention to the policies on X, describing them as “cruel.”
At the @UMich, students testing covid positive must leave their dorms for 5 days & live in the community. A hotel room or a relative’s house is ok.
— Jay Bhattacharya (@DrJBhattacharya) September 3, 2023
According to the Care and Isolation section of the university’s website, students are required to report a positive COVID-19 test to the health authorities—unless, of course, they tested vis-à-vis the school’s medical system, in which case the authorities already have the result. The university will then contact the students to discuss their isolation; importantly, students living in dormitories are required to temporarily move out, even if they reside in single units.
The rules suggest that students should return home, especially if they can get there without using public transportation. While the university specifies that students should consider returning home if there they have access to their own bedrooms and bathrooms, it does not acknowledge that sending students home may be the very worst idea of all, given that their parents are probably at greater risk of a negative COVID-19 outcome than their college roommates.
The rules are so extreme and disruptive that many students will probably avoid taking COVID-19 tests, even if they are seriously ill. Imagine a student who presumes he has a bacterial infection and desperately needs antibiotics; does he dare risk going to the university hospital and testing positive for COVID-19, especially if that means ejection from his dormitory?
Instead of creating a police state to punish students for contracting COVID-19—something that is, let’s face it, wholly unavoidable—perhaps university health officials could work harder to provide accommodations for students who get sick and voluntarily agree to quarantine. Alas, the website notes that “isolation spaces on campus are extremely limited.” Making them less limited seems like a better use of time than hunting down COVID-positive students and exiling them from campus.
The university did not respond to a request for comment.