COVID directives

Updated Feb. 5, 2021

To slow the spread of COVID-19, Michigan State University is directing everyone to take personal responsibility to protect their own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of MSU faculty, staff, students, visitors and loved ones.

Face coverings

Individuals with COVID-19 are highly infectious for up to two days before the onset of symptoms. Thus, face coverings are a crucial public health measure and help protect others by reducing exposure to droplets if someone is unknowingly infected with COVID-19. Wearing a face covering, whether you feel ill or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, is critical to maintaining everyone’s health and safety.

Face coverings must be worn by everyone (including all faculty, staff, students, vendors and visitors) indoors and outdoors while you are on property owned or governed by MSU and while participating in MSU-related or MSU-sponsored activities. If you have a medical condition that may prevent you from safely wearing a face covering, you should contact MSU’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to begin the accommodation process.   

Exceptions to the requirement for face coverings will be limited. For example, if you are indoors, exceptions are limited to when:

  1. you are in your own place of residence and can therefore properly physically distance (at least six feet of physical separation between yourself and others);
  2. you are in a private, single-occupancy office or lab space with a closed door and can reasonably expect other individuals not to enter (but if you leave your private, single-occupancy office or lab space and proceed into a common area or hallway – even if there are no other individuals present – you must wear a face covering); or
  3. you are eating or drinking but still maintaining physical distance (at least six feet of physical separation between yourself and others).

If you are outdoors, exceptions are limited to when:

  1. you are working outdoors and can maintain physical distance from others (but you will need to wear a face covering outdoors when interacting with others or when unable to maintain physical distance); or
  2. you are exercising or engaging in high-intensity activities outdoors (for example, jogging, running, bicycling or golfing) and can maintain physical distance from others.

If you are working, an exception may be allowed in the following situations:

  1. you are working in a setting where a face covering may increase the risk of a hazard (for example, the face covering could become wet, the face covering could get caught in machinery, or the face covering could become contaminated with chemicals used in the work environment);
  2. you can maintain physical distance from others; and
  3. you have previously consulted with your supervisor to determine the appropriate face covering for your setting.

In addition, if you are working, an exception may be allowed if you need a fresh-air break outdoors and

  1. you can maintain physical distance from others,
  2. you will not interact with others and
  3. you have previously consulted with your supervisor.

Face coverings should:

  1. be non-medical grade to maintain supplies for health care use,
  2. fit snugly against the side of your face,
  3. cover your nose and mouth,
  4. be secured with ties or ear loops and
  5. allow for breathing without restriction.

Cloth face coverings should only be worn for one day at a time, and they must be properly hand washed or laundered with soap/detergent before subsequent use. Face coverings may vary (for example, disposable non-medical masks or neck gaiters are acceptable).

In addition to wearing face coverings, whether you are on- or off-campus, you also must adhere to the guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as federal and state government authorities, in order to protect your own health and the health of the entire MSU community.

Physical Distancing

Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. Practice physical distancing, keeping at least six feet of separation between yourself and others when possible. You must avoid large gatherings and crowded events that exceed the State of Michigan’s gathering guidelines, abide by mandated event and business closures and minimize close contact with people from outside your household as well as those who may be sick or are exhibiting flu-like symptoms. 

Personal Hygiene

Practice good personal hygiene, including washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing and before eating. If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects, such as doorknobs, tables, light switches, phones, keyboards and faucets. Clean your personal spaces and workspaces regularly with soap followed by using an approved household disinfectant.


Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Using whichever tools and processes are made available by the university, pay attention for the appearance of possible flu-like symptoms, including:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list may not include all possible symptoms. Public health officials, including the CDC, will continue to update the list as they learn more about COVID-19. If you begin exhibiting symptoms, stay home and contact the Olin Health Center’s 24-hour nurse line at (517) 353-5557 or your personal health care provider.

Mandatory COVID-19 testing directive

Michigan State University is requiring all undergraduate students who will be on campus or on university-owned or controlled property for any day during the spring 2021 semester to participate in MSU’s COVID-19 Early Detection Program. The College of Human Medicine (CHM), College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM), College of Nursing (CON), and College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) may also require participation in the Early Detection Program for students in their programs.

Undergraduate, CHM, COM, CON and CVM students who participate in the Early Detection Program will be tested for the presence of COVID-19. The Early Detection Program uses saliva and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) process to detect the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Undergraduate, CHM, COM, CON and CVM students who participate in the Early Detection Program must provide a saliva sample at least weekly throughout the spring 2021 semester. The students will be able to select their preferred day of the week for providing their sample.

Undergraduate students who will be on campus or on university-owned or controlled property for any day during the spring 2021 semester and CHM, COM, CON, and CVM students designated by their college will need to:

  • Register for the Early Detection Program;
  • Pick up a Spartan Spit Kit before their scheduled sample day (reminder messages will be sent via text and email), and kits will be available at multiple campus locations;
  • Watch a video that explains how to collect their saliva sample;
  • Collect their saliva as described in the instructions;
  • On a secure website, enter the unique code on the side of the collection tube; and
  • Return their saliva sample to one of several designated collection sites.

After a sample is successfully processed, the student will receive a text alert and an email asking the student to check their individualized Spartan Health Check portal for the student’s results. If the presence of the virus is detected in the sample, the portal will show the student that they are “positive” along with information on the next steps. If the presence of the virus is not detected in the sample, the student will receive an email to check the portal for your result. A student may also receive a notification of “rejected” if the sample did not meet quality control requirements. Reasons for rejection may include too little or too much material in the vial, discoloration or food particles in the sample, or that ceramic beads from the vial are missing which indicates a spill of the vial’s RNAShield preservative. If a sample is rejected, the student will be asked to provide a new sample.

After a saliva sample is analyzed for the COVID-19 virus, it will be discarded and not used for any other purpose.

Exposure to COVID-19

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should self-quarantine and monitor your symptoms. If feeling ill, students should contact MSU's COVID-19 hotline at 855-958-2678 or contact their health care provider. Faculty and staff should contact their primary care physician.

MSU will test any student who becomes symptomatic after returning to campus. You may also get tested through the State of Michigan Coronavirus Testing Hotline. Call (888) 535-6136 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and press 1 to be connected to an operator who can help you find a nearby location and schedule an appointment. Or, visit to find locations near you. There are many locations where you can get tested at no cost.

Adherence to Public Health Guidance and Cooperation with Public Health Authorities

For the protection of the entire community, MSU expects all faculty, staff, students and guests to follow all applicable state and public health guidance and cooperate with public health authorities, including, but not limited to, participating in contact tracing efforts. Further, we strongly encourage our community members to:

  • participate in COVID-19 surveillance and screening,
  • participate in COVID-19 testing, and
  • receive a flu vaccination this fall.

As required by the governor, all employees must fill out a health screening form each day they come to campus to work. MSU IT and the University Physician’s Office have created an online campus-wide health screening form that units can use.

Influenza vaccination directive

Michigan State University is requiring all undergraduate students who will be on campus or on university-owned or controlled property for any day during the spring 2021 semester to receive an influenza vaccination before coming to campus or university property.


The following are exceptions to the influenza vaccination requirement:

  1. Undergraduate students who have medical reasons for not receiving an influenza vaccination;
  2. Undergraduate students who have religious reasons for not receiving an influenza vaccination; or
  3. Undergraduate students who have moral or ethical reasons for not receiving an influenza vaccination.

Undergraduate students who decline to receive an influenza vaccination based upon one of the three exceptions must indicate so during their registration in the Early Detection Program.

After You Receive Your Influenza Vaccination

After an undergraduate student receives an influenza vaccination, the student must complete the Vaccination Form where the student will attest or verify that they have received an influenza vaccination.   

Where to Receive an Influenza Vaccination

Undergraduate students may receive a flu shot at their primary health care provider or most pharmacies.


MSU believes in an education-first approach to ensure compliance with our directives on face coverings, physical distancing and other risk mitigation strategies related to COVID-19. Our approach is to use reason and education first, backed by the availability of applicable provisions of the General Student Regulations (for students) and Human Resources policies (for employees) when more strict measures are necessary to address non-adherence and non-compliance.


The Dean of Students Office (DOSO) encourages informal resolution and restorative practices when appropriate to resolve conflict. Prior to formal adjudication through the Student Conduct System, the DOSO recommends a conversation regarding the concerning behavior with students when possible, to educate and inform of consequences should the offense be repeated. The DOSO advocates for a similar educational approach for students’ nonadherence to COVID-19 directives and policies. When necessary, the DOSO will formally adjudicate individual student’s alleged non-compliance in a similar manner to other student conduct policy violations.

The DOSO administers a complainant-driven system, meaning a complaint must be filed by a member of the university community (faculty, staff or student – see Article 5. I. B. of Students Rights and Responsibilities) for adjudication. Therefore, to adjudicate a complaint when a student has allegedly failed to comply with university directives, policies or guidelines, an MSU community member must be willing to serve as the complainant (i.e., file a complaint, be willing to engage in a hearing process if needed). The DOSO will adjudicate complaints brought forward per its usual adjudication process as stated in the Student Rights and Responsibilities; however, the DOSO does not serve as a complainant.


The following provisions of the General Student Regulations and University Housing Bill of Rights apply:

  • Functions, services and processes of the university must be protected if the institution is to be effective in discharging its responsibilities; therefore, no student shall:
  • 5.02 - Obstruct, disrupt, or interfere with the functions, services, or directives of the university, its offices, or its employees (e.g., classes, social, cultural, and athletic events, computing services, registration, housing and food services, governance meetings, and hearings).
  • 5.09 - Violate other university policies or regulations, including university housing policies.
  • Physical security and an environment free of harassment are necessary for individuals if they are to successfully pursue their educational endeavors and fulfill responsibilities; therefore, no student shall:
    • 2.01 - Cause or threaten physical harm to another or endanger the physical safety of another.
  • The University Housing Bill of Rights provides a clear statement of each individual’s rights within the university housing community. These rights are best secured through clear statements of each individual’s responsibilities:
    • 1.6 - No person shall interfere with the safe or clean environment of others.
  • Fundamental to the protection of the individual is the maintenance of an environment that is physically safe and predictable. As members of a group, each individual has a special responsibility to ensure that safety hazards are eliminated, fire equipment is maintained and fire procedures established are followed:
    • 2.1 - No person shall create, or help to create, a safety hazard.

Possible Sanctions

While disciplinary sanctions are case-specific and based on a consideration of all circumstances in a case, the DOSO strives to apply consistent sanctions for cases involving similar acts of misconduct. In determining the appropriate sanction, the totality of the circumstances, the respondent’s conduct history (if any), as well as a review of cases involving similar acts of misconduct are considered. As outlined in Student Rights and Responsibilities (see Article 5 H), possible sanctions for violations of the aforementioned policies include: warning, probation, restitution, change of residence, other (typically educational sanctions), disenrollment from a course, suspension and dismissal.

Adjudication of Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) in Violation of COVID-19 Related Policies

MSU Registered Student Organizations will need to follow all MSU COVID-19 related policies and could be held accountable if non-compliant. Spartan Life (GSR and SRR) and the Registered Student Organization Handbook allow for RSOs to be held accountable should they not adhere to university policy. If a complaint such as, but not limited to, not registering the meeting or event, too many individuals in a room, not physically distancing or not wearing a face covering, is submitted, the organization can be held accountable if found responsible for the violation. Similar to the student behavior process above, the RSOs are complainant-driven; so, a student must file the report of an alleged policy violation. With RSOs, only students may file a complaint.

To file a complaint, please contact the Department of Student Life at (517) 355-8286 or

Potential outcomes (sanctions and other actions) can be found in Spartan Life, Student Rights and Regulations, Article 5, II. Non-Academic Student Grievances, Section D (p. 25).

Limited Amnesty for Students

The university considers the reporting and adjudication of allegations of relationship violence, stalking or sexual misconduct to be of paramount importance. While the university does not condone non-compliance with the above directives, underage drinking or illegal use of controlled substances, students who report – or participate in the adjudication of – prohibited conduct under the Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy will not be disciplined by the university for a violation of these directives or the university’s drug and alcohol possession or consumption policies that may have occurred in connection with the reported incident.  Students also are protected by a Michigan law that provides amnesty for alcohol-related crimes if an underage individual, after consuming alcohol, presents (or accompanies an underage person presenting) to a health facility or agency for treatment or observation as a result of sexual assault.


Employees may be subject to discipline for non-compliance with university interim protocols related to COVID-19, including the face covering statement updated as of July 15, 2020. MSU is a large employer and has many different disciplinary policies and procedures. They are set forth in further detail in the policies, to which links are provided herein. There are also many other unit-specific policies and procedures that may relate to details about discipline and discharge. However, they are consistent with the broader university policies.