Colleges vowed a safer spring, then students and variants arrived (subscription)

By: | February 9, 2021

She is known on campus as Patient Zero, the unidentified student who returned to the University of Michigan after winter break carrying an unwanted stowaway from her trip to England — a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.

Quickly the case became a cluster, with at least 23 confirmations of the B.1.1.7 variant, concentrated in the Wolverines’ athletic program. Late last month, the university instructed students to stay in their rooms as much as possible and paused campus sports, disrupting a winning basketball season and any hope that the spring semester might be less chaotic than the fall.

“I’ve started wearing two masks,” said Alyssa Frizzo, a junior from Rockford, Mich., who described the variant as a haunting presence on the Ann Arbor campus. “I think a lot of people have.”

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