Fighting the virus, the University of Michigan battens down the hatches.

The University of Michigan’s flagship campus in Ann Arbor opened the fall semester with great expectations. Thousands of students were welcomed back to the dorms in August.

Pessimists were asked to reserve judgment. Parents worried that students would not be safe.

Sure enough, by midsemester, coronavirus clusters were erupting on and off campus. In October, county health authorities ordered the whole campus to shelter in place, citing “social gatherings” on or near campus as a major source of infections.

Now, after more than 2,540 Covid-19 cases among students and staff, the university is shifting course drastically. It has asked students not to come back to campus in January unless they have to. Instruction will be remote in 90 percent of classes. Students who violate certain health rules will face tougher sanctions, including automatic probation, and coronavirus tests will be mandatory for anyone coming to campus.

In many ways, the school’s chaotic fall has typified the struggles of big state universities that tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy amid contagion, allowing intercollegiate sports, Greek life and off-campus housing — often without the kind of mandatory coronavirus testing considered crucial to containing outbreaks.

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