5 students test positive for COVID-19 at University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Dentistry

Coronavirus hits U of D School of Dentistry

DETROIT – With 700 students seeing patients and members of the public at two facilities, five students at University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Dentistry have tested positive for COVID-19.

July 31, 2020: Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 81,621; Death toll now at 6,199

Local 4 Defenders were invited into the school Thursday and was shown all the safeguards the day after the dean notified students and staff of the five cases. Those five cases were not mentioned to the Local 4 crew Thursday.

Why didn’t Dr. Mert N. Aksu tell the crew?

“The fact that five students tested positive wasn’t the essence of the story,” dean Aksu said. “It was what are we doing to be open and protect our people?”

Despite all the PPE and safeguards in place for students and members of the public they work on, the school has traced three positive cases to transmission on campus Saturday as students were taking their senior photos.

The dean said social distancing rules were ignored, masks were taken off and guards were let down.

“All it takes is a split second and a chance exposure,” Aksu said.

The other two students who tested positive are believed to have picked up the virus off campus through community exposure. As the time since the last positive test grows, the likelihood of more positive cases declines every day.

“We are hopeful that we nipped it and isolated those who were contagious,” Aksu said. “We continue to enforce and assure students staff to wear PPE.”

The dean also sent a statement out Friday that broadcasting the cases creates fear, violates privacy and undermines the doctor-patient relationship.

The full statement can be read below.

“As an educational institution and oral healthcare provider we understand that the best practices regarding the management of symptomatic and exposed individuals is constantly changing.

Using available resources, we emphasize personal protection, social distancing, and symptom monitoring as the primary mechanism to mitigate any potential exposure.

In making our decisions, we rely on the CDC guidelines, the ADA practice guidelines, and local experts like I am including below.

As I mentioned, when exposures are identified, we mitigate the spread by focusing on contact tracing, source identification, and isolation when appropriate. We do not routinely broadcast the incident, as broadcasting the incident does not improve the goal of preventing the spread of any disease.

Broadcasting the incident merely creates fear, violates the privacy of the individuals exposed, and potentially undermines the stability of the doctor-patient relationship of those only remotely involved.

We take this matter seriously, and hope that our conversation was able to convey this commitment.”

Anyone who believes they might have coronavirus should follow the CDC guidelines. Michigan.gov has a list of resources available to those concerned about COVID-19.

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About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.