EAST LANSING, Mich. – Students at Michigan State University (MSU) are being asked to self-quarantine as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to rise throughout the community.
According to officials, at least 342 people who are affiliated with the university have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 24.
The Ingham County Health Department issued a recommendation on Saturday that all local MSU students “self-quarantine immediately to contain the outbreak."
“This is an urgent situation,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “The exponential growth of COVID-19 cases must stop. I am concerned about the health and safety of the MSU community, and importantly, I am seriously concerned that unchecked transmission locally will affect the health and safety of all Ingham County residents. If we do not slow the spread immediately, we will be dealing with the consequences across the county for months to come.”
MSU students are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, through Sept. 26. Officials say that students can leave quarantine to attend in-person instruction, labs and athletic training, as well as to work or obtain food, medicine, medical care and other essential supplies.
The Ingham County Health Department says self-quarantine is a recommendation and not an executive order. However, students should expect “more stringent and mandatory restrictions” if they do not practice self-quarantine and successfully break the transmission cycle, officials said.
“MSU is committed to doing everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Michigan State University Physician David Weismantel. “The safety of our entire community is a priority and we all have a role to play in preventing the spread of the virus. This recommendation from the health department is another tool to help us do just that.”
The self-quarantine recommendation comes after the university announced 124 new COVID-19 cases among MSU students during the week of Aug. 31 through Sept. 8. Only two confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported among MSU employees at that time.
Now officials say at least 342 individuals who are associated with MSU have tested positive for the virus -- an increase of 216 cases since Sept. 8.
The university only reported an increase of three new COVID-19 cases during the week of Aug. 24, and only four new cases during the week of Aug. 17. Officials said Saturday that prior to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, only 23 MSU-affiliated individuals tested positive for the virus.
- Michigan State University provides a weekly report on new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases on campus online right here. The numbers are reportedly updated once a week on Monday.
According to the health department, about one third of new cases are tied to social gatherings and parties, and about one third of those gatherings are tied to a fraternity or sorority.
“We are urging students to understand the imperative role that they play in stopping this community spread and, ultimately, saving lives,” said East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens. “While we know many students are doing the right thing, we are still seeing far too many social gatherings in the off-campus community, where individuals are in close contact without face coverings. This person-to-person contact is the main way that the virus spreads and has contributed significantly to the recent spike in student cases. We support this recommendation from the Ingham County Health Department.”
Officials say the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reflect only symptomatic students who either got tested for the virus at a MSU testing location, or self-reported a private positive test to the school. Students are reportedly not obligated to self-report COVID-19 test results to the university.
On Sept. 8, university officials said that contact tracing is being conducted for all COVID-19 cases.
In mid-August the university announced plans to move all undergraduate courses online due to the pandemic. With exceptions for graduate students and students in the colleges of Law, Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, students planning to live on campus this fall were asked to stay home and complete their courses online.
The Ingham County Health Department said Saturday that it will evaluate “congregate settings” to see if additional measures are warranted.