EAST LANSING, MI -- At least 342 people affiliated with Michigan State University have tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) since August 24. The health department strongly recommends all local MSU students self-quarantine immediately to contain the outbreak.
Self-quarantine should last for 14 days, continuing until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, September 26. This recommendation is not an emergency order; however, more stringent and mandatory restrictions will be imposed if students do not comply and break the transmission cycle. In the three weeks prior to the case surge, only 23 MSU-affiliated people tested positive.
“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.”
Students in quarantine should remain at home for the next two weeks other than to attend in-person instruction, labs, and intercollegiate athletic training. They may also leave their homes to work or to obtain food, medicine, medical care, or supplies that are needed to sustain or protect life when such cannot be obtained via delivery.
The uptick in cases began as students returned to the East Lansing community for the fall semester. Although MSU classes are predominately online, many students had binding off-campus leases or simply desired to physically return to the university community.
“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.”
At least a third of new cases recently attended parties or social gatherings, and at least one third of those gatherings are associated with 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.”
The health department will evaluate congregate settings such as houses licensed for more than ten unrelated people over the coming days to see if additional measures are warranted.