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Ingham Co. health officials take emergency action after COVID-19 outbreak is linked to MSU students

County issues mandatory 14-day quarantine
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Posted at 8:07 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 20:13:02-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Ingham County Health Department is taking emergency action after a severe outbreak of COVID-19 linked to students at Michigan State University.

The county issued an order mandating a 14-day quarantine for certain addresses where there is congregate housing, including 23 sorority and fraternity houses, and 7 large rental properties in East Lansing.

RELATED: Mandatory quarantine issued for 30 East Lansing houses linked to COVID-19 outbreak

According to health officials, people living in the homes have known cases or have been exposed to COVID -19, and are calling the outbreak a “crisis.”

As Spartan students returned to East Lansing last month, the coronavirus came with them.

COVID-19 cases for Michigan State University Students and those affiliated with the school jumped 52% -- from just 3 the week of August 24th to between 400 and 500 cases as of Monday.

“We have the highest numbers in the state right now. We are looking at a county that has 190-some cases per day, per million, which is the highest in the entire state and that’s alarming,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Veil.

MSU Professor Sarah Reckhow started an online petition, urging the school to mandate testing for the coronavirus and demanding daily case information. Right now, the university only reports COVID-19 cases once a week.

“If you look at the University of Michigan, if you look at Ohio State University, they’re reporting daily COVID numbers, and they’re reporting the number of tests. We don’t even know the positivity rate among MSU students,” said Reckhow.

Reckhow says even though all MSU undergrad classes are online, students still returned to off-campus housing, and they’re getting sick. She worries about the exposure for the entire East Lansing community.

“They are enrolled at Michigan State University, and the university still has the resources to be testing and tracking COVID-19 much more systematically than they are,” said Reckhow. “It does not look like our leadership is responding as urgently as is required, given that we are in a public health crisis right now.”

MSU does have daily saliva tests, known as the Spartan Spit Kit, that can test students quickly and painlessly. But they’re strictly voluntary.

MSU spokesperson Dan Olsen told the 7 Investigators that they school cannot mandate the saliva tests, since they are not allowed by the FDA for that kind of us. Olsen said they do encourage all students to enroll in the voluntary study that allows for daily saliva testing. Olsen also said MSU has not mandated other forms of testing, preferring instead to keep that available for students who are symptomatic and most need it.

Ingham County health officials say at least a third of the new cases are students who recently attended parties, and at least a third of those gatherings are associated with a fraternity or sorority.

Now the health department is asking students to only leave their homes or rooms to get food, essential supplies, or medical care.

“We are looking at numbers that make April and May pale in comparison, it’s like nothing even happened when you look at the graph,” said Veil. “We have got to stop the types of activities that are continuing to cause the transmission of this virus, and we know that social gatherings are the primary source for all of that.”

“We share in the concern of our public health experts and will hold students accountable for complying with all local health orders as outlined in our community compact — even if they are off campus. We all share in the responsibility of protecting ourselves and each other. This mandatory quarantine for specific off-campus houses is another helpful tool to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said MSU Spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant.

MSU is working on launching a daily case dashboard, but it’s not clear when it will be available.

If you have a story for Heather Catallo, email her at hcatallo@wxyz.comThe Ingham County Health Department is taking emergency action after a severe outbreak of COVID-19 linked to students at Michigan State University.

The county issued an order mandating a 14-day quarantine for certain addresses where there is congregate housing, including 23 sorority and fraternity houses, and 7 large rental properties in East Lansing.

According to health officials, people living in the homes have known cases or have been exposed to COVID -19, and are calling the outbreak a “crisis.”

As Spartan students returned to East Lansing last month, the coronavirus came with them.

COVID-19 cases for Michigan State University Students and those affiliated with the school jumped 52% -- from just 3 the week of August 24th to between 400 and 500 cases as of Monday.

“We have the highest numbers in the state right now. We are looking at a county that has 190-some cases per day, per million, which is the highest in the entire state and that’s alarming,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Veil.

MSU Professor Sarah Reckhow started an online petition, urging the school to mandate testing for the coronavirus and demanding daily case information.
Right now, the university only reports COVID-19 cases once a week.

“If you look at the University of Michigan, if you look at Ohio State University, they’re reporting daily COVID numbers, and they’re reporting the number of tests. We don’t even know the positivity rate among MSU students,” said Reckhow.

Reckhow says even though all MSU undergrad classes are online, students still returned to off-campus housing, and they’re getting sick. She worries about the exposure for the entire East Lansing community.

“They are enrolled at Michigan State University, and the university still has the resources to be testing and tracking COVID-19 much more systematically than they are,” said Reckhow. “It does not look like our leadership is responding as urgently as is required, given that we are in a public health crisis right now.”

MSU does have daily saliva tests, known as the Spartan Spit Kit, that can test students quickly and painlessly. But they’re strictly voluntary.

MSU spokesperson Dan Olsen told the 7 Investigators that they school cannot mandate the saliva tests, since they are not allowed by the FDA for that kind of us. Olsen said they do encourage all students to enroll in the voluntary study that allows for daily saliva testing. Olsen also said MSU has not mandated other forms of testing, preferring instead to keep that available for students who are symptomatic and most need it.

Ingham County health officials say at least a third of the new cases are students who recently attended parties, and at least a third of those gatherings are associated with a fraternity or sorority.

Now the health department is asking students to only leave their homes or rooms to get food, essential supplies, or medical care.

“We are looking at numbers that make April and May pale in comparison, it’s like nothing even happened when you look at the graph,” said Veil. “We have got to stop the types of activities that are continuing to cause the transmission of this virus, and we know that social gatherings are the primary source for all of that.”

“We share in the concern of our public health experts and will hold students accountable for complying with all local health orders as outlined in our community compact — even if they are off campus. We all share in the responsibility of protecting ourselves and each other. This mandatory quarantine for specific off-campus houses is another helpful tool to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said MSU Spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant.

MSU is working on launching a daily case dashboard, but it’s not clear when it will be available.


List of EL houses linked to... by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit

If you have a story for Heather Catallo, email her at hcatallo@wxyz.com

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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