UPDATE: 39 Houses Now Under Mandatory Quarantine, As Some Criticism of Approaches Continues

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The front doors of 23 sororities and fraternities in East Lansing now have bight yellow mandatory quarantine notices.

UPDATE: Sept. 17, 6 p.m.

The mandatory quarantine order has been expanded to 11 more houses, but two have been removed from the list, bringing the total to 39 houses. Find the full list here and find an FAQ from the health department here.

Sept. 14, 2020: The Ingham County Health Department has issued mandatory quarantine orders to people living in “30 large houses in East Lansing with known exposure” to COVID-19. The quarantine is for the next two weeks.

According to a press release from the department, Health Officer Linda Vail issued the order on “23 fraternity and sorority house[s] and seven large rental houses.”

The properties have been identified as those shown here:

The health department says that if it identifies more houses like this, “those houses will also be placed under quarantine.”

Vail said the surge in positive tests “is quickly becoming a crisis,” one “fueled in part by lack of cooperation and compliance from some MSU students, many residing in the properties now under mandatory quarantine.”

Residents under mandatory quarantine can leave only if “they need medical care or necessities that cannot be delivered.” Non-residents are barred from the properties “unless they are providing an essential service deemed necessary for the immediate health and safety of the residents.”

Violation constitutes a misdemeanor punishable for up to 6 months of imprisonment, $200, or both.

Ingham County’s cases have shot up 52 percent since Aug. 24, and the percentage of tests showing positives has gone up from 2 to 5 percent, with “the majority of all new cases” being identified as “MSU students.”

On social media and in emails to ELi, some are questioning the approach being taken by the health department. These critics urge an understanding of the difference between a positive case and a medical problem (like illness or death).

Many of the cases among MSU students are likely to be asymptomatic or to result in only minor illness. When we reported on the data from the Harper’s superspreader event on Aug. 7, ELi noted that none of the 192 confirmed cases had resulted in hospitalization.

Brad Ryva, an Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) and Pharmacology & Toxicology Ph.D. student at MSU wrote to ELi to note that while “Cases in the entire state of Michigan have been slowly increasing for the last three months . . . [rates of] deaths have been declining.”

The State of Michigan’s data shows cases’ rise in blue and deaths in red.

Ryva told ELi by email today, “MSU and the health department should not be advising all students to quarantine. Good news keeps getting twisted into bad news. Most of the positive cases being in the young and healthy, rather than the old and sick, is a good thing now that we know the health consequences of COVID are very age dependent.”

Ryva added, “I would like universities to answer what limit they and governments have on enforcing public health guidelines. MSU went beyond the mask guidelines of WHO, CDC, and Ingham County in their requirements with very little explanation. Many people seemed to readily accept this, but what if MSU said sex without a condom violated a new school policy to limit a new pandemic that is sexually transmitted. Public safety measures, even in times of pandemic and fear, need to be restrained from impulses to control.”

Alice Dreger for ELi

The Sigma Nu fraternity at 110 Oakhill Ave. is one of the houses now under mandatory quarantine.

The latest data from Ingham County is now showing a total of three hospitalized cases of COVID-19 for the entire county, all three in the intensive care unit (ICU). That data is as of noon on Sept. 14.

One person on Twitter referred to the situation here by the hashtag #Casedemic, a term that suggests that a surge of positive cases should not be mistaken for a major disease problem.

A grad student in MSU’s History Department suggested on Twitter, in response to today’s news, that the fault lies “directly” with MSU’s administration for “waiting all summer to close the uni[versity] 2 weeks before classes started. This forced thousands of students to move in anyway. . . . Suspend admin for putting everyone in danger.”

ELi received a press announcement from Harper’s owner Pat Riley yesterday evening indicating that his establishment “has chosen to postpone re-opening to help ensure a successful implementation of the new MSU student recommended quarantine by the Ingham County Health Department. We believe that it would be irresponsible for us to entice people to break the quarantine and come to Harper’s considering the surge in positive COVID-19 cases in East Lansing.”

The release urged students to “stay safe and quarantine through September 26 . . . so that more stringent and mandatory restrictions are not necessary.”

Today’s news suggests the Health Department has decided those more stringent measures cannot wait.

View today’s local Executive Order.

See ELi’s comprehensive reporting on COVID-19 in the East Lansing area.

Note: This article was updated to include the latest hospitalization info from Ingham County and to include quotations from and identification of Brad Ryva.

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