Ingham County’s Health Department has recommended this morning that all local MSU students self-quarantine after the number of cases related to students hit 342 since August 24.
The call for self-quarantine is a recommendation – not a public health order – but “more stringent and mandatory restrictions will be imposed if students do not comply and break the transmission cycle,” according to today’s press release.
The current recommended quarantine is in place for 14 days, ending at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, September 26.
MSU students should only leave home for class, athletic training, 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.”
In the upcoming days, the Ingham County Health Department will consider if additional protocols are necessary for “congregate settings such as houses licensed for more than ten unrelated people.”
In the three weeks preceding August 24, the MSU community had only 23 individuals test positive for COVID-19, and, as of Tuesday morning, MSU student cases were recorded as 124.
The health department directly linked the surge in cases to students returning to the area. Although almost all MSU courses are being offered online, the press release noted what ELi has also reported: students returned to East Lansing due to “binding off-campus leases” or the desire “to physically return to the university community.”
At least one-third of new cases have been linked to social gatherings and parties, but the health department did not mention whether any of the events that led to the transmission of COVID-19 exceeded the legal limit of 25 people outdoors or 10 indoors.
One-third of parties where transmission took place were hosted by fraternities and sororities. The Interfraternity Council at MSU failed to implement a moratorium on large social events, much to the chagrin of local and university officials.
Ingham County Health Office Linda Vail has voiced concern that the outbreak related to MSU students could have dire consequences for the broader community.
“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.”
Mayor Aaron Stephens and University Physician David Weismantel endorsed the recommendation for self-quarantine.
Stephens was quoted in the press release as saying, “We are urging students to understand the imperative role that they play in stopping this community spread and, ultimately, saving lives.”
“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,” he continued.
Said 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.”