Michigan State University has announced the “first confirmed case [of COVID-19] related to our MSU community.”
In the announcement made yesterday evening, MSU President Sam Stanley said that the university was notified yesterday of the confirmation, but provided no details on the member of the MSU community who had been affected.
While the widespread assumption has been that this means that this case involved someone recently on the East Lansing campus, that was not what MSU announced, saying only that it involved a person “related to our MSU community.”
But ELi has confirmed that there has been a verified case in Ingham County, so there is no question the coronavirus is now in our area.
Stanley also announced yesterday that MSU students will not resume in-class meetings for the rest of the semester. MSU had initially suspended in-person classes only until April 20, but now students will finish their classes and final exams online. Students who did not empty their dorms can return to claim their belongings.
Commencement will also be postponed and held at a date yet to be determined.
While MSU dorms remain open to serve students who cannot return home, students are being encouraged to return to their permanent residences.
International students face particular challenges in returning home due to visa regulations and restrictions on international travel.
Many students live off campus, and Stanley urged these students to consider where they would be safest.
MSU graduate students are also rooted in the community. Pursuing degrees over several years in their adult lives, they often have partners who work in the area and children who attend local schools.
The continued presence of MSU undergraduates who have no in-person classes to attend has raised concerned among some year-round East Lansing residents.
Since Governor Whitmer’s ban restricts only gatherings larger than 250 people, local bars have remained open to crowds near that size. ELi reported on Saturday that students had flocked to the bars in droves over the past few evenings.
Mayor Ruth Beier and other City leaders were exploring ways to limit occupancy in bars to numbers that would permit social distancing or standing at least 6 feet apart, contacting the Ingham County Health Department, the Liquor Control Commission, and the governor.
Oakland County’s Health Division has now instituted a rule requiring bars to limit occupancy to 50 percent of normal. Ingham County Health may soon follow suit.
Reached by email Sunday morning for comment, Mike Krueger, owner of Crunchy’s, said, “While we are certainly concerned how this type of ruling would effect the financial well-being of our 36 employees who are working diligently to make sure everything in our restaurant is clean and sanitary, we will certainly follow any new rules mandated by Ingham County Health department, the governor, etc. The safety of our staff and patrons is of the utmost importance to us, and we wish to do our part in any way we can.”
In his communication yesterday, Stanley specifically asked students to be more responsible:
“I am very concerned and troubled,” Stanley wrote, “by the photos and media coverage I’ve seen of crowded student lines at local East Lansing bars over the past few days. The spread of the novel coronavirus is very serious, and our students need to understand the critical importance of social distancing and how the virus can spread quickly in large crowds.”
Stanley is a medical doctor who specializes in infectious diseases.
“I want to remind everyone again, that this is a time for personal responsibility and personal hygiene – make smart decisions to keep yourself healthy and please consider those around you,” he said yesterday. “The university is in constant contact with health and law enforcement officials about how we can prevent the further spread of coronavirus and stop irresponsible behaviors. We need everyone’s cooperation in this crisis.”
Physicians in the East Lansing area continue to struggle to obtain enough tests for the coronavirus. Efforts are being made to ramp up testing capabilities and to prepare for the possibility of hospitals being overwhelmed with cases – an outcome they are hoping to avoid by encouraging “social distancing.”
Alice Dreger contributed reporting. This story was updated on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. to include the response from Mike Krueger.
REMINDER: The City of East Lansing is under a State of Emergency and you are encouraged to practice social distancing. Read more about what the state of emergency means.