Local health officials issued mandatory quarantines for 30 student houses following a major COVID spike.
EAST LANSING, MI — Almost 40,000 students at one of Michigan’s leading universities were urged to self-isolate, and nearly 30 fraternities and sororities were placed under mandatory quarantine Saturday.
Michigan State University (MSU) estimates that 38,000 of its 55,000 students are located locally in East Lansing, and every one of those students has been encouraged to self-isolate.
This came after more than 300 coronavirus cases were linked to MSU, a dramatic rise over the relatively small number of confirmed cases related to the school in preceding weeks. Over the three weeks leading up to the spike, only 23 cases were linked to MSU.
Most new cases are related to students. At least a third of those cases were related to students attending social gatherings, the Ingham County Health Department reported.
“Self-quarantine should last for 14 days, continuing until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, September 26,” the Ingham County Health Department said in a statement. “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.”
Students are still not discouraged from attending in-person instruction and intercollegiate athletic training. The Big Ten, of which MSU’s football program is a member, is scheduled to resume games this fall.
In addition, 23 fraternity and sorority houses and seven other large rental properties serving students were placed under mandatory quarantine by the health department. These houses were directly linked to a confirmed case of the coronavirus.
“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,” MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant said in a statement. “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.”
MSU has had a rough time dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Only four days into the state of emergency caused by the pandemic, the university experienced its first confirmed case. By May, the university announced a return to in-person instruction. In June, MSU students were subjects of another coronavirus spike, this time at a bar called Harper’s.
And that checkered record has meant a drastic change on MSU’s campus.
“Last year, when I was a freshman, I was surrounded by hundreds of students at a time,” Angela Petterson, an MSU sophomore from Adrian, told the Detroit News. “Now, I feel my campus is a ghost town.”
But the spike now represents a dangerous situation for East Lansing, says Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.
“This is an urgent situation,” said 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.”
The ‘Gander reports that the outbreak at Harper’s in June spread far beyond Ingham County, causing related infections in Metro Detroit as well.