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MSU President 'concerned,' 'troubled' by crowded EL bars amid COVID-19

March 14, 2020
A line of people wait outside Harper's after MSU cancelled classes due to coronavirus March 11, 2020.
A line of people wait outside Harper's after MSU cancelled classes due to coronavirus March 11, 2020. —
Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. expressed concerns in a recent email about recent student lines outside East Lansing bars following the decision to suspend in-person classes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

"I am very concerned and troubled by the photos and media coverage I’ve seen of crowded student lines at local East Lansing bars over the past few days," Stanley said in the email. "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."

Students formed lines outside Rick’s, Harper’s, Dublin Square, and other local bars that extended around corners and down blocks, ignoring recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and MSU.

Students need to understand the importance of social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19, Stanley said in the email.

His statement comes after state officials released eight new positive cases of the disease, bringing the statewide total to 33.

“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,” Stanley said in the email. “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.”

Stanley, along with Provost Teresa Sullivan, received complaints from East Lansing community members, including from President of the East Lansing Board of Education and MSU assistant professor Erin Graham.

“We have children, college students, and community members that are immunocompromised,” Graham said in a Facebook post. “There are MSU community members in self-quarantine and waiting on COVID-19 test results to come back. Mayor Ruth Beier has declared a state of emergency. The students at these bars are not taking the threat seriously, and we have the potential for a huge outbreak on our hands with serious life or death consequences.”

The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with people if COVID-19 is spreading in their community. Stanley and Graham said they hope that students understand the severity of COVID-19 and take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and others.

Following Michigan State's announcement that it would suspend all in-person classes due to COVID-19, students took to the bars in East Lansing.


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“They are not only putting themselves at risk, they are putting the lives of our more vulnerable community members at risk,” Graham said in the Facebook post. “I hope that you will tell them that congregating in bars, house parties, and large groups is going to spread COVID-19 and lead to deaths. They need to understand the severity of the situation.”

Other CDC recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 includes washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and staying home from work and school if you feel sick.

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