With 1,250 COVID-19 cases connected to Michigan State University since Aug. 24, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said further action may be needed to slow the spread.
The confirmed case count includes any MSU students, faculty or staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. It does not take into consideration any secondary cases. Of the cases, only 41 occurred prior to Sept. 1.
“I’m kind of feeling like I’m running out of tools in my toolbox. But you know what, I’ll find some more,” Vail said.
Moving forward, Vail looked towards measures taken at other universities as possibilities for what could come next if cases continue to rise. At Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Vail said a shelter in place order was issued for all students in Allendale. Though MSU is in a unique position with medical and graduate schools hosting students in various age groups, Vail said nothing is off the table yet.
Further measures may include further limiting outdoor gatherings, prohibiting indoor gatherings, and evaluating large apartment complexes for new quarantine orders.
On Sept. 14, Vail issued a mandatory quarantine order against 30 large properties in East Lansing. An additional eleven properties were added to the list Sept. 17.
Vail said she has since noticed a drop in the number of tests being done and has heard many students express anecdotally a disincentive to test given the consequences of quarantine measures.
“You can not get tested, but transmission in this community will then go unchecked,” Vail said. “…Whether you get tested or not, it’s entirely possible that escalating numbers in the community could result in actions … things like what they did at GVSU.”
Others, she said, simply don’t want to “rat out their friends” and make it much more difficult for the contract tracing process to occur as needed. Some refuse to give out information while others merely hang up the phone.
“Unfortunately, that presents a lot of problems because as we know – and we’ve heard this since the beginning – testing, large availability of testing followed by contract tracing, followed by isolation and quarantine is the way to contain the spread of this virus,” Vail said. “So, when we can’t do that, we have no way to contain this.”
Those who chose not to comply, she said, receive a letter of warning from the health department citing the public health code which requires them to give out the needed information. This refusal to give out information may be forwarded to MSU where action may be taken as a violation of the university’s required health compact.
When eleven MSU fraternities voted against a temporary prohibition, or moratorium, of social gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vail said this signals the rest of the university to follow the same lead. The Interfraternity Council, she said, may be in the process of retaking that vote and hopes in doing so, positive change will come.
Vail said the Ingham County Health Department will continue to have regular meetings with MSU to come up with ideas for future actions.
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