As daily COVID-19 cases connected to Michigan State University continue to decline while percent positivity rates remain high, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail cites concern that students just aren’t getting tested.
Since Aug. 24, Ingham County data shows 1,391 COVID-19 cases connected to the university. In the weeks of Sept. 14 and Sept. 21, the number of cases was nearly half that of the week before.
This includes those tested at both the on and off-campus testing sites identified as MSU related through Sparrow laboratories and university testing.
Vail said looking at the data with her knowledge of how long it typically takes to get such a surge of cases under control and with a reproduction (“r”) factor determining that for every case an additional three or four individuals may get infected, she is concerned testing is simply slowing.
With the percent positivity rate remaining high and number of reported cases dropping, Vail says that points to the suggestion that less testing leads to a false idea of a decreased spread of the virus.
“That drop in cases after that many, it just is not adding up right,” Vail said.“…You could be the best public health department in the world, it’s hard to get case counts down that fast.”
From Sept. 7 to Sept. 15, the average number of daily cases linked to MSU was 91, with 122 on Sept. 7 being the largest spike to date. In the days following an emergency order placing 39 large East Lansing properties under quarantine, the average number of positive cases fell to about 15.
Recent information through MSU's COVID-19 dashboard demonstrates a similar drop in testings, with numbers nearly halved dropping from 1,015 the week of Sept. 14 to 486 Sept. 21. An average of 107 weekly positive cases were detected between Aug. 31 and Sept. 14 with an average of just 29.5 between Sept. 21 and Sept. 28.
This coincides with data from the county as the weekly percent positivity rate has remained steady between 12-14% since Aug. 31.
“Things probably are getting better in East Lansing, I just don’t know that they’re as much better as these graphs and charts would lead you to believe right now,” Vail said.
Recent data by the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, suggests that between Aug. 2 and Sept.5, weekly COVID-19 cases among individuals aged 18-22 increased 55% nationally. With at least 50% of the county’s 3,518 cases coming out of Sept. alone and a majority of those being MSU related, Vail said, at least the same percent increase could likely be seen in Ingham County.
Vail said while the health department has handled a couple of complaints about local bars and restaurants, they have not been hearing a lot about large gatherings that fall outside of the 25-person outdoor capacity. Indoor gatherings, Vail said, are basically unknown.
Further issues arise when individuals do not answer contract tracing case investigation calls or are hesitant to disclose they had attended a large gathering, Vail said.
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