With Halloween and a rivalry game around the corner, residents need to follow COVID-19 guidelines to ensure safety in the community, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said in a media briefing Tuesday.
Currently, there are 4,538 cases of COVID-19 in Ingham County. Three residents are hospitalized, though Vail said there are 73 COVID-19 related illnesses in the county health departments right now.
On just Monday alone, there were 39 ER visits related to the virus.
“Last week, we were back up at numbers like we were seeing in April," Vail said. "We are definitely starting to push the capacity limits of our health care systems again and we have to be very cognizant of that."
President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Lansing Tuesday, hosting a crowd of thousands at the Capital Region International Airport. With such a large turnout and fairly mixed mask-wearing, Vail said it is deeply concerning to see these kinds of crowds at a time of higher levels of transmission across the state.
“We politicized viruses, we politicized mask-wearing. Our president has clearly not been pleased with our governor and the president also is rather reckless with regard to COVID and COVID precautions that are recommended broadly across the public health community as well as amongst the scientific community,” Vail said.
There has been a concern in the past about protests and rallies turning into super spreader events. In tracking cases, Vail said there have been notable increases in many places where rallies have been held. Following his recent visit in Wisconsin, the city the rally had been held in saw a 20% increase in cases two weeks later, though there have been others which did not see the same increases, Vail said.
Whether there is an uptick of cases two-weeks from now will be crucial in determining whether or not, the Tuesday rally became a super spreader event according to Vail. Without people willing to contract trace and a reluctance to admit to participating in high-risk activities, Vail said looking at the metrics may be the only way to tell how many cases came from the event.
As Halloween looms just three days away, Vail urged community members to follow the guidance issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS.
“Contracting COVID usually requires that you be in close proximity to someone for a prolonged period of time, so these brief interactions aren’t necessarily high risk,” Vail said. “They aren’t also no risk, so the precautions are important.”
As the football season kicked off last weekend, Vail said in general the department was pleased, though there had been a few notable parties that got larger and needed to be controlled.
A big concern, however, may be community spread at the upcoming weekend’s football game against the University of Michigan. Vail said there is a strong rumor circulating that students from the University of Michigan will travel to East Lansing for the game in wake of the current shelter in place orders on undergraduate students.
Last Thursday, MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. announced the university plans for the upcoming spring semester. Among these, MSU will offer more in-person classes and approximately 2,500 additional single-occupancy residence hall spaces will be available to those who want or need to live on campus.
Spring break has been canceled and the university will require participation in the COVID-19 Early Detection Program for students living on campus and those coming to campus for classes, labs or work.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, I think that there are a lot of strong safeguards that will be reinforced in the engagement with the campus so that basically there can be monitoring,” Vail said.
The requirement to participate in the early detection program, she hopes will encourage more testing within the Spartan community. Likewise, she said it is better to “start the train” on the semester and stop it later — as they did last spring — than to stop it before knowing what the spring situation will look like.
“I have full faith that the university will be monitoring those situations and if we run into significant increases in cases — we’ve already seen some significant increases in cases associated with MSU — so I would expect that we would take some serious precautions so that we don’t see anything like that again,” Vail said.
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