Saturday, December 4, 2021

MSU COVID-19 percent positivity rate falls, health officer reflects on new emergency orders

October 6, 2020
Spartan Stadium has converted into a COVID-19 testing facility to allow students living on or near campus to get tested. The entrance to the testing center is located at Gate B. Shot on September 23, 2020.
Spartan Stadium has converted into a COVID-19 testing facility to allow students living on or near campus to get tested. The entrance to the testing center is located at Gate B. Shot on September 23, 2020. —
Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The rate of COVID-19 cases connected to MSU has started to flatten out with a percent positivity rate beginning to trend downward, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said at a media briefing Tuesday.

In the week of Sept. 28, MSU reported a total of 27 cases connected to the university. In the week prior, they saw nearly four times that amount with 103 cases the week of Sept. 21.

Last week, Vail cited concern that mandatory quarantine orders were being met with an unwillingness to get tested. With a sudden drop in numbers during a time they knew case counts were exceedingly high, Vail said a high positivity rate led her to believe something wasn’t adding up. 

“Right now, I think we’re leveling out and we’re improving,” Vail said. “We’re improving on testing numbers, we’re improving on percent positivity, cases are dropping. All looking good.”

Since July 27, 1,486 COVID-19 cases have been connected to MSU. In the county’s most recent data, the percent positivity rate has fallen to 10%.

Currently, 53% of Ingham County’s 3,711 total COVID-19 cases come from those aged 18-24.

On Sunday, Vail issued four countywide emergency orders following a Supreme Court ruling Friday invalidating all of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders related to the pandemic. These focused on keeping several COVID-19 protections in place including the use of face coverings, limitations on indoor and outdoor gathering sizes, capacity limits or restaurants and mandatory employee health screenings. 

Vail described the ruling to be stunning at the time and said the goal was that her emergency orders would fill in the major concerning gaps under the authority of the public health code.

“We are concerned, basically now about what is going to happen with the ruling and people dropping their guard,” Vail said “…There’s lots of confusion in the air which is why orders were issued by us this weekend.”

One of the orders issued by Vail Sunday places a 50% or 125-person capacity limit on local bars and restaurants. She said the health department has been working with the Michigan Liquor and Beverage Association as well the Michigan Restaurant and Hospitality Association and will continue to do so moving forward.

While some bars and restaurants in the area would like to see capacity limits lifted and/or raised, Vail said the thought process behind the limitations in the first place was to let them gain experience. With many unable to handle their current crowds, Vail said she would not feel comfortable lifting the limitations now, though it is not off the table for the future.

Vail said she talked to the owners of The Riv and Rick’s American Café in East Lansing Tuesday morning and he demonstrated that he wants to sit back and watch other local bars first so that he may learn from their experiences before opening up again.

After Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub saw a surge in cases connected to their establishment in June, a hearing with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission determined the owners must submit a plan to be reviewed by the county health department prior to reopening. 

Vail said the owners have chosen to stay closed as of now and have yet to submit a request to be reviewed. Following a recommended quarantine order for MSU students, she said Harper’s chose to further push back their opening. 

“They learned a hard lesson and I expect them to be extraordinarily cautious, quite honestly,” Vail said. “In the conversations that I’ve had with them they are every bit and every ounce of caution that they can think of.”

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