As students return from spring break trips across America sunning in the tropics to skiing in Colorado, Ingham County is ready to welcome back students as cases for COVID-19 continue to decline.
On March 6, Michigan State University lifted face-covering requirements in sports complexes and a majority of buildings on campus. President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said MSU followed CDC guidelines and campus data on COVID-19. Part of the decision came from the Ingham County Health Department's, or ICHD, decision to lift mask mandates in K-12 schools on Feb. 19.
To Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail, the number of cases continues to ride the curve downwards even after the mask mandates are lifted, giving a hopeful new approach to COVID-19 safety protocols.
“I certainly am optimistic; things do catch us by surprise we’ve learned throughout this pandemic, but I think the overall trend downwards as we go into March is a really promising thing because in the past two years, we have really seen our low numbers not show up until summer,” Vail said. “So, to see these numbers approaching our lower numbers in March, I think, is a very hopeful sign. … But we do have to be on the lookout for what’s going on around the world and around the country.”
Since last week, only 203 positive new cases at Sparrow and McLaren hospitals have been reported while the average case fatality rate has fallen to 0.6%, according to the ICHD. Of those 203 positive cases, 57 of them are currently in the hospital, with six individuals recovering in the intensive care unit. With one pediatric case, only 9.7% of these cases are still in their active transmission stage.
Vaccination rates only continue to rise in Ingham County — currently 77.2% of residents aged 16 and up have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Cases by age have shifted, however, over the past 30 days; the 20-29 age group sits at 20% of cases by age group, followed by the 30-29 group and then 40-49 at 17% and 13%, respectively.
“Looking at cases by age in the last six months, I just will point out that there has been some shift,” Vail said. “Before we had some of our cases in older age groups, and we have been doing some shifting. You can see that during this last surge that the 29 to 35 year olds are at the top (of case numbers).”
All students are required to have both vaccinations and the booster shot at MSU. The booster shot is proven to decrease the chance of contacting COVID-19 as compared to being unvaccinated, which will protect students who are traveling for spring break while they are away from the university.
Unvaccinated adults over the age of 18 are 4.9 times the risk of testing positive and are 88.5 times more at risk of dying to COVID-19. Vail warns that people who are unvaccinated or more at risk to COVID-19 should determine their own relative risk and make decisions based on their risk level to move forward.
For college students living in East Lansing and traveling out of state for spring break, packing a few at-home rapid tests along with their sunscreen won't hurt. At-home rapid tests can be ordered and shipped completely free at COVIDtests.gov through the postal service.
“I think one of the best things (students) can do in return to campus is that I’ve just ordered my second round of four home tests,” Vail said. “The United States government shipped out four home tests to every household … so stock up on a few home tests and those are perfect times to take a home test before you reintegrate into a more crowded setting.”
Hopeful signs in data show that cases may continue to fall on the current route Ingham County has taken, but anticipating the safety of students and others is just as effective as bringing a life-jacket to water skiing.
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