EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Health officials are strongly recommending that Michigan State University students living on or near the school’s East Lansing campus self-quarantine immediately because of an outbreak of COVID-19.
At least a third of the 342 people affiliated with the university who have tested positive for the virus since Aug. 24 attended parties or social gatherings, the Ingham County Health Department said Saturday. At least a third of those gatherings were associated with fraternities or sororities.
“This is an urgent situation,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “The exponential growth of COVID-19 cases must stop. I am seriously concerned that unchecked transmission locally will affect the health and safety of all Ingham County residents. If we do not slow the spread immediately, we will be dealing with the consequences across the county for months to come.”
In the three weeks prior to the surge in cases, only 23 people affiliated with the university had tested positive.
The state has had more than 110,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 6,500 deaths from the disease since the pandemic started.
Colleges and universities throughout the U.S. have been scrambling to contain coronavirus outbreaks as many students continue to congregate in large groups without wearing masks or social distancing.
More than 30 cases earlier this summer were linked to people attending a popular East Lansing bar near Michigan State’s campus between June 12-20.
Michigan State announced last month that it was going online for the fall semester and encouraged students to stay home. Remote learning for undergraduates was scheduled to start Sept. 2. But some students had binding off-campus leases in the East Lansing area or simply desired to physically return to the university community, according to the health department.
The self-quarantine should last 14 days and last through Sept. 26. The recommendation is not an emergency order, but more stringent and mandatory restrictions will be imposed if students do not comply and break the transmission cycle, the health department said.
“We are urging students to understand the imperative role that they play in stopping this community spread and, ultimately, saving lives,” East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens said. “While we know many students are doing the right thing, we are still seeing far too many social gatherings in the off-campus community, where individuals are in close contact without face coverings.”