WMU releasing data more frequently as COVID-19 cases increase


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University is now releasing COVID-19 numbers twice a week rather than once and is providing more details as case numbers increase. 

The university has seen 46 new cases since Tuesday and stopped sports practices after somne student-athletes tested positive. The total number of cases confirmed over the past six months is now at 170.  

“We have placed a pause on our intercollegiate athletic program because we’ve had nine students test positive in four different sports and we have a cohort of 25 athletes residing on campus who are being closely monitored,” Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, the medical director with the Sindecuse Health Center, said. 

Ruggiero said the university is continuing with its virus strategy, which includes using rapid antigen testing and contact tracing.  

It has also started publishing COVID-19 numbers online on Tuesdays and Fridays and created a new online dashboard in an effort to provide greater detail. 

The university has changed its code of conduct, requiring students follow virus mitigation rules or risk suspension, according to WMU spokesperson Paula Davis. 

“We are enforcing it, so we’ve already charged about 17 students with violations and through interventions we’ve deterred six large gatherings,” Davis said. 

Jim Rutherford, the health officer with Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services, says the department had anticipated an uptick in cases with students returning to campus and is working closely with the university. 

“Those intervention strategies that are being employed are spot on and we’re confident that our continued partnership with WMU is going to help us navigate this until we’re done with COVID,” Rutherford said. 

WMU student William Walton, the editor of the Western Herald student newspaper, is keeping a close eye on case numbers. The Herald’s editorial board had called for the university to start online because of virus concerns but Walton said the university missed its window and sending students home could cause additional spread.  

“We’re our own little pool and if they sent us back to our home communities, we could spread COVID there, which we don’t want,” Walton said. 

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