Ottawa County shifts to ‘staying safe’ order for GVSU students

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — After a two-week “staying in place” order for Grand Valley State University Allendale campus students, Ottawa County health officials are instituting a follow-up “staying safe” order to keep coronavirus cases on the downtrend.

The two-week staying in place order ran through Thursday. It will be replaced by another 14-day period in which Allendale students should limit guests to their apartments or dorms to four, limit gatherings at all on-campus indoor common areas to four (except for classes), limit outdoor gatherings to 10, and wear masks indoors and outdoors. The order runs through Oct. 16.

GVSU administrator Greg Sanial, also the interim director of GVSU’s Virus Action Team, praised students for being responsive and compliant to the staying in place order.

“We continue to monitor all of our cases very carefully and we’re not seeing the clusters anymore that we saw at the very beginning when … the university opened and we went back to instruction and all the students were back in place,” he said during a Thursday afternoon virtual press conference on the loosened restrictions. “We’re seeing much more one here, one there, and it’s very hard to discern a pattern from that, especially with our cases off campus. Initially, we were seeing very large clusters in some particular complexes; we’re just not seeing that now.”

He added that students were also being forthcoming with contact tracing, which was helping to combat clusters.

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health said the staying in place order resulted in a steady decline of coronavirus cases among students living both on and off campus, describing it as a “marked improvement.”

Sanial said the number of daily cases had dropped from around 50 or 60 to about 10.

“We really want to drive it even lower,” he said. “So some of these additional restrictions … we’re hopeful that the limiting guests in apartments and things like that will get us down to … three to five (cases per day).”

After reaching that threshold, the goal would be zero cases per day.

For a time, GVSU had the largest university or college-related outbreak in the state, though Michigan State University has since eclipsed it with about 1,300 cases. Sanial suggested, however, the reason for GVSU’s high ranking on the list of campus outbreaks was because it was providing more transparent and complete numbers.

“We’re reporting every case,” he said. “We have an aggressive, random testing program in place. And our numbers agree with the health department. Other universities, numbers that they’re reporting do not agree with what the health department thinks the university has for cases.”

He said GVSU would even count a case in a student taking classes online far away from Allendale Township.

Sanial also noted that one thing learned from the fall semester is that GVSU must have a testing event at the beginning of a semester as students return to campus.


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