38 COVID-19 cases linked to Central Michigan University

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Central Michigan University is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak linked to parties, and school officials are threatening to fine or suspend students if they host or attend large gatherings.

Students might even be asked to go home if the behavior continues, officials said.

"At other institutions nationwide, large weekend parties have resulted in an increase in positive COVID-19 diagnoses — and in some, the shutdown of their entire campuses," Tony Voisin, CMU associate vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email to students.

"The actions of a few selfish students have ruined an entire year for thousands of their peers," he continued. "The same will happen here at CMU if students continue to engage in this type of reckless, irresponsible behavior."

A message for students on the football scoreboard at Central Michigan University.

Steve Hall, health officer for the Central Michigan District Health Department, said there are 38 cases linked to the CMU community, and eight probable cases. 

"Every case has between 5-20 close contacts that we were contacting as well," he said.

There have been some struggles to contact students with test results, Hall said, so the health department sent a nurse with a police officer to a location after calls by university and health officials went unanswered.

"We need cooperation to continue to mitigate this virus," he said.

The outbreak comes after CMU students moved back to campus during the week of Aug. 10, and classes began Monday.

"CMU has put a tremendous amount of time into planning for a safe return to campus this fall, which included outlining expectations for our campus community such as requirements to wear face coverings, social distance and avoid large gatherings," university spokeswoman Heather Smith said in a statement.

"It is disappointing to see that some of our students are choosing to ignore these expectations," she said. "This sort of irresponsible and reckless behavior not only puts our in-person living and learning at risk, it also puts lives at risk."

"We expect better from our students and are taking swift corrective and disciplinary action, including fines and suspensions, against students who host or participate in these large parties," she said.

CMU's outbreak comes as schools across the country such as University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame suspended plans for some classes to be in-person after COVID-19 outbreaks in the days after students returned. 

Last week, Michigan State University announced it will hold all undergraduate classes online and asked students to stay at home. President Samuel Stanley, an infectious disease specialist, made the decision before students moved back to campus.

Hall said there have been social gatherings in the Mount Pleasant area beyond the state's 10-person limit for indoor get-togethers, and some of them have been at fraternity and sorority houses and at the Deerfield Village Apartments. Some of the gatherings have been indoors and others outside. Those attending were not believed to be wearing masks.