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Health agency to Adrian College: Suspend in-person classes

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The Lenawee County Health Department has recommended that Adrian College suspend face-to-face instruction for two weeks in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak.

It also issued an emergency order limiting the size of permitted outdoor gatherings from 100 to 25 people in response to the outbreak, including one at nearby Siena Heights University.

Adrian College President Jeffrey Docking

The health department made the order and recommendations as it reported a 182% increase in COVID cases during August among 18-24 year-olds, "with the most notable increase in this group occurring the last week of August," according to a press release posted Thursday.

 Adrian College reported 152 COVID‐19 cases, which includes 138 cases that are active, the Lenawee County Health Department said. Siena Heights  University  reported two positive cases. The health department said an outbreak is defined as "two or more epidemiologically linked cases."

Classes at Adrian College, a private liberal arts college, began Aug. 24. Classes at Siena Heights University, a small Roman Catholic university in Adrian, began Aug. 25.

"Restrictions on the size of outdoor gatherings, along with other prevention strategies,  will help reduce the spread of the virus in the community,” said Martha Hall, the county department's health officer.

Sister Peg Albert, president of Siena Heights University, said the school would abide by the health department's requests. 

"The University will decrease all outdoor gatherings to 25 or under in support of the order issued Sept. 3," Albert said in a statement. "Although the University does not have to restrict its athletic functions to the lesser number, the University wants to send a message to the community that Siena Heights University will continue to take a responsible, proactive approach to safety."

As of Thursday, the university was reporting three positive tests, six negative tests and 13 results pending. Its website said 40 people were in quarantine — 20 on campus and 20 off campus. 

Officials at Adrian College did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But earlier this week, President Jeffrey Docking said in a video message that the number of positive COVID-19 cases at Adrian College reached 131 cases after the private university conducted more than 2,300 tests on campus during a two-week period.

The cases included people who were asymptomatic, or with mild symptoms; none were hospitalized. Those with symptoms were isolated or quarantined.

Docking said food service would be changed to take-out to avoid large gatherings in the dining hall, and discouraged students from leaving campus.

"We want to continue to encourage you to limit large gatherings," he said. "We want to continue to encourage you to limit large gatherings. This is the biggest concern that we have. Students need to stay in small groups so we control the spread of this virus."

The Lenawee County Health Department made additional recommendations to Adrian College.

Among them:

  • Change student housing  to properly isolate and separate COVID‐19 positive students from students who have not tested positive.   
  • Suspend all in‐person classes for two‐weeks and only allow in‐person instruction for classes with labs by appointment for proper social distancing.   
  • Suspend all group sports practices, conditioning activities and other group activities for two weeks. 
  • Suspend use of indoor dining areas and increase take‐out and delivery options.
  • Close all common areas for two weeks, including the Merillat Fitness Center and Arrington Ice Arena. 
  • Continue to enforce face mask coverings, six-feet social distancing and hand-washing, and limit large gatherings. 

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com