COVID-19 confirmed in 124 MSU students; 4 more cases at UM

More than 120 Michigan State University students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 30, officials said Tuesday.

And University of Michigan officials said the virus was confirmed in four more students this past weekend, raising the total number of cases among its students to 35.

MSU officials said almost all of the 124 students who contracted the coronavirus live off campus and do not appear to be linked to a particular event but rather multiple large student gatherings since mid-August. They all have exhibited symptoms and were either tested at MSU or self-reported. 

Samuel Stanley, MSU's president, said Tuesday the rise in cases among students is disappointing, but not unexpected.

"As students return to off-campus housing, some are attending large gatherings where people are in close contact without an appropriate face covering," he said in a statement. "This is the easiest and fastest way for the coronavirus to spread.

"This spike in cases should serve as a wake-up call to our community about the importance of personal responsibility and following health guidelines. We all share the responsibility to keep ourselves and our community safe. I hope that all students who are infected make full recoveries."

Also Tuesday, UM officials said the four students living in three residence halls are the latest to test positive for COVID-19.

A single resident in both South Quad Residence Hall and North Quad Residence Hall, and two residents of Bursley Residence Hall tested positive over the weekend, according to university officials. 

The students are no longer in their rooms, which have been disinfected, UM spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen wrote in an email Monday.

"University Housing notified residents and staff via email and individuals identified as close contacts are contacted separately by UM’s Environment, Health and Safety department working in conjunction with the Washtenaw County Health Department," Broekhuizen wrote. "Any residents who were not directly contacted by the health department are considered to be a low exposure risk."

The additional positive cases brings the total to 35 student cases since Aug. 23, according to the university's COVID-19 dashboard. Non-student cases were at 24 for the same time period. There have been 300 student and non-student cases on campus since March, according to the dashboard.

According to the latest data on the dashboard, UM Quarantine & Isolation Housing is at 8.5% with 14 people in isolation due to a positive test result and 37 in quarantine due to exposure or awaiting results.

The news of additional positive cases comes as a union representing more than 1,000 graduate student instructors and staff assistants at the University of Michigan strikes against in-person classes.

"This is a historic moment: we are striking at the beginning of the year, in the midst of a pandemic, to protect our whole community," the Graduate Employees' Organization 3550 wrote on its Facebook page Sunday. 

Among the group's list of demands for graduate employees are a universal right to work remotely without documentation and the resources to do so, unconditional support in the form of extensions to degree timelines and funding for graduate students and for UM to cut all ties with police, including the Ann Arbor Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In response, university officials have said that public employee strikes are illegal in Michigan.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN