Grand Valley students told to stay in residences for 14 days amid COVID-19 outbreak

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The Ottawa Department of Health has ordered all Grand Valley State University students living on, near or off campus in Allendale to "stay in place" beginning Thursday through Oct. 1 because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Students may not return to their home address unless for an emergency, the department said in a news release Wednesday.

Since Aug. 23, more than 600 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among students living on or near the GVSU campus, the release said, and case rates have continued to rise.

"The majority of cases are among off-campus students and appear to be driven by congregate living and congregate gathering," the department said. "GVSU cases have consistently reported a lower number of contacts, compared to non-GVSU cases in Ottawa County. During OCDPH’s case investigation, many students report having no contacts or refuse to disclose contacts."

GVSU officials held a press conference and said the 20% of classes being held in person will continue, and some buildings will remain open because there are no compliance issues there as students are distancing themselves socially and wearing masks.

"We felt this was the most responsible action for our community," said GVSU President Philomena Mantella.

The county order is focused on where students congregate socially, because that is where the spread has been.

Philomena V. Mantella, president of Grand Valley State University

Greg Sanial, vice president for finance and administration/chief financial officer for GVSU, added that the focus of the stay-at-home order is not on gatherings of 100-plus students.

"Those are really becoming more rare in our community," Sanial said. "What we found through contact tracing is a lot of this spread could be attributed to 4, 5, 6 people getting together in a room, just to hang out."

Driving the caseload down is going to take reminding students "to be vigilant even in those smaller group settings," he said.

"I think our students are well aware of the dangers of gathering in a large group," Sanial said. "It's maintaining that vigilance even in small groups among friends."

The order requires students to stay home except for these activities, with strict adherence to preventive measures:

►Attend in-person classes, including labs and physical education classes.

►Leave their room or residence to pick up food and other basic needs, go to medical appointments, pick up medication, attend religious practice activities or to obtain COVID-19 testing.

►Attend work with the approval of the employer if the work is essential and cannot be done remotely.

►Have clinical rotations, student teaching or other off-campus experiential learning assignments to continue only with approval from the college dean and disclosure to the organization of placement and renewed approval by that organization.

►Leave their room or residence for purposes of physical activity in groups of no more than two.