New COVID-19 outbreaks reported at Northern Michigan University, schools in Grand Rapids, St. Clair County

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated. In a previous version, the headline misidentified the Upper Peninsula university that experienced a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 35 new COVID-19 outbreaks in public schools, primarily in western and northern parts of the state, marking a dramatic drop from figures for K-12 schools and universities last week. 

The department's latest report is down from 53 new outbreaks last week, with the highest number of new outbreaks occurring among members of the Northern Michigan University hockey team. There, 10 cases have been linked to students. Among K-12 schools, the majority of new outbreaks were reported by West Side Christian School in Grand Rapids. There, six cases have been reported.

Countywide, St. Clair had the most in new outbreaks with three cases at Capac Elementary School in Capac; four cases at Landmark Academy in Kimball and two cases at Port Huron High School.

The COVID-19 school outbreak data is reported by local health departments each week to the state as of the previous Thursday. An outbreak is defined as two or more COVID-19 cases among people who are from different households but might have shared exposure. 

The latest report comes two weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered a three-week pause of in-person instruction at high schools and colleges, along with restrictions on high school athletics and indoor dine-in service at restaurants, casinos and other businesses. 

Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the state health department, said schools do not have to report coronavirus cases if they are 100% online since, "this would not represent spread of the virus at the school, as there isn’t a school to go to."

Schools, she said, only report cases of individuals who were at school during their infectious period.  

"If a school is on pause or has transitioned to remote learning, there would be no opportunity for someone to be at school while infectious," Sutfin said. 

In addition to the new school outbreaks, there are nearly 225 ongoing outbreaks, with the largest, 2,081 cases, off campus at Michigan State University. The second and third largest ongoing outbreaks at colleges are at Grand Valley State University, with 1,050 cases affecting students, and Western Michigan University, with 882 cases affecting students and staff.

The largest ongoing K-12 outbreak is linked to Rockford High School and Rockford Freshman Center, two buildings on the same campus of Rockford Public Schools northeast of Grand Rapids in Kent County. There, 52 cases have affected students and staff.

Countywide, western Michigan's Kent County has the most ongoing school outbreaks with 360 cases spread across 23 K-12 schools.

Meanwhile, four Kent County-based colleges in Grand Rapids have outbreaks: Calvin University with 140 cases; Aquinas College with 51 cases;  Davenport University with 108 cases; and Cornerstone University with 18 cases.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com