New COVID-19 outbreaks at schools tick downward

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

The number of COVID-19 outbreaks in Michigan public schools and higher education institutions continues to drop, with the state reporting 34 new outbreaks Monday, all at pre-K through 12 schools.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 98 cases in the new outbreaks. 

Last week, the state reported 35 outbreaks in schools, down from the 53 outbreaks listed the week before. 

The highest number of cases among the new outbreaks come from St. Fabian Pre-K and Elementary School in Farmington Hills, which reported eight cases. This week there were no outbreaks reported at colleges and universities. Last week, two outbreaks were recorded at colleges. 

Livingston and Ottawa counties tied for the most outbreaks this week with eight cases spread across four schools in both counties.  

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 the same day Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the current suspension of some businesses, indoor dining at restaurants and in-person instruction at high schools and colleges through Dec. 20.

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 260 ongoing outbreaks, with the largest, 2,221 cumulative 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.

According to the state, the University of Michigan had 581 cases in the previous 28 days. The state dashboard does not report cumulative data for UM and other Washtenaw County schools.

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.

Kim Kozlowski contributed to this story.