MSU tells students after outbreak: Follow rules, or face consequences

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News
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Of the 342 people linked to an outbreak of COVID-19 at Michigan State University, none have been hospitalized, the Ingham County health officer said Sunday, as the school vowed students and others would face consequences for repeat violations of the rules.

Health officer Linda Vail said since Aug. 24, fewer than five of the 342 confirmed cases were not students. Just last week, the school recorded just over 100 cases.

"... Going to work or going shopping is not what’s causing this, it’s the gatherings,” Vail said.

No one has been hospitalized as of Sunday, she said.

"I have seen notes of some that have been ill enough to go to the ER, but have not been admitted," Vail said. 

Students and friends gather at a house on Linden Street off the MSU campus in East Lansing Saturday.

According to Ingham County's coronavirus dashboard, no one in the county has been hospitalized due to the virus. The dashboard shows that 37% of cases are from ages 20-29 years old and 16% are from 10-19 years old. 

At least a third of the diagnosed individuals recently attended parties or social gatherings, and of those, a third attended an event at a fraternity or sorority, the health department said.

Those who have been at MSU should self-quarantine for 14 days until Sept. 26.

Before the surge, there were 23 cases of the virus affiliated with MSU, the county health department said.

MSU said there will be consequences for violations, and the university already is considering interim suspensions for students who have repeatedly violated the social distancing rules. 

"Last year, when I was a freshman, I was surrounded by hundreds of students at a time," said Angela Petterson, an MSU sophomore from Adrian. "Now, I feel my campus is a ghost town."

Students in quarantine should remain at home for the next two weeks other than to attend in-person instruction, labs and intercollegiate athletic training. They may also leave their homes to work or obtain food, medicine, medical care or supplies needed to sustain or protect life (when those supplies cannot be obtained via delivery), the health department said. 

Vail said Sunday that asking students to quarantine and allowing them to do essential things aren't contradictory.

“We can’t deny anybody life sustaining things ...," she said, saying that social events should be avoided.

​There have been seven outbreaks at Michigan's colleges and universities in the last two weeks, according to state data.

More:All Michigan State University students should self-quarantine after major COVID-19 outbreak, health department warns

Senior civil engineering major Mìké Brown, 21, said the university hasn't sent students an update on the outbreak since earlier last week, when there were just over 100 cases. Other than students wearing masks on campus, he said things don't generally look any different. 

"I've seen a couple of my friends, but sometimes I get worried that I'm being as safe as I should be, especially with people attending functions and you don't know who is seeing who. There are too many variables to keep track of."

Brown, who lives in a house on the edge of campus and doesn't have any in-person classes this semester, said he always is in a state of worry, but it hasn't escalated much even knowing cases are growing. He says he has tried to be as safe as possible, but he also knows he can't control others. 

"In my personal opinion, I have zero faith in the students. I think kids are going to be kids at their own expense and the expense of those around them," he said. "I saw it coming. I feel like I didn't expect any different."

Tenaisia Turner never thought her freshman year of college would be coronavirus centered. The 18-year-old mechanical engineering major lives alone in one of the dorms on MSU's campus and has all her classes online.

She has no suitemates, shares no bathroom and everyone is spread out and wearing masks, which she said was "a good call" on the part of the university. The only time she gets worried is when she goes to the cafeteria to eat. 

"I think the caf is a place I feel nervous. When you sit down to eat, people can take their masks off. I feel nervous. You don't know who could have the coronavirus."

As for any new regulations, Turner said it won't be difficult to follow them, but she isn't so sure others feel the same.

"Personally I don't think a lot of students are going to do that. We are already on lockdown. We didn't expect our first year of college to be like this," she said. "I don't know if a lot of kids are going to do this."

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