This story was updated at 12:30 p.m.
Since Aug. 30, 124 Michigan State University students, nearly all living off campus, have tested positive for COVID-19. The cases do not appear to be linked to a particular event but rather multiple large student gatherings in the East Lansing community since mid-August.
The positive case number only reflects symptomatic students who were tested at MSU testing locations or self-reported an off-campus positive test to the university. There is no requirement for students to self-report to the university or utilize MSU testing locations. All individuals have been directed to self-isolate and receive appropriate medical care. Appropriate contract tracing procedures also are underway for those who may be impacted by potential exposure.
“This increase in positive cases among students is disappointing, but not unexpected,” said President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “As students return to off-campus housing, some are attending large gatherings where people are in close contact without an appropriate face covering. 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. Please, avoid large gatherings, wear a face covering, practice physical distancing and wash your hands frequently. We all share the responsibility to keep ourselves and our community safe. I hope that all students who are infected make full recoveries.”
In addition to following health guidelines, one of the most effective ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is early detection. MSU’s COVID-19 Early Detection Program helps identify the possible presence of the virus in people who are asymptomatic. The university is encouraging all faculty, staff and students living in the East Lansing area to volunteer for the program. The more volunteers, the better area health leaders will be able to identify and manage locations that may become hot zones for potential outbreaks.
“Over the past week, we have seen the sharpest spike in Ingham County COVID-19 cases to date. The increase is directly tied to various social gatherings, many of which were over capacity. We cannot allow this to continue. If students do not take precautions to heart, more drastic measures will be required,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “Everyone must be vigilant and must follow safety guidelines. The health department is working in close partnership with the university and the city of East Lansing, but we need the students to join us in our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The university and city of East Lansing have been working together throughout the pandemic. President Stanley and Mayor Aaron Stephens prepared a video discussing off-campus behavior and expectations. MSU men’s basketball Coach Tom Izzo and Stanley also made a video encouraging students to take personal responsibility.
Recently, Stanley held meetings with the leaders of MSU’s registered fraternities and sororities and followed up with a direct communication about expectations for conduct. In addition, the city of East Lansing adopted a mask policy similar to MSU’s requirement — all residents and visitors are now required to wear face coverings both indoors and outdoors in all public spaces in the Downtown Development Authority District.
The university is maintaining a web page with information about positive cases associated with MSU. It is updated weekly on Mondays by 5 p.m.