A county on Monday ordered a two-week quarantine for 23 fraternities and sororities and seven large rental houses near Michigan State University following a coronavirus outbreak that a local health official said was turning into a “crisis.”
The quarantine, which is mandatory, means students or others living in the buildings cannot leave except for medical care or necessities that cannot be delivered. The houses have known cases or exposure to COVID-19.
“I do not take this lightly, but there is an outbreak centered on Michigan State University and it is quickly becoming a crisis,” Ingham County Heath Officer Linda Vail said in a statement. “The surge in cases we have seen over the past few weeks is alarming.”
Vail acted two days after she urged all MSU students living locally to voluntarily self-quarantine for two weeks, citing at least 342 cases among people affiliated with the university during the previous 16 days.
She said the outbreak was being fueled by a lack of cooperation and compliance from some students at the school, which is offering online-only instruction after encouraging students to not live in dorms and instead stay home. People who willfully violate the order could face six months in jail, a $200 fine or both.
Since Aug. 24, two days before the start of classes, Ingham’s COVID-19 case count has jumped by 52%, according to the county. A third of the county’s cases since March were reported in the past three weeks.
Also Monday, the state health department for the first time released a list of school-related outbreaks, defined as two or more non-household cases with a link by place and time indicating a shared exposure. It will be posted weekly and include both pre-K-12 schools and colleges. There were 28 outbreaks on the state website, including 11 identified last week.
Michigan State had the largest new outbreak: 203 students. Grand Valley State University had the biggest ongoing outbreak: 438 students.
“Parents and students should know that if their school is listed, their local health department and school are already investigating. Based on that investigation, people are contacted individually if they were possibly exposed to COVID-19 at school,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and chief health deputy.
The data does not include students or staff exposed to the virus outside a school building and not thought to have spread it in the school due to quarantine or self-isolation. The state stressed it is not a complete picture of school outbreaks due to under-reporting.