The request follows at least 342 confirmed cases of the virus being linked back to the university since Aug. 24, when students began returning to the campus in East Lansing ahead of the start of the fall semester, the university and the local health department said.
Though the majority of classes at the school are being offered online, many students returned to the East Lansing area because they had binding off-campus leases or wanted to physically return to the university community, the Ingham County Health Department said.
“This is a serious development, and MSU is committed to doing everything possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” university physician Dr. David Weismantel said in a statement to students.
If the number of cases linked back to the university continues to rise, the quarantine could become part of a mandatory emergency order, Weismantel warned.
“All of us are responsible not only for our own health but also for that of the community, especially its most vulnerable members,” said Weismantel. “More than 6,500 Michigan residents have already died from COVID-19. Further, what happens right now will significantly influence decisions on how much of the spring semester will be conducted in person or remotely.”
The quarantine, which went into effect on Saturday, will be lifted just before midnight on Saturday, Sept. 26.
All of us are responsible not only for our own health but also for that of the community, especially its most vulnerable members.
MSU physician Dr. David Weismantel
At least one-third of the new cases have been connected to off-campus parties and social gatherings, including fraternities and sororities. This has prompted an investigation by the health department to see if additional action is needed for student houses that are licensed for more than 10 unrelated people, the school said.
“This is an urgent situation,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail said in a statement. “The exponential growth of COVID-19 cases must stop.”
Vail warned that the county will face dire consequences “for months to come” if immediate action isn’t taken to help prevent the virus’s spread.
East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens echoed that message of urgency.
“We are urging students to understand the imperative role that they play in stopping this community spread and, ultimately, saving lives,” he said in a statement. “While we know many students are doing the right thing, we are still seeing far too many social gatherings in the off-campus community, where individuals are in close contact without face coverings.”