8 new COVID outbreaks in Michigan schools, colleges. State won’t name them

The number of outbreaks in Michigan schools and colleges is increasing as students return to classrooms and campuses for the fall. (Shutterstock)

Michigan reported eight new outbreaks of COVID 19 in schools and colleges Monday, but still isn’t telling the public where those outbreaks are.

The new outbreaks, discovered between Aug. 20 and 27, included three at colleges and five in K-12 schools. 

That brings the current tally to 14 new and ongoing outbreaks in schools and colleges, compared to 10 a week earlier.


The data are part of a new weekly report on outbreaks in various settings. In the week of Aug. 20-27, there were 93 new outbreaks in settings ranging from bars to offices to social gatherings, up from 70 new outbreaks in the previous report.

Whether those figures represent a troubling increase in the spread of the potentially deadly virus is impossible to say; the state isn’t releasing the number of confirmed coronavirus cases connected to each of those outbreaks.

Michigan health officials define an outbreak as two or more cases connected by place and time to an exposure outside a household.  

Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told Bridge on Monday that the number of cases associated with outbreaks is not currently included in the situation report that is submitted to the state by local health departments.

In Mid-August, Michigan acknowledged at least 14 COVID-19 outbreaks had occurred in the past or were ongoing at schools and universities, but state and local state health officials and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer resisted calls to release details, such as the name of schools where the coronavirus has spread. 

After a Bridge report on the policy, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, told Bridge Michigan it would release the names of schools where outbreaks are occurring after its reporting system is tweaked to require local health departments to provide that information to the state. It’s not clear when that change will be made.

Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown told Bridge by email Monday there was  "no additional information to share at this point outside of what MDHHS has previously provided."

Friday, Michigan’s largest teachers union demanded more transparency from school districts about COVID-19 cases, amid confusion and frustration with state health laws that err on the side of privacy even amid a pandemic.

The report of outbreaks in schools – and the lack of transparency about the size and location of those outbreaks – comes as parents of about 1.5 million Michigan schoolchildren are making decisions about whether to send their children back into classrooms, or continue remote learning.

According to the updated state report Monday, there is one new outbreak in a school in Region 1 (an eight-county region in mid-Michigan including Ingham County); two in Region 2 North (Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties); one in Region 1 South (Wayne, Washtenaw and Monroe); and one in Region 7 (the northern Lower Peninsula). In addition to the five new outbreaks, there are three ongoing outbreaks in Michigan K-12 schools, making a total of eight in K-12 schools.

There are two newly confirmed COVID outbreaks in colleges in Region 6 ( a swath of central Michigan that includes Central Michigan University, where there has been a recent spike in infections, and Ferris State University; and one in Region 8 (the Upper Peninsula). There are also three ongoing outbreaks on college campuses, all in Region 1, which includes Michigan State University, for a total of six new and ongoing outbreaks.

Also of note in the report: 83 new or ongoing coronavirus outbreaks in long-term care facilities, 34 in agricultural settings, which include processing plants; and 30 outbreaks traced to social gatherings. 

Though the Whitmer administration released under pressure the names of individual nursing homes where there were coronavirus cases in April, it has not identified outbreaks at other long-term care facilities.

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Just thinkin'
Mon, 08/31/2020 - 7:23pm

Why are we concerned with where the "out breaks" happen? What will be done to stop a potential spread if we do know where there is an outbreak? Who will be responsible for taking the action and who will oppose it with everything they have?

The Country is divided between those that want to take actions to suppress the spread, then there are those who want a herd immunity response while blaming deaths on the Governor for something they say is nothing more than the flu or cold.

Only one of those scenarios is worthy of consideration. If this is nothing worse than the cold or flu, no one should be blamed for people dying of the cold or flu. NO one ever has, why start now?



Here is a law suit against a nursing home because the operators were telling employees to not wear masks or PPE because it would scare residents. You know, the people they were supposed to be protecting by wearing PPE.


This is what we have to look forward to?

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 9:39am

I can't wait until I can vote for Biden/Harris, very enthusiastically. Give me lovable "sleepy Joe" over unstable idiot any day.

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 9:15am

Are you sure you have your regions correct? You mention Region 7 as northern lower peninsula and then Region 6 encompassing Ferris State University and Central Michigan University. Region 6 is the "Traverse City area" which is typically described as Northern Lower Peninsula and encompasses the northern most part of the tip of the mitt, while Region 7 is actually the "Jackson Region".

Never Ever Trumper
Tue, 09/01/2020 - 9:50am

Remember those nostalgic days when there were cases in the single digits and people were mildly concerned? I remember when Trump didn't want to count the people infected on the cruise ship because it would make him look bad. Remember when there was 1 case and "who knows that person might even recover?"

Those days remind me of where we are with schools today, just small outbreaks, a few here and there.

Testing herd immunity throughout the country means we will have huge spikes everywhere this winter, a huge strain on our ICU capacities. We won't have the luxury of moving equipment and personnel to places most in need because the need will be everywhere.

Now that we have almost 190,000 deaths from covid in the US, it's hard to believe we already forgot how the cases rise exponentially when left unchecked. Sending kids back to school right before the seasonal flu season starts seems to be a way to tease the virus into attacking us, such a dumb idea.

As a never-Trumper Republican, my only question is how will sending our kids to school in-person help our economy?

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 11:14pm

I believe we should be looking at about 220,000 before this is over. That's right on track for this virus.

Unless someone can show that kids in school is overwhelming the health care system, then the better question is why aren't they in school?

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 6:46pm

Don't you think that if this were the public health crisis our esteemed governor were making it out to be they would have named them? They had no problems naming companies where there were outbreaks when they set out to completely destroy the state economy.

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 11:09pm

How many actual infections? How many hospitalizations? What the ages or age groups?

There is so much not reported that the report is meaningless.

Move on, stay the course - so far, everything is as expected.

Mom of school c...
Wed, 09/02/2020 - 9:49am

I wish Whitmer would close Michigan schools down for the time being as he covid is still lurking and causing chaos. Our local public school is conducting in -person education only and that makes it difficult to keep my kids on the same page and in the arena of what their classrooms are learning. My household alone has had scares of covid due to living in a tourist town as well as a family member who has worked with people who tested positive. Once my children go to school I don’t feel confidant that other people’s children will be safe from us or vice versa. I believe that once school starts and the common colds and flus begin for the fall and winter that things will get ugly. So why not avoid all of this and just put in to effect remote teaching only at this point???

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 10:15am

What is an "outbreak"? Is it 1 case or 20 cases?

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 7:48pm

2 or more linked cases

No more hysterics...
Mon, 09/14/2020 - 9:10pm

I'm a little torn with this issue. On one hand, I would like to see more data about the outbreaks. How many were symptomatic, how many hospitalized and what ages?
On the other hand, every new piece of information seems to spark a fresh round of hysteria. The media doesn't differentiate between the symptomatic and asymptomatic. Hospitalized or a couple bad days at home make no difference in the news reports. While I understand the want to know the information, I just don't see how it will serve any good. My kids are in person schooling. The school has a plan for notification if there is an outbreak at OUR school. Everyone else's school is doing the same, I assume. Knowing more than that may just cause more panic.