Central Michigan started class Monday. By Friday: 38 coronavirus cases

Just five days after classes began, Central Michigan University officials warned the school could switch to remote learning if “selfish” students keep throwing parties. (File photo)

By Friday, the end of the first week of classes at Central Michigan University, there were 38 confirmed cases of coronavirus connected to students, and the college was warning that the campus could switch to remote learning if “selfish” students keep throwing parties.

The number of coronavirus cases connected to CMU, which requires students to check in on an app daily to report possible symptoms, increased from five last week, to 38 this week, according to Melissa DeRoche, spokesperson for the Central Michigan District Health Department, which provides health services for Isabella County, where the CMU campus is located.

Related stories:

Shortly after the health department released a statement about the surge of cases, CMU issued a warning to students that they could face fines, or even suspension from school, if they attend large parties.

“Without fail, at other institutions nationwide, large weekend parties have resulted in an increase in positive COVID-19 diagnoses — and in some, the shutdown of their entire campuses,” said the letter, signed by Tony Voisin, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs. 

“The actions of a few selfish students have ruined an entire year for thousands of their peers. The same will happen here at CMU if students continue to engage in this type of reckless, irresponsible behavior.”

A video of hundreds of young people reportedly streaming out of student apartments after police shut down a large party late Thursday night was posted to Twitter.

“I don’t think anyone is surprised by any of this,” said Matt Johnson, associate professor of educational leadership at CMU. “Anybody who’s been looking at the science and understands college student behavior, we knew what was going to happen. I’ve never wanted to be wrong more in my life.”

Health officials in Washtenaw and Ingham counties — homes to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, respectively — banned gatherings of more than 25 people around campus this week. Those who violate the health orders faced a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $200, according to the health departments.

Officials with the Central Michigan Health District also asked students Friday to cooperate with contact tracers if they are called and isolate themselves if they are asked to do so.

Dr. Jennifer Morse, medical director for the health department, said contact tracers found that some CMU students held “basically their normal welcome week activities and house parties, so we’re just seeing explosive numbers of cases.”

While some students take COVID-19 precautions seriously, others do not, Morse said. 

“The population is challenging because they just do not adjust their lifestyle whatsoever,” Morse said. “I’m not going to make a universal judgement, but, you know, they have house parties where large groups of people are in very close quarters for large amounts of time.”

Local health departments have reported at least 14 school-related COVID-19 outbreaks in Southeast Michigan and northward on its east side, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. At least 11 were ongoing or new outbreaks this week, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, told Bridge Michigan on Friday.

It’s not clear which were K-12 schools and which were colleges and universities.

Khaldun said that a lag in reporting and an outdated surveillance system hinders state efforts to quickly get school outbreak information. 

The CMU cases appear to be yet another outbreak; Isabella County sits just west of regions that MDHHS named.

CMU’s Johnson said he taught face-to-face classes this week, and that students wore masks and socially distanced. “I didn't hear of a single incidence where a student didn’t do what they were supposed to on campus,” Johnson said. “The problem is, what do they do after they leave our class?”

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, both quickly pivoted to online learning recently after a surge of coronavirus cases in the first weeks of classes. Johnson said he wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens at some Michigan colleges.

“The people who said this was never going to work, it seems to be coming to fruition,” Johnson said. “Now the question is: How long can you contain [an outbreak] before you pivot to most or totally remote.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Fri, 08/21/2020 - 8:52pm

Amazingly when you mandate testing constantly you find more cases...which is just what the fear mongers want. The truth is, that hospitalizations and deaths are still very low and have essentially flatlined. This is now a “casedemic”...not a pandemic. If more cases haven’t equaled more death proportional to months ago...then this is a non issue and signals that the virus has either weakened or we’ve reached some level of herd immunity. Either way, it’s pretty much over.

Sun, 08/23/2020 - 4:40pm

Jay, it's amazing you're still promoting that nonsense, but then again, Trump says the "deep state" in the agencies (FDA, NIH) he runs are preventing a vaccine until after the election. LMAO

It's funny that even other advanced countries around the world, like Germany, seem to be (in Trump's Qanon mind) holding up on a vaccine just to spite and defeat Trump. The whole free market around the world is holding up on making tremendous profits just so Trump will not be reelected. LMAO

It begs the question, if Biden wields SO MUCH power/influence/authority in the world, then shouldn't HE be our US president, given how weak and ineffective Trump seems?

Sun, 08/23/2020 - 4:41pm

Jay, so if we stop testing for cancer, we'll have less deaths from cancer?

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 2:11pm

This has already happened. Cancer + Covid is a covid death, not cancer. Haven't you heard?

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 9:04pm

Seriously? What did everyone expect? It's not rocket science. Virus+Economy+Alcohol+Hormones=Havoc

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 9:21pm

"Health officials in Washtenaw and Ingham counties — homes to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, respectively — banned gatherings of more than 25 people around campus this week. Those who violate the health orders faced a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $200, according to the health departments."

Wait, isn't it illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol? How many college students get tickets for that? NONE, but you expect to enforce the gathering laws, limits of 25 people?

Jake K
Sat, 08/22/2020 - 9:10am

And the irresponsible college student might be playing an import part in political elections? God help us all.

God help us, indeed
Sun, 08/23/2020 - 4:43pm

Well, to be fair, it's Trump who is calling the "Boomer Remover" the "China Flu". With a role model like that, can we expect our youngins to act maturely?

Reality is calling
Mon, 08/24/2020 - 6:31am

When were these 38 cases infected?
Oh, that's right. No one knows. They could have had it months ago, but since they *just* tested positive, they are "new cases".
All of you people eating up this fake news are brain dead.

Polish Falcon
Mon, 08/24/2020 - 10:19am

S O WHAT!! WHO CARES...REALLY? A virus tends to be transmitted...fact. Are we going to report every case of influenza? Every cold?

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 10:23am

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Campuses are probably relatively safe, but you can't control off-campus activity. Start expelling reckless students. Better still, all classes should be online, unless absolutely necessary.