There are new or ongoing coronavirus outbreaks at 11 Michigan K-12 schools and 13 colleges, according to data released Monday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Total positive cases now exceed 1,400, with the vast majority at colleges and universities.
Among the newly identified K-12 outbreaks: a Big Brother Big Sister program at Birmingham Groves High School, a Christian elementary, a private college preparatory high school and K-12 schools across much of the lower half of the state.
Among colleges, there are large outbreaks at Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University and Adrian College. There are four outbreaks in Greek houses at Michigan Tech in the Upper Peninsula.
On Monday, Ingham County health officials concerned about the rapid growth in coronavirus cases around the campus of MSU issued a mandatory quarantine for 23 fraternities and sororities and seven large off-campus, large student houses.
The vast majority of reported cases released by the state Monday were in colleges and universities – 1,379 confirmed cases on 13 campuses.
There were 33 confirmed infections reported in new or ongoing outbreaks in 11 Michigan K-12 schools.
State officials acknowledge those figures are likely an undercount, and Bridge Michigan was able to independently confirm at least one ongoing outbreak at a rural Michigan school that is missing from the state’s list.
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Monday’s release was the first time state health officials have identified schools with outbreaks following efforts by Bridge Michigan and other media outlets for public access to this information. Previously, the state released weekly reports on the number of outbreaks in schools, but did not identify the schools or the number of people infected.
State health officials define a COVID-19 outbreak as two or more cases with a link by place and time indicating a shared exposure outside of a household (college residence halls, Greek houses and large shared apartments are not considered households). “New” outbreaks are those that have not been reported by the state in previous weeks; “ongoing” outbreaks are those that have been reported before and had at least one new confirmed infection in the past 14 days.
The reporting is a tally of outbreaks as of Sept. 10. The state plans to release a new list of school and college outbreaks each Monday, based on reports from local health departments. So far, the state has declined to identify outbreaks more quickly than that. Because schools are identified only on a weekly basis, the current disclosure system can result in public notification delays of between four and 10 days.
A statement released Monday by the Michigan State Police sought to assure parents that if a child’s school is listed, “the local health department and school are investigating and will contact you directly if you or your child was possibly exposed to coronavirus at school. Please note that students or staff who were exposed to COVID-19 outside of the school grounds AND are not thought to have spread the disease in the school grounds (due to quarantine, self-isolation, etc.) are not included in the data.”
“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, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for the state. “Michigan schools are working hard to maintain a safe environment while also providing quality education.”
The state police statement acknowledges that “many factors, including the lack of ability to conduct effective contact tracing in certain settings, may result in underreporting of outbreaks.”
One K-12 outbreak missing from Monday’s report is Pewamo-Westphalia, which switched to fully online learning at its middle/high school Sept. 8 because of an outbreak at the school. According to Superintendent Jeff Wright, there are currently six students who have tested positive at the school, which has an enrollment of about 490. A request for explanation about the absence of the mid-Michigan school from the list was not immediately available.