Driven by University of Michigan students, COVID-19 cases spike in Washtenaw County

We are seeing a serious increase in COVID-19 cases here in Washtenaw County. As MLive reported on Monday, we went from “200 cases the week of October 4-10 to 433 new cases the week of October 11-17, making our county one of the worst in the state when it comes to transmission of the deadly respiratory disease.

On Monday, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported that, as of that date, we had seen 4,229 laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, and 119 deaths. As of yesterday, the number of confirmed cases had grown to 4,301.

Here, from the Washtenaw County Health Department, is the graph showing the number of new cases by week, since the first person was diagnosed with the disease in February.

As for why we’re seeing a surge now, it would appear that we have the University of Michigan to thank for a good deal of it. As the Detroit News reported yesterday, “More than 600 confirmed and probable cases had been reported in the county since Oct. 12, and 61% — or 366 cases — are connected to U-M students living on or off-campus, many in congregate or group settings.”

With 61% of the recent cases being connected directly to U-M students, the Washtenaw County Health Officer Jimena Loveluck moved yesterday to impose a “stay in place” order fro all undergrads at the university. You can read the entire “stay in place” order on the Washtenaw County website, but here’s an excerpt.

PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC STAY IN PLACE ORDER FOR UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN STUDENTS

The Washtenaw County Health Officer issues this Order pursuant to the Michigan Public Health Code, MCL 333.2235, 333.2433, 333.2451 and 333.2453 as it has been determined in collaboration with the University of Michigan that COVID-19 poses an imminent danger to public health and it is necessary to protect the public health from further spread of COVID-19 within Washtenaw County.

…University of Michigan began moving students onto its Ann Arbor, Michigan (Washtenaw County) campus housing on August 24, 2020 and resumed in-person hybrid instruction shortly thereafter pursuant to stringent COVID-19 distancing, mitigation and testing protocols;

As of October 19, 2020, there were 4,229 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all of Washtenaw County since the beginning of the pandemic;

Despite the efforts of Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD), and many in the U-M community, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases among students at the U-M Ann Arbor campus since the start of the fall semester;

There is current evidence that activity at or near the Ann Arbor campus is driven by social gatherings that do not adhere to the MDHHS epidemic orders and WCHD public health orders allowing indoor gatherings of no more than 10 individuals, with face coverings and a sustained distance of 6 feet or more between persons;

COVID-19 cases among 18-24 year-old persons, thus far in Washtenaw County, have not resulted in increased hospitalization or death rates. Additionally, thus far, the increased incidence in 18-24-year-old persons has not been linked to increased incidence in other populations in Washtenaw County. Additional preventive efforts are necessary to ensure that this remains so…

So, more than 1,000 of the University of Michigan’s 31,000-some undergraduates have tested positive for the virus, but, as of right now, there does not appear to be a link to suggest that they are spreading the disease to others in Washtenaw County. And this new stay at home order, according to Loveluck, was intended to stop that from happening. “The situation locally has become critical, and this order is necessary to reverse the current increase in cases,” Loveluck was quoted as having said yesterday. “We must continue to do what we can to minimize the impact on the broader community and to ensure we have the public health capacity to fully investigate cases and prevent additional spread of illness.” [U-M officials have also said that they stay in place order will help them to better do contact tracing.]

Of course, there are many who anticipated this very eventuality. As you may recall, the members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization, for instance, struck earlier this summer in response to the University’s plans to reopen, which they argued at the time would put not only themselves, but the wider community, at serious risk. Here, with more on that, is an excerpt from today’s Detroit News.

…The president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents graduate student instructors and lecturers at UM, criticized the university’s handling of the pandemic in a tweet Tuesday.

“This is what happens when higher education institutions put their financial needs above the safety needs of the community,” Randi Weingarten wrote on Twitter.

In a statement, Graduate Employees’ Organization 3550, which launched the graduate student instructors’ strike, also slammed UM for its response to the pandemic.

“This stay-in-place order supports what students, faculty, and staff have been saying since May: that the plans that were developed and then implemented were not enough to avoid a crisis on U-M’s Ann Arbor campus,” the union said…

As others have pointed out, while the University did have plans to minimize unsafe contact between students, they didn’t really have any mechanism though which to enforce them. And, as there was no real penalty for acting irresponsibly, a good number of U-M undergrads continued doing what they’ve always done, which is acting irresponsibly. And it doesn’t look good for the University, which, also, by the way, has decided to still move forward with the football season.

I still have questions about the consequences for students now, if they’re found to be in violation of the county stay at home order, and to what extent U-M is focused on enforcement, but I guess we’ll know soon enough, as the numbers will tell us how seriously they’re taking this. I’m also curious as to what procedures students will have to go through before they’re allowed to leave Ann Arbor, and head back to their homes, assuming they want to do that. It was bad enough when the University decided to bring in thousands of students from around the world, to Ann Arbor, during a pandemic, possibly bringing in the virus from places where the COVID-19 had spread more aggressively. It’s probably even worse, though, sending infected students back out into the world, taking the disease back with them to their families.

As for how this public health order will effect U-M students, they will be required to say in their residences, unless they are in class, getting food, or doing work that cannot be done remotely, between now and 7:00 AM on November 3. And the University is apparently working to ensure that more of their classes are being taught remotely. According to UM spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald, while 80% of UM’s undergraduate credit hours were already being delivered remotely, the University is working to get that number to 90%.

Oh, and since we’re just about a dozen days away from the election, let’s not forget that Donald Trump told us repeatedly that this disease would just “vanish”.

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39 Comments

  1. John Brown
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    So now we have to trust the Umich not to let it spread into older and more vulnerable age demographics after they’ve failed every other aspect of this test? Look for hospitalization to start increasing in the weeks to come as the inevitable community spread to older townies gradually occurs.

  2. EOS
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    The spike in positive test results coincides with the first week of using a new saliva test that allows significantly more asymptomatic students to be tested. More testing generates more positive tests of persons who don’t have any symptoms. None of the students have needed hospitalization.

  3. Demetrius
    Posted October 21, 2020 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Thousands of 18-22 year-olds, many of whom live in private, off-campus apartments … I can’t see how they’re going to enforce this.

    Also wondering how they’re going to justify different rules for people in the same age group, merely based on student (or non-student) status.

  4. Posted October 22, 2020 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Death Cultist like EOS will not be satisfied until there are dead bodies on the street.

  5. Meta
    Posted October 22, 2020 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Reuters: “‘Please stay home:’ COVID-19 tightens grip on U.S. Midwest”

    Six U.S. states reported record day-over-day increases in COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, according to a Reuters analysis, as infections rose across the Midwest and elsewhere, prompting new clampdowns on residents, schools and businesses.

    Deaths attributed to COVID-19 hit daily records in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Kansas, Hawaii and Wisconsin, Reuters found. Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado and Ohio reported record daily increases in new infections, the tally showed.

    The number of patients in U.S. hospitals suffering from the virus hit 40,000 for the first time since August on Wednesday, according to the analysis.

    “Folks, please stay home,” Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers said in a statement on Wednesday. “Help us protect our communities from this highly-contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”

    Evers said a week-old field hospital in the Milwaukee suburbs had admitted its first patient.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa/please-stay-home-covid-19-tightens-grip-on-u-s-midwest-idUSKBN2762FT

  6. Meta
    Posted October 22, 2020 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Channel 4 Detroit: “Gov. Whitmer on possibility of another Michigan shutdown: ‘We’re at a dangerous moment'”

    Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was asked about the possibility of the state shutting down again due to rising COVID-19 cases, and she called right now “a dangerous moment.”

    On Wednesday, Michigan officials reported 1,597 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as 33 deaths. Before Wednesday’s update, the seven-day moving average for new cases in Michigan was at 1,670 — the highest ever.

    “I’m just going to be frank: Our numbers are not good,” Whitmer said Wednesday at her COVID-19 press briefing. “They’re moving in the wrong direction. We know that our fate can change quickly.”

    Michigan was shut down for months during the first COVID-19 spike. A stay-at-home order was issued March 23 and stayed in effect through June 1 for most of the state. Closures for certain businesses — such as hair salons, movie theaters and bars — lasted much longer.

    Whitmer said the numbers reported right now indicate there will likely be more hospitalizations in the coming weeks.

    “That’s why we are sounding the alarm bell right now,” Whitmer said. “These numbers are moving in the wrong direction. We’re at a dangerous moment where there’s the possibility of it just becoming community spread that becomes out of control.”

    Read more:
    https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/local/2020/10/21/gov-whitmer-on-possibility-of-another-michigan-shutdown-were-at-a-dangerous-moment/

  7. Posted October 22, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Can Whitmer lock us down again? I sure hope so!

    Otherwise, our cases will go up a lot but I am sure folks will still blame her and not the conservatives who are limiting her response options.

    I have resigned myself to staying home other than a couple of outside socialization activities where I will be masked and distant from others. I really want to have Thanksgiving with my family so it is going to be a strict lockdown over here for the two weeks leading up to it! Bleh. All because people are too selfish to wear masks!

  8. EOS
    Posted October 22, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    If masks and social distancing were legitimate means of eliminating viruses why haven’t we previously eliminated influenza, the common cold, and numerous other viruses? Does anyone actually think these cloth/surgical masks will reduce viral infections?

  9. Anonymous
    Posted October 22, 2020 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    If seatbelts and speed limits were legitimate means of eliminating traffic fatalities, then why haven’t we previously eliminated traffic deaths?

    The answer to part two is yes. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore seem to be fairly functional.

  10. Posted October 22, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    EOS, because here in the USA we have never had widespread mask usage. I expect that we will see fewer instances of the flu and colds this year.

    I have just been reading some studies about air travel and so far it looks like air travel can be done safely as long as everyone wears a mask!

  11. Posted October 22, 2020 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    South Korea and the United States has their first positive cases at just about the same time.

    Here’s where each country is as in deaths per capita.

    689 United States
    9 South Korea

  12. Posted October 22, 2020 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    What I thought I had typed…

    South Korea and the United States had their first positive COVID-19 tests at just about the same time.

    Here is where each country is now in deaths per capita.

    689 United States
    9 South Korea

  13. Posted October 22, 2020 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    That’s 9 deaths per million population in South Korea, while the U.S. has 689 deaths per million population.

    EOS, in your alternative universe, how is that explained away?

  14. Posted October 23, 2020 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    iRobert as always the death cult will ignore reality and promote fantasies.

  15. Posted October 23, 2020 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    “Michigan is shut down, it’s like a prison”
    This is the fantasy world that the death cult lives in.

  16. Posted October 23, 2020 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Temperatures are falling, and Many of our neighbors are living outdoors, even with cold weather upon us and during a pandemic.
    Washtenaw Camp Outreach is collecting winter boots, gloves, socks, scarves, coats, and sleeping bags. Donations can be dropped off at Journey of Faith Church (1900 Manchester, A2, near Trader Joe’s). For questions, please contact Rose Marcum-Raugh at Journey of Faith Christian Church at (734)945-7825.
    If you live in Ypsi, you can drop it off at the catholic workers, Peace House Ypsi . They’re at 706 Davis, you can leave donations (of appropriate winter gear) on their porch.

  17. John Brown
    Posted October 23, 2020 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Wobblie,

    Good suggestion for cold weather gear donations. Sadly we always have a significant camping population in the winter and this year many will be even more motivated than usual to avoid the shelters.

  18. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted October 23, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    “Michigan is shut down, it’s like a prison”
    This is the fantasy world that the death cult lives in.

    No, it’s not shut down at all. I don’t know what you are talking about. I live in your world, you see.

  19. Posted October 23, 2020 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Michigan is a lot like a prison. But mostly because of the sort of people that reside here.

  20. Posted October 23, 2020 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    JB and Wobblie, indeed. We do have folks who live outside in the winter for various reasons and they are going to need warm clothes!

    HW, I guess you didn’t watch the debate last night. Trump claimed that Michigan is shut down and is like a prison. Because he lies.

  21. Posted October 23, 2020 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Time to start thinking what to do after the election. His free on-line event looks worth checking out.

    https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/from-the-ground-up-global-gathering-for-climate-justice-tickets-123492698987?fbclid=IwAR07PSLdd6B44qc5aLucoMlUhCjr5rw1AmXHAlE-vv3cGUUMQhJlUfk5wPc

  22. Posted October 23, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Vlad let me know I’ve been ignoring my Puppet duties again. So for those who might want to know what Vlad might have to say.
    “Many of us read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry when we were children and remember what the main character said: “It’s a question of discipline. When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet. … It’s very tedious work, but very easy.”
    I am sure that we must keep doing this “tedious work” if we want to preserve our common home for future generations. We must tend our planet.

    The subject of environmental protection has long become a fixture on the global agenda. But I would address it more broadly to discuss also an important task of abandoning the practice of unrestrained and unlimited consumption – overconsumption – in favour of judicious and reasonable sufficiency, when you do not live just for today but also think about tomorrow.

    We often say that nature is extremely vulnerable to human activity. Especially when the use of natural resources is growing to a global dimension. However, humanity is not safe from natural disasters, many of which are the result of anthropogenic interference. By the way, some scientists believe that the recent outbreaks of dangerous diseases are a response to this interference. This is why it is so important to develop harmonious relations between Man and Nature.”

    http://en.special.kremlin.ru/catalog/keywords/47/events/64261

    Wide ranging comments by Vlad yesterday, not likely to be covered in the corporate media.

  23. Posted October 23, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s Obama and Biden’s fault that Trump is president. Anything that’s gone wrong during Trump’s Administration is Obama and Biden’s fault.

  24. Posted October 23, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s nice in Ann Arbor now that most of the undergrads are off the streets. We should have somebody this years ago.

  25. Posted October 23, 2020 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Damnit!

    “We should have done this years ago!”

  26. Posted October 24, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I assume John Barr Jr. will be driving up to Lansing Tuesday for that super-spreader rally. So, if you are looking to carpool, you can contact him here or on his Facebook page.

  27. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted October 24, 2020 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    “HW, I guess you didn’t watch the debate last night. Trump claimed that Michigan is shut down and is like a prison. Because he lies.”

    I watched it. I’m agreeing with you. Michigan hasn’t been shut down at all. Everyone can go to church, to bars, can have get-togethers in their own home and everything we can do normally. Why is he saying otherwise???

  28. Posted October 24, 2020 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    What did you think about Biden looking at his watch during the debate, HW?

  29. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted October 24, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Didn’t know he looked at his watch. Don’t care. Joe got exposed at the debate as a Green New Dealer. I think it is Agenda 21 by another name. Pack ’em and stack ’em into “smart” surveillance cities; population control.

    They want to declare your home un-environmentally fit and force you into where they want. Your energy does not meet efficiency standards. You’ll have to rebuild or get out. You think I’m crazy but here we are on the precipice of that being the reality.

  30. Jon Bar Sr.
    Posted October 24, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Joe Biden,

    If you read this please call me at my law office. I’d like your advice on how to deal with an embarrassment of a son.

    Yours truly,
    Jon

  31. Posted October 24, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Oh, so you think the very profitable oil industry should continue getting taxpayer money in subsidies. You’re in favor of socialism when it comes to oil industry subsidies. I see.

  32. Posted October 24, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    doubling down on my Putin Puppet duties this week. Excellent interview with Ray McGovern (co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) on lack of evidence on Russiagate and Biden emails.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfmiCfg3uX0&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0jZrn7KYiWVsTCzf6dVHEyH92hYtTDVWMemU-flC45s0dXpzRi7lz1VAQ

  33. Posted October 24, 2020 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Putin has a plan to impact strategic counties and swing the entire election against the popular vote. I assume that’s okay with Wobblie.

    Russian state actors hacked systems containing election information in 2 states: Gov’t officials

    https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/russian-state-actors-hacked-systems-election-information-states/story?id=73799684

    (From ABC News)

  34. Posted October 24, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    HW: “They want to declare your home un-environmentally fit and force you into where they want. Your energy does not meet efficiency standards. You’ll have to rebuild or get out. You think I’m crazy but here we are on the precipice of that being the reality.”

    Yeah, we’re always on the precipice of things aren’t we? We’re still on the precipice of the unsealing of those tens of thousands of incictments too.

  35. Posted October 24, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    If Biden gets elected, you’ll all be locked out of your houses by a new green deal army of enforcers. You’ll be sleeping on your porches! Is that what you want?!

  36. Posted October 24, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    HW, that is an odd fear. I don’t see that happening at all. what I do see happening is the price of solar will continue to drop along with the price of things like geothermal. They will drop to the point where replacing the heating system in a house will make economic sense. Kind of like how when I replaced my old furnace with a newer high-efficiency furnace, it paid for itself in just a couple of years. No one is going to be forced from their homes but they will look around and ask themselves why they are spending hundreds of dollars a month in the winter heating their houses when they could heat their houses almost for free with a greener system.

  37. Posted October 24, 2020 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I am not really sure why so many are so fearful of things like the Green New Deal. In addition to addressing climate change, which btw is a HUGE threat to our economic well-being, the Green New Deal can start addressing some of our wealth inequality issues. It is a two-fer!

    For more about the wealth inequality and wage stagnation see = https://time.com/5888024/50-trillion-income-inequality-america/

  38. Posted October 24, 2020 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    iRobert did you read the article? We see dire headlines, and then what is the substance, malicious actors “may be seeking “. The only “intelligence community” member who is quoted by name is John Ratcliffe. What is his big warning, ” “taken specific actions to influence public opinion” he does not say what actions to influence public opinion more masturbation memes maybe? Oh yeah also,” voter registration information had been obtained” which are fucking public records. I still respect you because you are as old as dirt, and the source of all life demands respect ( I can see Morgan Freeman playing you), but I would have thought you would have become a little more skeptical of the lies and distortions put out about our foreign adversaries. The reality is Vlad wants Biden as President. Biden in pro-New Start (so is Putin).

  39. Posted October 25, 2020 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Gee, there’s a fucking shock-a-roo. Not.

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