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Confirmation of cases in Michigan prompts self-quarantines in region

Luke Froncheck and Savanah Kaechele

J-Ad News Service

The recent confirmation of two cases of COVID-19 in Michigan prompted action at Kellogg Community College, where an instructor is under self-quarantine due to possible exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“As of this moment, everything is going on as normal,” KCC Chief Communication Officer Eric Greene said Wednesday.

In an email message to students Tuesday, KCC officials reported: “As of today, KCC has one instructor who is self-quarantined due to a possible exposure based on recent travel to an area in the United States with at least one confirmed case. That instructor is working from home and fulfilling all responsibilities with no disruption to students.”

Greene said the instructor has experienced no symptoms of the virus and made the personal decision to self-quarantine.

Over the past few weeks, college officials have been discussing what actions should be taken in the event COVID-19 is confirmed locally. Several institutions have opted to continue teaching remotely via the internet in the wake of the disease, including: Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, The University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University, Oakland University, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.

As of Wednesday, Greene said, classes will continue, but, if the virus continues to spread, officials will strongly consider moving all classes online and continuing instruction digitally.

That evening, KCC officials announced they were suspending all non-critical college-related travel through April 30.

KCC is defining critical travel as “any travel sponsored by or conducted on behalf of the college – to any destination by any means – that is necessary for institutional compliance, individual job requirements or required training.”

Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley alerted MSU students and families via email Wednesday, “Early this morning we learned of an individual linked to our campus which the Ingham County Health Department is currently investigating and monitoring. Due to this, we are now taking additional steps to keep our community safe. … Effective today at noon, MSU is suspending face-to-face instruction in lectures, seminars and classroom settings and moving coursework to virtual instruction.

“This suspension of in-person classes will last until Monday, April 20, and we will re-evaluate this decision on an ongoing basis, sharing additional updates or modifications as more information becomes available.”

The campus remains open at this time, he said, however, officials are evaluating large events.

“We will provide more information soon and urge everyone to consider the health implications of large gatherings and evaluate the essential nature of the events,” he wrote. “We will not be scheduling new events with more than 100 individuals in a confined space during for this time period unless there are special circumstances.”

In a second self-quarantine situation in the region, Barry-Eaton District Health Department officials were made aware Monday of a potential COVID-19 concern at Greyhound Intermediate School in Eaton Rapids after it became known that a school employee had returned to work after traveling in Italy.

Travelers returning from countries with widespread, sustained transmission of COVID-19 (Italy, Iran, China and South Korea) are advised to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, according to the health department.

The school employee has not had symptoms of COVID-19 at this time, however the individual was at work for one school day March 9 and is now under self-quarantine at home for the remainder of the 14-day period. Health department officials said they believe the risk to students, staff and visitors is minimal.

Health department staff have interviewed the school employee and will be in daily contact during the self-quarantine period and is working with school to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

People who are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 do not need to be tested at this time, according to a news release from the health department.

The Michigan Department of Corrections reported a series of measures being taken to protect its staff, the prison population and the community as the first presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the state.

MDOC officials said that, until further notice, anyone going into a prison facility will be asked a series of screening questions and may have his or her temperature checked before being allowed entrance into a prison. This includes all staff, visitors, volunteers and contractors.

The reaction to COVID-19 is having an impact on the courts, as well.

State court officials announced that hearings, cases and trials would be adjourned upon request of any party involved.

Some local school district officials are exploring their options in the event that classes need to be cancelled.

Hastings Area Schools Superintendent Dan Remenap said they were awaiting further information from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

During a press conference Wednesday evening, Whitmer called for the public to remain proactive and practice good hygiene. She discouraged individuals from gathering in groups of more than 100 people. She called for schools and institutions across the state to consider stemming large gatherings, such as sporting events and assemblies and called for colleges and universities to consider moving to digital teaching.

Maple Valley Schools is sending parents letters asking about their level of internet access. For rural districts where not all families have access to high-speed internet, moving to internet-only classes may be a challenge.

Maple Valley also is looking at ways it can continue to provide meals to students if school is closed.

“We want to make sure we can still feed our kids,” Superintendent Katherine Bertolini said.

The district is looking at the summer meal program as a possible template.

Response to Tuesday's confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Michigan prompted discussion across the area.

The issue of disease prevention was raised at the Hastings City Council meeting Monday.

“With the coronavirus, and since we serve so much of the public, we are working on a plan to do everything we can to keep the public healthy in our building and our staff healthy,” Hastings Public Library Director Peggy Hemerling told the city council.

Council member Therese Maupin-Moore asked what the council was doing for disease prevention in the city hall.

“We’ve had someone who was diagnosed with it [COVID-19] four hours away. It’s on its way. It will be here,” she said.  “I’m just concerned about our staff being sick.”

City Clerk Jane Saurman said the city is providing hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap in the building.

“It’s not just about the coronavirus,” Maupin-Moore noted, “it’s about any virus, in general. I just want to make sure we are protecting our staff.”

Spectrum Health officials Wednesday announced that downloadable materials, travel tips, videos and other information can be found on their website to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The disease is now present in Michigan,” Darryl Elmouchi, chief medical officer, Spectrum Health System, and president of Spectrum Health Medical Group, said. “We want to help ease fears and provide our community with the information people need to prevent this illness from spreading.”

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