OTTAWA COUNTY, MI – New coronavirus cases have dropped significantly at Grand Valley State University since the start of its 14-day, stay-at-home order but health officials say not enough to fully ease up on restrictions when the order ends at midnight.
The Ottawa County Department of Public Health announced Thursday, Oct. 1 restrictions on student gatherings in a new two-week “Staying Safe” order.
The mandate, which will go into effect Friday, Oct. 2 until Friday, Oct. 16, places the following restrictions on student gatherings, which include parties, group gatherings, study sessions or group walking:
- Up to four guests may visit student living units and residences, while observing strict preventive measures, including social distancing and wearing face coverings.
- Students may not gather in groups greater than four people in all indoor common areas on the Allendale campus, with the exception of classes or university-organized academic activities.
- All outdoor, non-university gatherings cannot exceed 10 people and everyone should wear face coverings unless eating or drinking.
- Face coverings continue to be required indoors and outdoors. Students who are alone outside may choose not to wear a face covering, but should be prepared to immediately use it when encountering another person.
The mandate will begin after midnight on Thursday, when the current stay-home order expires. The health department issued the emergency “Staying in Place” order Sept. 16 in response to escalating coronavirus cases tied to the university.
RELATED: Emergency stay-home order issued for Grand Valley State University students
Since the start of the stay-home order, the number of new positive cases have dropped significantly. The university’s 7-day daily average is currently about 10 new cases per day, compared to about 34 new cases per day on Sept. 16.
GVSU saw its peak of 46 new cases per day on Sept. 6, according to university data.
The order was issued specifically for Grand Valley students living in Allendale, which has seen cases surge since students returned for the fall semester.
Allendale Township, which makes up 8.5% of the Ottawa County population, made up 75% of the county’s positive cases one week after GVSU classes started on Aug. 27.
Allendale cases showed significant decline after the stay-home order was implemented, now making up 27% of the county’s cases, health officials say.
“It is gratifying to see that the partnership with the county and the university community is resulting in a dramatic decline in new cases,” GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella said in a prepared statement.
Despite the overa;l drop in cases, COVID-19 has continued to spread among Grand Valley students, health officials said Thursday.
“Most cases continue to be among (GVSU students living in on-campus and off-campus housing) and appear to be driven by congregate living and congregate gathering without preventive precautions,” the news release said.
There are currently 63 “active” cases – or cases reported in the last 10 days – in off-campus students in Ottawa County, according to the university’s data dashboard.
Grand Valley has 122 currently active cases out of a total of 946 university-related cases reported since Aug. 1.
There are 27 active cases for on-campus students, 30 cases for off-campus students who live outside Ottawa County, one faculty case and one staff case, data shows.
Health officials have also seen improvements in contact tracing efforts among students, according to the news release. When the stay-home order was first issued, the health department said GVSU students were underreporting close contacts or refusing to disclose contacts.
Since then, students have reported more close contacts to health officials, from an average of 1.6 close contacts reported per case during the week of Sept. 12 to a current average of 2.9 contacts per case.
By comparison, Ottawa County residents with COVID-19 report an average of 4.9 contacts per case.
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS:
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nosewhile in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. See an explanation of what that means here.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
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