Western Michigan University reports 84 new coronavirus cases

KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University reported 84 new coronavirus cases to its COVID-19 Dashboard Friday, Sept. 25.

Friday’s new batch of cases pushes the school’s total number of cases to 388 since students returned to campus back in August.

The data released Friday is from cases that were reported Sept. 21-23., as the university has been updating data from Sindecuse Health Center in its dashboard on Tuesday and Friday evenings each week.

WMU President Edward Montgomery sent an email to students and faculty on Monday, Sept. 21, to update community members where the university stands in its Safe Return Plan, saying the institution is currently in Phase 2 of its plan.

“Community spread is a factor that we continue to watch carefully,” Montgomery said. “We assess our data at regularly scheduled meetings between WMU’s COVID-19 Response Coordination team leaders and our county health officials. At its most recent meeting, the group concluded that we are seeing evidence of increasing disease transmission among WMU students.”

Montgomery told WMU community members that the increase in cases was expected as a result of the back-to-campus return as well as Labor Day weekend.

“The majority of the positive cases seem to be stemming from off-campus living situations and off-campus social gatherings,” Montgomery said in the email.

Mona Shores High School announced in an email to parents this week that two students tested positive for coronavirus, and are believed to have been exposed during a weekend visit to Western Michigan University.

Health officials believe both students were exposed to the virus after visiting Western Michigan University the weekend of Sept. 12, the school said.

On Monday, the university announced that Sindecuse Health Center has expanded its testing capabilities.

“Sindecuse had a handful of days where staff determined that capacity was not sufficient… Before we could call on Sindecuse to address the matter, the staff was already working on a solution,” Montgomery said in an email.

Montgomery said that since the issue has been identified, Sindecuse has adopted policies and practices to expedite appointments and increase daily testing volume.

“Through these measures, Sindecuse has more than doubled its testing capability without delay,” Montgomery said.

The average number of tests over a 7-day period plummeted in September following the university’s five-day testing event at the Student Recreation Center on its main campus from Aug. 27 through Aug. 31. At that event, 1,128 people were tested over five days.

Days after the testing event, Sindecuse recorded averaging 235 tests per week. That measure hasn’t made it above 192.8 since, and has stayed under 150 tests over a 7-day period for a large part of September.

Since Sept. 14, when Sindecuse was giving an average of 105.4 tests per week, the number of tests being administered is slowly increasing.

The health center has tested 2,227 people in September, 298 of which were administered on Sept. 1 and 588 that were given from Sept. 21-23. Less than 10% of the 23,363 students at WMU have been tested for coronavirus in September.

When asked if it’s possible to know how many people on Western’s campus are actually infected, Kalamazoo County Health Director Jim Rutherford told MLive last week that he doesn’t think that level of information can be accurately determined. “You would have to have daily testing of your entire population, and that’s going to change over time,” Rutherford said.

WMU has encouraged students living on-campus to seek testing but students are not required to do so. Currently, students are required to take a daily online survey, which grants them access to enter buildings on campus.

At Grand Valley State University, students will now be incentivized with $200 in tuition funds to take a coronavirus health screening test every day for the remainder of the fall semester, GVSU said in a Facebook post.

GVSU students were recently ordered to stay in their on- or off-campus residence for two weeks because of a surge in the number of coronavirus cases. GVSU has reported more than 600 positive cases since students returned to campus.

WMU students and community members seeking testing at Sindecuse can call the health center to set up an appointment at 269-387-3287, or set up an appointment through the Sindecuse online patient portal.

Also on MLive:

Western Michigan University freshmen ‘rolling with the punches’ as they move in during a pandemic

University of Michigan reopening recreational sports facilities Sept. 28 after rise in coronavirus cases

After update, University of Michigan coronavirus dashboard shows more than 100 positive cases in last 2 weeks

Michigan State University, Ingham County work through issue in coronavirus data reporting

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