KALAMAZOO, MI — The Sindecuse Health Center at Western Michigan University reported 50 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
The 50 new cases come from the results of WMU community members that were tested on Sept. 24-25. The university has been updating data on its online COVID-19 Dashboard each Tuesday and Friday evening.
The university reported 84 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, Sept. 25. Those new cases reported on Tuesday brings the university’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 438 since students returned to campus in August.
Despite the rising number of cases, the university has said it has no plans to enact a campus-wide shutdown or send students home. The university has said that decision takes into account the concerns of students whose classes require them to be in-person to remain on track to graduate.
Read more: WMU still confident in university’s return plan despite rising coronavirus cases, now at 163
Should there be a need to make changes to what is open on WMU’s campus, “targeted areas” will be shut down rather than the entire university, spokesperson Paula Davis said previously. Davis pointed to the shutdown of athletics activities on Sept. 10 as an example of this. A three-day shutdown of a specific academic program that was found to have a cluster of cases was another example the university listed.
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 that 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 last week that the increase in cases was expected as a result of the return to campus 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.
On Monday, Sept. 21, 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,” Montgomery said in the email. “Before we could call on Sindecuse to address the matter, the staff was already working on a solution.”
Montgomery said that, since the issue has been identified, Sindecuse has adopted policies and practices to expedite appointments and has “doubled” the center’s daily testing volume.
The 7-day average number of tests conducted at WMU dropped in September following the university’s five-day testing event at the Student Recreation Center on its main campus, which ran from Aug. 27 through Aug. 31. At that event, 1,128 people were tested over the course of five days.
Days after the event, Sindecuse was averaging 235 tests per week. That figure has not risen above 192.8 since, and the 7-day average of tests conducted has stayed under 150 tests 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 again.
The health center has conducted 2,505 tests in September so far — 298 of which were administered the day after the testing event on Sept. 1, and 866 that were given from Sept. 21-25. That equates to about 10% of the 23,363 students enrolled at WMU.
The university 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.
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