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CMU President, faculty union say in-person classes are working

Central Michigan University

Cases of COVID-19 connected to the return of students to Mount Pleasant have reached 126, with an additional 8 probable cases.

Health department officials say the cases are connected to parties held as students returned to Mount Pleasant. Cases have yet to spike outside that group, officials said.

Isabella County is testing 117 people every day, according to the state’s tracking website. The 7-day positive test rate went from 1.5% on August 15th to 5.7% on August 24th.

Steve Hall is a Health Officer with the Central Michigan Health Department. He said there’s not an exact number of cases that would cause them to call for CMU to shutdown.

“When you think about an incubation rate of 2-14 days when you get past that, are we seeing those numbers go down? Now if we start to see things continuing to go up, where you continue to see more spread in the community then we will be a little more concerned.”

There is currently an emergency order banning outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people in Mount Pleasant and Union Township.

CMU President Bob Davies has also called on the suspension of in-person Greek activities and threatened fines or even suspension for students who host large gatherings.

“The biggest thing is that the community still take the precautions necessary,” Hall said. “I know we’re all worn out from this, we’ve been dealing with this since March. But if we’re going to get through this we’re going to get through this together. We can do that if we all take precautions.”

Jason Kennedy is the Chief Steward of the Union of Teaching Faculty on Campus. He said the broad consensus from membership is that in-person instruction is working. He said he believes it’s possible the campus can keep case numbers down.

“All of us want to be in person. The connection that we feel with our students is why we do what we do. The reality is that right now, in class, things are working.”

Kennedy said if cases continue to tick upward, however, that could change things.

“We also need to be realistic,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen to provide more opportunities to spread is going to be potentially problematic. We just want the university to keep our health and safety, the health and safety of our community, in mind.”

In an email to students on Friday, CMU President Bob Davies expressed gratitude to students for their efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The letter also outlined how the decision-making process might work for triggering a switch to online-only instruction. The email noted that the university is regularly reviewing capacity in its quarantine residence hall, percentage of CMU cases within the campus community, and the overall trend line of cases in the campus community.

Specific numbers that might trigger a switch to online instruction were not included.

The university will also begin offering on-campus COVID testing starting next week. Additionally, students enrolled in all online classes or who have made arrangements with teachers to finish their classes remotely can end their housing contract at any time during the fall semester without paying the $500 contract cancellation fee.

“At this point, we are not seeing community spread from existing cases,” Davies wrote. “The data seems to uphold our decision to continue to offer in-person instruction.”