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Health, Science and Environment

Mount Pleasant ranked No. 2 metro area in country for new COVID-19 cases

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The New York Times

Michigan cities are five of the country’s top six for new COVID-19 cases per capita, according to analysis by the New York Times. Mount Pleasant, home of Central Michigan University, is No. 2 in that data.

Dr. Jennifer Morse is the medical director for the Central Michigan District Health Department, which includes Mount Pleasant. She said the ranking fits with what she and her staff are finding from testing and contact tracing.

“We’re seeing a lot of very rapidly growing large outbreaks,” Morse said.

Many of those outbreaks stem from the same sources that have seeded infections since the pandemic began, she said, like youth sports, manufacturing plants, and family gatherings.

But Morse said one source sticks out as a newcomer: Central Michigan University.

“Since the fall, the number of cases we were seeing from CMU was a very small proportion of the county as a whole,” she said. But that’s no longer true. “Right now, it’s just a ton of CMU.”

The average number of daily new cases on campus has increased every day since March 30 and is more than double what it was a week ago, according to the university’s figures.

CMU spokesperson Heather Smith said the increase in the university’s cases isn’t any worse than what’s happening across Michigan. The spokesperson said the CMU is focusing on rapid testing and contact tracing to track down new cases and prevent them from spreading.

CMU plans to hold in-person graduation ceremonies next month. Smith did not directly answer whether the university was reevaluating those plans in light of the growing prevalence of COVID-19 in the community, but she did say that administrators “will continue to make operational choices based on the best information available at the time.”

Morse said the trend is reversible, with a critical mass of people following guidance to wear masks in public, avoid large gatherings, and stick to quarantine rules.

But she said she feels people are increasingly ignoring that advice, just as more contagious coronavirus variants are making those methods of controlling the virus even more important.

“I don’t know if people are listening anymore,” she said. “I’ve gotten a bit negative, I think, and I just -- I don’t feel like people care anymore, and it really breaks my heart.”

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