University Housing confirms two more clusters of COVID-19 in campus residence halls

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 1:03pm

University Housing confirmed additional clusters of COVID-19 in campus residence halls.

University Housing confirmed additional clusters of COVID-19 in campus residence halls. Buy this photo
Dominick Sokotoff/Daily

University Housing has identified two more clusters of COVID-19 cases at on-campus residence halls, this time at the University of Michigan’s Mosher-Jordan and Alice Lloyd Residence Halls.

According to a notice posted online Tuesday, 11 positive cases have been reported in Mosher-Jordan since Aug. 31, predominantly on the fifth floor of the building. 

Another notice issued Tuesday said there have been 15 positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Alice Lloyd as of then, with cases largely on the third and fourth floors. 

University Housing has “determined that targeted testing on this floor is prudent at this time,” both notices read. All residents of the fifth floor of Mosher-Jordan and the third and fourth floors of Alice Lloyd are required to get tested.

In an email to The Michigan Daily, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen confirmed the clusters at Mosher-Jordan and Alice Lloyd.

“New clusters have been identified in residence halls Mosher Jordan and Alice Lloyd,” Broekhuizen wrote. “Targeted testing is required and being arranged for residents on certain floors of these residence halls. All known positive cases and close contacts in the residence halls have been moved into quarantine or isolation. This occurs before we post the community notices to our dashboard involving residence halls.”

In an interview with The Daily, Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, public information officer for the Washtenaw County Health Department, said the county is unable to confirm individual locations of cluster outbreaks. She added that there is not a specific definition used to describe a cluster versus an outbreak, noting that both are essentially the idea of multiple cases connected to one another.

“University settings, because people tend to live in close quarters, there’s a lot more challenges in terms of controlling that spread,” Ringler-Cerniglia said.

The cases at Mosher-Jordan and Alice Lloyd follow a cluster identified at South Quad Residence Hall on Sept. 17. The initial notice reporting the cluster at South Quad listed 19 positive cases at the dorm, concentrated on the sixth and eighth floors.

University Health Services tested all students living on the sixth and eighth floors at South Quad in response to the cluster there. All 220 tests administered came back with negative results.

The University’s COVID-19 dashboard, which has been updated since it was first released in August to include case counts at specific dorms in response to demands from resident advisers, shows 23 cases at South Quad. The totals at residence halls are supposed to be updated weekly, but the numbers available as of Wednesday morning are from Sept. 19. 

The dashboard currently shows only eight cases of COVID-19 in Mosher-Jordan and five in Alice Lloyd. Of the 16 residence halls listed individually, only two — Baits II Residence Hall and the Betsy Barbour/Helen Newberry Residence Halls — do not have any positive cases.

Broekhuizen said the totals for the residence halls on the dashboard would be changed on Wednesday to reflect the new data.

“That is updated weekly, and should be updated later today,” Broekhuizen wrote.

According to the dashboard, there have been 443 cases on campus since Aug. 30, the day before the start of the fall semester. Since the beginning of the week, 618 tests have been conducted as of Wednesday morning, with a 2.1% positivity rate.

The dashboard initially did not include results of COVID-19 tests done off-campus, causing complaints about a lack of transparency. Some community members argued that the numbers reported on the dashboard were an undercount that failed to accurately capture the extent of the virus’ spread in the community. Public health experts have criticized the University’s approach to testing, as research has shown widespread, randomized testing is necessary for colleges to safely reopen.

Cases from outside testing were added to the dashboard on Thursday, showing a “significant increase” that more than doubled the total number of positive cases at the University since classes started.

A Sept. 24 update posted on the Campus Blueprint website explained the impact of the new data. 

“University officials have seen a significant increase in positive cases this week with the majority of the increase the result of students being tested at off-campus facilities,” the update reads. “U-M launched its enhanced COVID-19 dashboard today to reflect new datasets, including outside testing from the county. This additional data caused a jump in cases.”

The University’s contact tracing system has also faced criticism amid doubt that students can be counted on to provide accurate information about possible exposures. 

Members of the campus community with symptoms should isolate and contact UHS at 734-764-8320 for a free COVID-19 test. People with mild symptoms can take the University’s online assessment to begin the testing process.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 after visiting an off-campus testing site should report their case here.

Managing News Editors Leah Graham and Sayali Amin can be reached at leahgra@umich.edu and sayalia@umich.edu. Daily News Editor Barbara Collins can be reached at bcolli@umich.edu


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