East Quad dining hall employee tests positive for coronavirus

Thursday, March 19, 2020 - 12:24pm

A cook in the dining hall of East Quad Residence Hall at the University of Michigan has tested positive for COVID-19.

A cook in the dining hall of East Quad Residence Hall at the University of Michigan has tested positive for COVID-19. Buy this photo
Madeline Hinkley/Daily

A cook in the dining hall of East Quad Residence Hall at the University of Michigan has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to an email sent by Alasia Tardy, East Quad MDining assistant manager, to employees of East Quad’s Blue Café.

“The rumors are true … a cook in EQ tested positive for the virus,” Tardy wrote.

The email does not specify the risk of exposure for students who have eaten recently at the dining hall or for those who work in MDining. It is unclear whether East Quad will require students to move out of its residence halls.

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The University’s Office of Public Affairs gave The Daily a statement from MDining shared with those that visited East Quad's dining hall. According to the statement, the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 had access to East Quad dining and is now self-isolating at home.

Effective immediately, we will be closing the East Quad dining facility for four days in order to clean and disinfect the unit, the statement reads. We are working in partnership with public health officials to notify any individuals who may have been exposed directly. Anyone who has recently visited the East Quad dining facility should self-monitor for symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

When contacted, Tardy directed The Daily to MDining marketing manager Kelly Guralewski, who deferred to Public Affairs.  

An “operational update” on MDining’s East Quad website says East Quad Dining Hall is temporarily closed. Students usually eating at East Quad can pick up their takeout meals from South Quad Residence Hall’s dining hall instead. 

All dining halls began serving takeout meals only on Monday night. On Tuesday morning, students were told they must leave the residence halls unless they fill out a petition to stay by Wednesday 8 a.m., causing widespread confusion and stress as many rearranged move-out plans at the last minute. 

In the email sent by University Housing on Tuesday, students were told the push to leave campus was made necessary by the rapidly evolving situation.

“New developments in the COVID-19 pandemic make it clear that now is the time to return home,” the email reads. “...While University Housing will ensure that we have sufficient housing available for students who truly have no other alternatives, we cannot promise that you will be able to remain in your current housing assignment.”

There are currently 14 confirmed cases in Washtenaw County. The University moved all classes online on March 11, the day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the first two cases in Michigan. Three people in Michigan have died from coronavirus, the first a man in his 50’s who died on Wednesday morning.

Cases of COVID-19 have also been confirmed in two student apartment buildings Vic Village and ArborBLU

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wash their hands often and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. People are also encouraged to practice social distancing, or to avoid unnecessary social interaction, and to maintain a six-foot distance between one another. The White House and CDC recommend social gatherings of less than 10 people.

In an email to The Daily, Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, Washtenaw County Health Department communications and health promotion administrator, emphasized the importance of social distancing and other preventative measures.

"Good adherence to the community mitigation orders and recommendations is critical to slowing the spread of illness – and much less about any specific or identified locations," Ringler-Cerniglia wrote. "We all need to take precautions and assume the possibility of lower-risk community exposures when we are out."

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call their primary care physician. Individuals can also contact their local health department, which in Washtenaw County can be reached at 734-544-6700.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a statement from MDining provided to The Daily by the Office of Public Affairs.

Daily News Editor Claire Hao can be reached at cmhao@umich.edu