Pandemic on campus: how to contain the coronavirus in campus communities
By Dennis Archambault
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services meant well when she said at a recent news conference, “it’s about a total lifestyle” when referencing the rise in COVID-19 infections on Michigan college campuses. However, the lifestyle of a young adult on college campuses, particularly residential students, and particularly those pledging fraternal organizations, is to be social, and not virtual social networking.
Toward the end of the lockdown period in Michigan’s pandemic, there was a recording made that got some airplay called, “I’m bored.” The singer repeated the phrase multiple times in hip hop fashion. Point made. A lot of young people were bored once they exhausted their online options and came to terms with the four walls surrounding them.
We’ve had our “pandemic summer” and now we’re entering the next critical phase of managing the pandemic, the convergence of flu season merged with the pandemic. And, the “invincibles,” those young adults who tend to defy personal safety advice – such as wearing masks, observing social distance, and otherwise protecting themselves and others against infectious diseases – are prone to socialize in unsafe ways. Whether it a meet-up at a bar or a fraternity party, the idea is to have fun and experience the pleasures of campus life.
Unfortunately, that has resulted in the current surge in coronavirus infections, as noted in a Detroit Free Press account (https://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2020/09/14/michigan-coronavirus-outbreaks/5791116002/). Among the colleges cited by the state: Grand Valley State University — 438 cases; Adrian College — 229 cases; Central Michigan University — 271 cases; and Michigan State University — 202 cases. according to state data released at 3 p.m. Monday. Ironically, MSU is the only university not holding in-person classes or hosting large numbers of students in residence halls but has a considerable number of students living off-campus. Ingham County has imposed a quarantine on congregate living settings like fraternity houses on the MSU campus.
As we step, gingerly, into autumn and flu season, it’s concerning that COVID-19 will continue to spread among young adults in college communities, and possibly back to their families at the Thanksgiving.
Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.