Michigan’s stay-at-home order was not extended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after June 12, opening the possibility for students to return to classes, allowing restaurants and bars to open in person dining, and retail stores to open with safety restrictions in place.
Since then, COVID-19 cases in the state have been on the rise in mid-Michigan, and statewide according the State of Michigan’s COVID-19 data. CDC guidelines have been released on how to mitigate the virus, but ideas differ based on what is happening in each community, in which health professionals and experts are being put to the task on finding ways that work for their community.
The question remains: Is it safe to resume certain activities, like dining out, going to public gatherings and shopping?
Central Michigan University associate professor, and Division Director of Health Administration at CMU, Nailya Delellis said that financial reasons and quality of education are some wide-spread attempt to bring students back to college campuses, but still had some doubts about this being a possibility as cases are rising in the mid-Michigan area.
“The National Institute of Health (NIH) in March stated that virus may stay on surfaces up to three days; how many people will be touching same door handle in a dorm or in a classroom,” said Delellis. “If classes starts on Aug. 17, and if according to World Health Organization (WHO) incubation period is from five to six to 14 days, you will see a spike by the end of August. Then some would go home for the Labor Day weekend and next spike is in mid-September.”
This major push to get students back in classroom is something requires public health professionals in the mid-Michigan area, and nationally to present mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the virus.
Central Michigan University Epidemiologist and Professor Brookins-Fisher said she is happy with the job done so far in the mid-Michigan area.
“You can really see the difference in states that did heavy mitigation of: masks, social distancing, stay at home orders, etc. and those that didn’t,” said Brookins-Fisher. “I definitely think in the current situation, young people will need to be better with mitigation strategies, since they are the current spreaders and are often asymptomatic.”
State colleges such as Northwood, CMU, MSU and the Michigan have all stated that they intend to return to in-person classes this fall.
While these places intent to return to in-person classes, or plan to return to a somewhat normal schedule, health officials, like Brookins-Fisher expressed some doubt in this.
“I really worry that we’ll all plan extensively for a return and partying early on might send us all back home,” said Brookins-Fisher. “Everyone has to do their part or we’ll never have a life back.”
With schools being planned to reopen, the question arises on when stadiums and gyms can reopen. Colleges such as MSU have stated they plan to have a reduced amount of fans in the stadium, according a release by MSU Athletic Director Bill Beekman. While this will not be a normal year at Spartan Stadium, the current plan shown by the athletic department is to have some fans in there to adhere by CDC guidelines as far as social distancing goes.
On the idea of reopening gyms, Central Michigan University Masters in Public Health graduate, and graduate assistant Ruben Juarez said: “As long as social distancing, good hygiene and low number of cases are present, they might be relatively safe.”
Juarez, like Delellis and Brookins-Fisher did not have the same optimism when it came to the idea of bars being opened.
“It is harder to make the case for bars,” said Juarez. “They usually have poor ventilation where people drink for long periods of time.”
An outbreak has recently broken out at Harper’s bar in East Lansing, infecting over 150 people according to an article by Freep.
“We have seen this weekend the spread that started at Harper’s in East Lansing and the effect of it in Grosse Pointe,” said Brookins-Fisher. “Other states are closing bars and dine-in restaurants, but I am unsure if that will be necessary here if we wear masks and social distance.”
Masks was a consensus on a way to mitigate the virus and go into this new school year with the possibility of slowing the spread of the virus. All health professionals cited CDC guidelines in their plea to the community to continue the wearing of masks as we move forward into a possible second wave of the virus this fall.
“I would say please wear the mask for kindness, those you love and humanity,” said Brookins Fisher. “This is not about any individuals and wearing a mask is not politics. This is about controlling an infectious disease of which we are not getting a grip on in this country.”
“Universal face mask policy is essential for students who can practically wear one consistently,” said Juarez. “Yes, it’s inconvenient, but the health of our older family members and those with poor health is worth it.”
“Wear a mask. Keep distance. Don’t touch your face. Be smart in your choice of actions,” said Delellis.