Two dozen Hillsdale students have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the school year, with five active cases as of Wednesday morning and 19 resolved, according to college administrators. Another 18 students remain in contact isolation after close contact with a positive case, according to a COVID-19 update released in Wednesday’s faculty and staff newsletter. Six of the students in contact isolation await coronavirus test results, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is monitoring them closely.
In Hillsdale County, 374 people have contracted COVID-19 and 26 have died during the pandemic, according to Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services. Across the state, more than 139,000 have been infected and nearly 7,000 have died. On Wednesday, Michigan reported 1,359 new confirmed cases, up from 1,016 a week ago and the highest daily total since April.
Nearly 5,000 of Michigan’s COVID-19 cases have involved college students, according to state data last week. Michigan State University has seen the most cases with 1,531, followed by Grand Valley State University with 903, Western Michigan University with 655, and the University of Michigan with 636.
Health Care Liason Stephanie Gravel said the school is ready for more possible cases that could naturally occur from students’ travel. She said the school has made a few changes to COVID-19 protocol to adjust for this concern.
“The biggest change we’ve made is utilizing Camp Michindoh for contact isolation students,” Gravel said. “Also, the library has pulled together some additional information to help students academically while in isolation.”
Director of Health and Wellness Brock Lutz said Camp Michindoh has been a reliable option for quarantined students.
“We believe it is a good environment if one has to be in isolation and have worked with Michindoh to provide high-speed internet for housing and have meals well organized,” Lutz said.
Faculty members still have the option to teach remotely.
Associate Professor of English Dutton Kearney decided to move his classes online for a month at the end of September when several of his students were quarantined.
“In mid-September, students from five different team sports and two different student organizations went into quarantine, 30% in one section, 40% in another,” Kearney said in an email. “I held classes outside under the tent for two weeks, but when the weather changed and the number of quarantined students steadily increased, I decided on Sept. 29 to take those two sections online but to hold office hours in person.”
Kearney said he never expected to host classes online, but that the situation called for it.
“Education in general, and college in particular, is meant to take place in person, within a discussion. We all learn together, with one another and from one another,” Kearney said. “ I don’t think that online classes are an inevitability, and we should all do our part to make sure they remain that way.”
Overall, Kearney said students have been receptive to change and have handled the transition to online courses well.
“As you would expect, some students have been disappointed, but all have been understanding. I think it helps that they know I’m firm about returning to the classroom on October 27,” Kearney said. “Further, it definitely makes a difference having office hours in person. When it comes to teaching students how to write a close analysis, I can provide general concepts in the classroom, but helping students develop their individual readings requires individual conversations.”
Lutz said students like Little have done a good job handling the consequences of COVID-19 protocol and that he’s encouraged by the strength of the student body.
“We all want to do what we love, which is to live and learn together. I hope our students remember to not live in fear and that this will pass,” Lutz wrote in an email. “We knew this semester would be a little bumpy, but we appreciate the students’ patience as well as their dutiful efforts and sacrifices in our effort to keep campus healthy.”