Colleges around the country have run into a host of problems as they have tried to reopen. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last month, a major outbreak forced classes to move online after a single week, and North Carolina State also went to remote learning when clusters appeared soon after the campus opened.
At least a third of people affiliated with Michigan State who tested positive recently attended social gatherings, a third of them associated with a fraternity or sorority, according to the health department for Ingham County, which encompasses the university’s campus in East Lansing.
“These cases are clusters,” Linda Vail, a county health officer, said in an interview on Saturday evening. “Here, there and everywhere. We have a serious, serious spike in cases all tied to a particular demographic. This is an urgent situation.”
The university, which has an enrollment of about 50,000, announced in mid-August that classes would be remote and asked most students who would have lived on campus to stay home. However, around 35,000 students with off-campus leases returned to East Lansing before the semester began on Sept. 2, said Emily Gerkin Guerrant, a university spokeswoman, and 2,800 students — including athletes, international students or students without stable housing — were allowed to stay in the dorms.
Under the recommended quarantine, students should leave their residences only for in-person classes, or to get food or medicine, Ms. Vail said. Though the quarantine is a recommendation, she said it may be changed to an order for large houses, where groups of more than 10 students live together.
Elsewhere in the state, several students at the University of Michigan recently took to TikTok to voice outrage about campus health policies, including the jury-rigged housing the university has used to quarantine those who test positive. They expressed support for continuing strikes by graduate students, some of whom are instructors and have demanded the right to work remotely, increased testing transparency and other virus protections.
There have been 367 confirmed cases since March, according to the school’s database, and 19 cases since students returned in late August for a mixture of in-person and remote learning.