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Michigan public health officials to help minimize COVID-19 spread during biggest surge; GRCC keeps mask requirement but does not require vaccine

Michigan health officials discuss COVID-19 during press conference (Screenshot of event streamed on WDIV Youtube Channel)

As Omicron cases continue to surge to record levels, Michigan Health and Human Services officials held a press conference to discuss the recent rise in cases of COVID-19. 

At the conference held Tuesday, Jan. 12, Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan, said case rates are the highest of the pandemic and the Omicron strain is the main strain of cases. She said state officials are expecting this wave to peak at the end of January or the beginning of February. Bagdasarian also explained how it is up to Michiganders to decide how high this peak gets.

“They’re showing that we will likely peak between the end of January to early February and then after that things will start coming down,” Bagdasarian said in the press conference. “Now what’s really up to us as a state is how high do we want that peak to be because I think that if we don’t use the tools we have… we can expect those peaks to be at those really worst case scenarios… so we have a choice to make: do we want to work on bringing that peak down or do we just want to let this Omicron surge explode?” 

Most of the cases reported are from ages 20-29 year-olds, which officials credit to young adults having the worst vaccination rates. 

Michigan will also be distributing free at-home tests to public libraries around the state.

Grand Rapids Community College currently requires masks on campus, but will not require students to get the vaccine. GRCC urges students to stay home if they aren’t feeling well and to wear their masks properly.

“We need students to stay home if they are not feeling well,” said GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray. “That is vitally important as we work to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our campus community safe. Our professors are very supportive of this protocol, and will work with the students to help them keep up with classwork if they are experiencing symptoms and need to stay home. Communication is key. Our faculty members are focused on student success.

“We also want to make sure students are following the campus face covering policies,” Murray continued. “Wearing the face covering is important, but making sure it is being worn properly — tight around the nose and mouth — helps increase effectiveness.”

Similar to GRCC, schools like Davenport University, Aquinas College, Western Michigan University and Central Michigan University do not require the vaccine, but do require masks on campus.

Central Michigan and Western Michigan require unvaccinated students to participate in weekly testing. Western Michigan also announced that if a student hasn’t received the booster shot, they will have to be tested weekly.

Compared to GRCC, bigger universities like Michigan and Michigan State require the vaccine and also will be requiring the booster shot as of the beginning of February. Grand Valley State University also requires the vaccine, but does not require the booster shot. 

The U.S. has now surpassed 65 million cases of COVID-19 and 840,000 deaths. 

For more information on COVID-19, visit here.

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