WMU urges ‘responsible decisions’ as students return

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Students preparing for in-person instruction at Western Michigan University are keeping an eye on the coronavirus case numbers as they adapt to new procedures on campus.

Western Michigan University has not seen high case numbers like some other universities — some have called off in-person classes after spikes — but senior Kait Oakes says she is prepared to handle whatever the pandemic may bring.

“I think there’s this eagerness to stay connected and I think students learn well when they’re connected. I think having everyone go virtual would be intimidating and be difficult for some students but there’s risk factors, I think, in the midst of that,” Oakes said.

WMU is posting updated COVID-19 case numbers in an online portal every Friday. The numbers from Aug. 28 show 69 positive cases on campus since May.

Dr. Gayle Ruggiero, the medical director at the Sindecuse Health Center, says the university will provide a test for free if a student does not have insurance. Nearly 2,000 people have been tested in the past two weeks, according to Ruggiero.

“We’re encouraging people to make responsible decisions about wearing masks and social distancing and not being engaged in activities that would increase the likelihood of spread of this illness,” Ruggiero said.

WMU has confirmed one student on the welcome team tested positive for the virus and said anyone who had contact with that person has been notified. The university says it follows detailed procedures to protect privacy if a student tests positive.

“We disclose it to the school, with permission from the student, so that we can help with their academic accommodations. We disclose it to housing, if they live on campus, so we can make sure they’re in quarantine or isolation spaces that make sense on campus and we have a protocol by which we connect them to food services and we do a non-HIPAA related information disclosures to facilities, other areas that need to help clean campus,” Ruggiero said.

WMU senior Rubi Gamino said she has noticed a difference as she returned to campus to finish her degree.

“It’s kind of like an invisible thing that people may or may not have. You can’t really tell, so it is concerning,” Gamino said.

Freshman Jay-Kree Jackson said he was tested for COVID-19 test before arriving — it came back negative — and is trying to stay positive.

“I’m not really worried too much about it. I’m just really here to learn. If everything is online, I’m fine with that. I would love to be in classes with my teachers and peers but I just want to get my education right now,” Jackson said.

Classes at Western Michigan University begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday.