BREAKING: Ottawa County, GV ease restrictions with ‘Staying Safe’ order Oct. 2-16


Courtesy | GVSU

Olivia Fellows, News Editor

This story is breaking and will be updated throughout the day as new information becomes available.

Grand Valley State University’s COVID-19 case numbers have trended down in the last weeks, public health officials and GVSU administrators have agreed to an additional joint “Staying Safe” order to continue through Oct. 16. The current “Staying in Place” order issued by the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 1.

The new order notes that as of Sept. 28, there were 3,483 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all of Ottawa County, and Allendale Township and the main GVSU campus comprises 8.5% of Ottawa County’s total population. Since the institution of the first order, there has been a marked decrease in 49401 zip code cases and GVSU-affiliated cases, but for the week ending Sept. 26, 27% of all Ottawa County COVID-19 cases were still from 49401 and were primarily affiliated with GVSU.

COVID-19 7-day average daily test positivity and case numbers were experiencing a 14-day increasing trend at the time of the original order. Currently, the 14-day trend in positivity is stable, neither increasing nor decreasing, while the 14-day trend in cases is decreasing.

The new “Staying Safe” order acknowledges GVSU’s progress on maintaining safety measures and allows for some flexibility on campus. It states that up to four guests may visit student living units and residences, while observing strict preventive measures, including social distancing and wearing face coverings. Students living in on-campus housing also must abide by the housing and residence life guest policy and community living standards.

For all indoor common areas on the Allendale Campus, students may not gather in groups greater than four people. This does not include classes or university-organized academic activities. All outdoor gatherings should not exceed 10 people. All people should have face coverings except when eating or drinking. This 10-person-limit does not include gatherings organized by the university.

As mandated previously, the order states that face coverings will continue to be required indoors and outdoors. Students who are alone outside may choose not to wear a face covering, but should be prepared to immediately use it when encountering another person.

GVSU President Philomena Mantella urged students who need help to utilize the university support systems, and said in a community email that she remains hopeful.

“I remain grateful for the way our community has committed to a journey that might be difficult, but is definitely worth it.” Mantella said in the statement. “Your cooperation on testing and contact tracing, along with following the requirements of the order, is critical in our goal to mitigate the spread of this very contagious virus. Thank you for showing how Lakers join together in challenging times.”

For students looking for support, resources for employees are available through Human Resources on the Benefits and Wellness site. The university’s Call Center is available at (616) 331-INFO (4636). Personal health-related questions can be directed to the GVSU/Spectrum Health 24-hour call center at (833) 734-0020. You can also direct questions to [email protected]

Update 3:37 p.m.: In a press conference, GVSU Vice President of Finance and Administration and head of the Virus Action Team, Greg Sanial, provided more clarity and perspective on the new order. 

Sanial said that after monitoring student compliance through ambassador programs and watching metrics, leadership said the community did a “fantastic job of complying to the Staying in Place order,” which was reflected in the drop of 50-60 new cases a day down to about 10. That warranted a gradual step down to further stay on top of new case numbers. 

It’s a lot easier to go from a high level of restrictions to a lower level of restrictions, so this will be much easier for us,” said Sanial. 

Moving forward, Sanial stressed the importance of University messaging to reinforce good behavior from students who have widely improved on things like cooperating with contact tracing efforts. Sanial said that mindset is was leads him to be confident

“I’m real hopeful that with our students’ cooperation, there is a different mindset now…,” Sanial said. “When I’m on campus, I just see overwhelming compliance with the order and I expect that from our students moving forward.”

Sanial said that what was daily conversations between GVSU and OCDPH will simmer down, but stringent monitoring will continue to see if regulations need to change. As of now, signs are pointing in the right direction, Sanial said, as GVSU’s monitoring matches with the health department’s and clusters of cases are now individual oddities.  

There was also indication that after dealing with the spike in cases from the start of the semester, Sanial said the University will be learning and adapting moving forward toward the winter semester. While details are still being discussed, things like a repopulation testing event and the announced calendar changes will provide more control over outbreaks. 

Update 3:42 p.m.: In an email, Interim Associate Director of Sports Programs Mitch Eastlick said club sports are allowed to resume following the halt placed by the last order. Following guidelines on the Return to Play website, club sports may resume with two two-hour sessions per week. Mask use is required for indoor practices, but not required for outdoor practices if students maintain a 10-foot distance from each other.