EAST LANSING, Mich. — As the community welcomes back a considerable number of student residents this August, the City of East Lansing is reaching out proactively to encourage off-campus safety during the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
A main concern for City officials has been the potential for large social gatherings in the City’s off-campus neighborhoods without safe physical distancing or the wearing of masks. These types of gatherings have already started to occur.
“While we want student residents to feel welcome, we also want those that plan to attend large social gatherings to recognize that their actions during this pandemic have consequences not only for themselves, but for the people they care about and for fellow community members,” said East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas. “We have seen, firsthand, how these gatherings can cause large, local outbreaks, which is why we must all do our part to keep our community safe and businesses open.”
All residents, including student residents who may have just returned, are reminded that outdoor social gatherings are currently restricted to no more than 25 people in parts of East Lansing per an emergency order issued by Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. Those who disregard this order could be subject to a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for no more than six months and/or a fine of up to $200. Indoor social gatherings are currently restricted to no more than 10 people from different households per a statewide executive order; a willful violation of which is also a misdemeanor. All gatherings, indoors and out, must be designed to ensure that people from different households maintain a social distance of at least six feet.
Last weekend, officers with the East Lansing Police Department (ELPD) were proactive in breaking up several large social gatherings and preventing several smaller social gatherings from increasing in size by providing warnings and educational outreach about the gathering orders. While officers will continue to use educational outreach as a first approach, it’s important to note that they are tracking violations in their police reports and will be pursuing a course of enforcement for multiple offenses at the same address, which could result in misdemeanor charges and university discipline (for violations involving students). City officials have worked with MSU officials to develop a procedure for reporting student misconduct in the off-campus community, specifically as it relates to local ordinances and COVID-19 emergency orders. While MSU believes in an education-first approach to ensure compliance, students reported for off-campus violations of ordinances and emergency orders that put the public’s health in danger could face discipline, including expulsion, under MSU’s General Student Regulations process.
“While having fewer people on campus certainly keeps our campus safer, our greater community — the City of East Lansing and other communities that host our students in off-campus housing — also deserve to be safe places to live,” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “That is why MSU is working together with the City of East Lansing to educate our students and reinforce our expectations — both on campus and off — to make certain we are doing everything we can protect our communities and hold accountable those who disregard state and local orders at the expense of the health of others.”
ELPD will also continue to be proactive in enforcing the City’s existing noise and party ordinances, as they have in previous years. Additional steps taken to encourage off-campus safety are as follows:
- A mayoral order was put into place requiring that masks be worn in all outdoor public areas within the boundaries of the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority.
- A “We Have You Covered” ambassador program was launched to encourage mask wearing in downtown East Lansing.
- A “Together We Will Stay Safe to Stay Open” marketing campaign was launched in partnership with MSU.
Visit www.cityofeastlansing.com/staysafe for additional, important information.