A University of Dayton freshman died of coronavirus complications more than a month after an outbreak that delayed in-person classes for several weeks
Michael Lang died Thursday in his hometown of LaGrange, Illinois, after a lengthy hospital stay, the university said in a letter to campus released Friday.
He was 18.
“We extend our deepest sympathy and prayers to his family, friends, professors and our campus community,” the letter says.
Campus ministers, housing and residence life and counseling staff will be available for anyone affiliated with the university.
Public Health-Dayton and Montgomery County, whose health commissioner in September considered preventing UD from holding in-person classes because of a high number of cases, said it is saddened by Lang’s death.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael’s family, friends and loved ones,” the agency said in a statement. “We urge everyone to stay strong as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Lang, who was in the College of Arts and Sciences, was on campus at the beginning of the semester. But returned home on Sept. 13 to take classes remotely, the university said.
UD officials declined to comment further regarding the student’s death.
The university honored Lang Friday afternoon in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. Campus community members were welcomed to light a candle of remembrance and pray for Lang and his family.
Students and faculty trickled into the chapel to pay their respects, even if some didn’t know who he was. Others like Prof. Ying-Ju Chen barely knew him. But she said Lang, who was a student in her introduction to statistics class, left an impression.
“If you met him once, you would remember who he is,” she said, her eyes filled with tears as she left the chapel.
Lang was a sharp student who asked thoughtful questions and always participated in her virtual classes, Chen said, noting that she last saw him on Sept. 21, when he took a virtual exam.
Evan Anderson, a senior in communications management, was “stunned” when a reporter told him about Lang’s death.
“Everyone who got infected has recovered, so I didn’t expect anyone to die,” said Anderson, a Long Island, New York, native. “I’m horribly stunned.”
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Students have been smart about social distancing and following the university’s safety protocol. But Lang’s death will hit home with the campus community, Anderson said, and they will be even more diligent.
His death comes after the university spent nearly two months battling a coronavirus outbreak on campus. The university in the summer implemented what officials said was a robust safety protocol. They planned to spend an estimated $15 million on personal protective equipment, technology, facilities, signage, testing and contact tracing, officials said in July.
In addition, the school received $5.2 million through the Federal CARES Act to offset some pandemic expenses, and officials were to direct those funds to emergency grants to students and to prepare the campus for full operations, the university said.
The school had planned for a combination of in-person and remote learning. However, as students and staff returned to campus in August, COVID-19 cases started to surge, and officials announced days before the semester was to begin that all classes would be remote for a few weeks.
Since Aug. 10, the university has reported more than 1,400 new cases. New daily cases peaked at 167 on Aug. 28. The outbreak was tied to a few small student gatherings or some people not following safety protocols, school officials said.
The university identified those clusters and started randomly testing up to 1,000 students per week, the school said.
As the number of cases remained high, Montgomery County Health Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cooper called the university’s coronavirus outbreak “a major threat to the public’s health and the well-being of our citizens,” and urged students to do their part to control the spread of the deadly virus.
The campus outbreak at the time caused Montgomery County to have one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita among Ohio counties.
By mid-September, when the number of new daily cases remained in single digits, the university started having in-person classes. Cases have for the most part remained in single digits, however, school officials reported in early October that they noticed an uptick in five of the university’s largest dorms.
“In addition to positive results from students who are symptomatic, we are also detecting a number of positive cases from asymptomatic students through random testing as well as in targeted surveillance testing of defined areas of the residence halls, such as a floor or a section of a floor,” according to a campus memo.
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