The Marquette area continues to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic as vaccinations are being supplied to those most at risk. According to the Marquette County Health Department COVID-19 vaccination status, those who fall in the Phase 1, Group A category are still being vaccinated, with pre-registration opening up for those in Group B.
According to the COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy Timeline, the MCHD has been authorized to start vaccinating those in Group B. Vaccinations for those in Group B have been going on since Jan. 11. What this means is that frontline essential workers and adults ages 65 and up will be able to register to receive the vaccine.
“This includes education sector, food & agriculture, utilities, police, firefighters, corrections officers and transportation,” the timeline said.
The future plan is to continue with Group B and prioritize Group C for the beginning of 2021. This would open up vaccinations being available to other essential workers and the high-risk population with Phase 2 potentially rolling out mid-2021.
In a partnership with the Marquette Health Department, NMU’s University Center will be acting as the COVID-19 vaccine distribution center for Marquette. Peter Zenti, a retired M.D. and NMU alumni, was a volunteer at one of the vaccination sites. He said he was offered a free lunch while he was volunteering and excited to volunteer again.
“I helped on the phone line registration on Monday and at the Great Lakes Room directing folks, offering wheelchairs and opening doors on Thursday,” Zenti said.
According to Dr. Christopher Kirtpatrick, medical director for the NMU health department, the vaccine should be available to the general public around May. This is entirely dependent on how fast manufacturers can synthesize more vaccines.
Kirkpatrick also said that there is good data showing that the new strains of COVID-19 are still being affected and prevented by the current vaccine. According to him, the mutations that took place within the new strains are not in locations that the vaccine primarily targets.
Currently on the CDC’s webpage there are three other COVID-19 variants that have reported in the U.S. The variant from the U.K. was detected at the end of December 2020 and the variant from South Africa and Brazil were both detected at the end of January 2021.
“So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway,” the CDC webpage said. “Rigorous and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, such as vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene and isolation and quarantine, is essential to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and protect public health.”
As of Feb. 8, the Safe on Campus Dashboard has declared that there is only one active case on campus with two active off campus. In his latest email, President Fritz Erickson said that he feels relieved from the low numbers of positive cases. However, as he reads the articles about the U.K. variant coming into the U.S., he reminds everyone to stay vigilant.
“We must continue to be diligent in our efforts to mitigate COVID-19. That means proper mask wearing (over the nose and mouth), social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and washing your hands frequently,” Erickson said. “Most importantly, please monitor daily for COVID-19 symptoms and if you have any or feel unwell, stay home from class, work or campus events. Taking care of yourself helps to take care of the campus community.”
Anna Thompson, junior nursing major, has not participated in the screening events that NMU offers and allows nursing students to work in, however she comes face to face with COVID-19 everyday.
“I feel that NMU has done what it needs to do to follow CDC social distancing guidelines,” Thompson said. “I do feel safe coming to campus despite the increased difficulty to do so.”
Thompson received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine through her job at the hospital as apart of the Phase 1 Group A.
Kirkpatrick said that university students should expect that regulations to stay the same for the remainder of the semester. As soon as the majority of students are vaccinated and immune, the State of Michigan should begin to reduce regulations and return to a more normal state. This could possibly occur before or during this coming fall semester.
In the latest forum, Erickson said that what we can expect from the upcoming Fall 2021 semester is partially dependent on the numbers for vaccinations. If the MCHD COVID-19 vaccination stays on schedule, there is a strong possibility students can expect to be back in person fully for face to face classes in the fall.
“We are taking a very optimistic approach to the fall,” Erickson said. “And that is preparing to be fully in person for the start of the semester, but simultaneously realizing that we may have to scale back a little bit if the vaccination levels are low by the time we would open for fall classes.”
For more information on COVID-19 vaccination locations and availability, visit the Marquette County Health Department website.