Gov. Whitmer announces new COVID-19 regulations, vaccine update for campus

Ashley+Beronja%2FNW%0AMOVING+FORWARD%E2%80%94President+Fritz+Erickson+has+announced+that+while+vaccines+have+not+been+sent+for+NMU%2C+the+process+will+run+similar+to+the+COVID-19+test+screenings.+Recently+President+Joe+Biden+announced+that+by+May+all+U.S.+adults+should+be+able+to+get+the+vaccine.

Ashley Beronja/NW MOVING FORWARD—President Fritz Erickson has announced that while vaccines have not been sent for NMU, the process will run similar to the COVID-19 test screenings. Recently President Joe Biden announced that by May all U.S. adults should be able to get the vaccine.

Ashley Beronja

On March 10, 2020, Michigan reported its first case of COVID-19. As Michigan approaches the one year anniversary of COVID-19, the initial excitement of having a break off from school or work has now become a time of dread. Those who have been home since the beginning of it all are now wondering when this will all end, or if it will end at all.

Katelynd Izzo, junior environmental studies and sustainability major, is an off-campus student who is taking classes online. Izzo said that the school year has been alright and NMU has been handling things decently, given the circumstances.

“The professors who give students the option to stay 100% online are really the best, I’m glad to know that they care about their students’ concerns about having class in person,” Izzo said. “However, I wish NMU itself would put more effort into giving back and helping students financially.”

Izzo, like many other students during the pandemic, said that thinking about the fact that the pandemic has been going on for a year is weird. Izzo said that because of people not taking the pandemic seriously, she has given up on a lot of friendships.

“I’ve given up a lot of friendships over the last year because some people just wouldn’t take the pandemic seriously and I don’t like to be associated with people who are just prolonging the suffering of everyone,” Izzo said. “My mental health, along with almost everyone I know, has taken a huge hit throughout the last year. It’s been tough but I’m hoping that everyone can stop being selfish and just stay inside, social distance and get vaccinated so we can be done with the pandemic and have life go back to normal.”

In total, Michigan has reached 15,563 COVID-19 related deaths as of March 3, 2021. Michigan has seen two major peaks in COVID-19 related deaths. The first peak came from the initial outbreak in Michigan and the second came from the previous holiday season. According to Michigan.gov’s Coronavirus data, the state has been reporting fewer COVID-19 related deaths.

Similar to the statewide numbers, NMU has been reporting lower cases as well. For a two week period, Dr. Christopher Kirkpatrick, medical director at the Health Center, said that there were no confirmed cases. However, those numbers have begun to slowly grow due to what is assumed to be traveling.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have low numbers. I think we had almost a 20 day or more stretch of no reported cases and nothing positive here in the clinic,” Kirkpatrick said. “But recently, there’s been a very slight uptick and we have had members from on-campus students, off-campus students and faculty staff [that] we have seen cases [from] and all of those within the last 10 days. Some of those we have seen linked to travel.”

Kirkpatrick said that people should remember to be cautious when traveling and if at all possible should avoid doing so entirely. NMU made the decision this year to cancel spring break as a way to keep numbers low as travel is a main reason for the virus to be brought onto campus. 

“Northern made the difficult decision to not have the spring break and in part because of trying to limit travel and knowing that is the major driver of this virus coming on campus,” Kirkpatrick said. “So I caution against those activities, I would ask that if you are with people outside of your household to try to maintain the source of social distancing the mask-wearing overall. We are fortunate, we have seen very few cases, but that can change in a moment’s time.”

For the upcoming fall semester, the plan is to be as close to all in-person classes as possible. This could change, however, given future decisions made by state orders. As stated in a recent forum meeting, President Fritz Erickson said that campus is taking an “optimistic approach” to the Fall 2021 semester.

President Joe Biden announced at the beginning of the month that by the end of May, all U.S. adults would be able to be vaccinated. While there is no concrete date set for students, faculty and staff to receive their vaccination at NMU, Erickson said that this announcement makes him feel “confident” for going more in-person starting next semester.

“That would certainly help us feel even more confident that the upcoming fall semester can have face-to-face instruction and many of the University’s in-person events that have been on hold or held remotely this year can return to campus,” Erickson said.

NMU has still yet to receive communications on when the vaccine will arrive, however, Erickson said that NMU is all set for it to happen. When NMU does receive the vaccine, they will follow the state’s priority distribution plan and will set up the vaccination distribution similar to the COVID-19 test screening. 

“Just like the Passport [to Campus] and mass COVID-19 screening events, you will receive an email in your NMU account that provides a link where you can do one of three things: sign up for a vaccination time, indicate that you’ve already been vaccinated or indicate that you do not want to be vaccinated,” Erickson said. “You will only receive the email about the vaccination event if you are qualified for an appropriate state priority distribution group. If you do not receive the email, you do not yet qualify. Once you click on the link, you will be able to choose your vaccination time just like you have done for the Passport [to Campus] and mass screening events. You will be able to fill out the required paperwork on the app.”

Vaccinations will be scheduled at the Northern Center in the grand ballrooms, similar to the current COVID-19 testing. In addition, Erickson said that NMU will not require vaccines unless mandated by the state or federal government.

“There are many reasons why NMU is not pursuing a vaccination requirement, including the most immediate one that no employer can require a vaccine that is authorized only for emergency use, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” Erickson said.

Michigan is continuing to hold health and safety regulations to keep the spread of the virus down. Mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing are still being practiced, but as we approach March 5, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced the new epidemic order that would take place until April 19.

With the increase in people getting the COVID-19 vaccination, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has begun to loosen restrictions. Starting this Friday, March 5, restaurants and bars can expand indoor dining to 50% capacity or up to 100 people, whichever one is less. Retail locations can also expand to 50% and exercise facilities, sporting events and casinos will open to 30% capacity.

In addition, nursing homes can have up to two guests per resident after receiving a negative COVID-19 test result. Whitmer said that these changes will not only boost Michigan’s economy but will keep Michiganders healthy.

“The increased capacity limits outlined in this order will still give us the ability to protect public health as we carefully track variants and continue leading with science and data,” Whitmer said. “It will also enable more people to go back to work.”

As restrictions become lifted, it is important to remember that COVID-19 is still around. Continuing to practice handwashing, mask-wearing and social distance will keep not only campus safe but Marquette and Michigan as a whole safe.

“Please remember that our actions have the potential to, directly and indirectly, impact the COVID-19 related health of the Northern campus and Marquette community,” Erickson said. “Take action in ways that positively influence NMU.”