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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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North Wind Editorial Board February 27, 2024

COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration opens, UK variant in U.P.

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Sam Rush/NW

On Thursday, March 11 the Marquette County Health Department announced that the COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration would be open for Marquette residents 16 and older on Friday, March 12. Those who are eligible to register to be put on the list should do so by filling out the online form.

“While we continue to focus on vaccination scheduling for those in previously approved priority groups expanding registration will allow us to provide vaccination to the community with minimal delay,” the MCHD press release said.

That same day, President Fritz Erickson sent out an email with news for NMU students as to how this affects them. As the announcement said, COVID-19 vaccination would now be open for Marquette residents 16 and older. Erickson reminded those in his email that this would not mean those eligible would receive a call immediately, however those who can still sign-up.

“By having folks register early, it allows MCHD staff a better idea of how many individuals will have the potential to be vaccinated each week, especially if the state opens new categories quickly,” Erickson said. 

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While the MCHD has begun the premature stages for more Marquette residents to get vaccinated, NMU still has not received their vaccines yet. As stated previously, once received, NMU is ready to take the next steps to get students, faculty and staff vaccinated. That setup will run similar to how the testing was done this year.

“We did receive more forms to fill out about our capabilities to store the various types of vaccine, which I’m choosing to see as a positive sign,” Erickson said. “As soon as we do receive the vaccine, we’ll let the campus know and we’ll start scheduling for eligible individuals, based on the state’s eligibility categories, to be vaccinated.”

Compared to the MCHD date, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that Michigan would expand their vaccine eligibility to those 16 and older with medical conditions and disabilities starting March 22 with all Michiganders 16 and older eligible starting April 5.

“With the expanded vaccine eligibility, providers are still encouraged to schedule appointments and allocate vaccinations to residents based on highest risk, including older residents, essential workers, and frontline workers,” the March 12 press release said. “The most recent vaccine prioritization guidelines can be found on Michigan’s COVID-19 website.”

Whitmer said in the press release that she “urges all eligible Michiganders to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines”. By getting the vaccine, Whitmer said that this will help the country as a whole start getting back to normal and one day be able to be together once again.

“The safe COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way to protect you, your family and others from the virus,” Whitmer said. “It will help the country get back to normal and help the economy. Nearly one million Michiganders of all races have already been safely vaccinated. I urge all eligible Michiganders to get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines. It is essential to getting our country back to normal so that we can all hug our families, get back to work, go to restaurants, send our kids to school, play sports and get together again. And as always: mask up, practice safe social distancing and avoid large indoor gatherings where COVID-19 can easily spread from person to person. We will eliminate this virus together.”

As for the number of cases in Marquette, there has been a slight increase in cases from the low numbers Marquette and NMU specifically have seen these previous weeks. According to the NMU COVID-19 Dashboard, NMU has 15 active cases as of March 17, seven of which are on campus.

“We have to be careful that all of the positive news about vaccinations does not have us believing that we are done with the pandemic,” Erickson said. “Please stay diligent regarding COVID-19 protocols.”

In addition to the increased cases, Marquette county has also confirmed its first case of the UK variant, B.1.1.7 strand on Tuesday, March 16. According to the CDC, Michigan had 616 cases as of March 16. With the UK strand entering the United States and Michigan, Michigan is now second in COVID variant cases according to Bridge Michigan.

“The Marquette County Health Department announced it was notified by Michigan’s State Laboratory of a confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was detected in a positive case in Marquette County, the first in the Upper Peninsula,” Erickson said. “This variant often referred to as the UK variant, is about 50% more transmissible, which increases the chances of faster spread of infection.”

As for staying safe during all of this, Erickson said that the answer is to “double down on what we know is already working” meaning wearing masks properly, social distancing, washing hands regularly, monitor for symptoms and stay home if you are feeling unwell. 

“While we have been repeating the message of diligence in the face of pandemic fatigue, the detection of this variant in Marquette County makes the COVID-19 protocols that much more important,” Erickson said. “These are actions within our control to take and can have a big impact on our campus.”

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