Expanded therapeutic access, spike in COVID-19 cases, plans for fall semester

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Sam Rush/NW

Ashley Beronja

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a COVID-19 briefing on April 14 discussing Michigan’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. With Michigan experiencing a rise in cases, Whitmer has made no new regulations however expanded therapeutic access for Monoclonal antibodies for those with COVID-19.

“We are using every mitigation strategy, every medication and every treatment option to fight the virus here in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “These antibody treatments could keep you out of the hospital and save your life and my administration and I will continue working with the federal government to make sure we are using all the tools in our toolbox to keep you and your family safe and get back to normal sooner.”

Monoclonal antibodies are molecules made in labs that can restore, enhance or mimic the immune system’s attack on cells. This treatment will target parts of the virus and prevent it from bonding with cells in the body and effectively neutralize it.

Despite the expansion of therapeutic access for mAb and more Michigan residents receiving the vaccination, Whitmer said that it is important to double down on handwashing, mask-wearing and social distancing. 

Michigan is experiencing the second spike in cases with 7,955 new cases coming in on April 14. The last spike Michigan had was back in November throughout the holiday season. Marquette county currently has 3,870 total cases with NMU having 23 total active cases. Of those 23 cases, 17 are off-campus and six are on campus.

“The vaccines are proving to be effective for preventing serious illness among people that receive them but we are still learning more about the ability for someone to carry the virus and pass it to others despite having the vaccination,” Dr. Christopher Kirkpatrick, medical director at the NMU Vielmetti Health Center, said.

With summer break approaching and students returning home until August, the ongoing concern is how Michigan will handle COVID-19 this summer and what learning will look like for the fall. In a recent forum hosted by President Fritz Erickson, the goal is to head into the fall semester fully face to face.

“Our students and our faculty want to be face to face. There is no doubt in my mind…that’s very much who we are,” Erickson said. “There’s an important place for online and I see that online programs are growing and serving populations that need that service, but not at the expense of being face to face.”

On April 13, CDC and FDA announced the pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine distributions in response to the six cases of women having blood clotting issues after receiving the vaccine. This announcement came just days after NMU received its allocations of the vaccine. Kirkpatrick said that this pause will not directly affect the upcoming semester in terms of preventing the ability to return face to face.

“The university takes the fall opening very seriously and with an optimistic plan to go face to face fully,” Kirkpatrick said. “[NMU] has shown in the past that they definitely will look at the current information and current climate and make a decision that’s appropriate for the safety of the community.”

Students can sign up to get vaccinated with MCHD and Walgreens in Marquette. Michigan residents outside of Marquette county can sign up for their first dose in Marquette and contact their local health department for the second. To find vaccination sites outside of Marquette county, students can go to Michigan.gov. Students living outside Michigan can find vaccination sites through the county’s health department or the website, VaccineFinder.