KN-95 mask distributions continue throughout semester, masks available at Public Safety

Harry Stine, Contributing Writer

Northern Michigan University will conduct KN-95 mask distributions throughout the Winter 2022 semester to maintain COVID-19 safety protocols to keep omicron cases down. 

Chief Michael Bath of the NMU Police Department shared details of the KN-95 distribution process Thursday for the winter semester.

Bath said that the talks to give out KN-95 masks began in December, shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their recommendations to include the mask. He added that they ordered shipments from KN-95 retailer Green Supply and received them a few days later. 

NMU ordered public-use masks rather than medical-grade to avoid tapping into medical resources. 

The first round of distribution had sites in Hedgcock, Jacobetti, the Northern Center and the Science Building, with the latter being chosen for its close proximity to the commuter lots. This allowed students off-campus to have a place to easily pick up masks. 

In addition, Bath added that they partnered with NMU’s Housing department to have them place masks in students’ mailboxes.

“The housing staff stepped up and really made that distribution go smoothly,” Bath said. 

Bath said that masks are available at the Police Department on campus 24/7 but will continue to have distribution areas on campus for quicker pickup. 

Brooke Whaley, principal secretary for the technology and occupational sciences department, who also coordinated distribution in Jacobetti, said demand wasn’t overwhelming in Jacobetti and that they had masks on non-distribution days for students that came by the main office. 

“A lot of students that are taking classes in this building are not taking classes other places on campus, so it’s convenient for them to come to this building where their classes are and to be able to pick up their mask,” Whaley said.

To help better track distribution, Bath said that Northern’s information technology department created a program on NMU’s app The Bridge that had staff and students scan their NMU ID. He said that this helps Public Safety know when they need to order more masks. 

Whaley said the program was simple, and by scanning a student’s ID or typing in their IN they were able to see if they had already picked up their two masks. It also keeps track of how many they have received.

Whaley said that many of the distribution tables were volunteer-run. Whaley made a list of employee volunteers, each taking up two-hour shifts that spanned the whole day. 

Andrew Maity, student success specialist, volunteered in Hedgcock at one of the distribution tables during the first and second run. He said that everything had gone smoothly without any issues, and said it was a great process.

Bath also discussed the COVID Logistics Team which formed near the end of February 2020. The team played a large role in a lot of the changes in mask protocol.

“Not one or two or even three people could handle all of this,” Bath said. 

Bath said a sub-committee of the group created a COVID requirement that aligned with the CDC’s recommendations and that the team has weekly calls with the Marquette County Health Department to share details about the community and what is going on on campus to help form proper responses. 

The last mask distribution was held on Thursday, Feb. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with on-campus residents receiving their masks in their mailboxes. Those who missed the mask distribution can pick up masks anytime at Public Safety. 

For future mask distribution dates, check your NMU email for updates from Interim President Kerri Schuiling.