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CANCELLATIONS: NMU, other schools going online, events postponed

MARQUETTE — The coronavirus is having a major effect on universities in the Upper Peninsula and downstate.

In a Wednesday letter to Northern Michigan University students, faculty and staff, President Fritz Erickson said that after consultation with state and university officials, the following decisions have been made with the health and safety of students, faculty and staff in mind during the COVID-19 outbreak:

≤ All classes, labs, events and campus-wide meetings are canceled today and Friday. The campus will remain open.

≤ Face-to-face classes will resume in an online/distance delivery format beginning Monday and continue through April 3. A decision concerning the rest of the semester and final exams will be made by March 30. Faculty will provide information before the first class meeting next week to let students know how course delivery will be handled.

≤ Lab classes will continue meeting in person with exceptions determined by the academic department and the respective dean.

≤ Residence halls, student food services and recreation areas will remain open with some functional changes that will be determined in the next few days. The goal is to meet the needs of students while taking the necessary precautions.

≤ All large events in March and April of 150 or more attendees will be canceled or adjusted. Other campus events are subject to cancellation.

≤ Wildcat Weekend, NMU’s major spring student recruiting event scheduled for Saturday, has been canceled.

“In short, the university remains open with most classes being held online,” Erickson wrote. “The myriad of follow-up questions will be addressed as soon as possible. University leaders across campus will be asked to make decisions and adjust as needed as we serve our students as best we can, with special attention for our graduating seniors meeting their graduation requirements.”

Michigan Technological University announced Wednesday that effective Monday, it will suspend all face-to-face instruction and move to virtual classes.

This arrangement will remain in place until April 17. The university will decide by April 10 whether to extend the time period.

“We must all stay vigilant to help protect each other and our community from the potential effects of this virus,” said Michigan Tech President Rick Koubek in a statement. “Michigan Tech’s COVID-19 response team, consisting of University leadership and public health officials, has reviewed and is modifying as needed our plans for preventing the contraction and/or spread of COVID-19. Six University task forces have prepared for and are responding to implications and impacts on the campus community.”

According to the announcement, Michigan Tech is taking this pre-emptive measure to mitigate potential impacts associated with the spread of the virus. Students are currently on spring break and the vast majority of them have traveled outside the Houghton-Hancock area. As there is no way to definitively know who, if anyone, has been exposed to COVID-19, the university is limiting the amount of time students will spend in close proximity to each other for at least 14 days after spring break ends.

Michigan Tech students are permitted to return to campus, and each student is expected to make the choice that’s best for their personal situation. All dining services and residential housing will remain open and operational.

Michigan Tech is working closely with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department and is following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control in monitoring COVID-19 developments.

Lake Superior State University announced that effective Monday, the university has suspended all face-to-face instruction through at least April 17, and is moving to an online/virtual learning environment. The possibility of resuming classes is subject to ongoing evaluation by LSSU.

Michigan State University is suspending face-to-face classes and moving to online instruction after the state’s first two cases of coronavirus were announced, and the University of Michigan said online classes or other arrangements will last until the week of April 19, the end of the spring term, according to Associated Press stories.

The MSU move will last until April 20. School officials on Wednesday said they learned of a probable case linked to its campus, which local health officials are investigating.

Amanda Darche, a spokeswoman for the Ingham County Health Department, said in the AP story that an MSU student showing symptoms has been tested and results are pending. The student had contact with one of the two people confirmed to have COVID-19, a Wayne County man, she said.

The AP also reported that Wayne State University extended spring break through March 22, while Central Michigan University told students not to return to campus after this week’s break and prepare for online instruction at least through March 20.

Other measures

announced

Marquette Area Public Schools recently developed a four-tiered plan to address potential coronavirus protections and possible outbreak. This plan was submitted to the Marquette County Health Department for feedback and approval, which MAPS received.

As events continue to unfold, MAPS’ plan will be flexible and responsive to directives from the state of Michigan and the county health department.

MAPS announced that it has initiated Tier 1 of the plan and is working to implement parts or all of Tier 2. In the Tier 1 phase, school nurse Linda Johnson issued a letter to staff, students and families on best practices to avoid the spread of the virus.

Elementary principals implemented a K-5 hand-wash program throughout the school day. Building custodians outfitted each classroom with a kit consisting of disinfectant spray and paper toweling to be used to wipe down desks, door handles and other hard-surface areas.

Custodians were asked to outfit each 6-12 classroom with hand sanitizer, and disinfectant spray and microfiber wipes are being distributed to sanitize Chromebooks and iPads. Custodians also were instructed to focus more attention on sanitizing common areas and classrooms.

The Tier 2 phase calls for more insulating factors to keep students, staff and community safe.

As MAPS rolls out parts or all of this phase today, it will communicate those changes to students and parents.

Contingency plans have been developed for Tier 3 and 4 if necessary. The determining factor for escalation of tiers will be the spread of the virus from a national/state level, to a regional level, to a local level and finally, a school level, or factors determined by the state or county.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is planning to conduct all remaining winter postseason tournaments as scheduled. However, based on the recommendations from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the MHSAA is finalizing plans that will either prohibit or allow limited spectators through this Saturday’s events.

This weekend’s boys swimming and diving finals will be held as scheduled at Oakland University and the Holland Aquatic Center, but will be conducted with no on-site spectators. All events at both swim final locations will be streamed live at MHSAA.tv.

Specific plans and policies for spectators at this weekend’s ice hockey semifinals and finals, girls gymnastic finals, girls regional basketball and boys district basketball games were to be provided today. Spectator plans for the final two weeks of the girls and boys basketball tournaments will be provided by Monday.

The annual Celebrate the U.P.! event, which features speakers and other activities highlighting the places and outdoor pursuits in the Upper Peninsula, has been indefinitely postponed due to the uncertainty created by the spread of the coronavirus.

The event, organized by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition and this year co-sponsored by Friends of the Land of Keweenaw and Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center, was scheduled for March 27-28 in Hancock and Houghton.

“In the last two days the number of confirmed cases has risen over 12,000 worldwide with seven countries having over 1,000 each, up from four on Sunday,” said UPEC President Horst Schmidt in a news release. “The U.S. confirmed cases have risen from 456 to 755 in two days. There are no confirmed cases in the U.P., but the picture could rapidly change in the next two and half weeks. Students coming back from spring break at MTU, where part of the event was scheduled to occur, could change that picture.”

No date has been set to reschedule the celebration as an in-person event. However, UPEC is considering the possibility of organizing some of the presentations as a virtual online event that would be open to the public, in which case an announcement will be forthcoming.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan informed its employees of several steps the company is taking to protect its workforce from the COVID-19 virus while also preserving critical operations to provide members and customers with continued access to care.

BCBSM will require eligible employees not currently participating in its remote work program, ‘BlueSpace,” to work remotely two or three days per week. Ten customer walk-in centers, one of which is in Marquette, will close Monday through March 31.

The company is suspending all but the most essential business or air travel through April 30. Visitors to company facilities will be required to complete a questionnaire about their recent travel activity as a condition of entering.

Facilities will be cleaned and sanitized more frequently, with an emphasis on buildings and work areas where large numbers of employees work daily.

Large in-person meetings will be rescheduled or held virtually using online platforms.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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