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NMU adapting to emergency order

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson has outlined what NMU life will be like following the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Sunday announcement of a three-week emergency order containing new COVID-19 restrictions.

The order lasts through Dec. 8 with a series of directives put in place to try to lower Michigan’s recent record-setting cases of COVID-19.

Included in the order are directives for all Michigan colleges and universities to switch to remote learning and to have all employees who can work remotely do so effective at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

In a Sunday letter to students, faculty and staff, Erickson said NMU is taking the following actions: 

≤ NMU will switch to remote learning, teaching and working no later than 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

“Last Friday, we told faculty they could move parts or all of their remaining courses to a remote format,” Erickson said in the letter. “Now they must do so by Wednesday, Nov. 18. We also said last Friday that offices and departments should start transitioning all NMU employees who can work remotely to a remote format. Now, we want that transition completed by Wednesday. Faculty who need to teach remotely from their classroom or lab due to internet and/or equipment reasons can continue to use those facilities through the end of the semester.”

≤ NMU will close to the public all university facilities, except those listed below, and lock the doors starting Wednesday. Unlike last spring, card access to buildings will continue to be operational during the remainder of the semester and throughout the semester break, with the campus reopening Jan. 11, but employees who can work remotely must do so. Every NMU office should perform critical university break closure procedures, such as emptying out refrigerators, unplugging electronic devices and turning down thermostats.

Facilities remaining open to the public are: the Northern Center lower level, including Barnes & Noble bookstore, Wildcat Express and Wildcat Den (take-out only, open through Nov. 29); Hedgcock, through Nov. 24; the NMU Health Center, through Nov. 24; the Lydia Olson Library, through Nov. 24; Temaki & Smoothie King, drive-through service only; and the NMU Police Department, 24/7 365 days of the year.

≤ Residence halls will continue to be operation until their original fall semester closure time of noon Nov. 29. Students living in the halls are welcome to continue their sequestering as a precaution to bringing COVID-19 home to family and friends until any point up to the Nov. 29 closure.

NMU already had converted to take-out dining only at Northern Lights Dining as of Saturday. Student employees scheduled to work during the Nov. 15-Dec. 8 period and beyond should contact their supervisors for guidance regarding their essential work or remote options.

≤ As was done last spring, the NMU Police Department will be set up by Wednesday near its office in the Service Building on Sugar Loaf Avenue to serve as a drop-off area for notebook computers, library returns, residence hall keys, donations for the NMU Food Pantry and other items.

“Luckily, most of our university activities already have a remote option, so the state’s emergency order is not throwing us into a state of complete chaos for the final seven days of fall course,” Erickson wrote. “Still, I know this adds another layer of complexity to the semester’s end. Flexibility — we said in August how important it would be throughout the semester in order for us to be able to declare success when we got to the break. It was true in Week 1 and it continues to be true for these final days as well.

“I thank everyone for your patience and cooperation with all of the moving parts. Don’t let COVID-19 fatigue overtake you. Please remain diligent in following our pandemic protocols. They are as vital today as they’ve ever been.”

The most recent cumulative numbers on NMU’s Safe on Campus dashboard, found at https://nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/, show that between July 27 and Monday, there have been 235 COVID-19 positive cases, with a 3.12% positivity rate. These cases include 99 on-campus students, 117 off-campus students and 19 employees.

There are 61 active positive cases — 34 on-campus students, 23 off-campus students and four employees.

Injunction granted

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office announced that the lawsuit led by Nessel and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra against U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her attempt to divert millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funding from public schools is officially over.

Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court Northern District of California on Nov. 9 approved a permanent injunction, formally closing the case on DeVos’ efforts to rewrite a section of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that would have diverted more than $15 million in funding away from Michigan public Schools.

“This permanent injunction sends a clear message that the publicly funded CARES Act dollars should be used as Congress intended — to educate our public students, and not to serve the political agendas of a select few,” Nessel said in a statement.

The injunction prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from:

≤ Requiring states and local education agencies to calculate the share of CARES Act funds for private schools in a manner inconsistent with Title I’s calculation for equitable services to private schools.

≤ Requiring that funds supplement, rather than supplant, other fund sources.

≤ Restricting the distribution of funds to only those public schools that participate in or are eligible for Title I.

≤ Taking any adverse action against districts or schools that relied on the original guidance or interim final rule before the preliminary injunction entered.

Grants available

for small businesses

The Small Business Association of Michigan is partnering with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to administer at least $3 million in weatherization grants to help qualified small businesses with expanding outdoor capacity during the cold-weather months.

These grants could be particularly helpful in the Upper Peninsula.

“With the nature of our economy and our winters, this funding is as appreciated as it is helpful,” said InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante in a news release. “But it is critical that eligible businesses in the U.P. understand that this funding is first come, first serve, and will not come near satisfying the need that will exist. So, U.P. businesses need to be prepared, be persistent and act immediately.”

Applications must be submitted beginning at noon Wednesday at www.MiWinterGrants.org. Eligible businesses may apply to receive between $1,000 and $10,000 in funding for weatherized, temporary outdoor facilities, while eligible municipalities and local organizations may apply to receive up to $15,000.

Commercial firms and nonprofits with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees in these industries are eligible to apply for funding: restaurants, bars, banquet centers, retail stores, gyms and fitness centers. Also eligible are commercial property owners who provide common space for tenants, and local governments, including cities, townships, villages and counties that provide common space for businesses.

Grants funds may be used for things such as portable heaters, outdoor cooking equipment, security devices, electronic menu access, delivery charges and labor for installation, outdoor furniture and tableware, fencing, sanitizing supplies and equipment, temporary structures that include canopies, and necessary upgrades to increase capacity for carryout and delivery service.

The LEO identified COVID-19 federal funding to assist Michigan businesses in their winterization efforts. The grants are provided through the federal CARES Act. Grant funds are available for purchases made between Aug. 1 and Dec. 30, 2020.

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

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