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NMU closes rec facilities as cases rise: Off-campus student population has increase in positive results; Whitmer signs new bills into law

By CHRISTIE MASTRIC

Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University is pausing recreational sports activities at the Physical Education Instructional Facility Rec Center and the Wildcat Fit Zone for two weeks in an effort to further avoid congregating of students, faculty and staff amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the area.

The two facilities will tentatively reopen on Nov. 16 as the situation will be re-evaluated at that point.

“This pause is for nonacademic purposes only and does not pertain to any academic courses held at the PEIF,” NMU President Fritz Erickson announced in a Wednesday letter to students, faculty and staff.

Also, due to staffing limitations following a number of close-contact quarantines related to COVID-19 cases among employees, NMU has closed Fieras and Temaki & Tea and Smoothie King until at least Sunday. Both facilities have already undergone deep cleaning, with officials anticipating they will reopen on Monday.

Erickson noted that Northern received another batch of COVID-19 test results this week.

“The good news is that the on-campus student numbers remain relatively low and consistent,” he said. “The bad news is that we are definitely seeing the community spread reflected in the off-campus student cases, where we have had another measurable increase in positive results. Our numbers aren’t skyrocketing, but they definitely are going up and not down.

“Please use this information to increase your caution as you interact within the community.”

He also urged students, faculty and staff to wear their masks and maintain social distance when around those who live or spend considerable time off campus.

“Hopefully, the community cases start to decrease soon,” he said.

The final COVID-19 surveillance testing event at NMU will be on Monday. An appointment is required to get tested. No walk-up testing will be done. Open registration is now available to fill remaining testing times.

Appointments, which are from noon to 4 p.m. at the Northern Center, are available on a first-come, first-reserved basis and fill quickly during open registration, Erickson said.

Sign-up is at https://apps.nmu.edu/passport.

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 Thursday, there have been 165 COVID-19 positive cases, with a 2.19% positivity rate. These cases include 57 on-campus students, 93 off-campus students and 15 employees.

There are 74 active positive cases — 24 on-campus students, 43 off-campus students and seven employees.

The latest surveillance testing for Oct. 26 through Monday showed 30 positives out of 532 tests for a 5.64% positivity rate.

“We again remind all NMU student groups, as well as faculty and staff, to eliminate in-person gatherings at this time to the extent that is possible,” Erickson said. “Events, activities and meetings should be moved to a virtual format. This contributes to lowering the COVID-19 spread to those in the community. It also lowers the risk to our campus population while increasing our chances of being able to complete the fall semester on Nov. 24 without having to switch fully to remote learning, teaching and working.”

Erickson also penned a letter to students, faculty and staff on Tuesday, which read in part: “I keep getting calls and emails about Northern moving to remote learning on Monday. This is a rumor that is not true — at least it’s not true as of today. Our intent is that we will finish out the entire fall semester exactly as we are proceeding right now.

“Our COVID-19 cases have increased, but not to the point of dramatically changing our learning/living/working environment. It is true that we are making sure we’re ready to pivot if cases climb significantly, but our goal is still to make it through Nov. 24 not having switched to a remote format.”

Erickson said the intent is to conduct the winter semester in the same manner as the fall semester, with a mandatory mass testing event before the start of classes.

NMU will attempt to offer as many in-person courses as it can, he pointed out, but will be prepared with a “Plan B” remote learning option if needed. There also will be surveillance testing.

Governor signs bill

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed new coronavirus legislation on Thursday.

House Bill 6137 requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to publish publicly on the DHHS website certain data regarding COVID-19 and nursing homes.

The bill requires weekly updates from DHHS on its website at www.michigan.gov/coronavirus regarding certain COVID-19 metrics and visitation policies.

It also requires the publishing of historic COVID-19 nursing home data. The historic data must be published by Nov. 15, with future data to be updated weekly beginning on that date.

House Bill 6293 codifies in law certain expanded COVID-19 testing services that Whitmer provided for through executive orders.

This bill allows certain volunteers and workers to help with the COVID-19 testing process under the proper supervision of qualified licensees or local health departments until June 30.

House bills 6294-6297 together allow certain documents to be signed, witnessed and notarized electronically until Dec. 31.

The bills amend the Estates and Protected Individuals Code, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act and the Michigan Law on Notarial Acts.

The bills have largely retroactive effect from April 30 and encourage the use of electronic signatures, witnesses and records where available.

Sheriff’s office closed for the day

The Marquette County Sheriff’s Office announced that its administrative office was to have closed at 1 p.m. Thursday for cleaning and sanitizing due to an employee exposure to COVID-19.

The plan is to reopen today for regular business hours.

Babycakes reopens

Babycakes Muffin Company, at 223 W. Washington St., Marquette, has reopened after being closed since Oct. 24 due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19.

“It was our goal to keep our community and our employees as healthy as possible during the time, and we thank you for being so patient while we took a short break to clean and rest,” a Thursday Facebook post reads.

Webinar to feature holiday shopping

The Lake Superior Community Partnership is hosting a webinar at 11 a.m. Tuesday to discuss what to expect this holiday shopping season.

Matt Wagner, National Main Street Center Inc.’s vice president of revitalization programs, will present on innovative ideas for the business community as during an unusual holiday season amid COVID-19.

Wagner will touch on social media promotions, managing safety protocols and how to create a positive shopping experience for customers.

There will also be a question-and-answer portion for those tuning in.

The LSCP is hosting this webinar in collaboration with the Greater Ishpeming Negaunee Chamber of Commerce and downtown development authorities from Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming.

The webinar is available for free online and is open to the public.

To preregister, go to bit.ly/holidayshoppingwebinar.

Questions can be submitted prior to the webinar to Emily Tardiff at etardiff@marquette.org.

For those who may not be able to participate, a recording of the webinar will be available on marquette.org following the virtual event.

For more information on the webinar, contact Tardiff at etardiff@marquette.org.

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

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