Saunders updates parents on COVID-19

Bill Saunders, superintendent, Marquette Area Public Schools


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Marquette Area Public Schools Superintendent Bill Saunders on Tuesday issued a letter to parents and guardians of MAPS students that explains some of the school district’s activities in the coming weeks.

On Sunday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued an order with new COVID-19 restrictions, which include students in ninth through 12th grades moving to distance learning through Dec. 8.

Administrative teams from Marquette Senior High School and Marquette Alternative High School have put detailed plans in place, Saunders said.

“They’ll be communicating with parents what the teaching and learning plans will look like, what student expectations will be and how the teachers and staff will support all students,” Saunders wrote.

Throughout the online learning period for students in grades 9-12, MAPS food service will continue with scheduled pickup times in which breakfast and lunch will be distributed. This information will be available on the MAPS website at www.mapsnet.org or directly at the Food Service website.

“The move to remote learning also brings on other questions and concerns, most notably internet connectivity issues,” Saunders said. “MAPS has established hotspots on each school building where students can obtain an internet signal. The hotspots are located closest to the parking lots and labeled as free Wi-Fi. Please contact your building administrator if you have no internet at home and are unable to access a hotspot at one of our seven buildings.”

Saunders said he has received a few inquiries from the community and staff as to why K-8 remains open. 

“In all the plans pushed out from the state, even back to last summer, maintaining face-to-face learning at the younger ages has been a top priority,” he said. “Our government officials articulated this point Sunday night. Aside from the greater benefits of face-to-face instruction, it was noted that transmission among the younger ages was less than that of our older students.

“Additionally, in recent conversations with our own county health department, they are not recommending a universal countywide closure of K-8 schools. Our own data shows three active cases among all K-8 students. The MAPS school board and administration will continue our current practice to monitor the data daily, and if cases rise or if transmission occurs within the schools, we’ll be prepared to go virtual for the health and safety of all.”

Saunders called the current climate of educating students in the COVID-19 era “extremely taxing” on the school district’s educators, administrators, students, parents and families.

“No blueprint exists to guide us to the best choices and every decision is second-guessed,” he said. “Families still have a choice to have their children learn online or face-to-face. For the nearly 2,600 students still choosing some aspect of in-person learning, it seems evident that wearing masks and social distancing is making a difference and creating a safer environment.

“Our educators, like our first responders, have risen to the challenge and are remarkable unsung heroes. Please join me in showering them with all the praise possible. It’s well deserved.”

Kewadin closes casinos

Kewadin Casinos has voluntarily closed all five of its casinos for three weeks, with the reopening date set for Dec. 9.

Guest reservations through Dec. 8 will be automatically canceled. Guests with questions should call 1-800-KEWADIN.

Kewadin Casinos will continue to follow all health and sanitation guidelines in place as well as the current phase chart that outlines restrictions based on positivity rates in each county.

For more information about the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, visit www.saulttribe.com. For more information about Kewadin Casinos, visit www.Kewadin.com.

Governors urge safety

In a bipartisan effort, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and governors from six other states have released a video that encourages everyone across the region to remain safe leading into the holiday season.

Joining Whitmer were Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers appearing in the “Mask Up” video, which can be found at https://youtu.be/c39ymDApClw.

Whitmer, Pritzker, Beshear, Walz and Evers are Democrats while Holcomb and DeWine are Republicans.

“For eight months, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated American families everywhere,” the governors said in a statement. “To fight this virus, governors across the country have listened to medical experts, stepped up and worked around the clock to protect our families, the brave men and women on the front lines, and our small business owners.

“And no matter the action we take, we understand that our fight against COVID-19 will be more effective when we work together.”

They said that over the past month, COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed across the Midwest, and medical experts advise people not to host Thanksgiving gatherings with people from outside their households.

“When it comes to fighting this virus, we are all on the same team,” they said.

NMU cases up

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 Wednesday, there have been 254 COVID-19 positive cases, with a 3.37% positivity rate. These cases include 106 on-campus students, 124 off-campus students and 24 employees.

There are 76 active positive cases — 39 on-campus students, 29 off-campus students and eight employees.

Nessel joins coalition

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced she has joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general in a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urging them to reject recent recommendations made by the Trump administration’s National Institutes of Health Human Fetal Tissue Ethics Advisory Board.  

The board’s recommendation would withhold federal funding for fetal tissue research grant proposals, putting limits on research into possible treatments and therapies for various health conditions, including COVID-19. The recommendation comes after a two-year campaign by the Trump administration to block federally funded research using fetal tissue as well as an executive order to ban the research. 

“While leading scientists are encouraging the use of fetal tissue research to develop treatments for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration is attempting to withhold critical funding for this important work,” Nessel said in a statement. 

She noted the United States has been hit hard by the pandemic, and the board’s recommendation would “effectively hinder” advances in finding a treatment for the coronavirus.

“President Trump himself was treated for COVID with Remdesivir, a drug developed through fetal tissue research — why shouldn’t every American have that opportunity?” Nessel asked.

According to the attorney general’s office, fetal tissue has been an essential part of scientific and medical advances that have saved millions of lives in the United States and across the globe. Fetal tissue was used in the research that led to the vaccines for poliovirus, rubella, measles and rabies and remains a crucial part of vital biomedical research. 

In its letter, the coalition argues the board was not fairly balanced in terms of viewpoint, as two-thirds of its members are on record opposing abortion, fetal tissue or both. Nessel said the board’s proceedings also lacked transparency, noting that all its meetings were in closed session except for one virtual meeting held for less than an hour.

The attorneys general urge NIH Director Francis S. Collins and HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II to use their authority to reject the board’s recommendations and maintain federal funding for research projects using fetal tissue that have already been recommended for funding.  

In sending the letter, Nessel joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. 

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


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