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NMU prepares for ‘near-normal’ operations

MARQUETTE — In a letter this week to students, faculty and staff, Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson issued a reminder that Tuesday is when NMU is expected to return to “near-normal” operations for remaining areas of campus that were closed or had modified operations because of COVID-19.

Erickson said the university is on target for full operations to resume.

“Northern is focused on three upcoming dates as we work to prepare to get back to fully face-to-face instruction and on-campus living and working,” Erickson wrote.

NMU also is lifting university visitor restrictions on that date, and sooner in areas that have reopened, he said. However, at least until July 1, visitors who are not fully vaccinated must comply with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order to be properly masked when inside any NMU facility.

July 1 is the deadline for on-campus students, faculty and staff to receive a $100 dining credit thank-you gift for uploading vaccination documentation into The Bridge app, Erickson said. This is to help NMU accurately predict its vaccination rate for the fall semester.

After July 1, the dining credit amount goes to $50 until Aug. 1.

Erickson pointed out that July 1 is when MDHHS indicated it would lift its remaining epidemic orders, and many outstanding decisions can be finalized and communicated soon after that date based on vaccination rates and NMU’s ability to confirm what it expects to be in the changing state orders.

Erickson stressed that NMU must wait until the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration responds to the MDHHS changes since the university must comply with MIOSHA as well.

“Thus, the holding pattern into July as the unknowns could definitely impact our decisions and protocols for fall,” Erickson wrote.

According to Erickson, Aug. 1 is the deadline to receive the $50 dining credit thank-you gift for uploading vaccination documentation into The Bridge app.

“This is also Northern’s target date for every office and university function to be fully operational for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 23,” Erickson said. “By Monday, Aug. 2, every office should be fully staffed and open to serving students and the public.”

Erickson noted that he has been asked how vaccination rates will impact various university decisions for the fall.

“Having a pretty accurate understanding of our student vaccination level will help us to know if we need to keep Spalding Hall as the isolation/quarantine facility or if we can designate a smaller space for that purpose,” he wrote.

Erickson indicated that if the student vaccination rate is “pretty high,” NMU can use a smaller space because vaccinated individuals identified as close contacts don’t need to quarantine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules.

He said NMU next week will begin to remove Plexiglass barriers from classrooms and general areas, which is expected to take about a month.

Whitmer issues statement on doses

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Friday issued the following statements as Michigan reaches 60% of the population age 16 and older receiving at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Thanks to every Michigander who stepped up to keep themselves, their family and their community safe,” Whitmer said. “We can all feel a sense of optimism thanks to the tireless efforts of countless frontline workers who put their own safety on the line to keep the rest of us going. And we are tremendously grateful to the medical community who kept us all safe and created the safe, effective vaccines, all miracles of modern science.

“As we cross the 60% milestone in vaccinations, we are seeing cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to fall fast, which has helped to poise our economy for a strong recovery. I know that we can give Michigan the economic jump start it needs with the billions in available federal funds and our multi-billion dollar budget surplus.”

Gilchrist said, “I am pleased to see that so many Michiganders are continuing to make the choice to get vaccinated. Thank you to every person who has had a conversation with someone in their life to encourage them to get vaccinated, and the professionals and volunteers who have made vaccines available everywhere in our state.

“These safe, effective vaccines are our best shot to end this pandemic on our own terms.”

Additional food payments available

All Michigan families who are eligible for food assistance benefits will receive an additional payment this month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MDHHS announced on Friday. Close to 700,000 Michigan households will benefit under approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.

June is the second month that all Michigan households will receive the additional benefits. Previously — beginning in April 2020 — families already receiving the maximum monthly amount of assistance were not eligible for additional COVID-19 emergency benefits, while others received an increase that brought them to the maximum monthly allotment.

Now all households will receive an increase of at least $95 monthly, even if they are already receiving the maximum payment or are close to that amount, the MDHHS said. Households that received over $95 to bring them to the maximum payment for their group size will continue to receive that larger amount.

Eligible clients will see additional food assistance benefits on their Bridge Card from today to June 22. Additional benefits will be loaded onto Bridge Cards as a separate payment from the assistance that is provided earlier in the month.

“As we continue to return to normal, it’s important to note that there are still many people who are struggling due to the global pandemic,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement.

Eligible families don’t need to reapply to receive the additional benefits. People who receive food assistance can check their benefits balance on their Michigan Bridge Card by visiting www.michigan.gov/MIBridges or calling a consumer service representative toll-free at 888-678-8914. They may ask questions about the additional benefits by calling or emailing their caseworker.

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

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