COVID-19 Update: Students Questions Answered

March 24, 2020

NMU Students,
Governor Whitmer’s announcement of an executive “Stay at home, stay safe” order yesterday is adding another layer of complexity to the COVID-19 situation, but it is an important action to try to slow down the spread of this highly infectious novel coronavirus. Thus, Northern will do what we have to do on campus to modify operations so that we are complying with the order. Many other states are also under “stay at home” orders.

Of course, changes bring questions. I know students have quite a few of them. I’m going to try answer some of the most popular ones that have come into the NMUPres@nmu.edu account. Please use the Frequently Asked Questions section of the COVID-19 website in the days ahead as that is where we will post new information. 

I did delay sending this communication to students until today (Tuesday, March 24) so that I could include some new information that has become available. The NMU Board of Trustees was able to meet today and approved an $820 credit, plus carryover of any remaining Dining Dollars to next semester, to students who check out of their residence hall rooms before 5 p.m. Friday, April 3. Students can also forego the credit and opt to remain on campus through the remainder of the semester, which ends May 2. We hope by providing multiple options for residence hall students, we are meeting the needs of on-campus students. More details are listed below. 

Throughout the rest of the semester, keep communicating with your faculty and your on-campus employment supervisors. NMU faculty and staff are committed and determined to help you successfully complete this crazy, historic, unprecedented semester. While I know it’s not the learning experience you signed up for last November, this coronavirus outbreak is certainly a learning experience as you navigate daily changes, participate as global citizen in a worldwide event, stretch your creativity and innovation in resolving issues and problems, and establish your personal priorities. 

I have confidence that you and Northern will come through this pandemic stronger and wiser. Please continue to practice social distancing and proper hygiene practices. Stay safe and well. Here are the top questions of today.

Fritz Erickson, NMU President  

COVID-19 in the UP?
On Tuesday afternoon (March 24), the Marquette County Public Health Department announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Marquette County, an individual who had traveled domestically and has since been self-isolated. There is also a presumptive case of an individual tested in Chippewa County on the eastern end of the U.P.  As we’ve been saying for the past week, we had to assume it had reached our area and we have been advising that we all act as if we have the virus, doing everything we can to protect those around from getting it. 

What does a “stay at home, stay safe” order mean?
A “stay at home” or “shelter in place” order is a temporary requirement to “suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.” More simply put, citizens are to remain in their place of residence to the maximum extent possible unless they need to leave for essential activities and work. 

This means many people will work at home, many businesses will close, and in-person gatherings and meetings are suspended. There are exceptions to business closures, such as grocery stores, banks, gas stations, health care offices, and such – places that sustain and protect life. 

The “stay at home” order does not include going outside for outdoor activities as long as individuals are practicing social distancing and keeping six feet apart. But the intent of the order is for people to limit their travel from their place of residence for the next three weeks (through April 13). The full executive order: Executive Order 2020-21

Is the University closing?
Northern remains open, although most of our non-residence hall facilities will be closed for the next three weeks. NMU faculty and staff will be mostly working from home.  Students can email or call NMU offices or units for assistance and services during normal business hours and the NMU Police Department 24 hours per day. You can find departmental email and phone numbers on departmental websites or the NMU online phone directory.

OPEN:
All residence halls and apartment buildings
Northern Lights Dining (carry out)
Wildcat Den (carry out)
Temaki and Tea (drive-thru only)
NMU Health Center
NMU Police Department
Service Building-Central Services (mail, warehouse)
Hedgcock - Open by Appointment: Dean of Students, Housing and Residence Life. 

All other buildings are closed. However, card swipe access to closed facilities will be granted to students whose jobs require them to gain entrance to a specific facility. Requests must come through supervisors.  This includes students working in NMU’s animal, plant and other research laboratories.

Consult the COVID-19 website (nmu.edu/covid) for changes to building closures hours of operation.

Will the residence halls and apartments be closing at some point? Are meals still being served?
The residence halls and apartments are open and dining services are being provided. It is Northern’s intent to keep the halls, apartments and dining services operational until the end of the semester. We know that for many of you, your NMU residence is your only home.  The dining and food facilities that remain open with carry-out and/or drive thru options including Northern Lights and CatTrax, Wildcat Den and Temaki and Tea. Closed are Starbucks, Fieras, Sundries and Melted.

Should I/can I go home?
Can you still travel to go home? Yes, the Governor’s executive order grants an exemption for individuals who need to travel to return to their home. If you decide to travel, please take every precaution possible.  Practice social distancing when you make stops, watch what you touch, wash your hands repeatedly and use hand sanitizer when you can’t.  Should you go home? You have to make the decision that is best for you and your family. You have housing and dining options if you want to stay or need to stay.

What should I do if I want to leave, but I can’t move my stuff right now?
I
f you choose to leave but can’t take your belongings with you at this time, that’s fine. Just turn in your key at the front desk. Your things will be cared for until you can return to pick them up at a later point. 

Can my family come into the halls/apartments to help me move?
External doors to NMU’s residence halls and apartment buildings are locked to prevent non-residents to help keep the facilities as safe as possible for the residents.  Visitors and guests are restricted to those assisting with the move-out of heavy and bulky items only. Please be sure any family member entering the hall/apartment, be is someone who is not coughing or sneezing, has a fever, or feels ill in any way.

I left. When should I return for my stuff?
If you have already returned home, please stay there until restrictions have been lifted. Your belongings are fine. They will be waiting for you when the COVID-19 situation has improved and it is safe for you to travel. Hang onto your key – no need to mail it back – and bring it with you when you return to pick up your belongings.

Am I going to get a refund?
The NMU Board of Trustees met Tuesday, March 24, and approved an $820 credit, plus a carryover of any remaining Dining Dollars to next semester, to students who check out of their residence hall rooms before 5 p.m. Friday, April 3. Students can also forego the credit and opt to remain on campus through the remainder of the semester, which ends May 2. Students who qualify for the credit will be able to choose whether to apply that credit toward Fall 2020 on-campus room and board costs or to their student account, less any outstanding balances. We will make every attempt to honor a student’s preferred choice, but in some cases, federal financial aid regulations may require us to offer an alternative plan. Also, students who have received institutional financial aid may have an offset to their credit based on the aid they have received. A communication will be sent Thursday, March 26, to all students with a residence hall contract, containing links to an online form and instructions for indicating their plans related to leaving campus or staying in place.

I’m getting really depressed. Can someone help me?
Yes, there are people to help. We know these constant changes are very stressful for students. While Counseling and Consultation Services cannot meet with students in-person during this time, phone consultation services are still be offered. Students can call CCS at 227-2980 during normal business hours (M-F, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.). CCS has also put an extensive list of coping techniques on its website to help students address the extra stress. 

With the university closing buildings, can I still work my student job?
Unfortunately, the Governor’s executive order will affect some on-campus student employees, but not all. You need to speak directly with your supervisor about your employment. Continuation of on-campus employment right now really depends on where you work. If positions open up due to students leaving campus, we are asking NMU supervisors to post their student work needs on the Career Service Handshake (nmu.edu/careerservices).  

I’ve lost my off-campus job. Are there any resources to help me?
We know many of our students are in this tough position. For immediate food and hygiene items, Northern is allowing the NMU Food Pantry on the first floor of Gries Hall (behind the Beaumier Center) to remain open during its normal hours of 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. All of the items are free of charge. The state has relaxed some of its eligibility requirements for unemployment and underemployment benefits, so we encourage students who lost off-campus jobs to consider filing to see if they are eligible. The Healthy Michigan Plan offers health insurance options for Michigan residents; check eligibility here.

Is the Friday shopping shuttle still operating?
Yes. The shuttle will continue to operate. Bus trips will be limited 10 or fewer riders at a time so that proper social distancing can be done.  But the buses will make as many trips as necessary to accommodate shoppers. The shuttle pickup location is in Lot 9, between Hunt and Meyland Halls, off Wright Street. The first bus will leave at 3 p.m. See the complete schedule with drop-off points at the shuttle website.

Is the bookstore closing? What do we do about book rentals?
The Barnes and Noble-NMU bookstore will be closed March 24 through April 12. It will be offering limited online order processing during that time. For students with book rentals who are not returning to campus at any point before the end of the semester, the store has created Rental Return page on its website where students can print out a UPS label to ship the books back, free of charge. Books must be shipped by the due date (currently May 2) and the label must be printed on or before the due date.

Is there any help for those of us struggling with the distance learning format?
Yes, the All-Campus Tutoring Center has designated some student tutors as available to help their peers transition to the distance learning format. To request help, email act@nmu.edu.  A tutor will get back to you and set up a ZOOM meeting, if needed. Also, there are a number of classes that already have tutors assigned to the specific EduCat course pages. Go to the ACT home page to see for which courses. Your faculty or ACAC adviser may also have resources and advice on how adjust to the distance learning format. The NMU Global Campus shares this handout and this video that our online-only students use to help them with the remote learning format.

Is academic advising and fall course registration canceled?
No, academic advising continues, although some faculty may have paused the last two weeks during the conversion process to distance learning. If you have not met with your faculty or ACAC adviser yet, please email them to set up time to connect via phone or Zoom. Registration for summer (no assigned times) and fall courses (assigned registration start times) is underway.  

I still need to print for my class. Where can I do that?
Keep in mind that the state is under a “stay in place” executive order that allows only essential travel, so please limit your trips to campus for printing only to what is absolutely necessary. Printers have been relocated to the Services Building room 132 and will be available from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. To find room 132, enter the Services Building at the entrance nearest to the NMU Police Department, go through the internal double doors and turn to the left. Room 132 is on the right.

Where do I go if my computer needs repair? How do I return library books? Give to the NMU Food Pantry?
The NMU Police Department and the Services Building are serving as a drop off for several areas on campus during this period when buildings are closed.  Between the hours if 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can drop off a computer for Micro Repair, an NMU Olson Library item for return or donations to NMU Food Pantry.  The Services Building is located on Sugarloaf Avenue (between Wright Street and Hawley Street).