Q&A for Faculty and Staff

This page contains a selection of questions and answers that NMU has received from faculty and staff. Visit NMU's Safe on Campus website for more information on NMU's Safe on Campus plans.


Updated 9/10/2020

Employees and workforce

What is being done to protect employees?

Keeping NMU employees and students safe is the top priority for Northern Michigan University.

NMU has implemented many safety precautions throughout campus. It is the responsibility of faculty, staff, students and visitors to keep our campus safe from community-wide spread of the COVID-19 virus.  The NMU Preparedness and Response Plan provides detailed information on these precautions and employee responsibilities.

What do I do if I’m feeling ill or experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms?

Call your supervisor and report that you will not be able to report to campus for work. If symptoms present while at work, call your supervisor, or wear a mask and inform your supervisor. If it is safe to drive, leave campus to go home. If a ride or emergency transportation is needed, call 911, and if possible, segregate from others who may be in the area while waiting. Except for emergencies, further treatment or testing should be arranged by the employee from home.

What do I do if I’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19?

Regular and temporary faculty and staff should fill out the Potential Exposure Notification Form for the following circumstances:

1) You have been contacted and told to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider or a health department as a result of a potential exposure.
2) You have had close proximity exposure to someone with a positive test result (for example, someone in your household). See CDC guidelines for definition of exposure.
3) Someone in your household has had COVID-19 symptoms for three consecutive days.

Once the form is submitted, do not go on-campus to work until one of the following occurs:

  • Your primary healthcare provider indicates that you can go to work (submitting documentation to Human Resources may be required before you can return to work).
  • You are contacted by a member of the Safety Department, the Health Center or Human Resources and informed that you can return to work.

Who is considered a "close contact"?

A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. Close contacts are at risk of getting sick and must be identified and put in quarantine. Contacts of close contacts do not need to be identified, contacted or quarantined.

What do I do if I receive a COVID-19 positive test result?

Call Human Resources directly if you are diagnosed with COVID-19. The following individuals will be able to assist you:

  • (primary contact) Kimberly Hongisto, Human Resources Benefits Assistant, at 227-2470
  • (back-up contact) Kristen Bjorne, Director of Benefits, 227-1030
  • (back-up contact) Renee Sheen, Assistant Director of Human Resources, at 227-2331
  • (back-up contact) Rhea Dever, AVP of Human Resources, at 227-2333

My co-worker is ill and didn’t report to work, what should I do?

All employees exhibiting symptoms or under a physician order to self-quarantine or self-isolate must be in contact with a supervisor or with Human Resources. A thorough process will be followed by trained NMU staff. The Safety Department, Human Resources, the Health Center and Facilities each have a role to ensure employee safety and well-being. Trust the process. Remember, employees are not to engage in discussions about another’s medical or personal information.


Benefits

Since the University is telling employees who are sick to stay home, do I have to use my sick leave?

If you are sick you should remain at home and get well, and using your sick leave enables you to be paid while you are unable to work. The University provides employees sick leave for the very purpose to use when you are sick. Employees subject to quarantine or isolation orders or who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking COVID-19 testing or treatment may qualify for Emergency Paid Sick Leave through the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

How can I find out more about the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?

Employees may read the Family First Coronavirus Response Act Employee Rights poster, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Frequently Asked Questions page, or may contact Kimberly Hongisto, Human Resources Benefits Assistant, at 227-2470 to discuss individualized situations.

What is a medical accommodation?

Northern has a medical accommodations process for employees with medical conditions that affect their working situation. If you have a medical condition, even if you are already working remotely, work with Human Resources to complete the medical accommodation process.  Contact Renee Sheen, Assistant Director of Human Resources, at 227-2331 or Rhea Dever, AVP of Human Resources, at 227-2333. Human Resources will work with the employee and will provide guidance to the supervisor.

Will the COVID-19 test be covered by our insurance?

Yes.  For physician authorized COVID-19 testing, the cost sharing amounts for tests and associated services are waived until the end of the public health emergency.  This is part of a federal mandate and Blue Cross will continue to cover as long as the mandate is in place.

Will treatment for COVID-19 be covered by our insurance?

Yes.  For physician authorized COVID-19 treatment the cost share waiver has been extended through December 31, 2020.  Blue Cross will be reimbursing members that have cost share applied for dates of service between July 1st and December 31st, 2020.  Blue Cross will send you a letter along with a check if cost share was applied.

Can I get the blood-antibody test?

NMU Health Center is conducting blood-antibody testing for staff, faculty, and their immediate family members who carry NMU health insurance fully covered. Testing for non-NMU insurance holders remains prohibitively expensive due to the tests being processed at an outside lab. Contact the Health Center at 227-2355 or x2355 to schedule a 15-minute lab appointment if you wish to participate.

If my doctor wants to schedule an appointment with me over the phone, will our Blue Cross plan cover this type of visit?

Yes. This type of appointment with your in-network doctor is known as telehealth medical services and Blue Cross has temporarily waived the employee co-pay amount through at least June 30, 2020.  This also includes the most common behavioral health therapy services for telehealth as well as adding the most common medical services.

Am I permitted to increase or decrease my election for my dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) or cancel my election entirely due to closures and/or re-opening of my daycare facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes.   Effective July 1, 2020 participating employees in the dependent care FSA may make mid-year election changes on a prospective basis until the end of this calendar year.  With respect to the dependent care FSA, employees may 1) revoke an election entirely; or 2) decrease or increase an existing election.  An existing election may not be decreased to an amount that would not cover amounts already reimbursed.  In addition, employees not currently participating may now enroll.   If you are interested in making any changes, please e-mail Kimberly Hongisto, Benefits Assistant, at khongist@nmu.edu and she will send you the appropriate change form.

Am I permitted to increase or decrease my election for my health care flexible spending account (FSA) or cancel my election entirely due to the cancellation or rescheduling of medical procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes.  Effective July 1, 2020 participating employees in an FSA plan may make mid-year election changes on a prospective basis until the end of this calendar year.  With respect to the health care FSA, employees may 1) revoke an election entirely; or 2) decrease or increase an existing election.  An existing election may not be decreased to an amount that would not cover amounts already reimbursed.   In addition, employees not currently participating may now enroll.  If you are interested in making any changes, please e-mail Kimberly Hongisto, Benefits Assistant, at khongist@nmu.edu and she will send you the appropriate change form.

What is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security (CARES) Act?

The CARES Act is the largest stimulus package ever enacted in the United States and is aimed at providing financial relief to individuals, businesses, healthcare, and education sectors. 

What effect does the CARES Act have on my health care flexible spending account (FSA)?

Within the CARES Act are provisions that may help faculty and staff who are enrolled in a health care flexible spending account (FSA) with takecare Wageworks.  The following provisions are included in the Act:

  • The use of health care FSA funds to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines without a prescription from a physician.
  • Adds feminine hygiene products, including tampons, pads, liners, and similar products, to the list of OTC items eligible for reimbursement from a health care FSA.

The OTC changes are effective for expenses incurred after December 31, 2019.  

Using your takecare VISA card (debit card) for OTC drugs without a prescription and menstrual products is dependent on the updated eligible product list managed by the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards (SIGIS), then merchants updating their systems. In the interim, members will need to submit manual claims with the proper documentation.

What effect does the CARES Act have on my TIAA 403(b) Retirement Plan?

The CARES Act allows retirement plan participants to take a Coronavirus-related distribution or retirement plan loan.  Participants will need to certify their eligibility with TIAA.  To learn more about your options, see the Provisions Affecting Retirement Plans or, visit TIAA and click the Learn More Button under "Guiding You Through Turbulent Times."  Feel free to contact Kristen Bjorne at 227-1030 or e-mail kportale@nmu.edu with any questions.


Travel matters

Explain Northern’s current travel restrictions.

Per the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Northern has suspended all university-sponsored air and ship travel, both domestic and international, for students, faculty and staff until further notice. Domestic travel by land is permitted. Supervisors may require such travel that is necessary to perform essential job duties. Once restrictions are lifted, and absent any prohibitions by governmental authorities, supervisors may require travel to non-restricted areas the CDC deems safe, particularly if such travel is necessary for the employee to perform essential job duties.

What is meant by university-sponsored travel?

University-sponsored travel means some level of funding of the travel is coming from Northern Michigan University.

Is it OK for job candidates, guest speakers and others to travel to campus?

As of March 16, Northern is restricting all university-sponsored travel to campus for job candidates, guest speakers, student-athlete recruits and others with the exception of situations directly related to health, safety and business continuance. Contact the President’s Office (227-2244, NMUPres@nmu.edu) for exception approvals until further notice.

Should I travel abroad for a personal trip?

With the COVID-19 virus at a pandemic level, according to the World Health Organization, Northern strongly encourages its students, faculty and staff to be aware of the risk of travel of any kind, both domestic and international, as the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide and is reported in all US states.

What is the NMU International Travel Registry?

The NMU International Travel Registry is a database maintained by the University to record general travel itinerary information for student, faculty and staff travel, both university sponsored and personal, so that Northern has the information it needs to contact individuals in the event of an emergency or to pass along information being received from the U.S. State Department, Homeland Security, the CDC, WHO and other agencies before, during and after the travel period regarding the travel destination. During the COVID-19 emergency, Northern has been using the NMU International Travel Registry to record domestic travel to and from high-risk areas, as well, as a way to communicate information quickly to travelers as needed. The Registry can be accessed through the MyNMU portal. Submission to the NMU International Travel Registry is required for university-sponsoring international travel by students, faculty and staff for funding reimbursement.


Additional Resources:

NMU's Safe on Campus website

Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Telecommuting Tips and Checklists

Managing your Stress and Anxiety