Campus Update - March 9, 2020

 

NMU Students, Faculty and Staff,
 

Welcome back to those of you who are returning from spring break.  I hope you had a relaxing and healthy break. Now that everyone is back, it is vital that we are diligent to our good hygiene practice.  For example, make sure to:

·       wash your hands frequently

·       sneeze/cough into tissues or sleeves and

·       stay home if you are sick.
 

It may seem too simple of a thing to make a major difference in the spread of infectious diseases, but for non-airborne viruses such as seasonal influenza and the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is the most important thing we can collectively do to keep NMU healthy. 
 

Not feeling well?
Remember, if you are feeling unwell, stay home and rest. Do not go to class, work or campus/community events. If you are concerned about your symptoms, contact your physician or the NMU Health Center (227-2355).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have indicated that older individuals and those with immune and medical issues are at a higher risk for catching and having a more severe case of COVID-19.  If you are an NMU community members with immune or medical issues that put you at risk, please contact the appropriate office for assistance in requesting a medical accommodation:

·       Students – contact Disability Student Services at 227-1700

·       Faculty and Staff – contact Human Resources at 227-2330 
 

CDC recommendations
This week and next could give us an indication of whether our seasonal influenza situation on campus is getting better. The COVID-19 situation, of course, remains incredibly fluid, but as of the writing of this note, there still is no confirmed case in Michigan. Please know that Northern is following the recommendations of the CDC and, locally, the guidance of the Marquette County Public Health Department. You can follow the CDC’s recommendations at www.cdc.gov, click on “coronavirus update” at the top of the page. 
 

NMU restricting plane travel
Because of a recent CDC recommendation, Northern is restricting non-essential university-sponsored travel by flight, both domestic and international, as of today until further notification. This does not yet include travel by car, but please be prepared for that to change. If you have already been approved for university-sponsored flight travel you feel is essential, please discuss with your division leader. The CDC recommends older individuals and persons with immune and medical issues not travel at this time. However, in the case of both upcoming domestic and international, please use the NMU International Travel Registry to record the basic details of your trip so the university can quickly contact you if action is needed regarding your travel. 
 

Questions the campus members have had
Testing: Many of you have sent in questions about how the decision to test for coronavirus is determined. That is not a university decision (we have no testing kits on campus), but is done through a process set up by the CDC and implemented by the Marquette County Public Health Department and the Upper Peninsula Health System-Marquette. If you are ill and have questions about your symptoms, contact your physician or the NMU Health Center (227-2355).
 

Large-group events: There have also been several questions about whether Northern is cancelling large-group gatherings, such as lectures, concerts and athletic events.  At this point, we are not cancelling these and the CDC is not yet recommending that we do so. But, like travel, the CDC recommends that older individuals and those with medical conditions sit in areas less populated and those with immune or medical issues not attend if it is not essential to do so. Because of this, Northern will begin having signage with the CDC recommendation at event entrances for where attendance over 150 is expected. Holding such events could change, and change quickly, but as of right now, events continue.

 

Putting courses online: We’ve also been asked if Northern is converting all of our courses to online/distance. Luckily, we are a campus that has the technology capability to offer most classes at a distance using synchronous video, if needed. We ask NMU faculty to have a plan to do so as part of our worst-case scenario planning (more details about faculty support to do that coming). However, as of right now we are not converting all courses to online/distance. That said, there have been a small number of cases where a faculty member has received approval to convert to online classes due to an immune system or medical condition they or someone in their family has. We are ready to assist faculty who may be asked to provide online synchronous instruction using Zoom technology to accommodate students with immune and medical issues that put them at risk when in group settings.
 

Travel registry: Thank you to all who have shared your information regarding your spring break travel via the NMU International Travel Registry found on the MyNMU portal.  While our original goal was to collect information about international travel, we have also been using the registry to collect information about domestic travel to states with confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks. There is an option on the online form for U.S. destinations.
 

Again, Northern is receiving regular updates from the CDC and U.S. State Department. The CDC sends recommendations specific to colleges and universities and we’re following them. We are regularly consulting with the Marquette Public Health Department, having brought to them many suggestions, ideas and questions from NMU community members, and they’ve provided guidance that has helped in our decision-making.  We continue to plan logistics for possible deteriorating conditions related to COVID-19 with the hope that we never have to put our contingency plans in actions. However, faculty and staff may be asked to actively participate in that planning.

That is the update for now. As decisions are made related to the seasonal flu and/or COVID-19 situations, I will keep you informed.  
 

Fritz Erickson, NMU President