Northern Michigan University's “Plan A” for the upcoming winter semester is to provide as much in-person learning as possible, along with on-campus living for students, according to a Monday email from President Fritz Erickson. He also outlined Northern's “Plan B” in the event the university is forced to go to fully remote instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NMU will hold a required mass testing event in advance of the semester for students and employees, just as it did in the fall. Faculty, staff and local students will be tested Jan. 4 -8. Non-local students will be tested Jan. 11-15. The timing should allow most employees to have their results back prior to when NMU reopens campus facilities to the public and many offices switch from remote to in-person on Jan. 11.
The university is creating a way for individuals who want or need to use an external testing site to be able to upload their COVID-19 test results for approval. Only PCR tests taken within an appropriate time period will be accepted. NMU will give $25 in CatCash that can be used at any campus eatery toward external tests, which should be covered by most individual's insurance.
Northern will continue to do surveillance testing during the Winter 2021 semester, but tentatively plans to double the number of individuals tested and to separate testing for residence hall students from off-campus students and employees. The university will also create a COVID-19 hotline to better handle questions not answered on the Safe on Campus website or unique to the callers' situations.
“Everyone – students, faculty and staff – do need to be prepared to have the start of the semester be remote as that may be what the state orders us to do, might be the result of slow COVID-19 test result returns as it was in the fall, or might be what the local COVID-19 situation calls for from a safety standpoint,” Erickson wrote. “We don't plan to start remotely, but I think we all realize after the fall experiences how important it is to be ready to switch to remote at any point in the semester.
Erickson said Plan B, if the university is forced to go fully remote for Winter 2021, includes keeping the residence halls and dining services operational, unless mandated by the state not to do so. NMU would close most of its facilities to the public and have as much work done and student services offered as remotely as possible.
NMU is in regular contact with the Marquette County Health Department, U.P. Health System-Marquette hospital officials, and State of Michigan officials as it monitors the changing situation.
“Northern has also begun its vaccination planning,” he added. “We anticipate being able to hold events for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine similar to our mass testing events. We may also be able to help facilitate and participate in county-wide distribution events.
"However, little is known at this time about when and how the vaccines will be distributed to higher education institutions. We assume there will be guidance from the CDC, state and MCHD, and we've begun a preliminary plan that follows the recommendations that have been made available by these groups so far.”
Winter semester classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 19.