Category: Personal Safety Practices

COVID-19 Vaccinations: What MTU Employees Should Know

by MTU Flex Task Force

Earlier this year distribution of COVID-19 vaccines began. In the wake of the initial vaccinations, there are a lot of questions. The obvious question from most in the campus community is “When can I get vaccinated?”

Sarah Schulte, general counsel and secretary to the Board of Trustees, answers some of the questions employees and others may have in the following Q&A.

Q: Does the University have a vaccination plan?

SS: Michigan Tech is committed to making it as easy as possible for our employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and is working regularly with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) and local health care providers to understand vaccine availability and distribution in our area.

Q: How will they prioritize who gets the vaccine and when?

SS: Prioritization is set by the State of Michigan and includes these priority groups:

  • 1A — Health care workers and long-term care residents and employees
  • 1B — Essential front-line workers
  • 1C — Other essential workers
  • 2 — Everyone else

Michigan Tech and the WUPHD are currently determining which of our employees fit within each vaccine priority group. Due to the increased risk of severe illness in older individuals, the State of Michigan has also determined that those 65 and older may receive the vaccine at this time — running that group concurrent with the top of the 1B group. 

Q: What is the timeline for vaccinations?

SS: Earlier this month, in partnership with the WUPHD, we were able to hold our first vaccine clinic for those at the top of the 1B category, including COVID-19 lab employees, medical first responders and our police officers, as well as some local preschool teachers. We are hopeful that soon the amount of vaccine in our area will be sufficient to enable us to partner with either the WUPHD or a local health care provider to distribute additional vaccine in accordance with the state’s prioritized levels.

Q: Will the University be vaccinating employees?

SS: Information regarding vaccine clinics will be provided to supervisors as their employees become eligible and vaccine is available. However, employees do not need to wait for a vaccine clinic on our campus — they may obtain the vaccine elsewhere. Information on how to obtain the vaccine is available from several sources, including WUPHDUpper Great Lakes Family Health CenterAspirus and UP Health System – Portage. At this time, we are hopeful that we will be vaccinating priority group 1C (Beyond the 65+ age group) by late spring. But that will be determined by vaccine availability.

Q: Will MTU employees be required to get the vaccine?

SS: Michigan Tech is not requiring any employees or students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and there is no need to report your vaccination to the University if you receive it at a location other than a Michigan Tech vaccine clinic. We want to make the vaccine widely available to all of our students, faculty and staff as soon as possible, and we will continue to make this a priority as long as the need remains.

Q: Once I have been vaccinated, will I still have to wear a face covering and follow other COVID-19 protocols?

SS: Yes, employees who have received the COVID-19 vaccine still need to follow all COVID-19 campus protocols. This includes social distancing, wearing a face covering, and daily symptom monitoring prior to arriving on campus.

Here is the response from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the topic:

“Not enough information is currently available to say if or when the CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide in real-world conditions before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision. We also don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you don’t get sick yourself. CDC will continue to update this page as we learn more.

While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic.

To protect yourself and others, follow these recommendations:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash your hands often

Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.

Q: Who do we contact if we have more questions?

SS: All questions may be emailed to mtuflex@mtu.edu.


COVID-19 Testing for Employees Working on Campus after Thanksgiving Break

by University Marketing and Communications

As a result of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the Western Upper Peninsula and statewide, the MTU Flex Task Force asks that certain Michigan Tech employees get tested for COVID-19 following Thanksgiving break.

“Employees who need to be on campus after Thanksgiving break and who either traveled or gathered with others beyond their normal circle are being asked to get tested for COVID-19 the week of their return to campus and again the following week,” said Joel Isaacson, project manager of the MTU Flex Task Force and the University’s senior associate athletic director. “We encourage those employees to limit their interactions with others between these two tests.”

Supervisors of student workers are responsible for telling students how to get tested if they return to campus after Thanksgiving break. The process for scheduling an asymptomatic test is identical for both employees and students. Simply text Hello to 906-256-6466 and follow the prompts. Employees and students who do not have access to texting can schedule an appointment by calling Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center (UGL) at 906-483-1860.

Isaacson said employees and students who are symptomatic or believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call UGL at 906-483-1860 to schedule a test and should not schedule an on-demand test via text message. Isaacson noted that anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days does not need to get tested.

Everyone should continue to exercise personal hygiene and safety practices during and after Thanksgiving break. Many cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and people who do have symptoms frequently exhibit only a sore throat and congestion, similar to a mild cold.

“Remember to wash your hands frequently with soap, wear a face covering, and limit social interactions to a small group of family and friends. We want everyone to have a healthy holiday season,” Isaacson said.

Please direct questions to mtuflex@mtu.edu.


MTU Flex Team Summary for the Week Ending November 6

by MTU Flex Task Force

The moving 14-day total of detected COVID-19 cases this week is 31, compared to 18 the week before. Our weekly surveillance detection rate remains low, at 1 percent. Currently, less than 10 percent of on-campus isolation space is in use. Please continue to report all COVID-19 close contact and symptoms through the Daily Symptom Monitoring Form.

After last week’s announcement that we would provide increased on-demand, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for students the week before Thanksgiving break, we received an impressive and enthusiastic response from the student community. As a result, we decided to increase on-demand testing a week ahead of schedule. Beginning Monday, November 9, and continuing through the rest of the semester, on-demand tests for students will be available on campus Monday through Thursday in the MUB Alumni Lounge. On-demand testing for students will not be available during the Thanksgiving break, from November 23 to 27. More information is available on the COVID-19 Testing Information for Students web page.

This increase in on-demand student testing does not impact our testing arrangements for temporary and regular employees who work 20 or more hours per week. Employees who meet this criteria may receive up to two free asymptomatic COVID-19 tests on campus during the fall semester.

Looking ahead to Thanksgiving break, anyone planning to travel should limit social interaction for two weeks prior in order to lower your chances of contracting COVID-19. If you plan to head home on Friday, November 20, you should reduce your social interaction starting today. You can do this by keeping your social gatherings small and, if possible, limited to the same group of people. Kelly Kamm, Michigan Tech’s epidemiologist and an assistant professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology, offered other travel tips in a recent Tech Today article.

We announced earlier this week that, thanks to a gift from the Portage Health Foundation, our COVID-19 Testing Lab will soon be able to process nearly twice as many tests in half the time and with fewer personnel. Other contributions to the COVID-19 lab and community testing efforts include:

  • 10,000 face shields and 50,000 face coverings from Ford
  • $73,000 in powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) equipment for lab and hospital use, along with PAPR equipment training, from Dow
  • $4,300 in hand sanitizer (equal to 600 bottles) from Kimberly-Clark

Again, thank you for all you are doing to keep our community protected and safe. If you have any questions regarding Michigan Tech’s surveillance testing program, please visit mtu.edu/flex/testing.


MTU Flex Team Summary for the Week Ending October 30

by MTU Flex Task Force

Cases of COVID-19 remain low on campus. Our moving 14-day total of detected COVID-19 cases is 18. Our weekly surveillance detection rate also remains low, at 0.5 percent. Currently, less than 15 percent of on-campus isolation space is in use. Please continue to report all COVID-19 close contact and symptoms through the Daily Symptom Monitoring Form.

With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching and many students planning to travel home, the University has made arrangements to increase on-demand, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for students during the week of November 16-20. Students have been made aware that testing will be available and that final details about how to schedule a test will be provided in the near future.

This increase in on-demand student testing does not impact our testing arrangements for temporary and regular employees who work 20 or more hours per week. Employees who meet this criteria may receive up to two free asymptomatic COVID-19 tests on campus during the fall semester.

If you work closely with students, please be aware that all on-demand, asymptomatic COVID-19 tests for students during the week of November 16-20 will be scheduled via text message. Students should not attempt to schedule an on-demand test for that week until final scheduling details are provided through email and updates to the COVID-19 Testing Information for Students web page.

We have also asked students to limit their social interaction for two weeks prior to travel. For example, if they plan to drive home Friday, November 20, they should start limiting their social interaction next Friday, November 6, by keeping their social gatherings small and, if possible, limited to the same group of people. 

The Michigan Tech COVID-19 Testing Lab is finalizing plans for increased testing capacity following the Thanksgiving holiday. We will provide more information in the coming days.

Everyone, thank you again for all you are doing to keep our community protected and safe. If you have any questions regarding Michigan Tech’s surveillance testing program, please visit mtu.edu/flex/testing.


MTU Flex Team Summary for the Week Ending October 23

by MTU Flex Task Force

Cases of COVID-19 remain low on campus. Our moving 14-day total of detected COVID-19 cases is declining, with nine cases recorded. Our weekly surveillance detection rate also remains low, at 0.4 percent. Currently, less than 3 percent of on-campus isolation space is in use. Please continue to report all COVID-19 close contact and symptoms through the Daily Symptom Monitoring Form.

The Michigan Tech COVID-19 Testing Lab is finalizing plans for increased testing capacity following the Thanksgiving holiday. We will provide more information in the coming days.


University Increases Some Capacity Limits

by MTU Flex Task Force

As a result of Michigan Tech’s low to steady COVID-19 positivity rate, the University has increased capacity limits for both indoor and outdoor situations. 

Effectively immediately, the capacities for indoor events such as registered student organization events and community rentals have increased to 25. Additionally, 50 people are now permitted at outdoor events.


MTU Flex Team Summary for the Week Ending October 16

by MTU Flex Task Force

Cases of COVID-19 remain low on campus. Our moving 14-day total of detected COVID-19 cases is declining, with 31 cases recorded this week and 48 cases recorded last week. Our weekly surveillance detection rate is low, at 0.3 percent. Surveillance testing increased this week and will continue to increase next week. Currently, we have no one utilizing the on-campus isolation spaces. Please continue to report all COVID-19 close contacts and symptoms through the Daily Symptom Monitoring Form.


Tips for Travel in the Time of COVID-19

by Mark Wilcox, University Marketing and Communications

Michigan Tech’s Fall Break starts today (Oct. 15) with classes and activities suspended until Monday (Oct. 19). Some students and staff are taking advantage of the break to return home to reconnect with family and friends, while many will stay close to campus practicing physical distancing and other behaviors to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Traveling during the pandemic is a topic most of us have thought about, from this “mini-vacation,” to the much longer upcoming holiday breaks. Traveling in and of itself is really not the issue, according to epidemiologist Kelly Kamm (KIP) — the behavior we practice while traveling is. “The rules have certainly changed,” said Kamm. “We have to have a mindset that we are at risk by who we come into contact with and, conversely, we could be putting those who come into contact with us at risk.”


Update on Academic Year 2020-2021 Calendar Planning

by Office of the Provost

As we continue to make our way through fall semester 2020, I think we are all happy to find that the planning we engaged in during the spring and summer has paid off. I want to thank all members of the Michigan Tech community for wearing their face coverings, practicing physical distancing, washing their hands, and cleaning the surfaces they touch. Because of our collective efforts to “Be Smart and Do Our Part,” the number of active COVID-19 cases in our campus community remains low.

We returned to Health and Safety Level Three on Monday, October 12, 2020. Because the number of COVID-19 cases on campus continues to be low, we currently anticipate remaining at Level Three until the end of the semester. Planning is underway for a COVID-modified version of our traditional face-to-face Midyear Commencement ceremony on December 19. More details about that event will be released as soon as the Commencement Committee has a chance to finalize their plans. 


#MaskUPHuskies

by Student Behaviors and Expectations Working Group

To help spread the word that wearing a face mask is crucial in stopping the spread of COVID-19 on campus, the Student Behaviors and Expectations Working Group has created the #maskUPhuskies social media campaign.

The #maskUPhuskies effort is a gentle, humorous way to not only encourage students to wear facemasks but also to give them tools to spread the word.