Category: Campus Operations

Health and Safety Level Update

by Rick Koubek, President

Thank you for the responsiveness, respect, and collective concern each of you has exhibited over the last two years. With the wide availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, low hospitalization rates and the accumulated knowledge and processes in place to fight future outbreaks if needed, it is now appropriate to move to longer-term solutions. 

Consequently, beginning on Friday, February 25, 2022, at 5:00 p.m., Michigan Tech will move to Health and Safety Level One. Face coverings will continue to be encouraged, but not required, on campus. COVID-19 on-demand testing for our campus community, isolation space for those living on campus and wastewater testing will continue at least through the end of the semester. KN95 masks are available while supplies last. Tech Flex emails will no longer be sent weekly, but as needed. 

Again, thank you for your efforts.


Important Updates for the Start of the Spring Semester

by MTU Flex Task Force

Happy New Year! We are looking forward to students returning to campus on January 10 for in-person classes. The Michigan Tech campus remains at Health and Safety Level Two, which means face coverings are required indoors, just like at the end of the fall semester. Given the current spread of the omicron variant throughout the United States (more on this below), it remains important to comply with our health and safety protocols and wear face coverings whenever indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

If you are traveling back to Houghton and have the opportunity to get tested for COVID-19 before you arrive, we strongly encourage you to do so.

With the omicron variant rapidly spreading throughout the country and world, the weeks ahead are hard to predict, and faculty and staff are preparing for possible disruptions. While breakthrough cases are more common with this variant, current data indicates that being vaccinated, including receiving a booster if you are eligible, helps to mitigate the severity of cases.

Please be aware that the CDC routinely updates its guidance regarding isolation and quarantine periods as more information becomes available about the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. The last update took effect on December 27, 2021, and we strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with the specifics, as vaccination and booster status may impact the length of your quarantine period if you are exposed to the virus.

On-campus COVID-19 testing will resume on Monday, January 10. Testing hours have expanded and the testing location has changed for the spring semester. Testing will take place in the Rozsa Center basement each week, Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. We are also increasing daily testing capacity from 100 samples a day to 300. We will deliver samples to the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day testing is offered. When capacity permits, community members whose samples are included in the 11 a.m. delivery may receive their results on the same day.

Additionally, we are moving toward using an online consent form for sample collection. This means fewer forms to fill out at the testing site, which means quicker lines. We will also have both self-swab and administered swabs available. Non-EMS personnel will be on hand to assist with self-swabs.

Finally, Michigan Tech will be offering the second of two on-campus COVID-19 vaccine clinics from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12, in the Rozsa Center lobby. This clinic will be open to all faculty, staff, and students, as well as the general public. Both the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines will be available for first, second, third, and booster doses for anyone age 12 or older. Please schedule your appointment online. The clinic will be operated by the Michigan National Guard in conjunction with the WUPHD and Michigan Tech.

Please send any questions to mtuflex@mtu.edu. Thank you for your ongoing support and cooperation in stemming the spread of COVID-19. We’re looking forward to a great semester.


MTU Flex Team Summary for the Week Ending December 10, 2021

by MTU Flex Task Force

Our moving 14-day total of detected COVID-19 cases stands at 67 active cases confirmed on campus. Houghton County has a seven-day average of 23 confirmed cases per day (as of December 8). Please continue to report positive test results, whether you are using an at-home test or a PCR test outside of our Michigan Tech testing center, using the Report a COVID-19 Test form.

Our wastewater testing program is ongoing and results are consistent with the University’s confirmed case count. Approximately 14 percent of our on-campus isolation space was occupied as of 10 a.m. this morning.

Walk-in, on-demand COVID-19 testing is available Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday in the Datolite Room at the MUB from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. There is no cost to be tested and no appointment is needed. COVID-19 testing will conclude for the fall semester on December 16 and will resume in the spring semester.

In the spring 2022 semester, COVID-19 samples collected through on-campus testing will begin being processed by the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department’s lab, following the winding down of the Michigan Tech COVID-19 Testing Lab’s operations.

Coming online in the early days of this pandemic, MTU’s testing lab provided critical sample processing at a time when statewide capacity was minimal (many samples from the UP at that time were transported to Lansing for processing). At one point, MTU’s lab processed the most tests per day in the state. The Michigan Tech Flex team extends deep appreciation to the COVID-19 lab team, including but not limited to Caryn Heldt, David Dixon, Cary Gottlieb, Dave Reed, Carsten Kuelheim, Stephen Techtmann, Jennifer Sanders, Cathy Jenich, Karl Meingast, Brooke Goulette, Mike Abbott, Natasha Chopp, Emmett Golde, and Karyn Fay.

Thank you to those who participated in our December 8 vaccination clinic in the Rozsa Center lobby. A follow-up clinic is scheduled for January 12, 2022, also in the Rozsa Center lobby. The January clinic will be open to all faculty, staff, and students, as well as the general public, and a reminder will be emailed when appointments become available. Both the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines will be available for first, second, additional, and booster doses for anyone age 12 or older. Registration information regarding that clinic will be provided soon.

We strongly encourage all members of our community to monitor themselves on a daily basis for symptoms of COVID-19. Please be aware that if you are exposed to COVID-19, quarantine guidelines vary depending on vaccination status.


Health and Safety Levels Update and More Info on Federal Mandates

by MTU Flex Task Force

Dear Members of the Michigan Tech Community, Our moving 14-day total of detected COVID-19 shows 59 active cases confirmed on campus. Houghton County has a seven-day average of 17 confirmed cases per day (as of October 22).

Because we are seeing an increase in cases, both on campus and in the local community, we are returning to the Health and Safety Level protocols that were in place at the start of the fall semester. Beginning Monday, October 25, face coverings will be required indoors on campus, with the exception of the SDC and Gates Tennis Center, where face coverings remain recommended for all. You are not required to wear a face covering when alone in an enclosed space. Please refer to our Health and Safety Levels for additional information.

Federal Contractor Vaccination or Exception Mandate

As discussed in President Koubek’s email this morning, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has issued requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors to comply with the various safety protocols outlined in President Biden’s Path Out of the Pandemic plan and Executive Order 14042.

The order’s federal contractor vaccination mandate requires institutions with significant federal contracts to have all employees fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved exception. Because Michigan Tech has significant federal contracts, the University must implement a vaccination/exception mandate for all University employees who work in the United States, even if they work remotely.

At Michigan Tech, these mandates will go into effect beginning January 10, 2022, at the start of the spring semester. It will apply to full-time, part-time, and temporary employees. It will also include student employees. At this time, the mandate does not extend to students who are not employed by the University.

More detailed information regarding vaccination and exception requirements is included below and on the MTU Flex website.

Vaccination Timing

All employees must be fully vaccinated or have an approved exception byJanuary 10, 2022. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Please note that the Pfizer vaccine doses are given 21 days apart and the Moderna doses are given 28 days apart. Vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) are also acceptable under CDC guidance.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free, and doses are available at most pharmacies and health care providers. Please visit the Copper Country Strong website for information about where and how to get vaccinated in the Western Upper Peninsula.

Vaccination Documentation

Under the federal requirements, employees will need to show proof of their vaccination status. We are building a confidential process employees can use to provide this proof, either electronically or in person, and which Michigan Tech will use to review that documentation. We will provide more information as soon as we are able.

Exception from Vaccination

Employees with documented medical reasons for being unvaccinated may be entitled to a disability accommodation excepting them from the vaccination mandate. Medical exceptions can be requested by contacting Michigan Tech’s ADA Coordinator at adacoordinator@mtu.edu. Information and a form will be sent to employees for completion, and documentation will be required from a medical provider.

Employees with a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance that prevents them from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine may be entitled to an accommodation excepting them from the vaccination mandate. Accommodation requests based on a religious belief, practice, or observance should be made using the religious exception form. When completed, this form should be submitted to Michigan Tech General Counsel Sarah Schulte at shschult@mtu.edu.

All accommodation requests are confidential. In the event that a request is granted, only those individuals who need to know of the accommodation will be informed of it. In the event that an accommodation request is denied, it will not be shared beyond those performing the review, except as requested by the individual seeking the exception. Employees who receive a vaccination exception may be required to comply with alternative health and safety protocols.

All employees need to be fully vaccinated or have an accommodation in place prior to January 10, 2022. Human Resources will work with employees who have challenges with those requirements.

Please send your questions about any of these topics to mtuflex@mtu.edu


Michigan Tech Affected by New Federal Mandates

by Rick Koubek, President

On September 24, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors concerning various safety protocols as outlined in President Biden’s Path Out of the Pandemic plan and Executive Order 14042.

Michigan Tech receives a portion of its research funding through federal contracts and therefore is subject to these new federal mandates. This means that as long as these federal requirements are in effect, Michigan Tech must comply. 

Ultimately, to comply with these requirements, all employees must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or receive a medical or religious exception with the University. The current federal mandate does not apply to students unless they are also University employees. This requirement will take effect on January 10, 2022. 

The federal mandate also stipulates that federal contractors institute a face covering policy with guidelines based on transmission rates in the community. 

More information about these mandates will be provided in an email from the MTU Flex Task Force later today and is available on the MTU Flex website

As we take steps to implement these new federal requirements, Michigan Tech is committed to providing the appropriate support and resources to our employees. The MTU Flex Task Force is available to help answer questions you may have. I encourage you to contact mtuflex@mtu.edu. However, it is important that we adhere to these new requirements by January 10, 2022, which coincides with the start of the spring semester. 

I would like to thank everyone on our campus for your remarkable commitment to the health and safety of our community during the pandemic. I also recognize and appreciate your flexibility and patience. The constantly changing nature of this situation continues to test our fortitude, but we have proven that no challenge is too formidable for our campus community to overcome.


MTU Flex Team Summary for the Week Ending September 17, 2021

by MTU Flex Task Force

Our moving 14-day total of detected COVID-19 cases continues to be low, with 11 cases confirmed on campus (this number was 100 at this time last year). Houghton County has a seven-day average of five confirmed cases per day. Please continue to report positive test results (whether you are using an at-home test or a PCR test outside of our Michigan Tech testing center) using the Report a COVID-19 Test form.

Our wastewater testing program is on-going and does not show significant viral presence on campus at this time. Less than 10% of our on-campus isolation space (roughly 30-room total capacity) is currently occupied. We would like to thank the Husky community for its efforts to continue to control the spread of COVID-19.  

Walk-in, on-demand COVID-19 testing is available to Michigan Tech students and employees in the Datolite Room at the MUB on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. There is no cost to be tested, and no appointment is needed. Read more COVID-19 Testing Information on the MTU Flex website. Please be aware that if you are exposed to COVID-19, quarantine guidelines vary depending on vaccination status. 

We don’t expect immediate clarification on a number of President Biden’s testing and vaccination announcements from last week. We will update the University community as soon as we have additional information to share.

We appreciate your continued diligence in following the Health and Safety Level guidelines and for helping to keep the community safe. 


Modifications to Health and Safety Level Two

by MTU Flex Task Force

In August, as we prepared for students’ return to campus and factored in the uncertainty of the delta variant, our campus moved to Health and Safety Level Two, expecting to stay there for at least five weeks to monitor the spread of COVID-19 within our community. During these five weeks, you all did your part extraordinarily well—the number of confirmed cases on campus and the amount of virus detected in campus wastewater remains low thanks to you.

However, the situation in our local community is less clear. The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department and local health professionals continue to see the ongoing presence of the virus. While we would very much like to move the campus back to Health and Safety Level One, a somewhat more cautious route is appropriate at this time.

Therefore, Michigan Tech will move to a modified Level Two starting Saturday, September 18. Face coverings will still be required in classrooms and laboratories during classes and lab courses, and in the library. Face coverings may also be required during faculty office hours at the discretion of the individual faculty member. In all other settings, face coverings will be encouraged but not required. Face covering requirements for fully vaccinated close contacts, as listed in our Quarantine Guidelines, will remain in place.

Please allow time for the signage around campus to catch up—and remember that our MTU Flex plan is structured to be responsive to fluctuations in case count and other factors related to COVID-19. As always, should the local and/or on-campus variables change, we will reevaluate our Health and Safety Level accordingly.

We appreciate your continued diligence in following the Health and Safety Level guidelines and helping keep the community safe.


Transition to Health and Safety Level Two

by Rick Koubek, President

Since the onset of the pandemic, we have worked to create a healthy and safe on-campus experience for our students, faculty, and staff—one that we can flex in response to rapidly changing environments. We have also learned that technology (while great) cannot replace the experiential learning that happens in classrooms, labs, residence halls, and beyond. For these reasons, we are delighted to welcome our students back to campus for a normal start to the fall semester.

To best ensure the continuity of campus operations, Michigan Tech strongly recommends that all employees and students receive the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in light of the virulence of the COVID-19 delta variant.

With all of this in mind and out of an abundance of caution, Michigan Tech will return to Health and Safety Level Two as outlined in our MTU Flex plan, effective August 15, 2021, for at least five weeks. This includes reinstating an indoor face covering requirement for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors (regardless of vaccination status).

During the first few weeks of the semester, we will continue to review available data to inform our pandemic mitigation strategy. Our hope is that Michigan Tech’s face covering requirement is short-term. Our goal is to return to a face-covering-optional environment once we have more information regarding the spread of COVID-19 within our campus community. 

In the meantime, I ask that you continue to do your part to help keep our campus and community safe. I look forward to seeing you all on campus soon. 


COVID-19 Update

by MTU Flex Task Force

As we prepare for the upcoming fall semester, the University is keeping a watchful eye on the local COVID-19 case count. While Houghton County’s caseload remains low at this time, adaptations to our operations may be warranted should circumstances change. These adaptations include elevating the campus’s Health and Safety Level as outlined in our MTU Flex plan. 

Michigan Tech strongly encourages employees and students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting vaccinated is the best way to stay healthy this fall and avoid quarantine. Free vaccines will be available throughout the fall semester at the locations listed on the Copper Country Strong vaccine web page under “How Do I Get The Vaccine?” We will also continue to offer on-demand COVID-19 testing and conduct COVID-19 wastewater testing throughout the fall semester. The health and safety of our campus community remains our top priority and we will adapt campus operations as necessary based on public health guidance and the prevalence of the virus in our community.  

The MTU Flex team will continue to provide timely updates as we prepare to welcome our students back to campus for the start of the fall semester. Thank you again for your diligence in protecting our campus community. 


Effectively Immediately: Michigan Tech Moves to Health and Safety Level One

by MTU Flex Task Force

In accordance with today’s recession of emergency orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as well as new orders from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA), Michigan Tech is moving to Health and Safety Level One effectively immediately.

Under Health and Safety Level One:

  • Face coverings are no longer required for any individual, although those who wish to continue to wear them are encouraged to do so.
  • Daily symptom monitoring via the MTU Flex Portal for employees, students, and visitors is no longer required, but we recommend people continue to monitor their symptoms. For students, access to Canvas will no longer be linked to symptom monitoring.
  • We ask that positive COVID-19 test results be reported using the existing test reporting tool in the MTU Flex Portal if you test positive within 14 days of being on campus.
  • Employees in quarantine or isolation situations should inform Human Resources at humanresources@mtu.edu. Students in quarantine or isolation situations should inform the Dean of Students’ office at deanofstudents@mtu.edu.
  • All capacity limits are lifted.
  • Employees and students should remain aware of the federal government’s international travel restrictions.

The MTU Flex team encourages University community members to get their vaccinations and continue with handwashing and hand-sanitizing practices.

The Flex team is launching a communications campaign in the coming weeks to promote vaccination as a means by which to help protect ourselves and other community members. We also ask you to continue to be respectful of those who choose to continue wearing a mask or work with plexiglass shields (however, those who wish to remove those may do so at this time).

Many thanks to our entire community for your diligence in following the public health and safety practices that allowed us to get to this point.