Fall Plans

by Rick Koubek, President

I would like to take a moment to recognize and thank you for your shared commitment to the continued success of Michigan Tech. Together, we have made tremendous sacrifices in the way we work and live in response to the pandemic.

Over the past year, we have proven that we can create a healthy and safe on-campus experience for our students, faculty, and staff, and that we can adapt in response to rapidly changing environments. We have also learned that technology alone cannot replace the experiential learning that happens in classrooms, labs, residence halls, and beyond. This, coupled with the promising news of a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine program, gives us the impetus to resume normal operations once those in our campus community become eligible for vaccination. 

Accordingly, Michigan Tech plans to host in-person classes and extracurricular activities this fall. However, we realize that faculty may choose to continue delivering components of their courses through the creative use of technology, particularly if it results in better educational outcomes. 

We’ve also grown accustomed to working remotely, so I can appreciate that this transition requires yet another adjustment. Over the coming months, University leadership will explore updates to our remote work policy. In the meantime, I encourage us all to exercise flexibility and understanding as we return to campus to fulfill our job duties once the work from home emergency order expires. 

As we continue to emphasize, the health and safety of our campus remains top priority. Therefore, we will continue to offer on-demand COVID-19 testing and follow the guidelines outlined in our MTU Flex plan for the remainder of the spring semester. 

Thank you again for all you do for our students, our campus, and our community. 


MTU Flex Team Summary for the Week Ending March 5, 2021

by MTU Flex Task Force

The moving 14-day total of detected COVID-19 cases is 25 as of today, compared to 45 last week. Our weekly surveillance detection rate remains low, at 1 percent. We increased on-demand testing for students this week in anticipation of spring break, and between March 1 and 5, we conducted 253 non-surveillance tests, with only two detected cases in that time period. Currently, 2 percent of on-campus isolation space is in use.

On-demand testing will be available for students the week following spring break (March 15-18). However, if you are a student who travels outside Houghton County during spring break, we strongly encourage you to participate in our Post-Spring Break Testing Clinics instead of scheduling an on-demand test. The Clinics will run from March 19-23 in the SDC varsity gym. There’s no need to schedule an appointment—feel free to show up anytime during your testing window:

  • Daniell Heights Apartments: Friday, March 19, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Off-campus graduate students: Friday, March 19, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Wadsworth Hall: Saturday, March 20, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Douglass Houghton Hall: Sunday, March 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Hillside Place: Sunday, March 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • West and East McNair: Sunday, March 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Off-campus undergraduates with last names A-K: Monday, March 22, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Off-campus undergraduates with last names L-Z: Tuesday, March 23, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Please check out the MTU Flex blog for tips on traveling safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also check out last week’s digest for information on what to do when you return to campus after traveling domestically or internationally during the break.

Thank you, and enjoy spring break!


Update to COVID-19 Vaccine Protocol

by MTU Flex Task Force

As COVID-19 vaccines become more available, the MTU Flex Task Force looks to update the Michigan Tech Community on the status of vaccine distribution. New updates to our Health and Safety Levels protocol will go into effect tomorrow (March 5), including guidance for vaccinated persons.

How is vaccine distribution being prioritized?

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 — Those age 75+; prioritized frontline responders; pre-K-12 school and child care staff; corrections staff; agriculture and food processing workers; other essential frontline workers.
  • 1C — Persons age 65-74; those age 18-64 with COVID-19 risk factors/pre-existing conditions; and all remaining essential workers.
  • 2 — Everyone else.

The State of Michigan has determined that those 65 and older may receive the vaccine at this time. Of the 1C group, only ages 65-74 are currently being vaccinated, with vaccination running concurrently with the top of the 1B group. The governor is also expanding eligibility to individuals over 50 with health risks or those who care for someone with health risks effective March 8. On March 20, eligibility will be extended to all those 50 and over.

What is the timeline for vaccinations?

The State is hoping to move to the remainder of the 1B group and those in 1C with preexisting conditions on or around May 1. It is also planning to be able to offer the vaccine to the remainder of 1C this summer, with Phase 2 hopefully beginning in late summer. 

Will the University be vaccinating employees?

Information regarding vaccine clinics will be provided to supervisors as their employees become eligible and the 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. Additional information is available at Copper Country Strong

In addition, veterans may be able to obtain a vaccine through the VA and tribal members may be eligible to receive vaccine through their tribal health program. Providers tell us that additional slots are opening up all the time, so if you are 65+ and have not yet been vaccinated, you should be able to get in soon.

Remember, Michigan Tech is not requiring employees or students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 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.

What should I do after I have been vaccinated?

Beginning tomorrow (March 5), MTU employees and students who have received all recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior should follow these protocols:  

  • Continue to complete the Daily Symptom Tracking Form prior to coming to campus.
  • Continue to wear a face covering on campus and follow other campuswide health and safety protocols and guidelines.
  • If you come into close contact with a person known or suspected to have COVID-19, and you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine or report your contact, and you may come to campus, unless advised otherwise by your health care provider or the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department.
  • At any time, if you experience symptoms of COVID-19, you need to remain away from campus until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and any other symptoms are improving. 

All questions should be directed to mtuflex@mtu.edu.


Spring Break Prep: Notes from the MTU Flex Team

by MTU Flex Task Force

Our spring semester surveillance testing program is well underway. Between February 20 and 26, we conducted 338 tests and detected two cases, for a positivity rate of 0.60 percent. Our 14-day moving total, which includes non-surveillance test results, is 45 detected cases. Currently, less than 7 percent of on-campus isolation space is being used.

With spring break coming up fast, the University is offering on-demand, asymptomatic testing for students next week, March 1-5. Space is limited, so students should schedule a test as soon as possible by texting Hello to 906-257-9677 and following the prompts. Those who do not have access to texting can schedule an appointment by calling Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center at 906-483-1860.

On-demand testing will also be available for students the week following spring break (March 15-18). And, we’re organizing Post-Spring Break Testing Clinics starting March 19. We ask that students who travel during break take part in these clinics instead of scheduling an on-demand test. More information on post-spring break testing will be provided soon. Information on asymptomatic testing for employees is available on the COVID-19 Testing Information for Employees web page.

Please check out the MTU Flex blog for tips on traveling safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you travel domestically during spring break (outside Houghton County but within the United States), Michigan Tech needs you to limit your social activity for seven days after travel and monitor yourself for symptoms. The CDC has extensive post-travel recommendations—check them out. (Please keep in mind that limiting your social activity refers to activities outside the classroom. You are permitted to go to class.) 

If you travel internationally, you are required to remain away from campus for 14 days after you return, as outlined in our Health and Safety Levels Protocol. Michigan Tech strongly encourages students and employees to quarantine during this period and get tested five to seven days after international travel.

Finally, no matter your destination, please consider taking the following precautions after you return from travel to protect others from COVID-19:

  • Avoid crowds and stay at least six feet from anyone who did not travel with you. It’s important to do this everywhere—indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth in public.
  • If any people in your household did not travel with you, wear a face covering—and ask everyone in the household to wear one too—in shared spaces inside your home for 14 days after travel.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness.
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19.


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.


MTU Flex Team Summary for the Week Ending January 15

by MTU Flex Task Force

Welcome to the spring semester and thanks to all students who have scheduled or taken their baseline COVID-19 test. So far this week, we’ve conducted 972 tests with a total of 10 detections for a positivity rate of 1 percent. Currently, less than 6 percent of on-campus isolation space is being used.

Working with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD), the University hosted its first COVID-19 vaccine clinic this week for Phase 1A personnel. This cohort includes COVID-19 testing lab employees and EMS first responders, as well as other health care personnel and police officers. Next week, the University will announce its employee vaccination program in Tech Today. 

Please show support for our health care workers by helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19. For students who have not scheduled a baseline test, please text Hello to 906-257-9677 and follow the prompts. This scheduling number is new for spring—if you have the old number saved, please update it. Alternatively, you can schedule an appointment by calling the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center (UGL) at 906-483-1860.

As campus returns to Health and Safety Level Three today, our primary focus remains on providing an environment allowing our students to continue with face-to-face instruction. We’ve ramped up our baseline and surveillance testing programs and will continue our face covering and social distancing requirements for the foreseeable future.

For those of you traveling back to Houghton this week, safe travels.


Spring 2021: Important Information About Your Return-to-Campus COVID-19 Test

by MTU Flex Task Force

Hi Huskies,

Wherever you are, we hope you’re enjoying the holiday season and getting plenty of time to rest and rejuvenate before the spring semester starts.

Whether you left the Houghton area over winter break or stayed put, all students are expected to participate in return-to-campus testing, aka baseline testing, for COVID-19 this January. You do not need to participate if you tested positive for the virus within 90 days prior to your return to campus. Please notify the MTU Flex Task Force of your positive test using the Report a COVID-19 Test form, if you haven’t already.

Below you will find the information you need to know now about getting tested in January. This and other information about Michigan Tech’s testing program can also be found on the COVID-19 Testing Information for Students web page.

Scheduling a Test

All baseline testing will be scheduled via text message. To schedule yours, text Hello to 906-257-9677 and follow the prompts. This scheduling number is new for spring—if you have the old number saved, please update it. Those who do not have access to texting can schedule an appointment by calling Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center (UGL) at 906-483-1860.

Testing Location

As most of you know from the fall semester, on-campus testing usually takes place in the MUB Alumni Lounge. At the start of the spring semester, we’re going to switch things up to make sure we can efficiently and safely test every student who returns to campus.

From January 4-8, on-campus asymptomatic testing will take place in the MUB Alumni Lounge. If you plan to return to campus early, or if you never left the Houghton area, we encourage you to schedule your test as soon as possible so that you can get tested prior to the rush of move-in weekend.

From January 11-18, on-campus asymptomatic testing will take place in the Multipurpose Room of the Student Development Complex. During that time period, the MUB Alumni Lounge will be the testing location for symptomatic individuals only. Regularly scheduled shuttle service to the SDC will be available for students participating in baseline testing.

From January 19 through the rest of the semester, on-campus surveillance testing will take place in the MUB Alumni Lounge.

Take a Test, Win Cool Stuff

Every student who participates in baseline testing will be eligible to enter a drawing for prizes that include free parking for two semesters in a coveted location. Look for more information about the drawing and prizes as we get closer to the start of the spring semester.

Please reach out to mtuflex@mtu.edu with questions. We look forward to seeing you in January.

Happy New Year,
MTU Flex Task Force


Spring 2021: All Classes Remote Until January 19

by MTU Flex Task Force

On Friday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked the state’s colleges and universities to delay the return of undergraduate students to campus until Friday, January 15, 2021. In light of this, we will begin the spring semester as planned on January 11, but all classes will be remote until January 19. Additionally, move-in weekend for those living on campus will take place January 15-18. 

No later than Wednesday, December 23, Residence Education and Housing Services will send an email with additional guidance and instructions for those living on campus. This email will include information for those who have extenuating circumstances and may need to request special permission to return to their on-campus residence prior to January 15. 

Michigan Tech will remain at Level Five with some modifications until at least January 14, at which point our intention is to resume operations at Level Three. We will provide more information as soon as we are able.

During the winter break, we will send instructions to students on how to schedule a baseline COVID-19 test when returning to campus. Tests will be scheduled via text message. Students are expected to participate in baseline testing unless they have tested positive within 90 days prior to returning to campus.

Graduate students will receive an email later today with more information on how the Governor’s request impacts them.

This delay in returning students to campus is intended by the State to create a buffer for any potential New Year’s Eve-related spread and further decrease the recent trend Michigan has seen in COVID-19 cases.  

Please direct all questions to mtuflex@mtu.edu.


Spring 2021 Return to Campus Plan

by MTU Flex Task Force

We know you have questions about returning to campus in January for the spring 2021 semester. We’re working hard to finalize our plans for an in-person return, with the understanding that certain factors, such as State orders, remain beyond our control. At this time, here’s what we know for sure:

  • Classes will begin January 11, no matter the modality of instruction.
  • Should a State order remain in place mandating remote instruction on January 11, classes will start on time and continue in a remote format until the order is lifted.
  • The residence halls will be open as scheduled, as will many other facilities, such as the library, MUB, and Mt. Ripley ski hill.

To provide you with as much information as we can about our plans to return to campus for spring 2021, we’ve put together a video presentation with President Koubek and Sarah Schulte, general counsel and chair of the MTU Flex Task Force. The video slide deck is available for your reference as well.

Thank you for your grit, tenacity, and determination. Have a happy holiday season and we’ll see you in 2021.


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.