Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Western UP Health Department reports two new positive COVID-19 cases in Houghton County

HOUGHTON COUNTY -- The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) is investigating two unrelated new positive COVID-19 cases in Houghton County. The first person recently traveled from another state to visit family. Local testing reports will list this case as a non-Michigan positive while they recover in the area. The second person recently returned home after wintering in another state. WUPHD is currently conducting case investigations and will inform any close contacts about exposure risk.

"The ability of people to travel more and to gather in groups of 10 or less as we re-open brings increased risk of exposure," said Kate Beer, Health Officer at WUPHD. "We must continue to take safe steps to reduce the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19."*

The following are tips for a safer gathering:
1. Keep it small. A gathering should be under 10 people.
2. Meet outside.
3. Stay at least six feet apart.
4. Wash or sanitize hands often.
5. Wear masks if possible.
6. Do not share food, drinks, or other items. Have everyone bring their own snacks or serve food with single-use serving utensils.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. People with these symptoms or combinations of
symptoms may have COVID-19:
• Cough
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Or at least two of these symptoms:
• Fever
• Chills
• Repeated shaking with chills
• Muscle pain
• Headache
• Sore throat
• New loss of taste or smell
People should seek immediate medical attention if they have trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, or bluish lips or face.

A State informational hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern Time) seven days per week. That number is 1-888-535-6136. Additional information on COVID-19 can be found on the WUPHD website, the MDHHS website, or the CDC website.

Click here for the WUPHD May 26 Testing Statistics.

*Editor's Notes:

See Gov. Whitmer's May 21 Executive Order 2020-96, Temporary requirement to suspend certain activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life. It explains activities that are permitted, with restrictions for protection against spreading the virus.

According to Gov. Whitmer's May 22 Executive Order 2020-100, Executive Orders 2020-62, 2020-69, and 2020-96 will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on June 12, 2020.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Fresh, Local, Dependable: Nurturing UP Food Systems

By Kelley Christensen, Michigan Tech Science and Technology Publications Writer
Posted May 12, 2020, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted in part with permission 

Michigan Tech facilitates conversations among farmers, farmers market coordinators and area food banks to ensure people can get the food they need while supporting local growers and increasing food access efforts in the UP. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Michigan Tech is partnering with local agencies to strengthen western Upper Peninsula food systems during the pandemic and beyond.

It’s said that to survive and thrive in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it takes a healthy serving of "sisu" -- a Finnish word that roughly translates as "grit." The term is also apt for describing how scientists, health care professionals and planners have pivoted to ensure Yoopers have access to nutritious, local food and to gardening despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last fall, Angie Carter, assistant professor of environmental and energy justice, received a Michigan Technological University Research Excellence Fund grant to study local food systems in the Keweenaw Peninsula, including community gardeners, community-supported agriculture (CSA) farming, and farmers markets. When Michigan's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order went into effect, at first Carter thought she couldn’t continue her research, as it had included numerous face-to-face interviews and in-person meetings.

Then she recognized the opportunity the stay-home order provided -- it was a chance to strengthen the area’s food system for the long term. When people source their food locally, they aren’t reliant on far-flung supply chains, which have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, this new focus to Carter’s research could be conducted remotely.... Click here for the rest of this article.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Isle Royale to further delay Park opening; no visitor ferry service for Summer 2020

Isle Royale National Park announces a delay in 2020 opening. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

HOUGHTON -- Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the State of Michigan, Isle Royale National Park is delaying its seasonal opening until further notice. In addition, the Ranger III, Voyageur II, Sea Hunter III, and Isle Royale Queen IV will not provide visitor ferry transportation this summer. Rock Harbor Lodge, including overnight lodging, dining, marina services, gift shops and stores, will remain closed for the season.

The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access. Their operational approach continues to be centered on examining each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. As the NPS develops its phased approach, officials will evaluate providing access to the park in late June/early July. This decision-making process involves a number of factors, including these:
  • the availability of personal protective equipment;
  • the number of EMS-qualified park staff;
  • the availability of emergency support services from other agencies;
  • the status of medical facilities in local communities;
  • social distancing requirements;
  • state directives; and,
  • guidance on park housing.
While the park is closed, Lake Superior waters within the park boundary will remain open for fishing during the day. During the closure, all islands and the main island of Isle Royale and all facilities (docks, trails, visitor centers, campgrounds, shelters, outhouses, etc.) will remain closed and all overnight use is prohibited. No fuel is available. Any boaters fishing in park waters need to be self-sufficient.

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted here and on social media channels.

Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Governor Whitmer reopens retail, restaurants, offices in Upper Peninsula, Traverse City regions with workplace safety measures

LANSING -- Today, May 18, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-92, allowing for the reopening of retail businesses, office work that cannot be done remotely, and restaurants and bars with limited seating in the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City regions.

The partial reopening will take effect on Friday, May 22. Cities, villages, and townships may choose to take a more cautious course if they wish: the order does not abridge their authority to restrict the operations of restaurants or bars, including limiting such establishments to outdoor seating.

"This is a big step, but we must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19," said Governor Whitmer. "It’s crucial that all businesses do everything in their power to protect their workers, customers, and their families. And as we approach Memorial Day weekend, I encourage everyone to be smart and be safe. My team and I will continue to work around the clock to protect the people of Michigan."

Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said data shows encouraging trends for COVID-19 in these two regions -- named region 6 (Traverse City area) and region 8 (Upper Peninsula).

"It’s important to note that these businesses must take special precautions to protect Michiganders," Dr. Khaldun said. "I also encourage everyone to continue to wear a mask in public, maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and to remain vigilant in washing their hands often. This will help prevent a second surge in cases in our state."*

All businesses that will reopen in regions 6 and 8 must adopt the safety measures outlined in Executive Order 2020-91, "Safeguards to protect Michigan’s workers from COVID-19," also issued on May 18. That means they must, among other things, provide COVID-19 training to workers that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of PPE, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions. Restaurants and bars will also have to limit capacity to 50 percent of their normal seating, to keep groups at least six feet from one another, to require their servers to wear face coverings, and to follow rigorous disinfection protocols.**

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel commented on Executive Order 2020-91, which creates an enforceable set of workplace standards that apply to all businesses across the state.

"I know many businesses and workers are eager to get back to work. This executive order provides a roadmap of how to do that in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of Michiganders first," Attorney General Nessel said. "COVID-19 has changed how we must think about workplace safety. Because every worker in every industry across this state is impacted by the threat of this virus, we must work with our businesses to educate them on their responsibilities and then we must be diligent in ensuring that they abide by them.

"No one should feel unsafe at work. The Department of Attorney General takes its role in helping to protect worker safety very seriously."

Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association expressed gratitude for the reopening order.  
"We are thankful to Governor Whitmer as today marks an important first step of reintegrating restaurants into the fabric of our daily lives," Winslow said. "Restaurants in the U.P. and northern Michigan understand that with their opportunity comes an extraordinary responsibility to operate in a manner that ensures the safety of their guests and their employees. I believe they are up to the challenge."

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers noted, "All regions of Michigan have been affected by COVID-19, and Up North, we want to support the Governor by cautiously opening up some of our economy resources. However, in doing so, we must be mindful that wearing masks and continuing to practice social distancing is a must to make this work. Stopping the spread of this virus is still key and if we can’t, then we will have to close it down again."

Marquette Mayor Jenna Smith expressed support for making decisions on a regional level.

"As restrictions are slowly eased, it will be important for us to remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus," Smith said.

Region 6 in the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan to re-engage Michigan’s economy includes the following northern Michigan counties: Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, and Emmet.

Region 8 in the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan includes the following Upper Peninsula counties: Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Iron, Baraga, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac, and Chippewa.

Western UP Health Department announces new positive case related to travel

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) continues to investigate the recent COVID-19 case in a Gogebic County resident announced over the weekend. The elderly person has a recent travel history to an urban area in another state. WUPHD is currently interviewing the person and informing any close contacts about exposure risk.

"To date, all but one of our COVID-19 positive cases have been associated with interstate or international travel," said Kate Beer, Health Officer at WUPHD. "I urge people to continue limiting travel, quarantine for 14 days if you do travel, and practice good hygiene by washing your hands, staying home if you are ill, and thoroughly cleaning commonly touched surfaces."

WUPHD worked with the State Emergency Operations Center and Michigan National Guard last week to test residents and staff at several area long-term care facilities and County jails. The effort produced 598 tests with no positive cases found. The agency does not include these results in its routine test reporting.

WUPHD is working through the new executive orders announced today that will allow a partial reopening of the region, and the health department will share additional guidance as it becomes available.***

(Inset photos of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel courtesy michigan.gov.)


* Click here to read Executive Order 2020-92.

** Click here to read Executive Order 2020-91. 

*** Visit Copper Country Strong, May 18 Daily Briefing, for an update on testing numbers in the WUPHD 5-county area: Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Q and A with Michigan Tech Masterminds of 3D-printed PPE

By Cyndi Perkins, Senior Content Specialist, Michigan Tech University Marketing and Communications
Posted May 7, 2020, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted in part with permission

Michigan Tech Materials Science and Engineering graduate student Bharath Lavu works with face shields awaiting assembly in the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology Lab. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Michigan Technological University’s Van Pelt and Opie Library may be more solitary than ever these days, but it isn't quiet. The library's 3D printers are running full blast, turning out thousands of face shields for community health workers.

Huskies seeking silence would instead find a mini manufacturing center operated by library staff David Holden and John Schneiderhan alongside engineer Joshua Pearce. Together with others across campus and the community, they are tapping the University’s brainpower and equipment to stem the spread of COVID-19. For now, it’s face shields, but plans are in the works to produce other items in short supply, including the swabs essential to COVID-19 testing and National Institutes of Health (NIH) face masks.

John Schneiderhan, who during a typical semester is busy helping students and other library patrons with duplication technology, helps to lead the University's 3D PPE project. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) has been an active partner every step of the way.

"We are very fortunate to have Michigan Tech engaged in the COVID-19 response locally," said Pete Baril, WUPHD director of planning and community preparedness. "This face shield project is a great example of the partnership between MTU and the community."...

Click here to read the rest of this article on Michigan Tech News

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Authorities prepared to enforce Michigan Laws for safety if protests occur at Capitol

LANSING –- Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan State Police Col. Joe Gasper are aware that some Michiganders are expected to protest at the Capitol in Lansing Thursday, May 14, and are reminding residents that public safety should be a priority for everyone and that state laws will be enforced.

The Attorney General’s office is working in coordination with the Michigan State Police (MSP) and the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure any protests that occur at the state Capitol are peaceful and free of violence and intimidation.

"We are in unprecedented times which have called for significant measures to protect the health and safety of Michigan residents. I vehemently support the First Amendment right to protest government actions at the Capitol or elsewhere around the state; however any such activity must be done in a manner that is safe and lawful," Nessel said. "The presence of heavily armed protestors at the Capitol  unnecessarily creates a powder keg dynamic that is dangerous to protestors, law enforcement and public servants reporting to work at the Capitol. My office will work in coordination with local authorities and the Michigan State Police to uphold our commitment to public safety."

"We’re asking the public to partner with us to ensure the Capitol remains a safe forum for everyone," said Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police. "While our desire is to interfere as little as possible in demonstrations, we will not allow unlawful, threatening or intimidating behavior. Based on safety concerns expressed following previous demonstrations, attendees can expect to see an increased MSP presence on Thursday."

Under Michigan law possession of an openly carried firearm coupled with an intention to create fear in another person could subject an individual to criminal prosecution for brandishing a firearm. Additionally, if a person refuses to obey a lawful directive from a law enforcement officer, that person could be subjected to criminal prosecution for resisting and obstructing.*

Authorities are hopeful that the voices of those who wish to be heard can exercise their rights in safety and that our Legislature and their staff can do their important work without being threatened. Protestors unable to adhere to the rule of law and who behave in a threatening and unlawful manner can expect to be held accountable in our courts.

During recent events at the Capitol, some residents carried firearms in protest of Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order, leading some legislators and other employees working at the Capitol to express that they were concerned for their wellbeing. The executive order limits the activities of businesses and people during the COVID-19 pandemic and was issued to protect human life.**

Inset photo: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. (Photo courtesy Michigan.gov)


* See also, posted May 8, 2020, on michigan.gov: "AG Nessel Says Commission Can Prohibit Firearms at State Capitol."

** Read about Gov. Whitmer's Stay Home, Stay Safe executive orders here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Houghton County culvert repair project to start May 18

LANSING -- Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will invest $2.6 million to replace four culverts and repave segments of highway totaling about 9 miles on US-41 from the Houghton/Baraga county line north to the Snake River, and from Golf Course Road north to Cliff Drive; and on M-26 from Cemetery Road north to Green Acres Road in Houghton County.

Work includes asphalt milling and resurfacing, culvert replacement, joint repairs, guardrails, aggregate shoulders, centerline and shoulder rumble strips, and pavement markings. Culvert crossings are expected to be completed by July 22, to be followed by paving. All work is expected to be completed by Sept. 25. This project includes a three-year materials and workmanship warranty.

A map of the project area is available on Mi Drive.

The work will require single-lane closures with one alternating lane of traffic maintained by traffic regulators during paving and by temporary traffic signals at the culvert sites.

This project will permanently replace culverts damaged in flooding in 2018, increasing safety and extending the lifespan of the roadway.

This road construction project is an essential function. Transportation workers in the field follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines to limit their risk of getting sick.

MDOT COVID-19 Construction Information
In Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order, residents are directed to remain home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible to reduce the spread of COVID-19. At this time, MDOT's construction contractors are deemed critical infrastructure workers and will proceed with state trunkline projects (M, I, and US-routes) when they feel their workers can perform work in a safe manner. The situation is very dynamic and the guidance regarding road construction can change with events.

For the most up-to-date COVID-19 information, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

Monday, May 11, 2020

UP Energy Task Force to hold virtual meeting May 12; public may comment

LANSING -- The UP Energy Task Force will meet from 9:30 a.m. to Noon on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, online via Microsoft Teams.

The UP Energy Task Force (UPETF) was created by Executive Order No. 2019-14. The charge to the Task Force according to section 2(a) of the Executive Order is to:
  • Assess the UP’s overall energy needs and how they are currently being met.
  • Formulate alternative solutions for meeting the UP’s energy needs, with a focus on security, reliability, affordability, and environmental soundness. This shall include, but is not limited to, alternative means to supply the energy sources currently used by UP residents, and alternatives to those energy sources.
  • Identify and evaluate potential changes that could occur to energy supply and distribution in the UP; the economic, environmental, and other impacts of such changes; and the alternatives for meeting the UP’s energy needs in response to such changes.
Click here to learn how you can join the May 12 Microsoft Teams Meeting or to learn more about the UP Energy Task Force and access videos of their previous meetings.

Need help joining the meeting? Check out this quick guide to Attending a Meeting in Microsoft Teams!

To join by phone call: +1 248-509-0316  United States, Pontiac (Toll). Conference ID: 182 444 572#

If you would like to share a public comment during the UP Energy Task Force meeting on May 12, please send an email to EGLE-UPEnergy@Michigan.gov with your name and the subject line "Request for Public Comment During May 12 Meeting" and the chairperson will call on you during the public comment period of the meeting.

Members of the public will also have an opportunity to add their name to the public comment roster during the meeting.

The Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force Committee's "Recommendations: Part I - Propane Supply" were submitted to Governor Whitmer on April 17, 2020.*


Please send your comments regarding the work of the UP Energy Task Force to: EGLE-UPEnergy@Michigan.gov
Comments submitted via the above email address will be shared with all UP Energy Task Force members. Comments submitted will become part of the public record and subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

* See "U.P. Energy Task Force submits propane recommendations to Gov. Whitmer."