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UPDATE: NMU coronavirus testing ongoing, with results slow to come back

NMU plans to test all students, faculty and staff - about 8,000 people total.
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 2:30 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - UPDATE at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday:

The NMU website now features a dashboard that will keep the campus community up to date on the latest COVID-19 numbers. 

NMU also gave more details about the delay it’s experiencing delay in getting COVID-19 test results back from the laboratory in Chicago. Some tests are coming back in the two-to-three day range originally planned on, but more are in the three-to-four day range and still some others are taking longer. NMU says it has been in direct contact with the lab and it is doing all it can to resume the faster processing. 

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ORIGINAL STORY at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday:

Northern Michigan University says it’s about halfway through coronavirus testing of incoming freshman.

NMU plans to test all students, faculty and staff - about 8,000 people total. The university is covering the testing cost, but results have been slow to come back.

The latest update is from Sunday evening: 900 results are in and five are positive. NMU says none of them live on campus, and contact tracing is underway.

When arriving on the NMU campus, all signs point to the Northern Center. Students, like freshman Grace Mattson from Felch, make appointments through a phone app and check in from the parking lot.

“I just had to say, ‘I’m here.’ There’s a little icon you can press on. And then I filled out my forms and they just texted me and said, ‘We’re ready for you to come in,’ and it was super easy,” Mattson said.

The Northern Center is home to what the university is calling it the Passport to Campus process. After a temperature check and a COVID-19 test, the process is somewhat normal to get an ID, parking pass, laptop and dorm key. The spread-out move-in week means no crowds.

“There’s no lines or waiting,” NMU spokesperson Derek Hall said. “A student can go through here in 15 minutes or less.”

At the end of each day the samples taken at the Northern Center are flown to Chicago. NMU has partnered with testing firm Tempus. The goal was to get results back within 48 hours. Northern acknowledges that has not been the case. However, that’s not a problem unique to the university.

“Having test results is not a requirement to be on campus or to move into the dorms,” Hall added. “It’s just, if you’re going to be on campus, we want you to be tested.”

Hall says NMU is in daily communication with the lab in Chicago. New test results could be posted on the university’s website Wednesday.

“We’re working with them as much as we can,” he said. “Our check-in process, which includes testing everyone, is probably one of the most comprehensive in the state. We’re a smaller school so we can do this.”

In the meantime, students are asked to limit their social activities.

“Let’s all be smart about that, especially wearing the mask when we’re in proximity and especially indoors,” said Hall.

Mattson says she’ll spend her free time in a small circle of existing friends. Fall classes begin Monday.

“I’d like to meet new people but I think I’m going to be a little more cautious about who that is and try to make sure they’re on the same page as me,” she said.

The university is working with the Marquette County Health Department on contact tracing for existing cases. If a student tests positive, there is a designated residence hall for them.

Copyright 2020 WLUC. All rights reserved.

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