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Alpena elementaries learn remotely as 40 area infections reported

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Jay Walterreit, director of public information and marketing for Alpena Community College, on Thursday demonstrates how students can log in when they need to use the library.

ALPENA — Alpena Public Schools elementary students will stay home to learn remotely beginning Friday as public health officials reported 40 newly infected Northeast Michiganders and more infections linked to schools were revealed.

District Health Department No. 4 directed students and staff in two classrooms to self-isolate after confirming an additional infection connected to Ella White Elementary School and a probable infection linked to Besser Elementary School, according to a Facebook post by the Alpena school district.

District officials expect students to return to school on Dec. 10.

Chromebook laptops, along with a student’s login information and schedule for live instruction, were sent home with students. School employees will be in touch with parents who requested a paper-and-pencil packet with details on when to pick up the students’ work.

And Alcona Community Schools Superintendent Dan O’Connor in a letter to parents today announced a probable COVID-19 infection in connection with a third-grade classroom.

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College Library Testing Technician Nathaniel Salziger wipes down a computer on Thursday in the college library.

The interactive graphic below shows active infections in Northeast Michigan over time. Story continues below graphic.

District Health Department No. 2 officials will notify impacted students or staff if they need to self-isolate and learn remotely.

O’Connor said the district will proceed with its other academic and extracurricular programming and he encouraged parents to continue monitoring their children for symptoms of COVID-19.

Public health officials today said 30 Alpena County residents, four Presque Isle County residents, five Montmorency County residents, and one Alcona County resident were confirmed infected.

That means that, as of today, 507 Northeast Michiganders were actively infected, meaning they’d been confirmed infected with COVID-19 but have not recovered or died.

As of today, nine COVID-19 patients, two of whom were in intensive care, were hospitalized at MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena, according to state data. The Alpena hospital was 42% full.

As of today, 120 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection across the state-designated, 18-county health care region that includes Alpena, Presque Isle, and Montmorency counties, according to state data.

Since the pandemic hit Michigan in mid-March, 729 Northeast Michiganders have been infected, according to local public health agencies. Of those, 222 have recovered and 21 have died.

The last death was reported Wednesday.

The interactive chart below shows cumulative infections, recoveries and deaths in Northeast Michigan over time. Story continues below graphic.

Alpena Superintendent David Rabbideau said today district officials want students in school because that’s where they’re safest because of the protocols such as social distancing and handwashing. Rabbideau said the virus is not being transmitted at schools but out in the community.

“The challenges are, staff across the district is being affected by this — either just regular illness but also COVID is making its way through, as well,” he said. “In this particular case, we had pretty tight staffing for busing that got impacted, but also some classrooms are being quarantined, taking staff out of the building, those sorts of things.”

Rabbideau said employees were notified this afternoon and began “rolling out their process of sending their students home with everything they need.”

Remote learning begins Friday. Rabbideau said students may have assignments to complete and teachers will begin live instruction on Monday.

Meanwhile, Rogers City officials closed City Hall to the public beginning Friday through Nov. 30. Residents can still call city staff between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 989-734-2191 and can drop their exact cash or check payments in the drop box.

Alpena Community College President Don MacMaster today told his Board of Trustees the college’s transition to remote learning was going smoothly. A state order took effect Wednesday prohibiting in-person learning at high schools and colleges until at least Dec. 8.

Flip through the interactive timeline below to see how the coronavirus spread through Northeast Michigan. Story continues below the timeline.

“I think it’s been smooth, mainly, because of the things we learned last March and April,” during the first round of state-ordered shutdowns related to the pandemic, MacMaster told the board. He said faculty and Office of Information Technology worked together.

MacMaster told The News today he was impressed with the maturity and collaborative efforts of the students, who complied with mask-wearing and social distancing because they wanted to sustain face-to-face learning.

Students are currently poised to return to class on Dec. 9, which is the last week of instruction before students take their final exams.

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