By Carol Stiffler

Fifty-six students tuned in to class from home Monday, their first day back after spring break, because they either tested positive for COVID or were exposed to it during their break. That’s about 10 percent of the entire student body.

The Newberry High School baseball team was scheduled to play their first game this weekend, but they haven’t even practiced yet. More than half the team is either in quarantine or out with COVID itself.

In the Luce County government building, the Veterans Services offices are closed due to COVID.

What’s clear is that after a long lull in infections, COVID is once again very active in Luce County.

Tahquamenon Area Schools superintendent Stacy Price said a majority of affected students were exposed to COVID locally, rather than on spring break travels. The quarantined students are trickling back into the building as their quarantines end.

Though it’s clearly not good news, Price finds the silver lining: since the exposures happened when school wasn’t in session, the impact on the school wasn’t nearly as big as it could have been. Still, she’s not comfortable with the current COVID climate.

“I’m a little worried,” she said on Monday. “We’ll see how this week plays out.”

Price expected school to remain open for in-person learning, but noted the spiking cases across the state are sending up red flags.

A majority of teachers at the school are vaccinated against COVID, she said, though vaccination wasn’t mandatory and she didn’t ask them to report back on their vaccine status. Though they may be more comfortable teaching now than before getting vaccinated, Price said some will still worry about carrying the virus back home to their families.

Health officials across the U.P. came together for WNMU’s Media Meet on Monday, April 5. During their discussion, they confirmed a large number of new COVID cases are popping up in the school-aged population. Older adults are largely vaccinated, they said.

The LMAS Health District reports more than 60% of adults age 65+ in their counties have been vaccinated, and the vaccine is now open to anyone ages 16 and up.

It’s time for younger residents to do their part, said LMAS health director Nick Derusha, who spoke during WNMU’s Media Meet on Monday give an update on COVID in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

“We want to let folks know it’s your turn,” he said. “We want them to sign up. We want to help you get vaccinated.”

Derusha is fully vaccinated against COVID, and says he has encouraged his family to get vaccinated as well. That’s a demonstration of his confidence in their safety, he said.

“I don’t know what more I can say beyond that,” he said. “If I didn’t feel the vaccines were safe… Nothing says it more than that to me.”