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Something to celebrate

CTA students throw their hats in celebration after commencement last week. Courtesy photo.
CTA valedictorian Hannah Hofstra gives her commencement speech. Courtesy photo.

With school ending early this year, and students missing out on many of the end of the year activities due to COVID-19, the class of 2020 at Creative Technologies Academy finally had something to celebrate last week.

The CTA class of 2020 held their commencement ceremony on June 23 at Red Hawk Stadium at the Cedar Springs High School. Eighteen students graduated, with 15 of them participating in the ceremony.

The school adhered to state guidelines of outdoor gatherings of less than 100 people. Students were allotted to bring a certain number of guests. 

Students, staff and board members were all spaced the recommended 6-feet apart on the stage and track, while families in the stadium sat spaced with their immediate group. 

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, served as the guest speaker and shared words of wisdom with the students as he encouraged them in their future endeavors. Superintendent Dan George encouraged the students to “Change the World” as has been his mantra during his tenure at CTA and this was his last graduation before his retirement. Former elementary principal Autumn Mattson has now taken the reins as Superintendent/School leader.

CTA is proud of the Class of 2020 and thankful for their flexibility during these unprecedented times.

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Hot Temperatures this week and next week

from Lt. Lou Hunt, Kent County Emergency Management

Beginning this past Monday 6/29/20, daytime temperatures will near and surpass 90 degrees, with predicted highs of 96 degrees on Saturday.  

During this time, it’s important to be aware of the dangers heat can present to us, and our pets, so that we can stay safe and remain as comfortable as possible. A specific bad example we all see regularly in the news is leaving vulnerable adults, children, or pets in a vehicle with the windows up, where temperatures can quickly become dangerous; please do not be that bad example. Instead, spend as much time as possible in a temperature-controlled cool environment, or stay in the shade with a good breeze/air flow to decrease felt temperatures. 

Remaining well hydrated by drinking water (more than usual) can help the body’s natural process for adapting to higher temperatures, as opposed to alcohol drinks that can be counter-productive and dehydrate the body. A helpful hint for keeping your body cool is to freeze water in Ziplock bags, to later use as cold compresses for felt relief from the heat.  

Another strategy is to allow the cooler night air to enter your home, and then confine that cool air before the heat of the day by closing windows and shades, to help keep temperatures down until the next evening. Spending time in a basement living space can also provide much cooler and more comfortable temperatures.  

Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion (which can include weakness, cold and clammy skin, darker than normal urine, significant sweating, cramps, dizziness, headache and nausea, among others) can be a sure sign that it’s time to get to a cooler environment, drink some cold water, and rest. Heat stroke is a medical emergency with signs such as confusion, disorientation, the absence of sweating, high body temperature, rapid pulse/heart rate, and others.  

This week (and next) is a good time to slow things down a little, stay out of the sun, and make sure the people around you (and yourself) are coping during this heat event.  Make sure you remember your family pets as well.  Pets that live outside will require shade and lots of cool water and consider bringing them inside for cooler temperatures.   

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Governor releases MI Safe Schools Roadmap

Roadmap includes guidance on PPE, hygiene and cleaning protocols, athletics, and more

On Wednesday, June 30, Governor Gretchen Whitmer released the “MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap” [https://www.michigan.gov/documents/whitmer/MI_Safe_Schools_Roadmap_FINAL_695392_7.pdf ], a comprehensive document to help districts create local plans for in-person learning in the fall. The Roadmap outlines a number of safety protocols for schools to implement in each phase of the governors MI Safe Start Plan. The governor also signed Executive Order 2020-142, which provides a structure to support all schools in Michigan as they plan for a return of PreK-12 education in the fall.

“Our students, parents, and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19, said Governor Whitmer. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall. The MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap will help provide schools with the guidance they need as they enact strict safety measures to continue protecting educators, students, and their families. I will continue working closely with the Return to Learn Advisory Council and experts in epidemiology and public health to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and financial support from the federal government. This crisis has had serious implications on our budget, and we need federal support if we’re going to get this right for our kids.”

“The most important thing we can do as we prepare to reopen school buildings in the fall is closely examine the data and remain vigilant in our steps to fight this virus,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “I will continue to work closely with Governor Whitmer and the Return to Learn Advisory Council to ensure we continue to put the health and safety of our students and educators first. We will remain nimble to protect students, educators, and their families.”

Executive Order 2020-142 requires school districts to adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan laying out how they will protect students and educators across the various phases of the Michigan Safe Start Plan. The Roadmap offers guidelines as to the types of safety protocols that will be required or recommended at each phase. In recognition that these protocols will cost money, the Governor also announced that she was allocating $256 million to support the districts in implementing their local plans as part of the bipartisan budget agreement the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the governor announced Tuesday. 

The safety protocols detailed in the Roadmap includes guidance on the use of PPE, good hygiene, cleaning/disinfecting, spacing in classrooms, screening for symptoms, athletics, and more. The Roadmap also recognizes the impact COVID-19 has had on students and educators mental health, and offers guidance on how schools can address this issue.

Governor Whitmer will continue to use the MI Safe Start Plan as the highest-level governing framework for determining if and when it is safe to resume in-person instruction.

On June 3, the governor announced a group of 25 leaders in health care and education to serve on the COVID-19 Return to Learn Advisory Council. The council includes public health experts, a pediatrician, educators, school administrators, school board members, community leaders, parents, and students. The Council will continue to work closely with the governor as she continues to put the health and safety of our students and educators first. On June 17, 2020, Governor Whitmer announced that Michigan schools may resume in-person learning in phase 4 of the MI Safe Start plan, with strict safety measures in place. (We are currently in phase 4.)

The Advisory Council was created to identify the critical issues that must be addressed, provide valuable input to inform the process of returning to school, and ensure a smooth and safe transition back to school. The Council will act in an advisory capacity to the Governor and the COVID-19 Task Force on Education, and will continue to develop recommendations regarding the safe, equitable, and efficient K-12 return to school in the Fall. 

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Pavelka signs to play volleyball at Mott

Grace Pavelka, the daughter of Eric and Julee Pavelka, and a member of the Cedar Springs Public Schools class of 2020, has signed to continue her volleyball career at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. A small outdoor signing ceremony was held at Cedar Springs High School on June 25 to commemorate the event.

According to CS Athletic Director John Norton, Pavelka was a highly decorated, four-year varsity volleyball player at Cedar Springs High School, earning numerous post-season accolades, as well as having a very successful club volleyball career.

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West Nile Virus found during Kent County Mosquito Surveillance

GRAND RAPIDS, MI. –Ongoing surveillance and testing conducted by the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) has revealed three presumptive positive instances of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus in Kent County. The discovery comes after testing pools of mosquito remains that were trapped in the 49504 and 49525 ZIP Codes. It is important to note that these are not human cases. 

“Discovering these cases in mosquitoes should serve as a reminder to everyone who lives in West Michigan that West Nile Virus season is upon us,” says Brendan Earl, Supervising Sanitarian at KCHD. “It is important for people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites as much as possible.” 

Since there is no vaccine or cure for West Nile the best treatment is prevention. KCHD recommends wearing a mosquito repellant that contains 10–35 percent DEET, wearing light colored clothing and staying indoors during dusk. You can help stop mosquitoes from breeding by removing or refreshing water in bird baths, children’s wading pools, water bowls for your pets. Empty other small containers that can collect water. in your yard and keeping your lawn and shrubs trimmed. More information about prevention can be found here https://www.accesskent.com/Health/Environmental/vector.htm

West Nile Virus is spread primarily by infected Culex mosquitoes. Only about 20 percent of the people infected will notice symptoms that may include headache, body aches, joint pains and fatigue. Most people with this type of West Nile virus completely recover, but fatigue may last for weeks or even months. About 1 in 150 people infected develop severe illness that can affect the central nervous system. Recovery from this type of West Nile virus may take several months. Some damage to the central nervous system can be permanent. In rare instances the disease can lead to death.

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Recall on salad products

Fresh Express, out of an abundance of caution, has issued a voluntary recall of branded and private label salad products produced at its Streamwood, IL facility that contain iceberg lettuce, red cabbage and/or carrot ingredients due to a possible health risk from Cyclospora. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 200 illnesses have been reported in connection with a current outbreak of Cyclospora occurring i CSPOSTpg02 n primarily Midwest states.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal infection caused by the Cyclospora parasite. A person may become infected after ingesting contaminated food or water. Common symptoms include severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, body aches and fatigue. The infection is treated with antibiotics and most people respond quickly to treatment.

The Fresh Express recall includes only those salads that are clearly marked with the letter “Z” at the beginning of the Product Code, which is located in the upper right-hand corner of the front of the package. Products containing the ingredients iceberg lettuce, red cabbage and/or carrots AND displaying the Product Code Z178, or a lower number, are recalled.

Recalled products were distributed to select retail stores between June 6 and June 26 in various states including, for example, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

No other Fresh Express products are subject to recall.

Fresh Express customers have been notified of the recall and instructed to immediately remove recalled products from all store shelves, distribution, and other inventories to ensure they are no longer available for sale or consumption.

Consumers who may have a recalled salad should discard it immediately and not eat it. Consumers with questions, or to obtain refunds, may contact the Fresh Express Consumer Response Center toll-free at (800) 242-5472 on Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time.

Fresh Express takes food safety matters very seriously, stringently follows all mandated regulations and implements preventive measures designed to minimize potential risks. Fresh Express is working in close coordination with FDA in its continuing investigation to identify a definitive source of the current Cyclospora outbreak.

Go to https://tinyurl.com/freshexpress-recall to see a listing of all the products.

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Kent County Animal Shelter Provides Guidance on Pets and Fireworks

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 30, 2020) – The Kent County Animal Shelter (KCAS) is advising pet owners to take precautions in the days leading up to 4th of July as fireworks may disrupt the behavior of animals. The KCAS has published a video with steps on how to help pets cope with fireworks.

“This can be a difficult time for pets and pet owners,” said Namiko Ota-Noveskey, program supervisor, KCAS. “We want to make sure pet owners know what to do in case their animal becomes anxious and who to call if they see stray animals who may have run away from home.”

Ota-Novesky offers the following fireworks tips for dog and cat owners:

  • Keep your pets indoors during fireworks to prevent them from running away.
  • Walk your dog during the daylight hours so you can keep them inside at night when people are most likely to use fireworks.
  • If you know your dog has a hard time with fireworks, talk to your veterinarian about medications that might be able to help with your pet’s anxiety.
  • Make sure your pet has access to a comfortable place to hide and do not try to move them from their hiding space as this can cause additional stress.
  • Muffle the sound of fireworks by closing all window and doors. You can also turn on music or the television to help soften the jarring noises.
  • Consider staying indoors with your pets to offer them comfort and reassurance.
  • Make sure your animals have an ID tag or chip in case they get lost and that the information connected to your pets’ microchip is up to date.

Pet owners can also register their pets for Finding Rover’s facial recognition software by uploading a picture of their pet to www.FindingRover.com. A person who finds a lost animal can take a photo of them and the website will do a facial recognition search, showing owners the lost animals that look similar to their pet.

In Kent County, fireworks are generally allowed from June 29 to July 4 after 11 a.m. until 11:45 p.m. but local township ordinances may differ. To report a violation of the fireworks ordinance, residents should call the non-emergency number of their local police department.

For concerns regarding a loose animal or animal welfare during normal business hours, residents should call (616) 632-7310. For concerns after hours and on holidays, residents should call the non-emergency number of their local police department.

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Happy Independence Day

By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

World War 1, The Great War, seems so very remote to us now, occurring over a 100 years ago, between 1914 and 1918. That war introduced a new type of mechanical warfare that the world had never seen before with its machine guns and mass artillery bombardments that lasted for days or weeks at a time. That war changed the world in ways that are still felt down to today.  Of the many atrocities that occurred in that war, one thing sticks out in my mind and that is the slow realization of the reality of something then called “shell shock” but now generally known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Early in the war, “shell shock” was thought to be a wimpiness or a lack of moral fiber brought on by the percussive action of artillery shells landing near soldiers.  Many combat soldiers were abused by commanding officers, put on trial and executed for “cowardice” for what we now know to be a psychiatric disorder that the American Psychiatric Association says can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, heart attack, rape or other violent personal assault.  In fact, as many as 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD during their lifetimes.  Some symptoms of modern PTSD include extreme vigilance, nightmares, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, avoidance, social isolation, sadness, fear and anger.

So, what does that all have to do with Independence Day and our pursuits of life, liberty and happiness? Well, the simple answer is that fireworks can be fun but they can also be dangerous and please be mindful of your friends, family and neighbors who may not enjoy your fireworks as much as you do.  Persons who suffer from PTSD often dread the fireworks of Independence Day, which may inadvertently cause them to “relive” their traumatic event because the firework sounds like an IED, gunshot or screaming.  

So, while you are celebrating the colonial grievances against King George III,  please consider some basic fireworks safety tips such as: always have adult supervision; only use fireworks when sober; keep safe distances; keep fireworks safely away from flammable materials including dry grass; keep a bucket of water or hose readily available; never hold a lit firework or point fireworks at people or animals; and leave all roads clear so that emergency services can get through in a hurry.  

Finally, please consider using pretty fireworks but avoid loud fireworks. Combat veterans and dogs everywhere will thank you. 

Fireworks may be used in the City of Cedar Springs on a national holiday and the day before and after that holiday but not between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. on those days.

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Avoid foam on lakes and rivers with high levels of PFAS

Photo of PFAS foam in Rogue River, at Rockford, on April 6, 2018. Photo taken by AECOM during the sampling event.

LANSING, Mich. – With the summer recreation season here, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is issuing a reminder that everyone should avoid foam on Michigan lakes and rivers known to have per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the water.

Foam on these water bodies can have much higher amounts of PFAS than the water, and swallowing foam with PFAS could be a health risk. Health advisories for foam exist on some waterbodies and specific advisories can be found in the PFAS Foam section at Michigan.gov/pfasresponse.

“Although, current science indicates PFAS does not move easily through the skin, it’s best to rinse off foam after contact and bathe or shower after the day’s outdoor activities,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “None of this information changes recommendations for water use at home.”

An MDHHS evaluation of how young children might recreate on lakes and rivers shows a health risk could exist from repeated, prolonged whole-body contact with foam containing high amounts of PFAS. Repeated prolonged contact is considered to be three hours per day, five days per week, over three months of a year, representing a summer season. MDHHS’ recommendation to avoid foam with PFAS is protective of everyone, including young children.

Swimming or bathing in water containing PFAS is not a health concern because the amount of PFAS is typically low compared to the foam. Although swallowing PFAS is the main way to get it in your body, an accidental swallow of river or lake water is not a health concern.

The amount of PFAS in lake and river water and in foam matters in determining if a health concern exists. MDHHS will continue to evaluate surface water and foam data as it becomes available and will issue further recommendations if necessary. 

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recommends that people not allow their animals—especially dogs—to come into contact with or swallow the foam. Dogs and other animals can potentially swallow foam collected in their fur when grooming themselves and should be thoroughly rinsed off with fresh water after contact with foamy water.

Not all foam contains PFAS. There is naturally occurring foam that piles up in bays, eddies or river barriers such as dams. This foam is off-white and/or brown in color and may have an earthy or fish smell. Naturally occurring foam can have high amounts of bacteria and it is best to rinse off after contact with it as well.

PFAS foam:

  • Can be bright white.
  • Is usually lightweight.
  • Can be sticky.
  • Tends to pile up like shaving cream.
  • Can blow onto the beach.

More information about PFAS and foam under the PFAS Foam section at Michigan.gov/pfasresponse.

If you have health questions about PFAS or foam, call the MDHHS hotline at 8006486942.

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Rep. Huizenga highlights new car insurance law

New law takes effect this week

State Rep. Mark Huizenga, of Walker, underscored new no-fault reforms in Michigan that will deliver long-overdue relief to drivers throughout the state.

For nearly 50 years, Michigan drivers have been forced to purchase what has become the most expensive car insurance in the nation. But now, they’ll finally have the power of choice.

A new law guarantees lower rates by giving drivers the ability to select their level of personal injury protection coverage, halting price gouging on medical services for car accident victims, combating fraudulent claims and strengthening consumer protections.

“The cost of car insurance had grown astronomically and was forcing Michigan families into tough financial decisions. My office has heard from many people about these high rates,” Huizenga said. “This new law will allow people to choose a level of coverage that is affordable for them. It offers top levels of protections as the old system did while adding the freedom of choice. It’s a better, more practical way forward.”

In addition to the guaranteed savings provided under the new law, the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) announced it was reducing its annual per-vehicle assessment fee of $220 to $100 beginning today. The new total marks a nearly 20-year low, and the MCCA credited the reforms Huizenga helped pass through the Michigan House for the fee reduction.

Huizenga invites drivers in the greater Grand Rapids area who are interested in more information on the new law to visit www.ReduceMiRatesNow.com, a user friendly platform that includes a rundown of all the new coverage level options, educational guides and shopping tips to help people maximize savings.

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