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EGLE reminds consumers to flush only toilet paper

Throw other paper products in the trash

We’ve all heard of the three “Rs” reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic. Here’s another important lesson to learn: the three “Ps”: toilet paper, pee and poo 

Those are the only things that should ever be flushed down a toilet. Flushing other paper products can lead to basement sewage backups in your home and create costly problems for local wastewater treatment plants.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many stores are finding it hard to keep toilet paper in stock. Some customers have turned to so-called “flushable” wipes, which are NOT flushable despite the marketing slogan and other paper products as alternatives. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) reminds Michiganders to flush only toilet paper to avoid clogging public sewerage systems. Paper products including “flushable” wipes do not break down effectively in the sewer system, which can result in raw sewage backups in basements and expensive plumbing repair bills.

Non-toilet paper products should be thrown into the garbage and not flushed down the toilet.

Non-flushable paper products can also create or contribute to blockages in public sewer systems. That can lead to facility discharges of untreated sewage to nearby land and water. In June 2019, for example, Northville Township experienced a discharge of approximately 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage to nearby land when flushable wipes contributed to a blockage of the sewer system.

Wipes and other non-flushable paper products can also add to sewer “fatbergs,” a conglomeration of fats and grease that capture flushed items, including non-flushable paper products, to coalesce into a large, impenetrable clump and restrict efficient wastewater flow. One such fatberg was found in Macomb County’s sewers in 2018 and measured 100 feet long and up to six feet tall, according to the Macomb County Public Works Office.

From a community and public health perspective, it is critical that wastewater treatment plants continue to function properly so they can disinfect sewage and avoid untreated discharges.

EGLE staff continues to ensure that wastewater treatment plants adequately disinfect sewage they receive. Hypochlorite and other disinfectants that treatment plants use have shown to be effective in addressing COVID-19. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence to date of transmission of COVID-19 through sewage.

If residents have questions about wastewater treatment or sewerage, they should contact their local public works department.

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Unemployment claims crash state website

Overwhelm phone lines

Visitors to the Department of Labor are turned away at the door by personnel due to closures over coronavirus concerns, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in New York. Applications for jobless benefits are surging in some states as coronavirus concerns shake the U.S. economy. The sharp increase comes as governments have ordered millions of workers, students and shoppers to stay home as a precaution against spreading the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Photo by John Minchillo / AP

(The Center Square) – A record number of Michigan residents are filing for unemployment, and simultaneously have been frustrated by long waits and other online and telecommunications issues.

The Michigan website crashed at 11 a.m. Tuesday and was rendered inoperable for nearly two hours. It was up and running again at 1 p.m.

The system normally handles an average of 5,000 unemployment claims per week on average but was overwhelmed by a record number reported by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) at 129,000 unemployed Michigan workers for the week ending March 21.

Currently, Michigan’s unemployment is the fourth highest in the nation, behind Pennsylvania (378,900), Ohio (187,800), and California (186,800), according to DOL data.

Nationwide, unemployment was 3.8 million for the week ending March 21, marking what the DOL asserts is “the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.” The previous high was 695,000 in October 1982.  

In contrast to the dismal unemployment numbers, Pure Michigan Connect announced Tuesday afternoon the need of state-based employers for “40,000+” job openings. Workers are sought in the fields of logistics, health care, manufacturing and agribusiness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Job seekers should visit MiTalent.org.

“Michiganders are tough and hardworking, especially in times of crisis,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a news release. “Tens of thousands of open jobs are available right now with more than 2,000 Michigan companies and organizations hiring to continue providing critical services.”

Employers seeking to hire during the coronavirus crisis are encouraged to access the COVID-19 On-Demand Hiring Intake Form.

“While many Michiganders are being displaced from work, thousands of employers have immediate job openings,” Michigan Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio said in a press release. “We encourage those who are currently unemployed to search available jobs at MiTalent.org.” 

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New programs to increase and expand unemployment benefits

Benefits increased for all unemployed workers, expanded to self-employed and low-wage workers

LANSING–Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced new programs for workers affected by COVID-19. The governor, under the federal CARES Act, signed an agreement between Michigan and the U.S. Dept. of Labor to implement Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation programs that grant benefits to workers who do not already qualify for state unemployment benefits. Workers include self-employed, 1099-independent contractors, gig, and low-wage workers who can no longer work because of the pandemic.The agreement also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week for up to four months and extends benefit payments from 26 to 39 weeks. 

The State of Michigan is dedicated to implementing measures to protect the health of all our residents and we understand financial health is critical as we meet this challenge together, said Whitmer.This increase and expansion of unemployment benefits will provide a measure of security for Michigan working families who lost their income due to the pandemic. We are committed to ensuring emergency financial relief for unemployed residents who continue to stay home and stay safe. 

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) will provide additional guidance regarding eligibility and application details in the coming days as it implements these new programs.

Benefits Extended to Self-Employed, Low-Wage, and Other Workers Affected by COVID-19 

Under the CARES Act, individuals who are not already eligible for Michigan’s unemployment programs will now be provided a set amount of $600 a week for up to four months on top of the state benefit. Benefits are available for up to 39 weeks. These newly eligible individuals include self-employed workers, independent contractors, low-wage workers and those with a limited work history. 

Benefits Increased for All Unemployed Workers

Under the CARES Act, weekly benefits for all unemployed workers will be increased by a set amount of $600 a week for up to four months. This applies to workers already in the unemployment system and eligible employees about to apply. These workers do not need to reapply and those about to apply do not need to take additional steps and should file as usual. If a worker’s application has previously been denied by the UIA in the past three weeks there is no need for them to reapply at this time. They will be notified by the agency with any additional action that may need to be taken. 

“We appreciate the patience Michigan residents have shown with the unemployment system over the last few weeks as we continue to provide emergency financial assistance during this historical demand. I want to assure every eligible worker in our state who needs to apply for unemployment benefits that they will receive them,” said Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. 

We continue to urge workers to apply online at Michigan.gov/UIA/ and to utilize our new filing schedule based on their last name. UIA staff is working as hard and fast as they can to process claims and we continue to reallocate resources and upgrade technology to serve our customers. 

The day or time of day in which a claim is filed will not impact whether a worker receives benefits or their benefit amount. Additionally, claims will be back-dated to reflect the date in which a claimant was laid-off or let go from their job due to COVID-19. The eligibility window to apply has also been increased from 14 to 28 days from the date of their work stoppage. 

New Filing Schedule:

Online Filing Schedule – Michigan.gov/UIA

Workers are encouraged to go online during off-peak times between 8PM-8AM

Last names beginning with letters A-L are asked to file claims on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. 

Last names beginning with letters M-Z are asked to file claims on Sundays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays. 

 Saturdays will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window. 

Call Center Filing Schedule – 866-500-0017:

Last names beginning with lettersA-Lare asked to call on Mondays and Wednesdays between8:00am  5:00pm. 

Last names beginning with lettersM-Zare asked to call on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8:00am  5:00pm. 

Fridays (8:00am  5:00pm) will be available for anyone to accommodate those who could not file during their allotted window. 

For more information visit Michigan.gov/UIA

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DIFS’ call center assists consumers with insurance and financial services questions and complaints

LANSING, MICH. The Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) announced that its call center continues regular operations and remains prepared to assist Michigan consumers with their insurance and financial services concerns, especially those individuals impacted by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“DIFS’ Office of Consumer Services is working remotely and stands ready to help Michiganders in need of assistance, especially with issues related to their health insurance and other coverages and financial services,” said Anita Fox, Director of DIFS. “At a time when consumers may be concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives, DIFS is here to help.”

The call center consists of representatives that can assist with insurance, banking, credit union, mortgage and other consumer financial concerns. The Office of Consumer Services also has analysts available to review complaints against insurance or financial service entities. DIFS encourages consumers to first attempt to resolve disputes directly with their insurance and/or financial service provider. If a resolution cannot be reached, DIFS Office of Consumer Services can help try to resolve your dispute. The live call center can be reached by calling toll-free at 877-999-6442, and is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

“Michigan consumers will not see a change in the way they obtain help from DIFS as we work remotely,” added Fox. “DIFS live call center team will continue to answer phones and address their needs.”

DIFS stands ready to assist with:

  • Questions about health insurance coverage for COVID-19 treatment or testing.
  • Concerns about access to telemedicine.
  • Questions about the servicing of loans or mortgages.
  • Questions about banks or credit unions and the availability of financial services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Insurance agent or consumer finance licensing questions.
  • Questions about insurance policies, grace periods, and premium payment extensions in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Appealing an adverse decision regarding a health care claim under the Patient’s Right to Independent Review Act (PRIRA).

For more information visit: www.michigan.gov/difs, call toll free at 877-999-6442 or email DIFSComplaints@michigan.gov.

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Cedar Springs Public Schools responds to school closure

April 2, 2020               

Dear Parents and Guardians:

Moments ago, Governor Whitmer ordered schools to close for the remainder of the school year. This drastic measure is intended to help ensure the health and well being of students and their families.  The Governor also asked that each school district and its staff provide a remote learning plan for students to continue to make reasonable academic gains throughout the remainder of the 2019/20 school year.  

Cedar Springs Public Schools will continue to foster our dynamic community of learners, who inspire and support one another, to exceed their potential. As you can imagine, this is complex work.  It will take time. An opportunity of this magnitude has never been faced before in the history of our great country. Students, parents, and CSPS staff are all going to need to be “learners” to accomplish our mission. Specific details around these plans will be shared as soon as possible. 

Our remote learning plan will support our students emotionally and academically.  How our students are feeling during these challenging times is as important, if not more important than what they are learning.  Cedar Springs Public Schools is working with the other 19 districts within Kent ISD to provide engaging materials to support academic growth and the social/emotional welfare for each of our students.

We know you may have other questions regarding your students’ education. Here is a list of responses to common questions that have been raised by parents so far:

Retrieving Personal Items/Medication from desks/lockers:

If there are essential medications that must be recovered immediately, please send an email to cspstogether@csredhawks.org or call 616-696-0464.  We will be sharing our plan for students to collect other personal items in the near future.

Food Distribution: 

Cedar Springs Public Schools, Creative Technologies Academy, KISD Regional Program locations, and several local agencies will continue to partner to support our students by providing them with breakfast and lunch while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The only requirement to receive a free breakfast and lunch is that students must be age 18 or younger (26 or younger with an active IEP). Please visit our website csredhawks.org to sign up for meals.

Graduation:  We expect all students who were on track to meet all state and district requirements to graduate successfully. We are going to do everything possible to ensure that our seniors experience graduation. For those who are not on track to graduate, we will provide further information when it becomes available.

Standardized Assessments:  MSTEP, PSAT, and SAT tests were waived as a result of the crisis and school closings across our state and the nation.  College Board will provide guidance for AP students regarding test-at-home options.  

Athletics/Extracurricular Activities:  All of these activities will be suspended for the remainder of the school year as requested by the Governor in her executive order. We would encourage you to support your student to maintain their interest and preparedness for these activities when they resume.  

Questions/Information: 

If you have further questions regarding school-related issues, please visit our website at csredhawks.org, send an email to cspstogether@csredhawks.org or call 616-696-0464. If you have further questions regarding COVID-19, please visit our web page for links to local, state and national guidance.

Please know our staff has been working nonstop to develop remote learning plans designed to engage students and our families in learning activities. Working together, teachers, support staff and parents will continue our students with engaging learning experiences during these unprecedented times.  

Thank you in advance for your time. We could not do this vital work without your willingness to partner with us. 

We can. We will. We are. Together.

With respect and appreciation,

Scott Smith, Superintendent of Schools

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Governor suspends face-to-face learning at K-12 schools for rest of school year

Executive Order sets guidelines for remote learning, ensures teachers, school employees will be paid for remainder of school year

Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed Executive Order 2020-35, which orders all K-12 school buildings to close for the remainder of the school year unless restrictions are lifted and ensures continuing of learning by setting guidelines for remote learning. District facilities may be used by public school employees and contractors for the purposes of facilitating learning at a distance while also practicing social distancing.

“My number one priority right now is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19. For the sake of our students, their families, and the more than 100,000 teachers and staff in our state, I have made the difficult decision to close our school facilities for the remainder of the school year,” Governor Whitmer said.

“As a parent, I understand the challenge closing schools creates for parents and guardians across the state, which is why we are setting guidelines for schools to continue remote learning and ensuring parents have resources to continue their children’s education from the safety of their homes. There is no video chat or homework packet that can replace the value of a highly trained, experienced teacher working with students in a classroom, but we must continue to provide equitable educational opportunities for students during this public health crisis.”

The Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators and the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers are currently developing a Continuity of Learning Plan template application for schools to utilize in order to create their localized plan. The application will be made available by April 3. District plans will need to detail how districts will provide opportunities for students to learn remotely and how schools will manage and monitor their progress. It will also provide information on how parents and guardians can learn more about the local plan. Each district must have its plan approved by their regional intermediate school district before being implemented. Public school academies must have their plans approved by their authorizer. Districts can also partner with one another to create joint plans.

Every district’s plan will be different and will reflect what’s best and feasible for their community. A plan can include learning by any number of modes of instruction delivery, including a hybrid approach. However they are designed, districts must ensure their plans are appropriate, equitable and accessible for students and families.

If the plan relies on some online instruction, the district should ensure every student who needs it has access to an appropriate device with an ability to connect to the internet. Students and families will not be penalized if they are unable to participate in their alternate learning plan.

Schools should continue to provide mental health care services for students, to the extent possible, and should be ready and willing to help efforts to establish disaster relief childcare centers. School districts will also continue to provide meals for families who need them during the COVID-19 crisis. If any schools have unused personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies or other materials, they are allowed and encouraged to donate them to organizations that could put them to use.

School districts will have the flexibility to adopt a balanced calendar for the 2019-2020 school year and/or to begin the 2020-2021 school year before Labor Day without having to seek additional approval. Teachers and school employees will be paid for the remainder of the school year. Student teachers will still be able to get a temporary certification and current teachers will still be able to get their certifications renewed, even if they can’t meet all the requirements due to COVID-19.

All Michigan high school seniors will be given the opportunity to graduate this year so that they may make a successful postsecondary transition. Additionally, all standardized tests previously scheduled for the remainder of the school year, including the M-STEP and the SAT, will be canceled. There will be a date in October for rising high school seniors to take the SAT and for other high school students to take the PSAT.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

To view the response from Cedar Springs Public Schools go to http://cedarspringspost.com/2020/04/02/cedar-springs-public-schools-responds-to-school-closure/.

To view the response from Creative Technologies Academy go to http://cedarspringspost.com/2020/04/06/cta-response-to-governor-suspending-face-to-face-learning-for-the-rest-of-the-year/

To view executive order 2020-35, click the link below:

EO 2020-35.pdf https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/MIEOG/2020/04/02/file_attachments/1417518/EO%202020-35.pdf

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Community group gives hope to Metron residents and staff

By Judy Reed

Members of the City Impact Saturday night church showed love and encouragement to the residents and staff at Metron Wednesday. City Impact Facebook photo.

The Cedar Springs community got the news Tuesday that our local long-term nursing home, Metron of Cedar Springs, had 31 residents and five staff members test positive for COVID-19. It hit many people hard, knowing the virus was affecting some of the most vulnerable people we knew and in our own backyard.

On Wednesday, a group of people in the community reached out to show the residents and staff at Metron that they care about them and what they are going through.

City Impact, a local Christian outreach center, took a group there to pray, sing and show them they are loved with signs, balloons and more.

“Our City Impact Saturday night service prayer team reached out to Metron right when we heard the news story yesterday [Tuesday],” explained spokesperson Kelley Bergsma. “Our intentions at first were to do a park and pray in the parking lot, however Metron said that their residents could really use some hope right now and they wouldn’t be able to see us or hear us from our parked cars, so we were invited on the property by one of their staff who showed us which windows to go to. We had one of our worship leaders with a guitar and microphone singing, and we just moved around the building in prayer and worship.”

Bergsma said that despite some of the negative comments on Facebook, they did practice social distancing, and the people seen in groups were families. “We were very cautious,” she said.

 “We decided to do this because Metron is located right in the center of Cedar Springs. We care deeply about our city and the people here. We care about the staff, the residents, the families involved, and we know that prayer makes a difference!”

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Nursing home residents, staff test positive for COVID-19

Officials said 31 residents and five staff tested positive

By Judy Reed

Residents and staff at Metron of Cedar Springs have tested positive for COVID-19.

A local nursing home in Cedar Springs is now on the front lines fighting COVID-19.

Metron of Cedar Springs, a 77-bed community located at 400 Jeffrey Street, announced Tuesday, March 31, that a number of  residents and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

“We have had 31 residents and 5 staff members at Cedar Springs test positive for COVID-19,” said Paul Pruitt, Director of Operations.

“These individuals are all located in one section of our community, which has been isolated.  Two of those residents and the staff members are currently receiving care outside of our community.  One of those residents is expected to return back to our community within the next few days. The rest remain in our care, are stable and it does not appear as if any of them are at risk to be transferred at this time.”

Pruitt said they are taking all the necessary precautions and have been following state and federal health guidelines, including restricting visitors and non-medical personnel.

“We have been working closely with local, state and federal health departments,” explained Pruitt. “As a member of Spectrum Health’s High Performing Network, we have also been in continuous contact with the health system, its doctors and staff. We are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety and protection of our residents, staff and community.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we have been closely monitoring and implementing the recommendations and requirements outlined by our local, state and federal health departments as well as the CDC in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  This is all in addition to our extensive health and wellness processes and procedures.

“As other facilities around the country have done, we have restricted visitors, guests and non-essential medical personnel to the building. Those essential visitors entering the facility, including doctors, are heavily screened prior to entry. Every staff member goes through the same screening process including having their temperature taken prior to starting every shift.  We are fully stocked with all necessary personal protection equipment and our staff members are wearing these items throughout their shifts to care for our residents and for their own protection.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our residents and our staff members is our top priority as we navigate this global pandemic and unprecedented health crisis.”

The Post first heard about the possibility of a positive staff member at Metron last Friday, and reached out to the Kent County Health Department at that time to verify whether the information was valid.

According to Lori Latham with the Kent County Health Department, there are currently 113 positive cases in Kent County, and one death. The 113 does include the 31 residents at Metron but may not include all the staff, since some could be from a different county and they did not all go together to be tested at the same time.

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Demolition begins on apartment building

Demolition began this week on what was left of 323 Oak Ct. after it burned last summer. Photo by Michelle Hyde.

By Judy Reed

Demolition began this week on the building that burned at Red Flannel Acres last summer. 

The Post called and emailed Red Flannel Acres to try to get some information on their plans to rebuild, but had not heard back at press time.

The fire, at 323 Oak Ct., last August, left 7 families homeless.

The fire marshal concluded that it was started by a cigarette on an upstairs balcony.

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Thrills and chills as you cross new bridge

By Judy Reed

Are you an adrenaline junky? Do you like traveling just under the speed of light? A new bridge being built across the Straits of Mackinac is bound to get your blood flowing. 

The bridge features a steep drop off, which guarantees your car will exceed speeds over a 100 mph before racing around a loop at breakneck speed (literally—so make sure you have a seatbelt on). Once you come out of the loop, it only takes seconds to make the 5 miles to the other side.

And the great thing is, it will only cost you $5 one way. It’s $20 for a round trip, and $50 if you want your brakes checked first.

We spoke with some of the people brave enough to cross the bridge.

“I’ve never done anything so terrifying before,” said one man, whose eyes kept rolling back in his head. “I’d like to do it again but I’ll have to wait until I can see straight.”

Another man was carrying a woman’s shoe and looked a little confused. “Have you seen my wife? She was sitting right next to me when we left, and I told her to roll up her window but I don’t think she heard me because she was screaming like she does on a roller coaster, and then…I don’t remember anything else.”

According to the company that runs the bridge, there haven’t been many injuries. “Sometimes people throw up so we don’t recommend eating before driving across,” said a spokesperson. “It makes a real mess.” He said one car flew off the bridge last summer and was never found. “I think the driver was a wanted felon and it was his way of evading capture,” he explained. 

If you are looking for something fun to do with the family, check out this new bridge at www.aprilfools.gotcha!

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