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Tag Archive | "COVID-19"

Kent County issues public health warning


New recommendations are designed to stem skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (November 20, 2020) – Dr. Adam London, administrative health officer at the Kent County Health Department, has issued a public health warning and strong guidelines aimed at curbing community-wide spread of the coronavirus in Kent County and preventing another economic shutdown.

With more than 650 new cases per day and positivity rates holding well above 15% – the highest local rates since the onset of the pandemic – the Kent County Health Department and area hospitals report that conditions threaten their ability to provide services essential for the health of the community.

“Our local infection rates have reached dangerous levels,” said London. “We need to take decisive, community-wide action to protect the health of our residents and to alleviate the pressure on our hospitals, frontline healthcare workers and public health case investigators and contact tracers.”

Acknowledging severe delays in the contact tracing process due to the current high rate of infection, the new guidelines outline steps the public should take if they test positive, have symptoms or suspect they have had contact with someone infected with COVID-19. They also guide employers in best practices for allowing employees to return from work following isolation or quarantine.

The warning advises against indoor residential gatherings of people from multiple households, including over the holidays. Guidelines urge businesses to strictly adhere to workplace protocols and encourage the public to support local businesses using pickup and delivery whenever possible, minimizing time spent inside public spaces. K-8 schools are reminded to diligently follow face covering, distancing and health screening guidelines. Expanding on the current Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) orders, high schools are advised to continue remote learning through January 15, 2021. Parents are cautioned to prevent children from gathering with friends outside of school hours and during periods of remote learning. Houses of worship are encouraged to temporarily discontinue large in-person gatherings. Finally, sports and recreational activities not covered by the current MDHHS order and that require close contact are also not advised at this time.

Kent County Health Department Issues Urgent Public Health Warning – Page 2

November 20, 2020

Business leaders from manufacturing, retail, and other industries, along with area chambers and economic development organizations weighed in on steps to slow the spread of the virus while keeping businesses open.

The Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force has met weekly with leaders from the health department since the first documented case of COVID-19 in March. This week, the Task Force announced that more than 60 faith leaders committed to limit in-person gatherings at area houses of worship to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Finally, Kent Intermediate School District officials and a coalition of K12 superintendents from across the county worked with the department to finalize recommendations that affect area schools, athletics, students, and families.

London thanked public and private sector partners for joining in this urgent call to action.

“We commend area leaders and organizations who have joined in support of the recommendations,” he said. “In addition to protecting public health, they know that tighter measures now may help stave off another round of public health ‘stay home’ orders that shutter businesses and schools in the coming months.”

See warning below:

Public Health Warning

November 20, 2020

Kent County currently has a community-wide positivity rate more than 15%, and our average number of new daily cases (689) has increased more than ten-fold over the past eight weeks. Public health officials cannot effectively conduct case investigation and contact tracing, services essential for protecting the public’s health, in a timely way when new case numbers are this high.

Local hospitals are also reporting COVID-19 inpatient admission numbers that are severely threatening their ability to provide services essential for the public’s health. Kent County’s pace of daily deaths from COVID-19 (6.43) is at its highest point to date. In consideration of these factors, and the reality that the approaching holidays and colder weather will complicate matters, the COVID-19 risk level for Kent County is now considered Highest Risk.

Therefore, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is issuing this Public Health Warning to provide residents with heightened guidance to best protect themselves and others. This Public Health Warning will remain in effect until the 14-day total incidence of new cases per 100,000 of population is less than 350 (or approximately 165 new cases per day) and the seven-day average positivity rate of new tests is trending downward. People should expect that this Public Health Warning will likely continue through January 15, 2021 at the earliest. The cooperation of all residents with these recommendations will help our community prevent suffering and reach these markers as quickly as possible.

The KCHD continues to strongly urge everyone to wear a facial covering in public places, practice social distancing, and exercise good hygiene. In addition to complying with the public health orders issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the KCHD is now making stronger recommendations to curb community-wide transmission.

1. Any person sick with the symptoms broadly associated with COVID-19 should immediately isolate themselves from others as much as possible. Sick people should call their healthcare provider and/or make arrangements to be tested for COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the use of facial coverings in the home when a household member is sick. Under no circumstances should a sick person report to work, school, or attend any other group gathering.

2. People over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions need to be extra cautious and should avoid or at least minimize time in public places and gatherings. Everyone needs to take extraordinary precautions to protect the most vulnerable in our community. Please see the additional recommendations at the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/index.html.

3. Businesses are essential for the wellbeing of the community. While indoor spaces present increased risk for coronavirus transmission, businesses strictly adhering to the guidance located at https://www.kentcountybacktowork.com have demonstrated the ability to maintain lower risk environments. All businesses are expected to practice extreme care consistent with this guidance. Customers are encouraged to support local businesses but are advised to opt for pickup and delivery whenever possible. Time spent shopping or otherwise inside indoor public spaces should be minimized. All people are warned to closely follow the general precautions of facial covering use, social distancing, and good hygiene. Failure to do so will perpetuate the spread of coronavirus and cause prolonged harm to people and businesses.

4. The education of our young people is also essential for the wellbeing of the community. The information we have currently indicates that younger students are less effective transmitters of coronavirus than high school students. Additionally, these younger students are not as well equipped to be successful in a remote learning model. Therefore, elementary education may remain in-person with universal facial covering policies, daily symptom screenings of all students and staff, and six (6) feet of physical separation between seated students to the maximum extent possible (but never less than 3 feet between seated students). Middle school education may remain in-person with universal facial covering policies, daily symptom screenings of all students and staff, and by reducing the number of students in the classroom through remote instruction or hybrid to provide six (6) feet of physical separation between seated students to the maximum extent possible (but never less than three (3) feet between seated students). High schools are recommended to remain in a remote educational model through January 15, 2021. COVID-19 outbreaks and illnesses happen more frequently in the high school grades. This population may also effectively expose others to coronavirus even if not demonstrating the symptoms of illness themselves. High school programs serving special needs populations, students with cognitive disabilities, and center-based programs may continue with caution. The KCHD will make recommendations about schools and related activities after January 15, 2021 using the science and understanding that is available at that time.

5. Parents and guardians are strongly encouraged to prevent children from gathering in groups during evenings, weekends, holidays, or during periods of remote education. The benefit achieved by these periods of separation will be eliminated if people continue to gather outside of the school setting.

6. Houses of worship and faith communities are also essential to the wellbeing of our community and provide tremendous support for the holistic needs of their members. We respect and are mindful of the importance of the separation of church and state; however, given the urgency of the situation, we strongly encourage all area houses of worship to discontinue large gatherings such as in-person worship services, weddings and meetings of more than five individuals. If this is not feasible, faith leaders are encouraged to exercise extreme mitigation efforts, relax in-person attendance obligations, and communicate the importance of avoiding all physical contact between people from different households. Individuals are also urged to follow all steps to protect themselves and others at all times, including proper use of face masks, social distancing, and hand hygiene.

7. Sports and recreational activities not covered by the current MDHHS order and requiring physical contact and/or regular close proximity (within six (6) feet) are high risk activities and are not recommended.

As noted earlier, the KCHD’s ability to conduct case investigation and contact tracing is severely challenged by the rising number of new cases. The department will be prioritizing case investigations and cannot assure communication to all cases or contacts in a timely manner. For that reason, the department is asking for the cooperation of our residents:

A. Any person notified of a positive test for COVID-19 should immediately isolate for a period of time not less than ten days from onset of symptoms (if applicable) or from test date. Person shall be fever-free without the help of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours and all other symptoms must be improving before leaving isolation. For more information on isolation, visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/isolation.html.

B. Any person who tests positive for COVID-19 should contact all persons they were in close proximity to from a period of time beginning 48 hours before onset of illness (if applicable) or the test collection date. Close contact includes persons within six feet of distance for at least 15 minutes cumulative over 24 hours and/or physically contacted with a hug, kiss, handshake, or other intimate contact. Those close contacts should be advised to quarantine according to instructions outlined in item C., below.

C. Any person who has had close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days from the date of their last contact with the infected person. The quarantined person should stay home, stay away from others as much as possible, and watch for symptoms. If the person tests positive, they should follow instructions outlined in item A., above. If the person tests negative, that does not mean they may end quarantine. That is because it can take up to 14 days for the virus to incubate after contact with someone who is infected. If, after 14 days of quarantine, the individual has not tested positive and does not have symptoms associated with COVID-19, they may end quarantine and return to work. For those who are household contacts of a diagnosed case, the total quarantine period could last for approximately 24 days. For more detailed guidance about quarantine, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html. D. We do not recommend that employees be required to show proof of two negative tests or present a “release from isolation or quarantine” letter from the KCHD. Both requirements would significantly and unnecessarily delay the employee’s return to work. Plus, studies have shown that some individuals continue to test positive long after they contracted the virus and are no longer contagious. Employers should visit accesskent.com/return2work for instructions on screening employees for return to work after quarantine or isolation

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Hospitals see surge in COVID-19 patients


By Judy Reed

Local hospitals are seeing a rising wave of COVID-19 patients. They are asking for the public’s help to slow the spread of the virus.

The number of COVID-19 patients entering area hospitals is rising, and officials are asking for the public’s help to stem the tide.

The Post contacted area hospitals this week to find out where things stand with the virus and their admissions. We received the following statement from Spectrum Health:

 “As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise at an alarming rate and hospital admissions surge, Spectrum Health urges Michigan residents to comply with the new three-week emergency epidemic orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Doing so will help ensure that Spectrum Health has the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients as well as those with other conditions requiring immediate attention, such as heart attacks or car crash injuries. We join health systems throughout the state in asking everyone to do their part now to slow the spread and ensure we can care for our patients and communities.”

Number of cases

The COVID-19 dashboard at Spectrum Health Wednesday shows 333 cases of COVID-19 patients across all hospitals in their system. A month ago, there was only 70-80. On October 26, just three week ago, there was 156. About 90 percent of those hospitalized survive; which means 10 percent do not.

Dr. Matt Biersack, MD, chief medical officer of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids, said they had 73 COVID-positive inpatients Wednesday. A month ago, they had 14 COVID-positive inpatients. Mercy Health Muskegon had 142 Wednesday.

We asked how many are classified as critical, and what their survival rate looks like. “Typically, about 20 percent of our hospitalized COVID-positive are classified as being in critical condition,” explained Biersack. “Patients who are critically ill tend to stay nearly twice as long as other patients, and those who require ventilators longer still. It’s important to remember that the majority of cases of COVID-19 have no or mild symptoms, so the survival rate is difficult to assess. Additionally, new drug therapies have shown to reduce mortality, and we’re seeing that these current treatments are more effective than those we were using in the spring.”

Staffing

John Norton, a spokesperson for Spectrum United, Kelsey, and Big Rapids Hospitals, said they are seeing staffing challenges. “We’re experiencing staffing challenges as we have employees test positive and will then go on quarantine,” he explained. According to the Spectrum Health dashboard at https://www.spectrumhealth.org/covid19, 72 staff were positive Tuesday.

Mercy Health is seeing those same challenges. “Staffing is challenged right now as we care for an increasing number of COVID and non-COVID patients,” explained Dr. Biersack. “We are bringing in nurses from across Mercy Health and St. Joe’s hospitals. We’re also working with our national system, Trinity Health, to recruit out of state nurses through its First Choice and visiting nurse programs. A virtual career fair was held this week to help recruit more nurses into our system. Mercy Health is also looking to re-deploy other available clinical staff to support front line patient needs in non-COVID areas.”

Biersack did not have an exact number on how many staff members have COVID-19. “It’s a number that is rapidly in flux, but fair to say, like the rates in the general community, higher than we’d like. This adds to the challenge of caring for a rapidly increasing number of COVID-positive patients.

Capacity

How are they doing on capacity?

Bruce Rossman, with Spectrum Health, explained their plans on maintaining the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients. “Spectrum Health has 1,850 licensed beds in its system. All our hospitals have “ plans in place to shift bed type and capacity based on clinical need. In addition, we have the ability to convert some areas of our hospitals, such as rooms associated with surgery, into patient rooms. We also have contingency plans in place for patient overflow areas and continue to investigate additional surge locations.”

Dr. Biersack said that Mercy Health Saint Mary’s still has capacity, but they are delaying some types of elective surgeries to ensure they have room to care for both COVID patients and non-COVID patients who still need important medical care.

PPE

Both Spectrum Health and Mercy Health systems have enough PPE gear on hand to last greater than 30 days. That would include N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, gloves, and eye protection.

“We currently have enough supplies on hand per current CDC guidelines and continue to watch supply and demand daily,” said Dr. Biersack. “We have our own distribution center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which enables us to quickly meet the varying needs of our hospitals. We continue to closely monitor key resources and meet regularly with supply chain counterparts in our other health systems and our national organization to stay aligned.”

What have they learned about treatment since last spring?

“We have learned so much about the disease, treatment options, how it’s spread and therefore how to protect other patients and staff,” explained Dr. Biersack. “Supply chains are much better positioned than before, and we have adequate supplies of PPE to meet current guidelines. Unfortunately, what’s also different is that the community is tired of this pandemic, and more lax now in social distancing, masking, etc. These are still important! Please help us help our community by continuing to wear a mask, wash your hands, and follow social distancing guidelines.”

To follow what’s happening at the hospitals, there are a few places you can look.

https://www.spectrumhealth.org/covid19 (scroll down to dashboard)

https://www.mercyhealth.com/health-and-wellness/covid-19/#covid (scroll down)

https://tinyurl.com/s33hdn7  Statewide Available PPE and Bed tracking

State Rep. Mark Huizenga-R, of Walker, issued the following statement Wednesday regarding the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Michigan:

“We have entered a critical period as our state fights against this wave of COVID-19 infection. Hospitals have communicated to us that capacity limits are quickly approaching and these vital facilities will be overwhelmed if this uptick continues. We have to take this seriously.

“So I ask people in the greater Grand Rapids area and across the state to do what they can to slow the spread. I understand this is a very polarizing time in our nation’s history given. People are hesitant to trust what they hear. But opting to discard the advice of the medical professionals who are working tirelessly to combat this virus isn’t the answer. Blatantly and purposefully disregarding the advice of medical professionals doesn’t impact the opposition party – it does potentially impact you and those around you.

“We have seen news reports that a vaccine rollout could be coming soon. We must focus on pushing through to the finish line. Let’s practice good principles and listen to medical professionals while working to protect our communities and our loved ones from COVID-19.”

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Cedar Springs High School temporarily shifts to remote learning


High School students will be learning from home November 9 through December 1

Cedar Springs High School students will be learning from home for the next few weeks because of a large number of student absences due to quarantine. The Post asked Superintendent Scott Smith to explain what is happening.

“We continue to see a dramatic increase in the number of students in grades 9-12 absent from class due to COVID-19. The actual number of positive cases for High School students on any given day has remained relatively low.  However, the number of students and staff required to quarantine for 14 days has become significant and currently accounts for nearly 99 percent of the absences we are seeing,” he explained. 

“On Monday, November 9, the High School was expecting three student absences due to a positive COVID-19 test and over 180 students out due to quarantine.  One out of every five desks at the High School was going to be empty on Monday due to COVID-19 related absences.  To stabilize the learning experience for all High School students, we decided to move to our remote learning plan beginning on November 9 and lasting through December 1.”

Smith said that the increase in absences has caused a significant strain on the learning process for students missing class due to COVID-19.  “Teachers were doing their best to deliver the same lesson both in-person and remotely. In comparison, teaching a lesson remotely or in-person requires similar but very different strategies. The shift to remote learning allows our teachers to focus on one delivery method for their lessons, providing equitable instruction for all students. The decision to launch our remote learning model at the High School was clear.”

So far, attendance levels in the other buildings indicate that students in grades PK-8 can continue to learn in-person.  

How will this affect certain high school activities?

Athletics/Co-curricular programs – At this time, we will continue with all scheduled athletic/co-curricular eventsand activities. All current safety measures will remain in place.

KCTC/KTC transportation will continue to be provided. Some minor adjustments to routes and schedules may be necessary. 

Meal availability – Student meals will be available for pick-up between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at the HS loop (near the office) on the following dates:

Monday – 11/9

Thursday – 11/12

Monday – 11/16

Thursday – 11/19

Monday – 11/23

Students will be given meals for three days. Please reach out to the High School office if you need meals but are not available during the scheduled times.

Mobile Hotspots may be available through CSPS if you do not have an internet connection where you live. These devices are being distributed based on need and availability. 

Personal items The High School will be open during regular school hours. Students can pick up any personal items starting on Monday. 

Early Middle College – A separate communication will be sent to our EMC families outlining specificinformation on this program.

Smith said they would keep parents informed of any future adjustments to their schedule or programs.  

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Urgent plea to COVID survivors to donate COVID convalescent plasma


CCP supplies quickly dwindle as COVID cases soar to new levels

Versiti Blood Centers has issued an urgent plea to those who have previously been infected with COVID-19 to “pay it forward” by donating COVID convalescent plasma (CCP). With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soaring to new levels, the organization is struggling to keep up with hospital needs. The need for COVID convalescent plasma at hospitals served by Versiti has doubled in the last four weeks and is expected to continue to increase very rapidly as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

“We are facing a critical need,” said Dr. Dan Waxman, vice president of transfusion medicine and senior medical officer at Versiti. “Without intervention from the community, we face the very real possibility that we won’t be able to fill orders for patients in hospitals we serve. This important therapy cannot be manufactured. It comes from generous volunteer donors in our communities who have recovered from COVID and now are able to help hospitalized patients in those very same communities.”

COVID convalescent plasma is a blood-related therapy used by hospitals to treat the most severely affected patients. The donated plasma contains antibodies, which can help seriously ill patients fight the infection.

Versiti has reached unprecedented levels of demand for COVID convalescent plasma. In recent days, COVID convalescent plasma has been shipping out to local hospitals three times faster than it is coming in. To date, the organization has been able to meet the needs of hospitals with the assistance of other blood centers. However, with COVID cases rising across the country, Versiti is fearful that those backup resources might soon not be available.

“Currently inventory levels of COVID convalescent plasma are an enormous concern; our inventory levels have dwindled from four weeks to four days,” said Dr. Waxman. “We’re pleading with the community – if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID and have been symptom free for 14 days, please consider giving an hour of your time to help others who are facing an uphill climb in battling the virus.”

Individuals who have previously donated COVID convalescent plasma are asked to call 1-866-642-5663 to make another appointment. CCP donors are generally eligible to donate up to 12 times.

Those who are interested in donating COVID convalescent plasma for the first time are asked to visit versiti.org/covid19plasma.

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MDOT prepares to meet the challenge of winter during a pandemic


With winter already on its way to parts of the state, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is doing what it does every year: preparing. But this winter may pose new challenges for keeping our roads clear.

“Over the years, maintenance workers at the state and local levels have handled everything winter could throw at them but, with the continuing threat of COVID-19, this is going to be an unprecedented winter,” said State Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba. “We’re working with local agencies and county road commissions to plan for contingencies, but we want drivers to know the pandemic could affect our ability to maintain winter levels of service.”

The goal of MDOT and its partner agencies remains clearing highways to bare pavement as quickly as possible after a winter storm. If MDOT or local contract agencies are temporarily affected by COVID-19 infections or associated quarantines, it may take longer to reach this goal.

“During snowstorms, MDOT and our contract agencies will have all available staff out working to clear roads as quickly as possible,” Ajegba said. “We’ll be asking the public for their patience and understanding if we need to manage temporary staff shortages. We’ll do the best we can with the resources available.”

As we move into winter, drivers need to remember they also share responsibility for safety when they venture out. Motorists must follow Michigan’s Basic Speed Law, which requires them to drive at a “careful and prudent” speed in all driving conditions that also allows them to be able to stop within the clear distance ahead. It may mean driving slower than the posted speed limit.    

MDOT and Michigan State Police (MSP) collaborated to produce a video (which you can find on youtube at (https://youtu.be/hCG85h7sm-c) with information on how roads are maintained each winter and the actions motorists should take now to be prepared for inclement driving conditions. The video also covers:

  • How to prepare your vehicle for winter driving, such as making sure tires are in good condition and that all snow and ice have been cleared from your vehicle before heading onto the road;
  • Why drivers should give plow operators extra space, and consider staying behind them in winter storms;
  • How drivers can see what plow truck operators see through the Mi Drive travel information website, at (https://mdotjboss.state.mi.us/MiDrive/map) and see their position on state routes in real time; 
  • The use of green lights on plow trucks; 
  • Michigan’s mover over law at (www.michigan.gov/documents/MDOT_Vehicle_Caution_Law_116834_7.pdf) which requires motorists to move over for stationary emergency vehicles with their lights activated or slow down and pass with caution if it is not possible to safely change lanes, and 
  • Other reminders for winter driving, such as avoiding distractions, using headlights during winter weather, and leaving extra space between vehicles.

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Schools Receive $1 Million More for COVID Relief


Kent County Board of Commissioners approve additional help  


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
– Kent County schools will receive an additional $1 million to offset costs related to COVID-19 after a vote of approval by the Kent County Board of Commissioners last week. In August, the Board approved $2 million for schools to be used to provide resources, services and purchase supplies directly related to the pandemic. The funding support for schools across the county comes from the $115 million dollar CARES Act grant sent to the County earlier this year to address COVID-19 concerns. 

“A safe, quality education is the expectation for the children of Kent County,” said Mandy Bolter, Kent County Board Chair.  “The additional funding approved today demonstrates the county’s commitment to playing a role in keeping our children and educators safe while school is in session.  I am proud our board voted to increase this effort,” continued Bolter. The Kent County COVID Relief Committee approved the additional funding at a recent meeting and the Kent County Board of Commissioners gave final approval last week.

“We appreciate the ongoing and additional support of the Kent County Board of Commissioners. This approval will help schools continue to secure the needed resources and services to meet the needs of students during this pandemic,” said Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Caniff.  

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Recommendations to vote safely during COVID-19


Recommendations to vote safely during COVID-19

LANSING, Mich. –To ensure Michigan voters remain healthy and reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the Nov. 3 general election, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released recommendations for voters, poll workers and election officials.

“This guidance allows Michiganders to carry out their right to vote while doing it safely during the pandemic,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “I encourage registered voters to consider voting alternatives to limit the number of people they come in contact with and to help reduce the spread of the virus.”

“Michigan citizens can cast their ballots safely and with confidence in this election,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “All election workers are required to wear masks and all voters are strongly encouraged to do so. Voters who already have absentee ballots can drop them off at their city or township clerk’s office or ballot drop box. Voters can also go to their local clerk’s office through Nov. 2 to vote early by requesting and submitting an absentee ballot.”

All registered voters may vote early by visiting their city or township clerk’s office through Nov. 2. There they can request, fill out and submit an absentee ballot all in one trip, or take their ballot home to fill out and sign the envelope before returning it to one of their jurisdiction’s ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Nov 3. Election workers, who are required to wear masks, will ask voters to show photo ID.

Eligible citizens who are not yet registered may register, request and submit an absentee ballot at their local clerk’s office through 8 p.m. on Nov. 3

When you vote or return your ballot, practice healthy behaviors to protect yourself and slow the spread of the virus. These behaviors include:

  • Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose.
  • Washing hands before entering and after leaving the polling location.
  • While in the polling location, frequently use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet (about two arms’ length) of distance from others.

If you are sick or concerned you have been exposed to COVID-19, seek medical care. If you don’t have an absentee ballot, contact your local election office for guidance about voting options.

Guidance is based on the most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and MDHHS recommendations for prevention of the spread of COVID-19. Read the “Recommendations for Healthy Voting in Michigan” for more helpful tips for voting this year.

(https://www.michigan.gov/documents/coronavirus/Recommendations_for_Healthy_Voting_in_Michigan_705780_7.pdf

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Statement regarding Michigan Supreme Court decision


from Dr. Adam London, Director, Kent County Health Department

On October 2, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the Governor did not have the authority to issue executive orders under emergency declarations past April 30, 2020.

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is hopeful the Legislature and the Governor will work together to protect public health in a collaborative and expedited manner. The KCHD is communicating closely with officials at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and other local health departments to identify pathways forward which respect rule of law and are protective of the health and safety of our communities.

Actions such as orders for isolation and quarantine are not affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. These actions are authorized under the Michigan Public Health Code, a law that was enacted by the Michigan Legislature in 1978. The KCHD will continue to use public health orders and enforcement actions as appropriate under law as this agency has done for many decades.

The KCHD stresses the importance of adhering to the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Those strategies include wearing facial coverings in indoor public places, maintaining social distance, frequent handwashing, and staying home if you are sick. The KCHD is confident Kent County residents will continue to take the steps necessary to place their families, friends, and coworkers at the least possible risk for contracting COVID-19.

More COVDI-19 resources and information can be found by visiting https://www.accesskent.com/Health/coronavirus.htm.

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MHSAA pushes football to spring


Red Hawk Miles Cartwright knocks down a Forest Hills Northern pass during their last game in the OK-White conference last fall, where they took their second consecutive championship. Photo by J. Harnden.

By Judy Reed

After two consecutive championships in the OK-White, Red Hawk players, coaches and fans were looking forward to their matchups this fall in the OK-Gold. And until late last week, it looked like the Michigan High School Athletic Association was going to let the season proceed as long as all the COVID-19 safeguards were being followed. But it was not to be.

On Friday, August 14, the Representative Council of the MHSAA announced it will move the 2020 Fall football season to Spring 2021, due to football’s higher risk for spreading COVID-19, with the rest of Fall sports proceeding as scheduled.

According to a news release from the MHSAA, the football season switch was made based on consultation with state health department   officials and after surveying MHSAA member high schools on their progress and preferences after the first four days of practice. Football is considered a high-risk sport for potential spread of the COVID-19 virus because of its level of player-to-player contact.

A total of 34,219 student-athletes played football at MHSAA member schools during the 2019 season. A total of 520 11-player teams and 83 8-player teams were anticipated during late summer to play football this fall season.

“At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “But while continuing to connect with the Governor’s office, state health department officials, our member schools’ personnel and the Council, there is just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to play football this fall.

“No one is willing to take the risk of COVID being passed on because of a high-risk sport. Decisions have to be made on our other sports as well, but none of those carry the same close, consistent, and face-to-face contact as football.”

Some Michigan athletic directors and coaches have posted on social media that they never received the survey. John Norton, CAA, the Athletic Director for Cedar Springs Public Schools, told the Post he did receive the survey, but was in favor of continuing the season. 

“The survey came from the MHSAA executive director late in the day and was due the next morning,” he explained. “The survey asked for our opinions on basically all Fall sports and (not sure of exact wording) but if we wanted to continue on/ or if we thought it was safe to continue on for each sport. I responded that I felt we were at a point, in regards to safety of coaches and athletes, that we could continue on with all the fall sports, football included.”

Norton thinks the team may have been safer playing football than not.

“I feel the MHSAA has put some serious and strict safeguards in place that have made competitive school athletics an extremely safe environment for our coaches and kids.  Personally, without sports or without football specifically, I do not know if our student-athletes will be as conscious about wearing masks, hygiene, social distancing and gathering in large groups on their own time. While I know this is an unpredictable virus that can do serious harm, we will never be able to completely eliminate that risk, but I feel our athletic venues are a safe place where the risk of transmission has been drastically reduced compared to sectors of our society.   

“A lot of time and extra work by school administrators, coaches and custodians, along with guidance from the health department and the MHSAA have helped to make our facilities a place where I feel the transmission of Covid-19 is reduced and at a low risk, but I am also not a medical professional.”

Head football coach Gus Kapolka shared what he was feeling about the announcement with the Cedar Springs football family and fans through Facebook. “I would like to reach out to the Cedar Springs Football Family in this time of uncertainty and reassure everyone that this postponement is a minor setback. For the past week, we have grown together as a team, family and community. I believe that this cruel act of injustice will not end us, nor will it define us. It will only serve to make us stronger, toughen our resolve, and focus our efforts. 

“I do not know what the future will bring, but I look forward to a day that I can hug each and everyone of you again and tell you how much you mean to me, and we can share that brotherhood in pursuit of our dreams. Someday very soon, ‘Hell’s Bells’ will play over the loudspeakers, while a Red & Black clad team will take the field in front of an entire small town, and all will be right with the world on a Friday Night. But until that day, never take anything for granted, and covet each day we have together as a gift. Until that day….Go Red Hawks.”

The team continued practicing together through Wednesday. An announcement of some kind was expected Wednesday on what spring football might look like but was postponed until Thursday.

Meanwhile there is a protest movement afoot, made up of thousands of fans and parents, protesting the MHSAA decision. The group, called Let Michigan High School football play!!, is active on Facebook and has done several interviews about the impact of the MHSAA’s decision, and hopes to get them to reverse it.

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Governor requires businesses to refuse service to those not wearing a mask


On Friday, July 10, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed executive order2020-147, which reiterates that individuals are required to wear a face covering whenever they are in an indoor public space. It also requires the use of face coverings in crowded outdoor spaces. Most significantly, the order requires any business that is open to the public to refuse entry or service to people who refuse to wear a face covering, with limited exceptions. She said governors in the states of Kansas, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington have imposed similar requirements on businesses.

Whitmer reportedly signed this executive order in response to rising COVID-19 cases in Michigan and across the country. If you look at the chart on “Daily cases by status” taken from the State of Michigan website, you can see that in June, we were seeing slightly less positive cases per day. In July, there is a small uptick, comparable to what we were seeing in May. 

Yet, if you look at the charts not all numbers appear to match. Take for instance, the chart that shows total lab tests by date. It shows that on 7/14, there were 32,617 negative tests, and 1,194 positive tests. Then look at the daily cases by status: it shows only 128 positive cases on 7/14 with 16 probable. It’s difficult to decipher the true number. We will be digging into that for further clarification.

To further protect workers and the community, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-147 reiterates that businesses who are open to the public must refuse entry and service to individuals who fail to comply with wearing a face covering. The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) is offering to provide the tools necessary for business to protect their workers and remain safely open.

Under the governor’s order, businesses must post signs at all entrances instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside. To assist employers with this requirement, a print-ready poster that businesses may use is available online. LEO and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) have a set of online resources at Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety that provides guidelines, posters for employees and customers, factsheets, educational videos and a reopening checklist to keep workplaces safe.

“By requiring everyone in their establishment to mask up, Michigan businesses can help keep their employees, workplaces and customers safe,” said LEO Director Jeff Donofrio. “Employers who violate the Governor’s Executive Orders, CDC guidance and OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 create additional hazards for workers and put the public at risk. We all must do our part to prevent the spread of this virus.”

In a press release, the Governor’s office cited studies showing that wearing a mask can save lives and significantly lower an individual’s chance of spreading COVID-19. “A study on different regions in Germany, for example, suggests that the adoption of mandatory mask ordinances decreased the daily growth rate of COVID-19 infections by 40 [https://voxeu.org/article/unmasked-effect-face-masks-spread-covid-19].  Modeling from the University of Washington similarly indicates that more than 40,000 lives would be spared nationwide if 95 percent of the population wore a mask while in public [https://covid19.healthdata.org/. Furthermore, a study conducted by Goldman Sachs concluded that a federal mask mandate could save the U.S. economy from taking a 5% hit to our GDP.” A reference was not given for that study. 

“We will remain vigilant to equip employers and their staff with proper guidance and tools needed to keep Michigan workplaces safe,” said COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan. “Our priority is protecting workers and this Executive Order allows us to do that effectively.”

Those who are exempt from wearing a mask in Michigan businesses include people younger than five years old, those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, and those who are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment.

The executive order took effect at12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 13. A willful violation of the order is a misdemeanor subject to a $500 criminal penalty, but no term of confinement may be imposed on individuals who violate the mask requirement. No individual is subject to penalty under the order for removing a mask while engaging in religious worship at a house of religious worship, although consistent with guidance from the CDC, congregants are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings during religious services.

Charts taken from State of Michigan website:

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