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Elaborate licensing scam costs couple their life savings

LANSING—Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Orlene Hawks has today alerted professionals licensed by the State of Michigan to beware of an elaborate, sophisticated scam that ultimately costed one physical therapist and her family their entire savings.

The scheme reported to Nessel’s consumer protection team took place over the course of several days and involved three different men who posed as an investigator from LARA, a chief investigator from LARA, and an FBI agent, respectively. The men convinced the physical therapist that her license to practice was in danger of immediate temporary suspension and directed her to the nearest UPS store to receive notification in writing. According to the woman, the document the men provided her appeared to be on official LARA letterhead and even included her license number.

The man posing as the chief investigator told the physical therapist that he was investigating a drug trafficking case involving her license and that her name and license were associated with 15 different bank accounts laundering 2.4 million dollars. At one point, all three men got on the call with her, giving her the option of obtaining a lawyer and being stuck in jail without bail for at least six months, or cooperating with their investigation by signing a federal bond agreement with the Department of Justice.

Convinced that the scam was legitimate, the woman followed their instructions, told no one—including her husband—and made a wire transfer for her so-called bond. She was then provided with an application to allegedly reinstate her license. Once her husband discovered the wire transfer, the police were called and confirmed the scam. The couple was unable to recoup any of their financial losses.

“This kind of scheme shows the depth and breadth bad actors will go to while robbing well-intentioned people who are fearful of the results should they not comply,” said Nessel. “Do NOT fall for anyone who calls and threatens you unless you provide them with some form of cash—in this case, a hefty wire transfer. Be alert, be skeptical, and hang up, no matter how often they reach out to you. And by all means, immediately stop any payments and alert local law enforcement to report them. You may also wish to report this conduct to our office as it helps us understand what scams are circulating so that we can warn the public about them.”

“No one from our office in LARA will ever reach out to you and threaten to suspend your license,” said Hawks. “Our investigators have teamed up with Michigan State Police to put a stop to as many scams as possible but we need our licensees to be alert to the possibility that the next text, email, or phone call they get about their license may be someone trying to scam them.”

Last fall, several State of Michigan licensees encountered spam emails or spam websites impersonating LARA. Hawks emphasized the following while urging licensees to take caution:

Licensees should be cautious of unsolicited requests for any of their personal information. LARA will not contact you directly asking for personal information.

Be suspicious of any unexpected emails or links to websites. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.

Do not respond to or open hyperlinks in emails or text messages about validating your personal data.

If there are any hyperlinks, check the url before clicking. LARA websites will have michigan.gov in the url.

If you suspect fraud, report it immediately to your licensing bureau.

“Don’t be fooled by a scam, no matter how real it seems,” said Nessel. “Do your homework and report anything that is even remotely suspicious to the proper authorities. It is much easier to protect yourself from a scam than to recover from one.”

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Following in our footsteps

A physician was on her way to drop her four-year-old daughter off at preschool. In the car, she left her stethoscope on the seat, and her daughter picked it up and began to play with it.

“Be still my heart,” thought the doctor, “my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps.”

Then the child spoke into the instrument. “Welcome to McDonalds! May I take your order, please?”

Joke courtesy of Joadie Orcasitas.

 Thank you for sending it to us, Joadie!

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FDA and CDC lift pause on Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine

NEWS RELEASE from FDA & CDC

Following a thorough safety review, including two meetings of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that the recommended pause regarding the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine in the U.S. should be lifted and use of the vaccine should resume.

The pause was recommended after reports of six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals following administration of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. During the pause, medical and scientific teams at the FDA and CDC examined available data to assess the risk of thrombosis involving the cerebral venous sinuses, or CVST (large blood vessels in the brain), and other sites in the body (including but not limited to the large blood vessels of the abdomen and the veins of the legs) along with thrombocytopenia, or low blood platelet counts. The teams at FDA and CDC also conducted extensive outreach to providers and clinicians to ensure they were made aware of the potential for these adverse events and could properly manage and recognize these events due to the unique treatment required for these blood clots and low platelets, also known as thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).

The two agencies have determined the following:

  • Use of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine should be resumed in the United States.
  • The FDA and CDC have confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19.
  • The FDA has determined that the available data show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older.
  • At this time, the available data suggest that the chance of TTS occurring is very low, but the FDA and CDC will remain vigilant in continuing to investigate this risk.

Health care providers administering the vaccine and vaccine recipients or caregivers should review the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine (Vaccination Providers) and Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers, which have been revised to include information about the risk of this syndrome, which has occurred in a very small number of people who have received the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met Friday to discuss the latest data on TTS, hearing from the vaccine manufacturer Janssen and the COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical (VaST) Subgroup, as well as a risk benefit analysis. ACIP is committed to be vigilant and responsive to additional information that could impact the risk benefit analysis of any of these vaccines. Vaccine safety monitoring will continue and any new information about TTS will be brought to ACIP as needed.

“Safety is our top priority. This pause was an example of our extensive safety monitoring working as they were designed to work identifying even these small number of cases. We’ve lifted the pause based on the FDA and CDC’s review of all available data and in consultation with medical experts and based on recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. We have concluded that the known and potential benefits of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older. We are confident that this vaccine continues to meet our standards for safety, effectiveness and quality. We recommend people with questions about which vaccine is right for them have those discussions with their health care provider,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., Acting FDA Commissioner.

“Above all else, health and safety are at the forefront of our decisions,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky. “Our vaccine safety systems are working. We identified exceptionally rare events—out of millions of doses of the Janssen COVID-19 administered—and we paused to examine them more carefully. As we always do, we will continue to watch all signals closely as more Americans are vaccinated. I continue to be encouraged by the growing body of real-world evidence that the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and they protect people from disease, hospitalization, and death. I urge anyone with questions about the COVID-19 vaccines to speak with their healthcare provider or local public health department.”

Assessment of Available Data

Medical and scientific teams at the FDA and CDC reviewed several sources of information and data related to the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to reach Friday’s decision.

Specifically, the agencies assessed reports submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), reviewed the medical literature and considered the information from global regulatory partners about thrombosis with thrombocytopenia that have been reported following use of a similar, yet not identical, COVID-19 vaccine using a virus from the adenovirus family that has been modified to contain the gene for making a protein from SARS-CoV-2.

Update on Adverse Events

On April 13, the FDA and CDC announced that, out of more than 6.8 million doses administered, six reports of a rare and severe type of blood clot combined with low blood platelet levels occurring in people after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine had been reported to VAERS. In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia).

Today, the agencies can confirm that a total of 15 cases of TTS have been reported to VAERS, including the original six reported cases. All of these cases occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 59, with a median age of 37 years. Reports indicated symptom onset between 6 and 15 days after vaccination.

Monitoring for Safety Will Continue

The surveillance systems that are in place to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use are working, as demonstrated by both agencies’ quick work to identify and investigate these rare, but serious adverse events. The FDA and CDC will continue with these efforts to closely monitor the safety of these vaccines. Reports of adverse events following vaccination can be made to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at https://vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html?utm_medium=

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Security threat at high school

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs High School was on lockdown again this week. Post photo from March 2021.

For the second time in a little over a month, Cedar Springs High School was forced to go into lockdown due to a threat.

On Monday, April 19, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office said that they were on the scene of a bomb threat that was received at Cedar Springs High School prior to school starting.

According to Superintendent Scott Smith, the staff took immediate action to ensure all students and staff who were in the building were quickly moved to secure locations.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office and the Canine Team swept the building and safely cleared the

space by 9:00 a.m. K-8 classes continued to carry on as scheduled. High School classes resumed on a two-hour delay schedule, at 9:30 a.m.

The previous threat occurred on March 11. Nothing was found and the school cleared. The Sheriff’s Office had no update on that incident.

Anyone with information regarding either of these incidents or any potentially threatening situation at the school is encouraged to contact the Kent County Sheriff’s Office at 616-632-6100, school administrators, or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345. Always call 911 in an emergency.

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Vaccination clinics at Cedar Springs Baptist Church

Thursday, April 22 and Thursday, April 29

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is partnering with local communities to provide free COVID-19 vaccinations. On Thursday, April 22, and Thursday, April 29, the KCHD is hosting vaccination clinics at the Cedar Springs Baptist Church.

This clinic, located at 233 S Main St. Cedar Springs, MI 49319, will run from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. both days, and the Pfizer vaccine will be administered. Registration is required, those interested in attending this clinic can register online at  https://vaccinatewestmi.com/vaccine-pre-screening-registration/ or call 2-1-1.

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for the 16-17-year-old age group as well as 18+ adults. For 16 and 17-year-old clients it is required to have either:

1. presence of parent/guardian or

2. permission note from parent/guardian and driver who is at least 18 years of age.

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Community celebrates at Starkbierfest

Hazy Past played some vintage rock tunes at the Cedar Springs Brewing Company’s “Starkbierfest” event last Saturday. Photo by S. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Beer and music lovers alike were happy to have the chance to get out and celebrate spring at Cedar Springs Brewing Company’s annual “Starkbierfest” last Saturday.

In the past, the event was held inside a large tent. It was canceled last year, but the event was modified this year to be an outdoor event to enable people to celebrate while staying within the state-mandated gathering guidelines.

“We were really pleased with the weather that allowed us to do a fun, outdoor event safely,” said David Ringler, Director of Happiness at CS Brewing. “People were social distancing and following protocols, which really allows us to continue these type of events. The beer releases and Sausage Party were a hit and It was wonderful to see and hear larger bands again, in addition to our weekly live music on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at the brewery.”

Ringler said they never had more than 150-200 people at any one time, spread out over 12,000 feet.

The bands that played were Rudi Tegethoff – Energetic German polka; Tony Halchak & The Still Wonder – Craft Brewed Americana; and Hazy Past – Vintage Rock.

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MDOT roadside parks reopening April 30

All roadside parks operated by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will reopen for the season Friday, April 30.     

MDOT maintains 85 roadside parks around the state. Parks in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula operate seasonally, usually closing in late October and reopening in the spring.

While parks are scheduled to be open April 30, motorists should not expect drinking water at all parks to be turned on until sometime later in May, after annual testing and treatment of the park water systems is completed.          

In Kent County, there is only one—three miles east of Ada on M21. In Montcalm County, there are three, and Newaygo County also has three.

A map and complete list of MDOT roadside parks are available on the MDOT website. You can download the list here: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/MDOT_Roadside_Park_List_263314_7.pdf.

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Project Lifesaver

From the Kent County Sheriff’s Office

Do you have a loved one who is prone to wandering due to a cognitive condition like autism, Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia? This program could literally save their life.

Our agency has partnered with Autism Support of Kent County, Inc. (ASK) for our Autism Awareness Patch program. Just one of the many critical services that ASK provides is Project Lifesaver, a search and rescue program operated internationally by public safety agencies. It is strategically designed for at-risk individuals who are prone to the life-threatening behavior of wandering. The primary mission of Project Lifesaver is to provide timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children with the propensity to wander due to a cognitive condition.

So, how does Project Lifesaver work? Your loved one wears a small transmitter on their wrist or ankle, like the one pictured, that emits an individualized frequency signal. If your loved one goes missing, law enforcement is notified and responds to the area. We then use a receiver, like the one our officer is holding in the picture, and the transmitter’s individualized frequency to locate the position of the individual.

Project Lifesaver does just that—it saves lives. For additional information on Project Lifesaver International Headquarters and how to register your loved one, visit https://www.autismsupportofkentcounty.org/ or https://projectlifesaver.org/.

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Man charged in shooting

Levi Daniel Hubler

A Tennessee man, formerly of Michigan, has been charged in the shooting that sent a Grant Township woman to the hospital in critical condition last month.

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Hart Post were dispatched Monday morning, March 29, to a residence in the 3600 block of Fox Dr., near Thornapple Avenue, in Grant Township, Newaygo County, for a shots fired call. At the time, police said that an unidentified individual, who was outside, fired several rounds into the residence, striking a female who was inside the home. She was transported to the hospital by Aero Med in critical condition. 

Troopers said they did not believe it was a random shooting and asked for the public’s help to solve it.

Troopers have been investigating the case and have now charged a Tennessee man, who is acquainted with the victim, with the shooting.

Levi Daniel Hubler, age 26, from Hixson, Tennessee, formerly from Belmont, MI, has been extradited from Tennessee and arraigned in the 78th District Court in Newaygo County on the following charges: Assault with Intent to Murder (2 counts); Felony Firearm (3 counts); Firearm – Discharge in or at a Building Causing Serious Impairment; Felon in Possession of a Firearm; and Felon in Possession of Ammunition.

Hubler remains lodged in the Newaygo County Jail pending preliminary examination. The victim remains in the hospital in stable condition. The case remains under investigation.

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MDHHS extends epidemic order, strengthens mask requirement for children

Order expands mask requirement to children ages 2-4 as recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics

From the MDHHS

On Friday, April 16, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) extended its Gatherings and Mask epidemic order. The Order—which preserves the strongest public health order in the Midwest—is designed to balance day-to-day activities while controlling the spread of COVID-19 and saving Michiganders’ lives. It includes expansion of mask requirements to children ages 2 to 4 to further protect the state’s residents.

Although progress has been made, it is crucial that Michiganders continue to mask up and socially distance as the state takes steps to get back to normal. 

Expanding the mask rule to children ages 2 to 4 requires a good faith effort to ensure that these children wear masks while in gatherings at childcare facilities or camps. It takes effect April 26, 2021. This addresses the increase in cases among younger Michiganders and follows recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

“Michigan continues to implement smart health policies and mitigation measures to fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “This includes the requirement to wear a mask while in public and at gatherings, limits on indoor residential social gatherings larger than 15 people with no more than three households, and expanded testing requirements for youth sports. Additionally, the most important thing people can do right now is to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their families, and help us eliminate this virus once and for all.”

As of April 16, 29.5% of Michigan residents 16 and older had been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and 44% had received at least a first dose.

“More than 5.5 million doses of the safe and effective COVID vaccines have been administered in Michigan, and we are well on our way to vaccinating at least 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and up,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “However, I continue to be incredibly concerned about our state’s COVID-19 data. We are still very much fighting this pandemic and seeing concerning trends in new cases and hospitalizations. Michiganders need to be using every tool in our toolbox right now to get these cases and hospitalizations down. Just because something is open and legal does not mean you should be doing it. We all must continue doing what works to slow the spread of the disease by wearing masks, washing our hands, avoiding crowds and indoor gatherings, and making plans to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.”

MDHHS had been closely monitoring three metrics for stabilization or declines over the past several weeks.  Michigan’s metrics have been increasing for the past few weeks, although the rate of increase is declining. The presence of more infectious variants, such as the B 1.1.7 variant, threatens progress in control of the epidemic and MDHHS will be monitoring data closely. In recent days:  

Positivity rate: had increased for eight weeks but has seen a recent 5-day decline to 17.1%. However, this metric remains up 390% from the mid-February low and remains above the December peak of 14.4%.

Statewide case rate: This metric has increased over the past eight weeks to 613.9 cases per million. The rate is more than 475% higher than the low in mid-February but remains below peak of 737.8 cases per million on Saturday, Nov 14.

Hospital capacity: The percent of inpatient beds dedicated to those with COVID-19 is now at 18.8%. This metric peaked at 19.6% on Tuesday, Dec. 4, and is up 373% from the February low.

“Nurses are exhausted. Many hospitals are close to 100% capacity. RNs around the state are being put in the impossible situation of having to decide which patient to attend to. Nurses are working up to 18 hours at a time, often without breaks,” said Jamie Brown, president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “We are begging for everyone in the community to do their part. Stay home. Wear a mask. Get a vaccine when you are able. We are barely able to keep our heads above water. We are in crisis. We need our communities’ help.” 

“We know that wearing a mask significantly reduces the spread of infection and should be part of the comprehensive strategy to reduce COVID-19—including for children age 2 and up,” said Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MIAAP) President Dr. Matthew Hornik. “Use of masks does not restrict oxygen in the lungs even in children, it is recommended to wear a mask with layers to filter droplets effectively.” 

The order extension is through May 24. An infographic that highlights order requirements can be found on Michigan’s COVID-19 website.

The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus. To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine.  

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Ray Winnie
Kent County Credit Union

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