02-23-2020 COVID-19 case curve eases slightly, Governor stands firm on shutdowns; Locals join Lansi

LANSING BLOCKADE PROTEST… Draws local small business owners; Hagar’s Randy and Deb Frank, and Hartford’s Charlie Weeden all feel that Governor Whitmer has gone way too far with her executive orders that have crippled thousands of small business in the state, many of whom can operate within social distancing rules, but Whitmer deems as “low wage and non-essential”.


COVID-19 case curve eases slightly, Governor stands firm on shutdowns; Locals join Lansing protest rally

By Jon Bisnett While the COVID-19 statistics are showing some slight bending of the curve in most of the state, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer continues to stand her ground with what many are calling over reach in terms of civil liberties and devastating effect on Michigan’s small businesses. Michigan Governor Whitmer continues to draw criticism from members of the state legislature and thousands of Michigan small business owners. Fisherman and boaters, golfers and moms who simply want to take their kids to the local park all wants answers as to why our state has such rigid mandates not seen elsewhere across the country. An April 15 blockade protest of the State Capital in Lansing occurred with landscapers, garden center, construction workers and other small businesses and their supporters participating, all sidelined by the Governor’s recent action. Whitmer countered by saying, “This small group that came together without masks on, passing out candy with bare hands to children, who were congregating together, brandishing their weapons, having posters of being anti-choice – this was a political rally. It was a political rally that is going to endanger people’s lives because this is precisely how COVID-19 spreads.” Local attendees beg to differ. Hartford’s concrete contractor Charlie Weeden and Hagar’s electrician Randy Frank and wife Deb were there. They claim most people stayed in their vehicles with only a small percentage out walking around. They further claim the blockade did nothing to hamper ambulance or employee traffic to and from Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital as was reported by some liberal media. Social media has been on fire again this week challenging Whitmer’s perceived over reach that affects sale of paint, seeds, plants and much, much, more. Online recall petitions continue to grow as unemployment in the state sees record numbers and a UIA website that continues to have technical issues. Countless reports of qualified unemployed workers abound who have not received any benefits since the debacle began. Whitmer reaffirmed her statement from a week ago in regards to reopening the state; saying four areas of concern will guide her action, along with the demands for federal aid in providing more testing. “We must see a sustained reduction in infection rate; enhanced ability to test and trace COVID-19; sufficient healthcare capacity to handle resurgence; and best practices in the workplace. We can’t afford a second wave, and so it’s going to be incredibly important that we do this right.” Cancellations Two more huge Michigan festivals join the dozens of previously announced cancellations. Traverse City has now canceled its nationally recognized Cherry Festival which draws over 500,000 annually. Rothbury’s Electric Forrest has also canceled the 2-weekend event that normally sees in excess of 50,000. The Battle Creek Field of Flight balloon fest and air show is hanging by a thread with events still on for the July dates as planned. Schools Our Tri-City schools are working diligently with implementing their individual remote learning plans. Each school will contact students and parents directly to address how they will proceed. Conversations with our local superintendents confirm that a hybrid approach, where online technology is used when possible. Due to the rural nature of a large percentage our communities, workbooks will need to be implemented when the Internet service is not readily available. Meals will be provided through June 9 along with new Bridge Card benefits to provide families that already qualify for free or reduced lunch receiving $193.80 total for March and April for each eligible K-12 student, and another $182.40 total for the months of May and June. Options are in the works for holding some type of graduation ceremony, but all agree the bulk of decisions hinge upon whatever restrictions are possibly lifted during the first week of May. Stay the course Again, continue following the recommended best practices to slow the outbreak: Wash hands often, cough into your elbow, avoid touching face, keep safe 6’ distance, and stay home if you are able.

Health officials give Berrien Co. COVID-19 update

By Annette Christie As of April 21, 2020 at 2:00 p.m., there were 170 confirmed cases, 171 presumed cases, and 10 deaths in Berrien County. A total of 98 individuals have recovered. The total confirmed cases in the State of Michigan were at 32,967 with 2,700 deaths. The three counties in Indiana directly below the Berrien County border had 140 cases, 5 deaths (LaPorte County); 412 cases, 9 deaths (St. Joseph County); and 164 cases, 3 deaths (Elkhart County). Health Dept. presents update on local efforts to battle pandemic The Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland held a press conference on Friday, April 17 to update the community on where the county sits with regard to the coronavirus disease COVID-19. Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten said that one of their areas of focus is contact chasing. For all of the positive cases, the health department makes phone calls to all the cases, and collects the list of people that they were in contact with, and who they have been around, as soon as 48 hours prior to being symptomatic. Britten said the calls to all the contacts are at approximately 1,600 people so far. “This is giving us a better understanding of who has it,” Britten said, adding, “This will be an important strategy in the coming months.” Another area of the focus is the vulnerable communities such as long care facilities like nursing homes. They are going into those facilities to make sure they have all the best practices in place. Britten noted that an individual at Pine Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Cleveland Avenue in Stevensville had gotten very sick; the individual tested positive, thus the caregiver tested positive. Now with more than one case, the residents at Pine Ridge are being isolated in their rooms and all group activities have been canceled. The employees that tested positive for COVID-19 are isolating at home and are no longer in contact with any of the residents. All residents and family members have been notified of the positive cases and steps are being taken to limit further spread of the virus. Pine Ridge has been following all recommended strategies to protect their residents and employees from the disease including: Ensuring adequate supply and use of personal protective equipment; enhancing hand hygiene practices and cleaning and disinfection practices at the facilities; limiting use of communal spaces and cancellation of all group activities; screening all residents and employees for symptoms twice daily; and restricting all visitors to the facility. One of the new numbers that the health department is looking at in the data analysis is the status of “presumed positive”. An individual who is presumed positive has all the symptoms of COVID-19, has a link to someone who has it, and has not been tested. As of the time of the press conference there were 162 presumed positive cases and the number will be added to daily. More information about all of the cases, with specifics will be added to the Berrien County Health Department website daily. The new maps give details on the number of cases in specific zip codes even. First transplant of convalescent plasma to take place at Spectrum Lakeland Spectrum Health Lakeland CEO Dr. Loren Hamel announced that the first transplant of convalescent plasma was going to take place. They take a blood product from someone who had COVID-19 and has built up the antibodies for immunity and give it to someone that is sick. Hamel explained that the process does have its challenges, to find the right people to be tested, test blood types and then getting the plasma to the right person. Britten said that as discussions have been held about lifting the Stay Home, Stay Safe Governor’s order, it won’t be as easy as flipping a switch. “We are going to need to continue social distancing, continue to do that because we are not sure what May is going to look like,” Britten said. She mentioned the regional plan that the Midwest governors are working on, including Michigan, but stated, “We need to have a stable level and even decreasing level in order for that to happen. We have to look at how do we continue to keep ourselves safe as we re-open some of the restrictions and how do we balance that.” Currently Governor Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order expires on April 30. The health department is working with the United Way of Southwest Michigan to collect some needs. Just Monday, the health department put the notice out that they are in need of contributions. With still more than a week left in the executive order, many Berrien County residents are looking for ways to help that extend beyond the social distancing and washing hands. There are plenty of opportunities for people to find a way to volunteer or give back. Those wishing to help can visit the United Way of Southwest Michigan website. At this time, Berrien County agencies not affiliated with the hospital system, including homeless and domestic abuse shelters, long-term care facilities, home health agencies serving older adults, housing facilities for lower-income individuals, including an isolation/quarantine facility are in desperate need of supplies and personal protective equipment. Among the items most needed are masks (surgical and homemade to fit both men and women), hygiene items such as hand sanitizer (or empty hand sanitizer bottles or small spray bottles), disinfecting wipes and hand soap, and single serve meals or snack items. Community members who are able to donate any of these items can drop off donations at the United Way of Southwest Michigan office at 2015 Lakeview Avenue in St. Joseph, Michigan on Mondays from 3:00-5:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Those who are capable of making a financial donation to the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts can do so through the Southwest Michigan Cares Fund, coordinated by the Berrien Community Foundation. In addition to making an online donation, community members can text SWMICARES to 41444 or send checks to: Berrien Community Foundation, Southwest Michigan Cares Fund, 2900 S. State St., Ste 2E, St. Joseph, MI. While some in the community are fortunate enough to be staying safe at home and be in a position to donate back to the cause, there are others who may be in need of receiving assistance during this trying time. Those who are looking for assistance are encouraged to call 2-1-1, a free and confidential service that helps people find the local resources they need.

Filing deadline reveals upcoming 2020 Election candidates

By Annette Christie With the April 21, 2020 filing deadline behind, candidate lists are shaping up locally for the August primary and November general election. County Elected Officials and township officials of registered political parties needed to file their paperwork Tuesday to be on this year’s ballots.

Watervliet Township Watervliet Charter Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins, Clerk Patt Bambrick and Treasurer Tom Scheid are all seeking re-election. Rich Quinn is challenging for the Supervisor seat. For the four trustee seats, voters will see incumbents Joe Stepich, Bob Wallace, and Glenn Giannetti on the ballot with the addition of Karl Bayer. Joe Matthews is not seeking re-election.

Coloma Charter Township Coloma Charter Township Supervisor Ken Parrigin will face challengers Phil Hickmon and Jeffrey Weber. As Clerk Sandy Kraemer is not seeking re-election, Matt Moser, Sheila Hickmott, and Debra Becht will be running for that position. Treasurer Jim Fulton faces no opposition. Running for trustees are Bryan Duffield, Jerry Willmeng, Kendyl Adams, Natalie Johnson and Lance Becht. There are four trustee positions to fill.

Bainbridge Township Bainbridge Township Supervisor Bill Hodge, Treasurer Nancy Weber, Clerk Patty Hiler-Molter, and Trustees Don Baiers, and John Yetzke are seeking re-election. Rodney Winkel is also seeking the seat of Supervisor.

Hagar Township Hagar Township Supervisor Izzy DiMaggio, Clerk Sarah Rodriguez, and Trustee Andy Ulleg have all filed to be re-elected. Deb Frank and Peter Colovos are also seeking a trustee seat. No one filed for the Treasurer seat as of yet.

Keeler Township Quite a few new faces will be on the Keeler Township Board following the November election as Clerk Carl Davis is the only one seeking re-election. Don Blackmon is seeking the Supervisor seat, Sharon Kay Rudel-Clupper is seeking the Treasurer seat, and Jerry E. Morin and Kenneth C. Rahn are both seeking the two trustee seats on the board.

Hartford Township Hartford Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik will be seeking another term. In similar fashion, Clerk Julie Sweet and Treasurer Steve Starner will also seek re-election. For the two trustee seats, voters will have a choice of three, John McLellan, Mike Phillips, and Chris Cowgill.

Berrien County The following positions at the County level will be on the ballot this August; Clerk, Register of Deeds, Prosecutor, Sheriff, County Commissioner and Drain Commissioner. As of press time the names were not compiled.

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