03-26-2020 Letters and Commentary

WEEK 2… This is the second week Anne and I have been in voluntary isolation due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are not sick with any of the symptoms, high temperatures, sore throat, cough, breathing difficulty. But we are among those considered at risk, we are senior citizens with health issues. Anne is plagued by a plate full of health issues, lead with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. I have type two diabetes. So, we are reducing our family and social contacts for the time being. While I am still spending a little time at the office, I am also working some at home. Tom Gear at Tri-County Computers helped Amy relocate an available office computer to home and hooked it up to have live connection with the TCR office. Part of this KK was written at home. I am also doing some household and business errands as needed, so if you see me around town, I’m not playing hooky from my responsibilities. If you see me on a local lake, fishing. I am taking a time out from home and work.

DON’T COME IN! Amy Loshbough, managing editor of the TCR, posted the following message on Facebook. “PSA… the Tri-City Record is OPEN! We are here and working hard at keeping our readership informed and up to date! With all that being said… DON’T COME IN! We want you to pay your subscriptions and your advertising bills and we need your business just as much as the other local businesses. But please call us 269-463-6397, email us record@tricityrecord.com, drop it in the mail PO Box 7, Watervliet 49098 or drop it in our drop box next to the door! We take great pride in this product and thank you for continuing to support us! Stay healthy, Stay home and Stay safe!”

Fighting COVID-19 Last week, I voted in favor of a new emergency budget plan that added another $125 million to help the State of Michigan and local communities respond to the coronavirus. The measure brings the total state funding approved to $150 million, including the $25 million that had already been approved by the Legislature. The new plan will provide $50 million for immediate needs such as virus monitoring and testing, $50 million for critical health care providers to expand capacity for coronavirus response, and $50 million to keep in reserve for when necessary. The measure also will make it easier to use federal assistance related to coronavirus. As your Representative, the most important thing for me to do is to protect the health and wellness of our community. The proactive steps we took as a Legislature will help our state respond to this unprecedented public health challenge and ensure our health officials have the tools and resources they need to respond to this threat appropriately. As we endure this crisis, my focus will remain on serving the hardworking people of our community. If you have any questions surrounding executive orders, the coronavirus, or any other issue, I hope you never hesitate to reach out to my office at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov or by phone at 517-373-1403. Additional and reliable information about COVID-19 can be found at www.michigan.gov/Coronavirus and www.CDC.gov/Coronavirus. You may also call the hotline daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-888-535-6136. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. When Michiganders work together, we can tackle any issue that comes before our state. In the coming weeks, I look forward to working collaboratively with Speaker Chatfield, Governor Whitmer’s administration, and President Trump’s administration to ensure our community receives the help and resources we need to combat this disease.

Online instruction should be counted during times of crisis Ten days ago, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all schools in Michigan to be closed in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. While this and other executive action taken by the governor has likely helped to mitigate the spread of the virus, the orders have not come without making a significant impact on our society, economy and education of our children. Many school districts, educators, and parents in Southwest Michigan and throughout the entire state have stepped up in big ways to help provide students with continued educational opportunities during the school closures. I have been in contact with school leaders in Cass, Berrien, and St. Joseph counties, and they are all participating in some form of educational enrichment to help keep kids engaged. This, of course, is in addition to the efforts the districts have taken to ensure free meals are being provided to those who need them. While this enrichment effort has been of great benefit to many, last week the state Department of Education announced that students receiving online instruction during the coronavirus emergency will not be able to count it toward required annual instructional time. Like our governor and Southwest Michigan residents, I was alarmed to read this announcement, and I will do what I can to work with the governor’s administration and the Department of Education to address any statutory hurdles that may prevent schools from being credited when they provide online learning. One proposal I support would be to provide for so-called “e-days,” which would function similarly to the “snow days” that our school districts receive annually. When the allotted snow days are exhausted, or in situations like we are experiencing currently when schools are closed by an emergency order, e-days would be made available. Such a law would ensure our school districts, educators and families would be better prepared to continue educational offerings during such occurrences, and it would ensure that the instruction time is counted toward the state’s annual requirement. In the meantime, since none of us knows how long this situation is going to last, I support and encourage everyone to do what they can to educate our children during this extraordinary time in our state’s history. Tough times call for tough people, and I continue to be amazed by the remarkable resilience of our Southwest Michigan community. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.

Time to think Not having to scramble to get ready for work or to be somewhere at a particular time gives some additional freedom, even while feeling a little trapped by a Stay-At-Home mandate from the state. My to-do list has become the center of focus for daily activities. Now there is more time to think about it, more time to plan and to organize. This may actually become a profitable time if I can just keep from being glued to the news. It’s important to stay informed but to be news-obsessed, that doesn’t help. It’s normal to feel a loss of control in the situation, a sense of being a victim of the circumstances. We begin to realize that we have infrastructure dependencies that we seldom think about. We take for granted, for example, the ability to travel freely, to shop randomly, or to meet openly. These “freedoms” are a part of our culture. Now we must wisely be sensitive to “social distancing”, to evaluate our every move in the light of potential contact with the dreaded virus – “the new reality”. With the extra time to think, we also have extra time for other things. Extra time to remember friendships that have meant much to us in the past. Extra time to find things for which we are thankful. Extra time to discover ways to consider others who may have more challenges than we do in this situation. Also, more time to help, to reach out. We might even have extra time to document our experiences so that our children and grandchildren will be able to look back at this experience and know how we responded, what we felt, and how we discovered how to overcome. Maybe this is a good time to think about our relationship with God. Maybe there’s time to reconnect and time to pray. Two helpful links for that: biblegateway.com, and odb.org. Take the time.

Keep up the good work at the Record Dear Karl and family, I really enjoy Roy Davis’ column. Sometimes I can relate to some of the things he writes about. I always look at the obits first to see if my name is listed. Most of the old neighbors and friends that lived on Riverside Drive, West, called “Cardboard Alley” by some, are gone to a better place. I’m probably the only one left. It gives us a chance to go to larger homes, which we all did. We were all just starting out and about the same age at the time (1952-1959). We had a lot of fun. Kids all about the same age. Those houses were easy to heat and maintain. Ed installed a regular furnace in our house. Our house had a larger lot as it was the last house on that street. When we moved to Coloma in 1959 they were starting to extend housing west of us. Ed and I would drive by once and awhile just to remind us what fun we had there. We stayed friends with some but are all gone including Ed. The Record just lets me keep up in a small way. Thanks for that. Keep up the good work. Donna Lee Dill

Helping out one another At this point, we all know how serious the coronavirus crisis is impacting our daily lives. No, there is no need to panic, but I am urging folks across southwest Michigan to be prepared and do their part to help contain the outbreak. We need all hands-on deck. One thing that we must understand is that there are folks struggling during this crisis and many are now facing unexpected challenges. My message this week is that we need to help each other out and be there for one another. Children who depend on school meals are now at home as schools close across the state. Restaurants and bars are closed, harming those workers who are living paycheck to paycheck. And business owners dealing with economic uncertainty are having to make difficult decisions on how to cut costs. Right now, if you are experiencing struggles and are unsure of where to go for help, mi211.org can help connect you with thousands of nonprofits and government resources. My office is also available to help and has a website with a list of resources. Please visit www.upton.house.gov for more information.

Trump is a threat to the health and safety of our country Editor, From the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), Donald Trump has repeatedly misrepresented the seriousness of this threat to the American people. He has also repeatedly misrepresented the extent to which his administration has succeeded in controlling the spread of this illness. Some examples: January 22 – “We have it totally under control.” February 25 – “You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better.” February 28 – “My administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to prevent the spread of this illness in the United States. We are ready. We are ready. Totally ready.” Because of his denial of the problem and focus on blaming all others – China, Italy, France – Trump failed to institute effective actions stateside to curb the spread of this serious illness. The need for testing was minimized, so the extent of the problem could not be determined. The need for personal protective equipment for medical personnel and ventilators for seriously ill patients was minimized, so a severe shortage was allowed to develop. The need for additional hospital beds was minimized, so needed capacity was not created. In fact, we learned that we are not ready. As Trump continued to misrepresent the seriousness of the problem and failed to take effective action to curb the spread of the virus while patting himself on the back for how smart and great he is, the number of infected Americans continued to rise. By March 21st there were more than 25,000 confirmed cases and more than 300 fatalities. Those totals will undoubtedly increase in the weeks and months ahead. Donald Trump’s incompetence and dishonesty are serious threats to the health and safety of our country. He should have listened more closely to his very knowledgeable advisors to begin advising people to stay home much sooner rather than giving false promises that all would be well. We need a new leader! We need someone who will focus on protecting the health and welfare of the people of this country now and stop his lying to boost his fragile ego and his personal corporate profits. We are all paying the price today. Bette Pierman, Benton Harbor

State Treasurer urges Michiganders to be alert for phishing emails State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks has issued an urgent reminder to be aware of phishing emails sent by scammers seeking to obtain the personal information and the hard-earned money of Michigan’s taxpayers. Similar to the phishing scam that targeted the Michigan’s Attorney General recently, Michigan Department of Treasury staff members were subjected to a phishing scam on March 21. Individuals were led to believe they had received an important email from the state treasurer requesting they purchase gift cards for her. Treasury employees were quick to identify and report the scam, with no staff members falling victim to the scammer’s tactics. “Unfortunately, scammers look for opportunities to take advantage of us when they know we are all working around the clock,” State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks said. “These phishing emails often look like they’re coming from a familiar name and include legitimate-seeming requests for information or assistance. I want to urge all Michiganders to be extra careful when responding to emails and report scams to the Michigan Attorney General’s office.” Although these phishing emails use a certain set of ingredients — such as a sense of urgency and believable stories or connections — recipients should pay close attention to the following: The name listed on the “from” line is not an indication of who is emailing! Pay close attention to the actual email address. If the email address doesn’t match up with what you know to be correct or is abnormally long, it’s likely a phishing scam. The request is asking for money through an unusual payment method: Gifts cards, wire transfers and cash reload cards are a clear indication of a scam. Misspelled words or poor grammar in the body of the email are red flags identifying a scam. Do not reply to suspicious emails. By doing so, a recipient confirms to the sender that they’ve reached a valid email. They will then continue to send spam emails through various email addresses and also attempt to hack the recipient’s account. These bad actors have sophisticated software that generates thousands of different email addresses automatically, thus preventing recipients from effectively blocking their attempts. Lastly, as indicated in the attempt sent to state of Michigan staff, by replying to the email, scammers will attempt to reach more individuals in an organization by using the recipient’s name to keep the scam going. Do not fall for this! Immediately mark the email as spam and delete it. Remember, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection webpage is always available as a resource for consumers to turn to. Those who wish to make a report about potential scams can do so with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection team by filing a complaint online or by calling 877-765-8388.

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