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 curr