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07-02-2020 Letters & Commentary

HAPPY BIRTHDAY USA … Saturday, July 4th is the 244th birthday of the USA. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most celebrations of the day have been canceled or curtailed in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.

SOME GOOD… Who would have thought it… a microscopic bug has brought the world to its knees, where despots, tyrants, dictators, evil empires, terrorists and such, failed to do so? Over a period of half a year, the world population is battling for its life against a virus that has jumped from continent to continent, country to country, and person to person, with no regard for gender, age, status, and health. The COVID-19 virus in a certain sense has done what mankind has failed to do… globally unite country to country against it without regard for race, religion, gender, and status. The deaths of now over a half million is a terrible price to pay. Hopefully there will be some good that comes of it. Please pray that will be the case.

HOMETOWN HISTORY… This is the last week of Bud (Roy) Davis’s column “The Paw Paw River Journal”, written just a few weeks before his death. I wrote last week in Karl’s Kolumn… “Hands down, Bud is the finest columnist I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. He’s written in the last column, that he never thought he’d be writing a newspaper column following his teaching retirement in the early 1980s.” In the coming weeks, The Paw Paw River Journal will share rotating space on the history page with Pearl Playford’s columns and “Trails from Shingle Diggin’s”. “Reminiscing with Pearl Playford” appeared in the Watervliet Record, 1959-60 and compiled into book form by her nephew Richard Russell. “Trails from Shingle Diggin’s” by Mabel Branch Stark is a book of local history and reprised as a column in the Watervliet Record by her daughter Dorothy Stark Connell.

Action, not words, needed to protect nursing homes from COVID-19

Nursing homes are places of refuge for the elderly and their families. Much care, cost and effort go into operating these facilities to ensure a quality of life for residents who cannot live on their own or be taken care of by family.

We don’t expect that their lives would be endangered at such places, and the last thing we would expect is that they would be endangered there by their government. But in 2020, that is what happened.

From the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became apparent that the virus was particularly harsh on the elderly and those with comorbidities commonly associated with seniors. A nursing home in Washington, the nation’s first coronavirus hotspot, became the state’s epicenter. Despite these early warning signs, and in the face of objections from the Health Care Association of Michigan, which represents hundreds of nursing homes and rehabilitation communities in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order forcing COVID-19 patients to be admitted into their facilities.

This was a devastating decision that could have been avoided. Now, over 2,000 nursing home residents and nearly 20 employees are dead because of that decision. In the 21st Senate District, Berrien County was hit the hardest. Of the 123 known COVID-19 cases in the county’s nursing homes, 39 residents sadly lost their lives.

Communities across our region and state are grappling with a similar reality. The families who lost loved ones, employees of the facilities, and the public are questioning the governor’s administration’s actions. We deserve answers and demand accountability. We also need action.

Universal testing can be an effective way to prevent the virus’ spread in facilities, and lawmakers have already approved a budget supplemental that included $25 million for testing supplies and personal protective equipment for workers like those at nursing and home health care facilities. The governor has inexplicably still not signed that bill, thus withholding the needed funding and supplies.

The Senate also recently adopted a resolution denouncing Whitmer’s nursing home policy, and last week I supported legislation that was passed with bipartisan support to prevent people who have COVID-19 from being admitted or retained in nursing home and long-term care facilities in our state.

Senate Bill 956 would prohibit people with COVID-19 who are ineligible for admission in a hospital from being admitted or retained in a nursing home unless the facility has a state-approved designated area and program to provide appropriate care necessary to the patient.

The bill would require the state Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to develop and submit a plan to the House and Senate health policy committees describing its process to ensure there are dedicated facilities to provide care for COVID-19-positive patients in each of the eight health care regions.

It would also require MDHHS to evaluate the COVID-19 Regional Hubs that were previously implemented and operated during the state’s response to COVID-19 in nursing home facilities and report its findings to the health policy committees.

Words cannot adequately express the sorrow that I feel for the loved ones of those nursing home residents who lost their lives because their government failed them. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to bring them back or undo the damage caused by the governor’s decisions. I hope and pray they are in a better place.

But enacting this bill would ensure we have the ability to treat future COVID-19 patients without jeopardizing the lives of nursing home residents like Gov. Whitmer did. If you agree, call the governor and let her know. Her constituent services phone number is 517-335-7858.

As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing

Celebrating and creating independence with Social Security On July 4, we celebrate our nation’s independence. For nearly 85 years, our programs have helped provide financial independence. We continue to make it easier for you to access our programs and benefits. Today, applying online is a convenient way to apply for benefits. You can go online to apply for: Retirement or Spouse’s Benefits – You must be at least 61 years and 9 months in age and want your benefits to start in no more than four months. Apply at Disability – Apply for disability at You can use the online application to apply for disability benefits if you: Are age 18 or older; are not currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record; are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death; have not been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days. If your application was recently denied, our Internet Appeal application is a starting point to request a review of the determination we made at Extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs – Some people need assistance with the cost of medications. Apply for Extra Help at Medicare – Medicare is federal health insurance for people 65 or older, some younger people with disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease. If you are not already receiving benefits, you should apply within three months of turning age 65 at Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – SSI is a federal income program funded by general tax revenues, and it is designed to help aged, blind, and people with disabilities that have little or no income. You may be able to apply online if you meet certain requirements. See if you can apply online for SSI at Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at

Overcoming fear In a time of mixed messages from many directions, with continued threats to our way of life, and even to our life itself, it’s hard to overcome pervading fear. Fear can be crippling, both emotionally and physically. And with one crisis mounting upon another, fear has a haunting presence. Israel’s king David reflects on some of his difficulties that caused him to fear in the book of Psalms (or “songs”). He came to some conclusions that might be helpful for us today, right where we are. Listen to David’s take on life in Psalm 31: “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues. “Blessed be the Lord, for He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city. As for me, I said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from before Your eyes’; nevertheless, You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried to You. “O love the Lord, all you His godly ones! The Lord and fully recompenses the proud doer. Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” (NASB) David felt alone, cut off from others’ support, even cut off from God. He felt “besieged”, vulnerable, surrounded. Yet David found peace and confidence by rethinking his situation. He remembered God’s faithfulness to him personally. He even discovered new things about God’s lovingkindness in the midst of his dilemma. David talked to God about it, and reminded himself that God will ultimately make things right. Meanwhile, taking courage by hoping in the Lord, he encourages us to do the same thing.

Stay careful to reduce risk of COVID-19 The Berrien County Health Department reminds residents that the state of Michigan is still in a state of pandemic with COVID-19 continuing to spread across the country. Berrien County has been noting declining trends over the past several weeks, but reminds residents that they must stay careful to prevent any sudden surges in cases. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus that is spread mainly from person-to-person who is in closer contact with one another through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. In order to reduce your risk for COVID-19, continue to: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid close contact with people. Where possible, maintain six feet between yourself and other people. Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus. Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering or mask when around others. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. Everyone over the age of 2 who can medically tolerate it should wear a cloth face covering or mask when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities. Continue to keep about six feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing. Find more information and data updates about COVID-19 at or call 1-800-815-5485.

244 years of American strength and unity As we have all begun to adjust to this new normal, it’s no secret that Independence Day on Saturday is going to look a little different this year. Parades, picnics, and fireworks shows – which typically define our traditional day-long celebration – have been canceled, and sadly, many gatherings will be smaller this year. While this is not the way any of us pictured this day to look, the spirit of this important day remains strong. The Fourth of July is a time for every American to take a moment to recognize the freedoms we hold so dear and thank our men and women in uniform who have protected and defended our great country for 244 years both at home and abroad. We also honor and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of liberty and our uniquely American way of life. Over the lifetime of our relatively young nation, we have all endured both the good and the bad together – which holds true even today. But what is most uplifting on America’s birthday is that we have overcome every challenge that we faced – and did so together, and will do so again. God bless you and the United States of America. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or by visiting my website: You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Defending our elections It wasn’t long after the secretary of state mailed out absentee voter applications to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars that my office began receiving phone calls and letters from current and former Berrien County residents. Loved ones who died years ago suddenly received a ballot application in the mail. Residents who once lived in our community who have since moved to other states like Florida and Maryland reached out to me to say they have received ballot applications at their new addresses. These individuals have registered and have voted in their new states, yet they remain on Secretary Benson’s voter rolls. The only thing stopping bad actors from returning these applications and committing voter fraud is a small misdemeanor slap-on-the-wrist. As the former Assistant Deputy Clerk for Bainbridge Township, I know that our elections are sacred. The secretary of state has now unilaterally taken action to create an environment that is prime for fraud, and as your state representative, I’m taking action. I recently joined with my colleague, former Brighton Township Clerk Ann Bolin, to introduce legislation making it a felony to knowingly submit an absentee voter application using another person’s name or personal identification information. Under our package, it will also be a felony to complete applications with the intent to receive multiple ballots. Our legislation sends a strong message that we will not tolerate election fraud in the State of Michigan despite how easy the secretary of state seems to have made it. I know how hard our local clerks work. I have their backs, and I will always stand with them to defend our democracy and the integrity of our elections. If I can ever be of assistance to you, you can reach me via email at or by phone at 517-373-1403. You can also visit my website at


Ken Parrigin gives community welfare top priority Dear Editor, I have known and worked with Ken Parrigin for over 20 years. The welfare of this community has always been his top priority. Being on the governing body of a small community is not easy. One minute you are the Hero and the next you are the Villain, and critics are many. Ken has never backed down from the challenge.

Ken has always supported the community he lives in. He has been involved with the Lions Club and many others. Whenever there is a project going on, he is always the first to offer help. Last year he showed up with equipment and five of his own employees to help get the new rubber mulch installed at Ran dall Park. The City and Township have worked on Combined Services such as Police, Sewer Board, Cemetery, Fire, Library, to name a few. Ken has always been a leader in these efforts. Not many people realize the amount of time and commitment that goes into being a Township Supervisor. Ken has always given both without hesitation. Marsha Hammond 2020 Watervliet All Class Reunion canceled Dear Editor, With the current health situation as it is, the Watervliet All Class Reunion has been canceled for 2020. For those that had already submitted payment for the August 15, 2020 event, options are available concerning your payment:

You may roll your 2020 payment over for the 2021 Reunion. You may request a full refund. You may have your payment put in the Watervliet Public Schools Foundation for Excellence, a 501(c)3 corporation that will benefit the Watervliet Public School community.

Regarding the option chosen – contact Marsha Stennecke Cole at 269-463-3712 or Donna Gillard Curtis at 269-463-6680.

More details, as they become available, may be found on the Watervliet All Class Reunion (formerly the Watervliet 40 Year Club) page on Facebook. Greg Krell


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