COVID cases climb causes closures; fall school opening roadmap plans detailed
By Jon Bisnett In response to an uptick in COVID-19 cases, specifically noted in the 20 to 29-year age group, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a new executive order closing indoor service at bars to protect the progress Michigan has made against COVID-19. Whitmer also signed the bills extending 5 years that allow bars and restaurants to sell containers with beer, wine, or cocktails to go and one that creates social districts within a common area for consuming alcoholic drinks. The bills were nearly unanimously approved by both the House and Senate to aid businesses to recover from the economic problems driven by COVID-19 closures. Citing bars are often crowded, indoors and poorly ventilated — all of which make it easy to spread COVID-19 from person to person. They also are loud, requiring raised voices, creating more projection of viral droplets. Alcohol can further reduce inhibitions, decreasing compliance with mask use and physical distancing rules. To our knowledge, the order has no effect on any Tri-City area establishments. Only bars with a retail license that earn 70% or more from the sale of alcohol are affected. The order does not affect breweries, distilleries, wineries, etc. with taprooms/ tasting rooms. Primarily directed toward nightclub type establishments such as the widely publicized Harpers in East Lansing, with huge dance floors, long lines and crowded bar areas. Those places must cease indoor service, but may still offer outdoor service if they have the space and licensing to do so. Restaurants that serve alcohol may continue to operate under the current restrictions, provided they are making less than 70% of their profits from alcohol. Those still operating must require patrons to wear masks when not seated, must close off areas where people would mingle/ dance/ congregate, must not allow ordering from the bar (unless seated at the bar), and must require patrons to remain seated except to enter/ exit, order food, or use the restroom. The order covers all except those establishments located in northwest Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. National surges Some 40 states have experienced a surge in coronavirus cases across the country in the week preceding the holiday weekend. Texas, California, and Florida have proved to be hot spots with some areas severely taxing the available medical facility infrastructure and providers. National AP reports of the Alabama COVID parties and the notorious Cass County Michigan Sandbar Party would indicate that many are choosing to ignore the recommended guidelines which have not essentially changed. Masks and Social Distancing are the watch words of most all health officials who continue to urge America to use these methods to moderate the level of risk to themselves, families and coworkers. Cancellations One last fall festival holdout posted this message, “After months of research and discussion, the Four Flags Apple Festival Board of Directors has decided to postpone the 48th annual Four Flags Apple Festival to September 30 – October 3, 2021. However, volunteers are working on plans to provide a few events on the Niles festival grounds which we will be able to host safely under state guidelines.”
MI Safe Schools fall return Tri-City area schools will have to come up with three individual plans for reopening this fall, according to the state’s “Return to School Roadmap” released Tuesday, June 30. Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the return to school guide details what should go into each of the three plans — a remote learning plan if the state is in phase 3 of the Michigan Safe Start Plan, as well as an in-person plan with strict protocols if the state is in phase 4, and a more flexible plan for if the state is in phase 5. The MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap is a 63-page document that outlines coronavirus (COVID-19) safety protocols for each phase of the plan. Under Executive Order No. 2020-142 Provision of PreK-12 Education for the 2020-2021 school year, school districts must adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan laying out how they will cope with the disease across various phases of the Michigan Safe Start Plan. The schools plan must be completed by August 15, 2020, and posted to the website by August 17, 2020. Our local Tri-City schools are awaiting a template to be provided by the State to detail their individual plans of operation. In the coming weeks schools will work with their Intermediate School District and Health Departments based on Phase 4 status currently assigned to SW Lower Michigan. Part of the Executive Order includes at a minimum: Require the wearing of face coverings, except during meals and unless face coverings cannot be medically tolerated, for: All staff and all students in grades pre-kindergarten and up when on a school bus; all staff and all students in grades pre-kindergarten and up when in indoor hallways and common areas; all staff when in classrooms; all students in grades 6 and up when in classrooms; all students in grades kindergarten through 5 unless students remain with their classes throughout the day and do not come in contact with students in another class. Prohibit indoor assemblies that bring together students from more than one classroom. Incorporate the Return to School Roadmap’s required protocols governing hygiene, cleaning, athletics, screening, testing protocols, and busing, and student transportation. The guide was created with input from public health experts, educators, school administrators, school board members, parents and students.
Thu, July 9, 7pm “CONCERT IN ELY PARK” hosted by Hartford Lions Club featuring Diane VanDeurzen & Lisa Otey (blend of jazz, blues & boogie-woogie); Free popcorn Fri, July 10, 3pm “TELE-TOWN HALL” hosted by Congressman Fred Upton; to participate dial 877-228-2184 and input code: 119135# Thu, July 16, 10am “TELE-TOWN HALL” hosted by Congressman Fred Upton; to participate dial 877-228-2184 and input code: 119135# Thu, July 16, 7pm “CONCERT IN ELY PARK” hosted by Hartford Lions Club featuring Jared Knox (country); Free popcorn Sat, July 18, 5pm “PAW PAW LAKE BOAT PARADE” hosted by Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club Wed, July 22, 6pm “BACCALAUREATE” for WHS Class of 2020 in the high school auditorium Thu, July 23, 11am “SCIENCETELLERS: DRAGONS” Watervliet District Library program via Zoom. Library will post link to participate. Thu, July 23, 7pm “CONCERT IN ELY PARK” hosted by Hartford Lions Club featuring Jimmy & the Mortals (classic rock); Free popcorn Fri, July 24, 6:30pm “WATERVLIET HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION” in Panther Stadium Thu, July 30, 7pm “CONCERT IN ELY PARK” hosted by Hartford Lions Club featuring Elvis Tribute – Tim Dudley; Free popcorn Thu, Aug 6, 7pm “CONCERT IN ELY PARK” hosted by Hartford Lions Club featuring Joe Jason (acoustic 70s); Free popcorn Fri, Aug 7, 11am-3pm, “COVID-19 MOBILE TESTING” in the Watervliet public parking lot on Main St. next to Jot Liquor. Open to public. For more info, call 1-855-869-6900. Thu, Aug 13, 7pm “CONCERT IN ELY PARK” hosted by Hartford Lions Club featuring Wyatt & Shari Knapp (folk music); Free popcorn