07-23-2020 Governor strengthens COVID masks order, says in-person back to school is less likely if v

Governor strengthens COVID masks order, says in-person back to school is less likely if virus numbers are

on the increase in an area

By Jon Bisnett

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-147 Friday, July 10 that requires Michiganders to wear masks in all public indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces. One week later, Whitmer penned Executive Order 2020-153, rescinding the previous order, while strengthening the rules requiring all Michiganders to wear a mask.

This newest order clarifies that businesses may not assume that an unmasked customer cannot medically tolerate a face covering, though they can accept a customer’s verbal representation to that effect. It further demands public safety officers to wear a face covering unless doing so would seriously interfere in the performance of their responsibilities, and lastly clarifies that wearing a mask at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election is not required, but strongly encouraged.

The requirement of the order does not apply to individuals who, among other things: are younger than 5 years old; cannot medically tolerate a face covering; are eating or drinking while seated at a food establishment; when exercising wearing a face covering would interfere in the activity; are at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election.

State Legislature reacts

Lawmakers expressed concern over Whitmer’s use of the statewide emergency alert system to inform residents of COVID-19 related executive orders goes too far. “This is an overt abuse of a service designed to alert people of legitimate emergencies — the Governor has gone beyond the scope and intent of the law and is now somewhere over the rainbow and approaching Oz,” Republican Senator Pete Lucido said in a statement.

The alert in question issued Monday afternoon to cell phone owners in Michigan, warned of Whitmer’s executive order requiring masks going into effect. Previously, Whitmer’s administration also used the emergency alert system to remind residents when the COVID-19 stay-at-home order went into effect back in late March.

Whitmer’s Back to School plan

The Governor’s “Return to School Roadmap” plan is feared less and less plausible by some each time the Governor speaks of the reopening of Michigan schools this fall. Educational insiders at the state’s highest level are concerned the Governor is setting the stage to shut down face-to-face schools altogether. The threat of closing schools has been described as a pawn tossed about in the pursuit of her mask initiative.

“We are only seven weeks away from what we hope to be our kids’ return to in-person instruction,” Whitmer told Michigan News Network. “That is looking less likely as well.” Schools around the state won’t be allowed to hold in-person classes if their region is not in Phase 4 of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan. Whitmer says, “I am hopeful that in the coming weeks we’re going to see these numbers go down, and perhaps we can solidify at least phase four, maybe even reengage more things in our economy,” Whitmer said. “But it all depends on mask wearing, and that’s why it’s so difficult to give you a hard and fast date, and a hard and fast number.”

National scene

COVID deaths have continued to rise in many U.S. states after initially declining nationally, with eight states on Sunday reporting a seven-day average in daily new fatalities more than 40 percent higher than a week ago.

The United States’ 7-day average for new daily coronavirus cases has now increased for 41 consecutive days. Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina set records for new known infections, while 14 states broke records for average new cases.

In Washington, D.C., new round of COVID support is in the works on Capitol Hill and may include direct payments, unemployment support and a rollback in payroll taxes.

Cancellations

The world renowned 132nd edition of the Tournament of Roses Parade will not take place on Jan. 1, 2021.

Chief Executive David Eads said, “We’re disappointed, but the health and well-being of all our participants and guests is our top priority.”

The Rose Bowl football game on New Year’s Day is still planned, whether it is with a socially distanced audience or an empty stadium, Eads said.

WHS to conduct drive-in style graduation this Friday

The Watervliet High School Class of 2020 has selected a drive-in style outdoor graduation ceremony to be held in the student parking lot of the high school building on Friday, July 24, starting at 6:30 p.m. This ceremony will take the place of the traditional outdoor football field graduation as Michigan remains in Phase 4 shutdown per Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s most recent Executive Order and are not able to gather more than 100 people in the same place at the same time. This style for the ceremony was selected by the senior class and most closely resembles the traditional football field ceremony, from the options that were provided.

On Friday students and their families will arrive at the high school with one family per car and one car per student. Students will be dressed in their cap with tassel, gown, and any additional cords/medallions. Upon checking in, each car will be directed to a specific parking spot in the student parking lot. Students and families will stay in or on their own car and social distance from families in other cars while they wait for the ceremony to begin, as well as throughout the ceremony itself.

Students who are making speeches during the ceremony will be called to the podium on the graduation platform, which will be set up under the overhang on the west side of the building. Other school personnel will speak, as well. Unfortunately, the band will not be able to perform in a Phase 4 status.

When it is time to call graduates up to receive their diplomas, ten students at a time in alphabetical order will be called to the platform and spaced out in a line until their name is called a second time to walk across the platform and receive their diploma. Students will be receiving their personal hard copy diploma once on the stage. A professional photo will be taken for each student on the platform after they are handed their diploma, as well. Photos will be made available to families free of charge. Once ten students at a time have received their diploma, those students will be dismissed back to their cars and another group of ten will be called up.

At the end of the ceremony, all graduates will be invited to toss their caps outside of their cars. Upon the conclusion of the ceremony at approximately 7:15 p.m. and with the assistance of Watervliet Public Service, a parade of student cars will take place traveling from the high school to North Elementary. For this reason, seniors are welcome to decorate their cars for graduation. The route for the parade is as follows: Red Arrow Highway to M-140, through downtown and left on Baldwin Avenue, ending at North Elementary.

Community members, other family, and friends are invited to line the streets and sidewalks of the parade route to cheer on Watervliet’s recent graduates as they pass by.

Hartford’s Police Chief praised for 30 years of service

By Anna Layer

Social media posts gained some traction early this week celebrating the thirty-year milestone in the career of Hartford’s Police Chief, Tressa Beltran. Beltran, who back then was Tressa Bowman and working part-time in some capacity simultaneously for Hartford, Bangor, Keeler, and Lawrence, was only offered full-time employment as a Hartford police officer after being initially passed over for a male colleague.

“I was working four part-time jobs and I was determined,” Beltran recalled. Chief Beltran says entering the police force as a female officer required a thick skin and over the years she has succeeded by knowing which battles to pick. Over three decades later, Beltran now heads up Hartford’s police force of four full-time officers, three part-time officers, and twelve reserve officers.

Funny beginnings

Chief Beltran’s eventual career in the force began in jest, thanks to her participation in the Miss Bangor community pageant. A mom of one of Beltran’s friends was a police officer, and when the friends entered the pageant together, they were discussing what to respond with when asked on the application what they wanted to do after graduation. Beltran says her friend suggested “police woman” and told her not to worry about it, because no one would know that she had written it down unless she made the top ten, and that seemed unlikely at the time.

Beltran explains how fate intervened, “So, as my luck would have it, I got like sixth runner-up and they read it out loud and the Bangor police had heard it. At that time I had some family members who were not on the same side of the law, and so I think the Bangor police just thought that, ‘Maybe we could get one of them on our side,’ so they kept, you know how as a teenager when you cruise back and forth, they kept stopping me and they would ask when I was going to come and put an application in.”

Beltran would go on to work in Bangor doing dispatch and reserve officer duties, and grew to love it. She did well enough that Bangor’s police department helped her go through the academy.

A day in the life

While much of the work of a police chief in a small community like Hartford involves administrative tasks, Beltran doesn’t lead from behind a desk. She likes to patrol the community on foot multiple days per week, explaining, “I try to get out and walk around the community, being a presence so that people can see me and I like to be proactive rather than reactive.”

A normal day for Chief Beltran runs from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., beginning with a brief of what’s gone on overnight. From there she is responsible for filing paperwork for any arrests so that people can be arraigned, then she goes over “dailies” to monitor complaint responses and she handles anything the on duty officers didn’t get to. Chief Beltran answers the phone, pays the bills, and keeps the department running, but it’s evident that she believes building relationships within the community of Hartford is equally as important as all of that administrative stuff.

While the flow of calls is unpredictable, the work of being active in the community never slows. Chief Beltran has worked hard to cultivate a culture of service in Hartford, and other officers follow her lead. For example, Officer Jim Coleman takes an elderly woman’s trash out for her each Monday. These simple and yet profound gestures that Chief Beltran supports reflect her overall love for her community.

At home in Hartford

After experiencing police work in numerous neighboring communities, Chief Beltran can state unequivocally that Hartford was the right choice. “Obviously I’ve worked for other communities, but this community is so close knit, that I could go out and talk about a need and this community just comes together and I’ve never experienced that in anyplace else that I’ve been. It feels like home. We’re just one big happy dysfunctional family.”

When asked what her biggest accomplishment is, Chief Beltran responds with, “Just being here this long is an accomplishment in itself. I love Hartford. I love the people I work with and I work for.”

In 2016, when Beltran was made chief, she took over the reins from her husband Ramon, and she credits his assistance to the smooth transition. To her, becoming Chief of The Hartford Police Department was a natural transition.

Memorable moments on the job

Though Hartford is a small, rural community, there are still calls for police that are difficult, dangerous, and just plain odd. While thinking back on her career, Beltran remembers, “The hardest calls, I assisted with a baby death… and any time that an elderly person or child is harmed, those are hard. We once had a complaint where someone was going to jump off the water tower back here. That was different.”

Beltran knows how to keep things light hearted at times as well. “There was a time I was patrolling with another female officer over by the mansion, on a really quiet, slow night, and there was a newly fallen pure snow, and I just yelled, ‘Stop! Stop!’ and we got out and made snow angels, so I imagine people probably wondered where those came from because this was at night.”

Other times Beltran has had to take unorthodox action to assist a citizen. “There was also a woman that was so distraught one night and the only way I could calm this woman was to sit on the sidewalk and pray with her.”

Changing times

Chief Beltran has seen many changes in the community of Hartford over her career, but she says the biggest change is also the hardest. “The loss of businesses has been saddening to me. When I first came here, there were businesses all up and down Main Street. But, when people ask me, ‘What does Hartford have?’ I will still tell them everything we do have: a racetrack, a drive-in theatre, a casino, a museum. For not looking like it’s huge, Hartford does have a lot of cool stuff. I love our museum.”

While the rest of the community changes, so do things at the Hartford Police Department. “Our biggest challenge within the police department is trying to deal with changing technology because we have a lot of veterans, and the technology not only changes in the office, it changes in our cars, it changes with bookings, stuff like that. The other thing we have a hard time with right now is COVID-19. We can’t just lodge people right now. We have to call and get permission first unless it is something real serious. This whole coronavirus thing has been a challenge, and in all my years I have never had to deal with anything like this, so this is new for us too. We worry each day about taking it home with us, or if one of us in this small department came down with it, it could wipe our whole department out.”

Shop With A Cop

One of Chief Beltran’s favorite things to do is the Shop With A Cop program, which is personal to her. “My family was poor when I was younger and I can remember one Christmas we were not going to get anything and a church group showed up and gave us presents.”

So, when Betty Blanton who used to own CJ’s in Hartford approached then Officer Beltran and her husband, Chief Ramon Beltran with the suggestion of starting a Shop With A Cop event in Hartford, they jumped at the opportunity. While the national Shop With A Cop program gets donations from corporations, Hartford’s program is unique. “What we do is ask the community for donations and the reserves help a lot with this, so we keep as much of the money in Hartford because it comes from Hartford. The school system helps us by telling us which kids would benefit from the program. We try to get as many officers as possible to be here, and Arrowhead Bar will donate lunches. Mike Prince dresses up as Santa Claus, and we pick the kids up from school and bring them here for the snacks and a tour, and then they get to tell Santa what they want while we’re paying attention and writing it down. We divide the money between the kids, and we’ll take them to a store in Hartford that they can spend on their family in the store. Then we actually go and get what they told Santa they wanted. We also take any extra funds and fill up boxes for Toys for Tots for people in the community, and that way a family who wasn’t selected for Shop With A Cop still has an opportunity to get stuff for the kids.”

The Hartford Police Department also makes an impact at Halloween, which is Chief Beltran’s favorite holiday. The reserve officers collect or purchase costumes for kids who might need them, and they are a big presence on the streets during Trick-Or-Treating.

Love for community

Sometimes, when Chief Beltran is responding to a call with a male officer, the people involved will only look at or respond to the male officer. Also, occasionally when she answers the phone at Hartford Police Department, the caller will request to speak with an officer, not realizing she’s not a receptionist. Chief Beltran takes this all in stride. She’s good natured about it and simply explains that she is the Chief of Police.

It doesn’t seem like Chief Beltran would have it any other way. In fact, when asked what she’d be doing for a job if she weren’t a police officer, she says she has no idea. Although Chief Beltran does enjoy supernatural investigations and antiques, she can’t see herself in any career other than police work.

Chief Beltran is far from the cliché of a cop. When asked what fictional officer she’d want to work with, Chief Beltran would prefer Hank Voight from Chicago PD. While Chief Beltran doesn’t really enjoy donuts, she does love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

At the end of each day, the one thing that ultimately defines Chief Beltran is not her job – it’s her love for her community. “I just really want to thank the community of Hartford for always supporting not just me, but our entire police department. This truly has been the best years of my life and I love my job and this community.” This is probably why those social media posts about her thirty year anniversary were spreading on social media this week, and when I asked her how she felt about those, Chief Beltran informed me that this is actually her thirty-second year working at Hartford, as she started in 1988, but now is a good a time as any to celebrate.

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