08-20-2020 Letters and Commentary

Straighten up and look up! He was bent over so that he could only look at the floor unless he twisted to one side or the other to raise his eyes to meet mine. The difficulty in even walking forward was overcome only by determination, determination learned perhaps from a life of hard work. At 93 years old he appeared to be thankful to be able to get around at all under his own power. He reminded me of another person I met many years ago in the Philippines. She was elderly as well, and years of work in the rice fields left her with an equally bent back. But what was most memorable about each of these individuals was their smile. They were not bitter. Or, perhaps more accurately, they did not allow themselves to become embittered in spite of life’s difficulties. They were bent, but not broken. After explaining some of the last days’ troubles His disciples would face as the end approached, Jesus gave this encouragement, “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28, NASB). My dad used to tell me: “Straighten up and fly right!” – similar guidance. No need to be spiritually or emotionally bowed down. Remember the outcome – your ultimate redemption! Few of us struggle with deforming back afflictions like those mentioned above, that don’t allow us to physically look up. And none of those who have received God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ’s redemption for them on the cross of Calvary need stare spiritually just at the ground. David said, speaking to himself: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 42:11, NASB) Good idea, David!

Back to School immunizations Back-to-school season is here and regardless of whether your student is returning to the classroom or learning virtually this fall, they are required to receive certain immunizations per Michigan state law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children have fallen behind on the recommended vaccine schedule putting them at risk of contracting preventable illnesses. Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the most important things parents can do to help protect their children’s health—and that of their classmates and their community. Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox. When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk of disease and can spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community—including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Without an identified COVID-19 vaccination, it is crucial we retain the existing herd immunity against these preventable illnesses. School age children need vaccines. For example, kids who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, also called whooping cough), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and polio. Older children, like pre-teens and teens, need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), HPV (human papillomavirus), and MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate virus) vaccines. In addition, yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older. Check with your child’s doctor to find out what vaccines they need this year or call the Berrien County Health Department at 269-926-7121 for a vaccine appointment.

Return to Learn plan passed by the House As many of you know, the purpose of our special House session this past Monday was to finalize our bipartisan “Return to Learn” plan for this fall. The safety of our students and teachers is this plan’s number one priority. We know that what is safe for kids in Metro Detroit isn’t the same as what’s best for kids in towns like Hartford as COVID-19 has affected these regions in different ways. This plan does not mandate face to face instruction, but does require that school boards provide clear public access to the data that is being used to make important decisions about how to move forward. Under this plan, local school districts will consult with area health departments to work together and develop standards based on their local data that are best for their corner of the state. Other than providing a safe learning environment, schools have asked us to feature two key components in this legislation: flexibility and guidance. Our plan is centered around those features, allowing local school districts to decide whether an in-person, hybrid, or online format is best for their students and teachers. It also allows districts to quickly adapt and switch to an alternate format should conditions change. Lastly, another concern of parents is that students learning outside of the classroom will fall behind. This plan allows school districts the freedom to choose one benchmark testing format to better understand where our students are excelling and identify areas which require additional instruction. The Return to Learn plan, which is comprised of House Bills 5311-5313, passed the house and now awaits a signature from the Governor. I look forward to the Governor approving this bipartisan plan promptly which will give teachers and students the guidance they need to begin school in the coming weeks. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin.