09-03-2020 Letters and Commentary

No 2020 Patriots Day Service in Watervliet Dear Editor, The Patriots Day Service scheduled for Friday, Sept. 11 has been canceled due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions. With any luck, we may be able to hold a Veterans Day Service on November 11. Corky Openneer Commander, VFW Post 1137

President Trump is responsible for many thousands of preventable deaths Editor, As of Aug. 28, more than 180,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. That is the largest number of deaths of any country in the world. The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths. Recent projections predict that by December 1, the death toll from COVID-19 is likely to be in the range of 300,000 Americans. The reason that the U.S. has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the world is that Donald Trump has failed to take the necessary steps to control the spread of this illness. He initially denied the seriousness of COVID-19, claiming that it would miraculously “disappear”. Not only did the virus not disappear, it spread rapidly through many states in our country, causing an escalating number of illnesses and deaths. Public health officials urged all Americans to stay home as much as possible, to socially distance from others, to wear masks when in contact with anyone outside of their families, and to regularly wash our hands. These measures succeeded in temporarily slowing down the spread of the virus. But then Donald Trump began to insist that states had to “open up”, that social distancing and mask wearing were optional. In a very short period of time, infection and death rates began to climb once again. Currently, Trump is insisting that students must return to school in person, regardless of the infection rate in their communities. Some schools and colleges have attempted to do that – predictably, many of them have seen a large spike in COVID-19 infections. Donald Trump’s failure to take the necessary steps to control the spread of COVID-19 has led to many thousands of preventable deaths and will lead to many thousands more in the months ahead. Trump is an incompetent and dangerous president. For the safety of our nation, he must be voted out of office on November 3rd. Gretta Van Bree Lincoln Township

What is the Coloma Public Library worth? Dear Editor, In July, I completed a first year as the Director of the Coloma Public Library. It has been a privilege to be of service to our friendly community in our beautiful library. I’ve been asked, “What is the Library worth” and am writing this letter in answer. We are by no means irrelevant in this age of instant media access. In fact, patrons checked out 7,612 eBooks from us last year alone. To a book lover, the Coloma Public Library holds a king’s ransom in volumes just waiting to be experienced. We own 75,565 items worth a collective $1,374,423.05. Of those items, 46,307 were checked out in the past year. To a child, our library is a fascinating place for discovery, new ideas, and growth. We offered 76 educational and entertaining programs with over 1,110 Coloma family members attending. To the curious, we answered 6,163 reference questions. To the researcher, our databases were used 4,625 times. Over 6,000 people came through our doors to use computers. I know that’s a lot of numbers to take in. However, we aren’t just about data and facts. We see your kids grow up over the years. We are proud when our patrons go to college for their degrees. We enjoy matching someone with the perfect read for their mood or helping people learn more about their ancestry. We offer services such as free online tutoring and job assistance. If you have not been to the library in a while, please come and check us out. Currently, we are open by appointment Monday through Friday 12-6 and Saturdays for curbside services from 10am-2pm. There is something for everyone in your Coloma Public Library. Mary Harrison Coloma Public Library Director

Providing healthy, nutritious meals for students While K-12 schools here in Southwest Michigan and across the country kick off a new academic year, it’s no secret that our children will be navigating an entirely different educational environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But even during these uncertain times, students everywhere should be certain of one thing: their next meal. That’s why I sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week requesting that the Department of Agriculture extend food program waivers to help feed students during the COVID-19 crisis, and on Monday, he did just that. These waivers are a major victory for Southwest Michigan students and will ensure that every student has access to healthy and nutritious meals through the end of 2020, whether they are physically attending school or learning from home. Thanks to the USDA’s rapid response, our kids will truly be able to focus on their education without having to worry about where their next meal will come from. As our nation continues to battle this vicious virus, it is our duty to make this new school year work for our students, teachers, and parents. We need to do everything we can to support those students and families in need. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or by visiting my website: upton.house.gov. 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).

An update on the fiscal year 2021 budget This unprecedented time in world history has understandably affected many aspects of our lives. Southwest Michigan families have had to make adjustments to their plans and budget, and so too has state government with its own. The coronavirus and the state’s response to COVID-19 over the past six months have made a deep impact on the economy and state revenues. In July the legislature and governor worked together to resolve a $2.2 billion deficit, while directing federal funds to education and vital services that were hit hardest by the virus. With that resolved, our focus has shifted to fiscal year 2021, which begins on Oct. 1.

Recently, state economists joined for a rather rare August Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference to get a better sense of the state’s financial health and outlook. While revenue estimates have improved some since the May conference, and while the economy does appear to be bouncing back, Michigan still faces a budget deficit for the coming fiscal year as we continue to fight the coronavirus. So, while there is reason for cautious optimism, there is still much work to be done over the next month. The economists estimated Michigan is still facing a $1.7 billion general fund deficit compared to what was expected at the beginning of the year. That is a pretty significant hole to fill, and this time around, we cannot necessarily bank on the federal government to provide funding to help balance our budget. The ongoing deficit underscores our need to work together. We must finalize a plan that continues to invest in Southwest Michigan’s priorities, like education, health care, and revenue sharing with local governments — and doing so without punishing workers with new or higher taxes. Approving a budget that is balanced, on time, and supports our priorities is going to take a lot of hard work, but as always, I am confident we will do so. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517)373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan. gov.

Honoring our farmers Last week I once again had the pleasure to speak and provide an update at the annual Van Buren County Farm Bureau Legislative Dinner. Southwest Michigan farmers continue to be the backbone of our community during these trying times as they have been working endlessly throughout this season to keep our shelves stocked and food on our tables. Our Southwest Michigan supply chain remains strong almost half of a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and it is thanks to our hardworking agricultural community. Thank you to our Van Buren County Farm Bureau President Tod Kubiszak and his family for hosting this wonderful annual event. I’m truly honored to have Tod’s and the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Agri-PAC endorsement for a third consecutive term. To adequately represent communities like Hartford, it is absolutely imperative that our farmers have confidence in your ability to lead and fight as their voice in Lansing. The trust of our farmers is earned over time and I look forward to continue being a friend of agriculture during my third term in the Michigan House. 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.

Infant Safe Sleep Month The month of September is Infant Safe Sleep Month and a good time to recognize that infant deaths due to unsafe sleep are a leading cause of death among babies less than one year old in Michigan. More than 140 infants die every year in Michigan due to unsafe sleeping situations. Sadly, Berrien County has a sleep-related infant death rate of 2.3 deaths per 1,000 live births – far greater than the overall rate in Michigan. Sleep-related infant deaths are those where the sleep environment was likely to have contributed to the death, including deaths due to SIDS, SUIDS, and suffocation. Babies can easily suffocate while sleeping in adult beds, sharing a bed with an adult or child, sleeping on furniture, and sleeping with pillows, cushions, and blankets. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants: Sleep in a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or portable crib with a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheet; sleep on surfaces separate from adults or other children free of blankets, pillows, or toys; be placed on his or her back for sleep every time. Besides safe sleep practices, other factors that may decrease the risk of sleep-related infant death include: Breastfeeding, pacifier use at sleep time, and caregiver avoidance of smoking, alcohol, and illicit drug use while caring for an infant. Other recommendations include encouraging supervised “tummy time” to help your baby build strong neck and shoulder muscles. Also, make sure everyone caring for your baby knows these guidelines, including babysitters, friends, and family members. There are many resources available to the general public, parents, families, professionals, and caregivers of infants. Parents, professionals, and more can visit www.michigan.gov/safesleep for more information.

WHERE DID THE SUMMER VACATION GO… This might go down as the “year that wasn’t”. Great plans for community festivals, reunions, weddings, birthdays and vacation trips were all cast aside, scratched, and canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. By the time the pandemic, now named COVID-19, took hold here in the U.S. sometime in early March, the realization that something dangerous and unusual was in the wind. Folks began canceling summer traveling plans, family events and community festivals. I wouldn’t say there was an avalanche of cancellations but there was a steady weekly trickle. Here in the Tri-Cities, the shutdowns began slowly as well. The first cancellation I recall was the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Coloma. Set for Saturday, March 14, the ink was barely dry on the Record’s front page when the organizers canceled the event. Same for the Blossomtime Queen and King contests, set for that Sunday and Monday, they were postponed indefinitely. By the March 19 issue, the Federal Government via President Trump declared a National Emergency, State Governors issued orders to close schools, businesses, entertainments, and adopted Federal guidelines to implement social distancing and personal protections to slow the impending growth of the virus throughout the population. By the time of the traditional beginning of the vacation season, Memorial Day weekend (in which the veterans salutes were canceled), most public endeavors had their business sharply curtailed or simply closed. Now the schools are opened, most with a revised schedule of in class sessions and virtual home sessions. Most businesses are doing the best they can with social distancing regulations and reduced capacities for customers to enter. Taking the biggest hit of forced closures are those with larger audiences such as movie theatres and other cultural events. College and national sports events are in a limbo of sorts, with attempts to salvage some sort of audience participation without exposing the participants and fans to the virus. In the blink of an eye, it seems, here it is September 3. Schools have re-opened with panoply of compliances, from full-time in school to full-time at home online classes. Meanwhile stay safe, stay home, stay alert and look after your loved ones, friends and neighbors.

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