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Community updates: Thursday, Aug. 6

Kent County Health Department reports continued flattening of Kent County’s COVID-19 case growth; Grand Rapids' autonomous vehicles receive national recognition for local government innovation; Celebration Cinema bringing pop-up drive-in theater to Grand Rapids; and more.
Dr. Adam London, Kent County Health Department's Director, provides an August 6 update on COVID-19 in Kent County.

Dr. Adam London, Kent County Health Department's Director, provides an August 6 update on COVID-19 in Kent County. /Kent County Health Department

Kent County Health Department reports continued flattening of Kent County’s COVID-19 case growth

Kent County’s rate of new COVID-19 cases has remained flat over the last week, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) reported on Wednesday. The flattening of the county's case growth has continued since mid-July.

In the KCHD’s weekly video update, KCHD Director Dr. Adam London said that Kent County's now seeing an average of about 50 new cases per day. The week prior, London reported an average of about 40 new cases per day – a similar number each day over most of the past few weeks.

"Our rate of new cases is staying about flat with where we were at last week," said London, without drawing a contrast between this week's average of about 50 and last week's average of about 40. "And we're seeing a test positivity rate which again is the percentage of our tests that are coming back positive at 2.9% for the past week."

The director noted that the test positivity rate of 2.9% is a promising sign for Kent County. The county's rate has remained around this number since London's July 22 update, which is lower than the most of the state's average of about 8%.

Kent County's number of COVID-19 deaths has also stayed flat over the past week, remaining at 149. London cautions residents, however, against taking this low death rate to mean the pandemic's spread in the county isn't serious.

“Some people are pointing to that low death rate as evidence that this is not a big deal,” London said. “I actually look at it as evidence that what we're doing is working.”

“By keeping our hospitals in good shape and by keeping transmission as low as possible, we're putting everyone in a good spot to recover from this, and we're preventing super hot spots in our county that we have seen in other places lead to excess suffering and death.”

The KCHD offers free COVID-19 testing at various locations throughout Grand Rapids, with information about registering for a test available on its website.


Grand Rapids' autonomous vehicles receive national recognition for local government innovation

Before the City of Grand Rapids' autonomous vehicles pilot was halted in March due to the pandemic, it had given more than 62,000 rides over eight months. This feat, on top of others, earned the pilot program last week the Outstanding Achievement in Local Government Innovation award from the Alliance for Innovation (AFI).

The pilot program, known as the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (AVGR), was a collaboration between the City of Grand Rapids and May Mobility that brought four electric shuttles to downtown streets. The six-seat shuttles were self-driving; though they had an attendant present when on city streets. A wheelchair-accessible shuttle also was available by request.

Launched in July 2019, the low-cost shuttles were planned to run through July 2020. They're now scheduled to run again in September with new safety measures.

Josh Naramore, Mobile GR and Parking Services Director, said the program is an example of Grand Rapids’ tradition of public-private collaboration to advance the community.

The challenges of pollution, congestion, and transportation equity are persistent across the country, and our team has made the choice to take the lead in identifying and testing solutions,” said Naramore. “Creating the space and opportunities to test innovative solutions is foundational to progress."

AFI received more than 100 nominations for the Innovation Awards. AVGR was among 11 projects selected for demonstrating positive community and organizational impact, quantum leaps in creativity, and tangible results toward building "antifragile" communities.

More details about the AVGR program are available on the City of Grand Rapids' website.


Girls Rock! Grand Rapids postpones August summer camp

Girls Rock! Grand Rapids (GR!GR), a week-long summer camp empowering girls, women, and non-binary residents through music, has postponed this year's camp, it announced Thursday.

A program of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities (GAAH), GR!GR has taken place at Cook Arts Center every August since 2013. Its postponement this year comes after GAAH had previously moved the camp, originally planned August 10-14, to a virtual format in light of the pandemic.

"Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities will be postponing GR!GR 2020 to find a safer and more accessible version of camp," GAAH shared in a Facebook post. "Like many things in the world right now, we are reimagining the ways that we can gather, create, and communicate! We will keep you all updated as soon as a newer version of camp is available and applications reopen."

Residents with questions, comments, or concerns about this year's postponment are encouraged by GAAH to contact the organization at [email protected]. More details about GR!GR are available on its website.


Celebration Cinema brings pop-up drive-in theater to its Grand Rapids North location

Celebration Cinema announced on Thursday it's bringing pop-up drive-in movies to its Celebration North theater on Grand Rapids' northeast side.

Drive-in movies will begin at Celebration North on Friday, with showings of Black Panther. Drive-in showings are currently running every night at 9:30pm through August 13.

Similar to Celebration Cinema's new drive-in movies in the city, Studio Park in downtown Grand Rapids began showing outdoor movies in its front lawn in July, as part of its Sunset Cinema series. Celebration Cinema and Studio Park are both owned by company Studio C.


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