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Community updates: Thursday, Dec. 10

Kent County Health Department reports stabilizing COVID-19 case growth for Kent County; City of Grand Rapids making city parks, playgrounds smoke-free zones on Jan. 1; Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses launches revamped website; and more.
Mural at Garfield Park in southeast Grand Rapids.

Mural at Garfield Park in southeast Grand Rapids. /City of Grand Rapids

Kent County Health Department reports stabilizing COVID-19 case growth for Kent County

Kent County’s rate of new COVID-19 cases has stabilized over the last few weeks, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) reported on Thursday.

An average of about 400 new cases per day were reported by the KCHD over the last week, compared to an average of about 682 new cases per day three weeks prior.

The KCHD’s latest data comes before the full impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on the county’s case growth has been determined. In the meantime, however, the department’s “seeing those numbers stabilize a little bit and actually come down a little bit,” its director, Dr. Adam London, said in his weekly video update.

“Which is quite an improvement from where we were at several weeks ago,” he continued. “So that's a positive development.”

Kent County’s percentage of tests coming back positive, however, is staying closer to what it’s been over the last few weeks. The KCHD reported a 14 percent positivity rate for this week, compared to around 16 percent three weeks prior.

The county’s number of COVID-related deaths have actually increased, according to the department. As of Thursday, there are now 398 total deaths. London attributes this to an observed trend of COVID-related death waves following case waves by a few weeks.

We know that the death wave kind of follows the case wave by about three weeks and so, unfortunately, that's what we're seeing right now,” London said.


Updated guidance on quarantine period from the KCHD

The KCHD also announced this week that it's updated its quarantine guidance for people exposed to COVID-19, to align with new guidance from the CDC. Effective since Monday, the quarantine period for exposed people has been shortened from 14 days to 10 days, under certain conditions.

The previous 14-day quarantine period was based on the full incubation period of the virus. However, recent data collected by the CDC has found that 90 to 99 percent of COVID-19 infections occur within 10 days of exposure.

Now, the CDC, KCHD, and MDHHS are recommending a 10-day quarantine for people meeting two conditions: the person doesn’t develop any COVID-19 symptoms for the 10 days after last exposure, and daily symptom monitoring continues through day 14.

According to the KCHD’s guidelines, a 14-day quarantine period is still recommended for those residing in congregate living setting or who work with people in high-risk groups. Isolation guidelines for all who’ve tested positive for the virus has not changed.

A list of frequently asked questions about the virus is available on the KCHD’s website, with answers provided by the department.


City of Grand Rapids making city parks, playgrounds smoke-free zones on Jan. 1

Grand Rapids’ new Clean Air and Public Spaces Ordinance goes into effect on Jan. 1, making all city parks and playgrounds smoke- and vape-free zones.

The ordinance is an amendment to the city’s “Clean Indoor Air Ordinance,” and was approved by the City Commission in late Oct.

Aiming to improve the health of all park and playground visitors, the ordinance prohibits tobacco and electronic smoking devices in these spaces, as well as tobacco-related waste, such as cigarette butts.

Use of cannabis products in these spaces also remains prohibited, in alignment with state law.

The City of Grand Rapids cites several studies on its website, regarding why the city needs the ordinance. Among them are findings by the U.S. Surgeon General in 2011, concluding “there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.” Another is a report by the U.S. Surgeon General in 2010, that “tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer.”

Also cited by the city is a 2017 VoiceKent survey, which reported that 85% of Grand Rapids residents approve or have no opinion of tobacco-free parks.

While violators may be liable for up to a $25 fine, the ordinance is not intended to punish anyone, the city also states on its website. Rather, it’s intended to “to create healthy and accessible public spaces.”

Full details about the updated ordinance are available on the Clean Air and Public Spaces Ordinance page on the city’s website.


Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses launches revamped website with directory of local Black-owned businesses

Aiming to promote greater awareness of Black-owned businesses in greater Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) launched a revamped website to do just that.

Unveiled on Nov. 28, the website includes a directory of Black-owned businesses in the area. Any businesses owned by Black residents are able to add their listings to the website for free.

"We are excited for the community to not only check out our revamped website, but to find our Black business directory useful in promoting economic equity through patronage of Black businesses,” said Jamiel Robinson, Founder of GRABB.

There are currently over 100 businesses listed in GRABB’s directory, with a downloadable version available to distribute print-friendly copies.


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