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Community updates: Friday, Aug. 28

Kent County Health Department reports slight increase in county’s COVID-19 case growth, raises awareness about mosquito-borne diseases; City of Grand Rapids extends free outdoor fitness classes through September; and more.
Grand Rapids skyline at dusk.

Grand Rapids skyline at dusk. /Experience Grand Rapids

Kent County Health Department reports slight increase in county’s COVID-19 case growth, raises awareness about mosquito-borne diseases

Kent Conty's rate of new COVID-19 cases has increased slightly over the last week, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) reported on Wednesday.

In the KCHD’s weekly video update, KCHD Director Dr. Adam London said the county's now seeing about 40 to 50 new cases per day. Last week, the county saw about 32 new cases per day.

Despite the slight increase from last week, London said the county's "still seeing a relatively low number of new cases reported every day." London has compared the county's case growth to the southeast side of Michigan in recent weeks, which has continued to see higher case growth and test positivity rates.

Kent County's weekly average of new cases hasn't fluctuated more than 20 cases in either direction since mid-July. Nor has the weekly average exceeded 60 new cases per day since this same time.

The county's test positivity rate – the percentage of tests coming back positive – is currently 1.8 percent, compared to 1.7 percent the week prior.

"That continues to be on the low side of where we'd like to see it," the director said. "Less than 2 percent."

The KCHD has been sharing weekly video updates on the virus in Kent County since mid-June, with daily updates before this since mid-March. Moving forward, London said the KCHD will begin implementing more content on different topics that are important to the community.

"Right now something that's very timely and important for everyone are mosquito-borne illnesses," said London. Such illnesses include West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or "Triple E."

"By the time late summer comes we often see virus levels in the mosquitoes that are high enough to cause infection in people."

More information about West Nile and Triple E prevention is available on the Emerging Issues page on the KCHD’s website.


Spectrum Health answers commonly asked questions about COVID-19

Spectrum Health gets lots of questions from the West Michigan community about COVID-19. On Thursday, experts from the Grand Rapids-based hospital shared answers to several of them.

In its Q&A available on its website, Spectrum Health experts answered 14 commonly asked questions, ranging everywhere from whether masks really work to whether convalescent plasma therapy works to treat COVID-19.

One question explores Spectrum Health's explicit support on a related topic: "When will there be a COVID-19 vaccine, and will Spectrum Health support it?"

"The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is expecting to have more information about a possible vaccine in late fall 2020 or early 2021," the experts answered. "Spectrum Health will support a vaccine when scientific evidence indicates that it is safe and effective. Spectrum Health will not provide a vaccination that does not have FDA approval."

Spectrum Health offers virtual COVID-19 screenings to those with symptoms. Any Michigan resident can be screened and self-schedule a COVID-19 test through MyChart portal on Spectrum Health's website. Michiganders don't have to be a Spectrum Health patient to use this service.


City of Grand Rapids extends free outdoor fitness classes through September

The City of Grand Rapids' Parks and Recreation Department has extended its free outdoor fitness classes through September, it announced earlier this week. The dance, cardio, and yoga classes will continue weekly through September 26.

We know how important these fitness opportunities are to our community,” Recreation Supervisor John Judnich said. “We want to continue to provide ways for community members to stay active and connected during COVID-19.”

All classes are free and registration is not required. A full list of events is available on the Parks and Recreation Department's Facebook Events page. Weather-related cancellations will also be available on this page and its cancellation hotline at 616-456-3699.

To ensure public health and safety, COVID-19 mitigation measures will be maintained, including six-feet distancing, capacity limits, and encouraging the use of face coverings.

More details about the city's free outdoor fitness classes are available on its website.


Grand Rapids Community Foundation highlights Challenge Scholars graduates entering college this fall

The first-ever graduating class from Grand Rapids Community Foundation's (GRCF) Challenge Scholars program is ready for college, with the scholars branching off to a variety of Michigan schools.

Highlighted through GRCF's social media pages last week, 2020 graduates from Union High School who participated in the program and maintained certain GPA standards, among other criteria, are able to enter college tuition-free. GRCF and its donors cover their costs to make this happen.

"I'm gonna stay determined and consistent, because consistency is key to getting wherever you want to be," said Melanie Orozco-Zavala, a 2020 Challenge Scholars graduate who's working toward a career in civil or environmental engineering. She'll be attending Grand Rapids Community College this fall and plans to transfer to the University of Michigan after earning her associate degree.

Orozco-Zavala's story, along with those of other Challenge Scholars graduates from Union High School, are featured in GRCF's summer issue of its "PARTNERS in community" publication.

More details about the Challenge Schools program are available on its website.


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