The Rapidian

Community updates: Friday, May 22

Kent County Health Department confirms ample coronavirus testing capacity for Kent County, Gov. Whitmer extends "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order through June 12, and more statements issued May 21-22.
The Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, looking southeast.

The Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, looking southeast. /John Rothwell

Shared in this May 22 update are public health, civic, and economic developments impacting West Michiganders from the Kent County Health Department, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the City of Grand Rapids, and The Rapid.


Kent County Health Department confirms ample coronavirus testing capacity for Kent County

Kent County’s testing capacity for positive coronavirus cases now far exceeds demand, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) shared in its May 22 video update.

"I’m happy to report now that, together with our local hospital systems, here in Kent County we could do, and we can do, up to 6,000 or more tests per day," said KCHD Director Dr. Adam London. "The reality is right now we’re only doing about 1,400 or 1,500 tests per day, so the capacity for testing is much greater than the demand."

In light of the abundant capacity, London encouraged local residents to get tested if they’re showing any symptoms related to coronavirus – especially fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Residents can contact their primary care providers for testing or, if they don’t have one, they can contact testing locations directly.

London continued: "The more we test, the sooner we’re going to be able to reopen, the sooner we’re going to be able to claim a sense of normalcy in our lives again. That’s because the more we test, the more we can find cases. We can give people isolation instructions, we can quarantine contacts, and we can slow the spread of this."

More coronavirus mitigation resources are available on the KCHD’s COVID-19 page, including those in multiple languages.


Gov. Whitmer extends "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order through June 12; extends state of emergency and disaster declarations through June 19

Gov. Whitmer issued executive orders May 22 extending her "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order through June 12 and state of emergency and disaster declarations through June 19.

The stay-home order extension will continue to limit gatherings, travel, and work activities not necessary to sustain or protect life – with an amended scope that accommodates loosened restrictions made by Whitmer over the last month.

Loosened restrictions in the stay-home extension include those issued in Whitmer’s May 21 order, the day before: authorizing gatherings of 10 people or less on May 21, reopening retail businesses and auto dealerships by appointment on May 26, and authorizing nonessential medical, dental, and veterinary procedures on May 29.

"While the data shows that we are making progress, we are not out of the woods yet," said Whitmer. "If we’re going to lower the chance of a second wave and continue to protect our neighbors and loved ones from the spread of this virus, we must continue to do our part by staying safer at home."

Among the gathering places with closures extended through June 12 are theatres, gyms, and casinos.

More details about Whitmer’s May 22 executive orders are available on the Executive Orders page on her official website.


City of Grand Rapids approves 2021 budget with $22 million reduction

The City of Grand Rapids approved its $531 million budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year on May 21 and established social zones to help restaurants and bars in their coronavirus recovery efforts.

Unanimously approved by the Grand Rapids City Commission, the 2020-2021 budget runs from July 1 to June 30, 2021. Its budget is down $22 million from the current budget due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The $22 million in cuts is almost $9 million more than earlier plans.

The new budget maintains City services, supports around $75 million in capital projects and $14 million in equity investments, furthers the City’s ability to implement strategic priorities, and ensures financial stability. The general operating fund portion of the approved budget is around $143 million.

"This budget was challenging to finalize given the evolving economic and public health impacts of this pandemic," City Manager Mark Washington said. "It is sensitive to the economic conditions and feedback from the Commission and community and is aligned to our strategic plan."

The City’s establishing of social zones for recovering restaurants and bars comes through the City Commission’s unanimous approval of a "special event" from June 1 to November 30. During this period, local businesses can apply for social zone permits on public property, streets, and sidewalks to encourage expanded outdoor dining and socialization space. Approvals will be contingent on regional adjustments to current executive orders issued by Whitmer.

More details about the City’s 2020-2021 budget and establishment of social zones are available in a statement on its website.


The Rapid giving away 500 reusable face coverings to riders

Starting May 26, The Rapid transit service will be giving away 500 free, reusable face coverings to riders at Rapid Central Station.

Face coverings will be available at the station's Information Center from 7am-3pm Monday through Friday, while supplies last. They’ll be limited to one per rider.

"The safety of our Bus Operators and customers is our number one priority," said Dina Reed, Deputy CEO at The Rapid. "Providing these masks is an important part of keeping everyone as safe as possible."

The face coverings were manufactured by Public Thread, a Grand Rapids-based upcycling company.

Since April 27, The Rapid has been requiring all medically-able riders wear face coverings while riding its buses in response to the pandemic. All Rapid Bus Operators have been provided with face coverings for use while driving as well.

In addition to the free face coverings announced by The Rapid, the transit service also announced its new summer service schedule, effective May 26. Details of the new schedule are available on its website.


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