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Community updates: Saturday, July 11

Gov. Whitmer expands face covering requirement in Michigan; Grand Rapids Community College details plans for fall semester; and "Women’s Way" public art project honoring local women leaders begins in Grand Rapids.
Mural by local artist Michi Farias in the alley off Newberry St. NW behind Auto Fixit Body Shop.

Mural by local artist Michi Farias in the alley off Newberry St. NW behind Auto Fixit Body Shop. /Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

Gov. Whitmer expands face covering requirement in Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Friday requiring Michiganders to wear face coverings in public indoor or crowded outdoor spaces – or receive up to a $500 fine.

The order toughens Whitmer’s previous face covering mandate issued in April, which was limited to public indoor spaces and had no penalty for non-compliance. Effective Monday at 12:01am, willful violation of the new order is a misdemeanor, with limited exceptions.

“The heroes on the front lines of this crisis have gone hours without taking their masks off every day – doctors, nurses, child care workers, grocery store workers,” said Whitmer. “We owe it to them to wear our masks when we’re on a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy.”

The order follows a resurgence in new COVID-19 cases across Michigan; particularly in the Grand Rapids and Lansing regions. A statement from Whitmer’s office said research confirms the reason behind this is spotty compliance with her previous face covering mandate.

"Masks can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70 percent," Whitmer added. "By wearing masks, we can save lives and protect our family, friends, and neighbors from the spread of COVID-19."

The order requires any business that’s open to the public to refuse entry or service to people refusing to wear face coverings. Exceptions are those younger than five years old, those medically unable to tolerate face coverings, and those who are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment.

Other exceptions to the governor’s order include people temporarily removing face coverings for: exercise, necessary personal services, identification, communication with those with hearing impairments, public safety roles, religious services, and giving a speech for broadcast or an audience.

“It’s important that all Michiganders wear masks properly – not down around the neck, not only over the mouth, but correctly over the mouth and nose,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health. “Please everyone stay patient, and remain vigilant.”

The full order is available on Whitmer’s official website.


Grand Rapids Community College details plans for fall semester

Confirming its plans for the fall semester, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) announced on Tuesday it will offer a mix of online and on-campus learning options for students.

GRCC’s fall semester classes will begin on August 31, with the COVID-19 crisis dictating the options laid out.

The fall learning options are:

  • Online classes: entirely online with no set meeting times, and ideal for people who work well independently or who need a flexible schedule.
  • Hybrid classes: mostly online, with limited meetings on campus.
  • Virtual classes: meeting online at specific times using programs such as Zoom, allowing students to interact with faculty and classmates in real time.
  • On-campus classes: meeting on campus at specific times, with proper social distancing and safety protocols.

“We are ready to provide our community with robust classes delivered in a safe, responsible manner,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “West Michigan has always turned to this college during difficult times, and we are proud of that role.”

“This will be a different type of semester, and we might need to continue making changes. But we will not sacrifice quality or safety.”

To ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff returning in-person in the fall, the college developed a series of protocols and physical changes. Among them are requiring students and staff to complete an online health screening before returning, requiring face coverings, limiting classroom sizes, and installing hand sanitizing stations across its campuses.

GRCC also recently announced the waiving of online class fees during the 2020-2021 school year. The move aims to keep its classes as affordable as possible for students while enduring the pandemic.

More details about GRCC’s fall semester plans are available on its website.


"Women’s Way" public art project honoring local women leaders begins in Grand Rapids

Work began this week on a new outdoor mural project in downtown Grand Rapids honoring local women leaders in Grand Rapids’ history.

Called “Women’s Way,” the project is turning overlooked alleyways in the downtown area into murals of the leaders, painted by local artists. It’s organized by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI), the City of Grand Rapids, the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council, and numerous area businesses.

The first four murals being painted in the project are of Harriet Woods Hill, Ethel Coe, Angeline Kelsey "Naw Kay O Say" Yob, and the Grand Rapids Chicks' 1945 All-American Baseball Team.

The currently nameless alleyways also will be officially named and marked with commemorative street signage, in honor of the women leaders highlighted at each space.

“This is an intentional gesture that aims to call attention to the fact that women’s names – relative to men’s – are not often assigned to public and private buildings and property,” DGRI said in a statement. The project acknowledges the complicated history of women in alleyways and helps to claim positive ownership of these public spaces.

Improvements of the alleyways down the road will include movable furniture for seating, planters, lighting, a biographical plaque about each woman, and periodic pop-up programming to further activate the spaces.

More details about the historic local women and the artists painting them are available on DGRI’s website.


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