The Rapidian Home

Community updates: Thursday, Oct. 29

MDHHS extends, expands statewide COVID-19 rules; City of Grand Rapids confirms outdoor 'social zones' still active through May 2021; and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Grand Rapids Public Schools plant 75 trees outside local schools.
Social zone outside of City Built Brewing Company on Monroe Ave. NW.

Social zone outside of City Built Brewing Company on Monroe Ave. NW. /Experience Grand Rapids

MDHHS extends, expands statewide COVID-19 rules

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on Thursday extended and expanded its emergency order that aims to mitigate COVID-19’s spread across Michigan.

The updated order comes in response to a resurgence across the state in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. According to the MDHHS, the state’s COVID-related hospitalizations have doubled over the last three weeks, while its test positivity rate has increased from around two percent to 5.5 percent over the last four weeks. Its death rate has also increased over the month.

Changes in the latest version of the MDHHS order include a reduced capacity limit for indoor gatherings without fixed seating, from 500 people to 50 people. Another is a limit of six people seated per table for indoor non-residential gatherings such as those at restaurants and bars.

The orders that MDHHS has issued are centered on keeping the public safe and following best practices to reduce the spread of this deadly virus,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the MDHHS’ Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health. “The alarming surge we are now seeing is exactly why we were so worried about the fall season.”

Also part of the updated order is a new requirement for restaurants and bars to take names and contact information to support effective contact tracing. Upon request, these businesses must provide names and phone numbers of people with possible COVID-19 exposure to the MDHHS and local health departments.

The contact tracing requirement for restaurants and bars is effective Nov. 2. All other new requirements in the order are effective immediately. They apply to all of Michigan, now that the Traverse City region has been moved back to phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan, still utilized by the state government.

This order remains in effect until rescinded,” the MDHHS said in a Thursday statement.

The full order is available on the department’s website, with all other COVID-related rules listed, such as required face covering use in public spaces for those medically able to tolerate them, and various social gathering restrictions.


City of Grand Rapids confirms outdoor 'social zones' still active through May 2021

Grand Rapids’ outdoor dining “social zones” are still active through May 31, 2021, after City Commissioners approved on Tuesday a revised resolution regarding its September-issued extension.

Permits for the social zones have enabled restaurants and bars to serve customers in expanded outdoor spaces in light of COVID-related indoor capacity restrictions. Active since June, their legal basis was tied to Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-related executive orders, which were struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court on Oct. 2.

The City of Grand Rapids now derives its legal authority to issue social zone permits from the MDHHS’ COVID-related emergency order, which has largely reinstated Whitmer’s previous executive orders.

This revised resolution cites the recent ‘Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order’ issued by the director of the MDHHS as one of its legal bases rather than the governor’s recently invalidated executive orders,” said Lou Canfield, the city’s Development Center Manager. “We thought it important to clarify that we continue to have the legal authority to do what we have done in spite of the invalidation of those orders.”

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. began accepting applications on Monday for its grant program to help downtown businesses adjust their social zones to the coming winter weather. The program involves funding enhancements such as outdoor heating devices and necessary fuel, tents or other structures to block snow and wind, and more.

More details about the city’s social zones, including all locations, are available on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Grand Rapids Public Schools plant 75 trees outside local schools

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FGRP) and its volunteers have planted 75 trees on Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) properties this month, FGRP announced Wednesday.

The tree planting project is a partnership between FGRP, GRPS, and the City of Grand Rapids, which aims to reduce the effects of tree-damaging Emerald Ash Borer infestations, and help the city reach its 40 percent tree canopy goal by 2025.

According to FGRP, there were 8,500 ash trees inventoried for local public lands, until an Emerald Ash Borer invasion in recent years. Since then, 1,400 ash trees have been treated, with the rest having been removed, having died, or expected to.

Since 2017, the partnering organizations have committed to planting 600 trees on GRPS properties, to replace the ash trees and achieve the City of Grand Rapids’ 2025 tree canopy goal.

"Trees play a critical role in school grounds by cleaning our air, creating cool spaces for children to play, beautifying our community, and enhancing health,” FGRP's Executive Director, Stephanie Adams, said. “Our longtime partnership with GRPS and our volunteers brings community together and highlights the importance of trees.”

Grand Rapids’ City Commission adopted a “Green Grand Rapids” amendment to the city’s Master Plan in 2011, which laid out the 40 percent tree canopy goal. As of a 2015 city report, Grand Rapids’ tree canopy cover was around 35 percent.

Residents can register to volunteer for tree planting with FGRP by emailing [email protected] or calling 616-288-7209.


Sharing your stories

The Rapidian encourages local residents to share their own stories related to civic, economic, and public health developments in the Grand Rapids area on The Rapidian’s platform. To get started as a community reporter, visit

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.