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Community updates: Wednesday, June 3

Grand Rapids leaders extend civil emergency and take action to improve police-community relations, Kent County Health Department expands COVID-19 testing sites, and Kent County Parks reopening with restrictions.
Silent sit-in protest in downtown Grand Rapids on June 3, co-organized by Police Chief Payne.

Silent sit-in protest in downtown Grand Rapids on June 3, co-organized by Police Chief Payne. /B. L. Townsend

City of Grand Rapids extends state of civil emergency, takes action to improve police-community relations

Continuing to respond to weekend rioting and lasting anger over nationwide police brutality, Grand Rapids leaders extended the city’s state of civil emergency through June 16 and outlined actions to improve police-community relations.

The City Commission voted Tuesday to extend the civil emergency, which doesn’t impact the 48-hour curfew that expired the same day. The extension “ensures the city has the flexibility and ability to respond to a dynamic emergency such as Saturday’s event,” the City of Grand Rapids said in a statement. It expires at 11:59pm on June 16.

Community members still can move freely throughout the community at all times and carry on with their everyday lives,” the City added.

Though the civil emergency extension doesn’t renew the curfew that expired June 2, it does enable Mayor Bliss to issue a curfew again without the commission’s consent if she deems it appropriate. Opposed to the extension enabling this power were Commissioners Milinda Ysasi and Senita Lenear, who voted against it in the commission’s 5-2 split vote.

During Tuesday’s City Commission meetings, of which the vote took place, the City also outlined 11 proposals it’s acting on to build trust between the Grand Rapids community and police force.

Among the proposals are: Police Chief Payne and the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability working together to establish a community police advisory council by June 6, a virtual town hall hosted by Payne, the City Manager, and other city leaders to listen to community concerns, and the Office of Equity and Engagement increasing and enhancing training for city staff around equity, implicit bias, and other related topics.

One of the proposals has already come to fruition: Chief Payne organized, stood, and marched with downtown protestors on Wednesday in solidarity with the demand for racial justice.

It is time for us in law enforcement to realize that things do need to change,” said Payne during the protest. “And we realize that, and we hear you.”

More details about the city’s civil emergency extension and actions to improve police-community relations are available in a statement on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


Kent County Health Department expands COVID-19 testing in county

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) has announced expanded COVID-19 testing in Kent County with the opening of four more testing sites.

“Expanding COVID-19 testing in Kent County is important,” said Christopher Bendekgey, KCHD Community Clinical Services Director. “We wanted to establish sites in the geographic areas where we are seeing the highest incidents of positive cases and where individuals have less access to transportation.”

The new drive-through sites are the KCHD Main Clinic and KCHD South Clinic. Both are open 9am-12pm Mondays and Wednesdays through September 1.

Potter’s House Christian Schools is one of the new walk-through sites, open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am-12pm through August 1. The other is Baxter Community Health Center, open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4pm through September 1.

Testing is free and available to residents over the age of six, living in a community impacted by COVID-19, and working in a job that puts them at high risk for exposure.

More COVID-19 testing locations are listed on the KCHD’s website.


Kent County Parks reopening with restrictions

With reopenings gearing up around Michigan following Gov. Whitmer’s moving of the state to phase four of the MI Safe Start Plan, Kent County Parks (KCP) is following suit. KCP has begun a phased reopening schedule for its beaches, campground, open shelters, picnic areas, public restrooms, and splashpad.

Visitors to the areas will be required to follow new health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We are excited to welcome visitors back to Kent County Parks and for them to experience the physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors,” said KCP Superintendent Dan DeLooff. “However, it is critical that visitors follow our new rules that prevent overcrowding and support social distancing to ensure our parks are safe for everyone.”

Among the areas now open are beaches such as Millennium Park and Long Lake Park, all playgrounds, and the Kaufman Golf Course. Public restrooms, open shelters, and group picnic areas will open on June 5.

More details about the KCP’s phased reopenings are available on its website.


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