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Community updates: Wednesday, May 20

City of Grand Rapids shares updates on pandemic response and recovery efforts, Grand Rapids Community College plans flexible learning options for fall semester students, and more statements issued May 19-20.
Grand Rapids Community College is working towards the return of some on-campus courses for its fall semester.

Grand Rapids Community College is working towards the return of some on-campus courses for its fall semester. /John Holkeboer

Shared in this May 20 update are civic, economic, and public health developments impacting Grand Rapids life from the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Community College, Fulton Street Farmers Market, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.


City of Grand Rapids shares updates on pandemic response and recovery efforts

During virtual City Commission meetings held May 19, City of Grand Rapids staff shared updates on the City’s coronavirus response and recovery efforts.

Among the updates were a commitment to continued collaboration with and support of the Kent County Health Department, developing re-entry plans for City buildings once Michigan’s stay-home order is lifted, and proposed ideas for outdoor space activation.

Proposed ideas for outdoor space activation aim to support local businesses after they reopen under physical distancing guidelines laid out in Gov. Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan. Ideas include multi-business “social zones” and establishing a COVID-19 recovery special event from June 3 through October 31. A special event designation would enable the City to approve permits for street closures and new locations where alcoholic beverages may be consumed.

The City Commission is expected to consider outdoor space activation proposals at a later meeting.

A full list of updates shared during the May 19 City Commission meetings is available in a statement on the City’s website.


Grand Rapids Community College plans flexible learning options for fall semester students

Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) is working towards the return of some on-campus courses for its fall semester, the college announced May 19. It’s presently planning for a mix of on-campus, online, and hybrid courses.

With a commitment to following local and state guidelines around coronavirus mitigation, GRCC is exploring all options to offer on-campus courses in ways that will uphold public health.

“The pandemic will change many of the ways we do things, but it will not change GRCC playing an essential role in West Michigan’s recovery,” said GRCC President Bill Pink. “We embrace our mission, and we won’t compromise on the safety and wellness of our students, faculty, and staff.”

GRCC also plans to continue weekly curbside food distribution for students and their families, offering a growing number of free textbooks through open educational resources, and connecting students to campus and community resources through its Get Help program.

More details about GRCC’s plans for fall semester courses is available in a statement on the college’s website.


Fulton Street Farmers Market launches Fulton Street Relief Fund amid pandemic strains

With coronavirus mitigation efforts taking a financial toll on businesses both open and temporarily closed, the Fulton Street Farmers Market (FSFM) counts itself and its vendors in on feeling the strain. To support its operations and vendors who sell at the market, the FSFM has launched the Fulton Street Relief Fund.

50% of all donations to the fund will go to the market’s operations. The other 50% will be given back to its vendors in the form of credits on their accounts.

Physical distancing requirements on the number of rentable vendor stalls and customers able to shop are causes for the market’s drastic reduction in revenue. The restriction on the sale of nonessential goods has prevented artisans from being present on market days, which has also contributed.

For vendors, the causes for their financial strains extend beyond just the FSFM’s reduced capacity.

“With most restaurants shuttered, many of our growers and food producers have seen their earnings cut in half,” the FSFM said. “Some of them rely on sales at other farmers markets in addition to ours – and nearly all of those markets are closed. With the number of farmers in our state decreasing year after year, we’re concerned this pandemic could make this the last season for some.”

“But all is not lost!” the FSFM continued, referring to itself, as well as its vendors. “The market has weathered many ups and downs in our century of operation – and we’ve been able to do it because this is a community that values its farmers, believes in the importance of shared spaces, and cares for its institutions.”

More details about the Fulton Street Relief Fund is available on the FSFM’s GoFundMe page. For a list of what products the FSFM is offering during its Saturday market days, read its In Season Reports published every Friday on The Rapidian.


Gov. Whitmer extends executive order easing restrictions on pharmacists, increasing access to prescriptions

Gov. Whitmer’s executive order easing restrictions on pharmacists and increasing access to prescriptions has been extended through June 16. The extension comes through a new May 19 order extending her original March 25 order.

The new order continues to allow pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of prescriptions for up to 60 days’ worth of supply for patients and requires insurers to cover early refills for up to 90 days’ worth of supply. The order also allows pharmacists to dispense coronavirus treatments according to government-approved protocols.

“As we continue to suppress the spread of COVID-19, Michiganders need to continue to stay safer at home,” said Whitmer. “By allowing patients to get a refill of their prescriptions for up to 60 days from a pharmacists, people can reduce their time traveling and in turn lower the chance of a second wave of COVID-19.”

The new and previous orders only apply to non-controlled substances. Pharmacists will also have the discretion to substitute therapeutically equivalent medications without prescriber approval if there are critical shortages.

More details about Whitmer’s order are available in a statement on her official website.


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