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COVID-19 in Grand Rapids: Thursday, March 19 updates

Gov. Whitmer issues executive order allowing public bodies to meet electronically, Kent County Sheriff's Office reports criminal exploitation of outbreak, Amtrak temporarily suspends service from Grand Rapids to Chicago, and more statements from local organizations issued March 18-19, 2020.
Vernon J. Ehlers Station in Grand Rapids

Vernon J. Ehlers Station in Grand Rapids /Pure Michigan

More local developments are emerging regarding responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, in step with the rapid pace of developments emerging nationally and globally. Shared in this Thursday, March 19, 2020 update are statements affecting Grand Rapids residents from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Office, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, the Kent County Sheriff's Office, Amtrak, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, and Kids' Food Basket.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order today, March 19, allowing public bodies, including boards, commissions, and nonprofit boards, to conduct their meetings electronically, “while also facilitating public participation,” through Wednesday, April 15. This order temporarily changes the Open Meetings Act, which mandates public access to local, county, and state government meetings.

“We are taking every measure we can to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and protect Michigan families, but recognize that public bodies still have an obligation to conduct business as usual,” Whitmer said. “During this crisis, we must ensure that public officials can do their job to meet the needs of residents, while also ensuring that meetings remain open, accessible, and transparent to the public.” 

Other statewide news affecting Grand Rapids residents comes from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, who have announced that, effective yesterday, March 18, its lobbies will be closed to the public, except for customers with appointments. These changes are likewise in response to the pandemic and will remain in effect until further notice.

Unemployment Insurance Agency offices will continue to serve the public and eligible employees are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits online at or by phone at 866-500-0017.

The Kent County Sheriff's Office have reported today that criminals are exploiting the COVID-19 outbreak in various ways, "including impersonating Red Cross volunteers offering coronavirus testing door-to-door.”

"Red Cross does not provide coronavirus testing. If someone comes to your residence claiming to be with Red Cross, do not open the door and notify the police immediately," the Sheriff's Office said.

"Additionally, if you receive a text message by someone claiming to be a healthcare professional or Red Cross who is selling or giving away supplies, such as masks or testing kits, do not click any links. It is not a legitimate offer."

Residents are encouraged to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to them at 911 or 616-632-6357. The Sheriff's Office will continue to give updates through their website.

Amtrak have announced service adjustments that include the temporary suspension of its train service route between Chicago, Holland, and Grand Rapids as of today, March 19. Amtrak Thruway bus connections to and from Grand Rapids are still available daily via Kalamazoo.

"While Amtrak continues to operate across the nation, we have adjusted some services due to significantly reduced demand in key markets," the railroad service announced. "The most up-to-date schedules are available when booking your trip on and in the mobile app."

More information regarding Amtrak service adjustments is available in the Service Alerts page of their website.

The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids have also announced today that they will be offering free lunch and dinner snacks to any child age 0-18 on weekdays, beginning yesterday, March 18, through Friday, April 3.

These "Gab and Go Meal Sacks," offered in partnership with Kids' Food Basket, may be picked up by a parent or guardian for all childen in the household between 11:30am-1:30pm at the following locations:

  • Miss Tracey’s Market: 1043 Franklin St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
  • Madison Square Church: 1441 Madison Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
  • La Casa de la Cobija: 2355 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49507
  • New City Kids: 960 Alpine Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
  • David D. Hunting YMCA: 475 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

More information about the Y and Kids' Food Basket's free lunch and dinner snacks is available on Kids' Food Basket's website.

The Rapidian will continue to report on all major local developments related to the spread of COVID-19 and the community's prevention and response methods. Local residents are encouraged at this time to share their own stories and perspectives related to the COVID-19 situation on The Rapidian's platform.

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