The Rapidian

COVID-19 in Grand Rapids: Wednesday, April 15 updates

City of Grand Rapids forms Homeless Outreach Team to respond to COVID-19-related homelessness issues, MDHHS expands testing criteria for COVID-19, GVSU announces rescheduled Class of 2020 commencement ceremonies, and more statements from area organizations issued April 13-15, 2020.
Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington announced the formation of a Homeless Outreach Team on April 14, 2020.

Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington announced the formation of a Homeless Outreach Team on April 14, 2020. /John Holkeboer

Kent County’s mid-week number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 354, with 16 confirmed deaths. Statewide, there are now 28,059 confirmed cases, with 1,921 confirmed deaths. These numbers, reported by the State of Michigan, are as of today, April 15.

Shared in this Wednesday, April 15, update are continued local and state responses relevant to West Michiganders from the City of Grand Rapids, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Food Bank Council of Michigan, West Michigan Works, and Grand Valley State University.


City of Grand Rapids creates Homeless Outreach Team – or HOT – to provide education and guidance around local homelessness issues related to COVID-19

City Manager Mark Washington announced during an online City Commission meeting yesterday, April 14, the creation of a Homeless Outreach Team – or HOT – which will provide education and guidance around local homelessness issues related to physical distancing and other “Stay Home, Stay Safe” requirements.

Washington detailed that the HOT team is in its formative stages and will soon pair one police officer and one firefighter who will respond to local homelessness issues related to COVID-19 mitigation. The team will also provide key assistance to local homeless shelters and social service agencies.

Eventually the HOT team will add both a social worker partner and mental health component, according to a statement by the City of Grand Rapids. It will also present data based on interactions and complaint responses and make recommendations at a future commission meeting on “actionable items which will create positive changes.”

Beyond the announcement of the HOT team, Washington also praised City employees for continuing to provide critical services during the emergency and expressed his gratitude to the Kent County Health Department for keeping the community informed and engaged in efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

More information about the HOT team is available in the City Commission’s April 14 meetings agenda.


Michigan Department of Health and Human Services expands testing criteria for COVID-19 to include Michiganders with mild symptoms

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced Monday, April 13, it’s expanding testing criteria for COVID-19 to include Michiganders with mild symptoms. It also published a COVID-19 test site finder at to help residents locate a testing site near them.

Expanded testing is needed to learn more about how COVID-19 is spreading in our state,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS’ Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health. “We want to make sure people know that if they have symptoms, they should work with their medical provider to be tested.”

Michigan’s testing priority criteria now includes hospitalized patients, symptomatic healthcare workers, patients age 65 and older with symptoms, patients with underlying conditions with symptoms, and more.

A full list of the types of Michiganders now meeting Michigan’s testing priority criteria is available on the MDHHS’ website.


Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Food Bank Council of Michigan raise money for virtual food drive helping seniors staying home during pandemic

The MDHHS also announced today, April 15, that its teaming up with the Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) to raise money for a virtual food drive that will provide food boxes to seniors who are staying home to protect themselves from COVID-19.

The MDHHS and FBCM are asking Michiganders to make monetary donations on the virtual food drive’s website – – to buy food for the project.

Michigan’s aging adult population is especially vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Dr. Alexis Travis, MDHHS’ Aging and Adult Services Agency Director. “It’s critical that seniors stay home, but they also need healthy food. That’s why the virtual food drive is so important.”

One box is filled with 33 food items that provide for 22 well-balanced, nutritious meals. Each box contains breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes for seniors who are food-insecure. A donation of $28 pays for an entire box containing food such as chunk white-canned chicken, green beans, peanut butter, and low-sodium diced tomatoes. Boxes are distributed from local food banks through residents’ local Area Agency on Aging and delivered by volunteers.

Seniors needing extra support during this time can sign up for assistance, including meal delivery, delivery of non-perishable food items, and daily wellness-check calls, through the COVID-19 page on the MDHHS’ website, or by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging.


West Michigan Works to host virtual job fair on April 21, April 23

West Michigan Works (WMW) announced on Monday, April 13, that registration is now open for its virtual job fair happening next Tuesday, April 21, and Thursday, April 23.

While Gov. Whitmer’s extension of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order through April 30 has restricted “nonessential” businesses from reopening until this date, a variety of businesses deemed “essential” have continued to hire in West Michigan and across the state.

Many employers are seeing an increased and urgent need for employees,” WMW stated on its website. “The [participating] employers are hiring NOW! The West Michigan Works! virtual job fair gives you the opportunity to speak directly to them about your skills and qualifications and hear more about their open positions.”

35 employers from various industries will be available to speak with during the virtual job fair, with over 75 positions open, including both full and part-time.

Participating Kent County employers include Hope Network, Metro Health – University of Michigan, Ritsema Associates, SpartanNash, and Samaritas – among others.

More information about WMW’s virtual job fair and other COVID-19-related resources is available on its website.


Grand Valley State University announces virtual celebration and rescheduled commencement ceremony for Class of 2020 students

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) President Philomena V. Mantella announced Class of 2020 commencement details yesterday, April 14, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Mantella said a virtual celebration, or “Graduate Celebration Watch Party,” will be held Friday, April 24, at 7pm via GVSU’s Facebook and YouTube pages. The rescheduled in-person commencement ceremonies are now planned for Saturday, October 10, at Van Andel Arena.

Students graduating following completion of the present semester may also choose to participate in the fall commencement ceremony held in December 2020.

"We are working hard on plans to honor your accomplishments and celebrate this wonderful milestone," Mantella said. "We are proud of your accomplishments and proud of the way you have risen to the current challenge. I can't wait to celebrate your Laker Effect."

More details about adjusted commencement events are available on the Commencement page on GVSU’s website.


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