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COVID-19 in Grand Rapids: Wednesday, March 25 updates

Grand Rapids Police Department urges not to call 911 about social distancing violations, Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency promotes applying online, Grand Rapids Public Schools announce meal site changes, and more statements from local organizations issued March 24-25, 2020.
Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Payne urges residents not to call 911 about social distancing violations.

Grand Rapids Police Department Chief Eric Payne urges residents not to call 911 about social distancing violations. /Grand Rapids Police Department

Not a day has passed since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s March 10 state of emergency declaration regarding the coronavirus outbreak that local and state developments haven’t unfolded with direct impact for Grand Rapids residents.

Shared in this Wednesday, March 25, 2020 update are statements relevant to local life from the Grand Rapids Police Department, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Gov. Whitmer’s Office, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, the Michigan Department of Education, and Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Grand Rapids Police Department

Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) Chief Eric Payne released a statement yesterday, March 24, on the department’s Facebook page urging residents not to call 911 if they see people standing close together or businesses they think are non-essential staying open.

“We need to keep the 911 lines open for emergencies,” said Payne. “Dispatching officers to investigate whether a business is essential or not is not the best use of our resources at this time. Please call 311 or 616-456-3000 to report any concerns.”

Payne went on to voice GRPD’s full support of Gov. Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and thank the community for its partnership “during this challenging time.”

“Staying home and practicing social distancing are the best ways to protect you and those you care about. I am confident our community members will continue to take appropriate steps to address this public health emergency,” Payne said.

Kent County Sheriff’s Office

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) also released a statement on their Facebook page yesterday, March 24, informing residents who have been inquiring about donating homemade masks that they are not personal protective equipment (PPE). Such equipment is in high demand at local hospitals.

“Homemade masks are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) since their capability to protect is unknown,” the KCSO said. “However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that as a last resort, where face masks are not available, homemade masks might be used for care of patients with COVID-19.”

While the KCSO hopes the community never reaches the need for this last resort, they’re encouraging of nonetheless planning ahead.

“Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face,” the office added. “Donations of homemade masks, along with other supplies like face shields, can be taken to Salvation Army at 1632 Linden Ave. SE, Monday through Friday, from 9am to 4pm.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Whitmer issued an additional executive order today, March 25, extending the deadline to complete the canvas of the state’s March 10 presidential primary to Friday, April 24. State election canvassing is the certification and review of state election votes.

As Michigan counties continue to practice social distancing guidelines in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, not all, including Kent County, would have been able to complete the canvas by the original statutory deadline.

“This important Executive Order ensures county canvassers have extra time to complete their work following the March 10 Presidential Primary and that state resources remain focused on addressing this public health crisis,” Whitmer said.

More details about the order are available on the Executive Order page of the state’s website.

Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency

Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) announced today, March 25, updated information for workers who have lost employment because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Workers are encouraged to apply online at or over the phone at 866-500-0017, but “due to the tremendous call volume,” the UIA noted, certain callers may receive a busy signal.

“The UIA is working hard and fast to handle the influx of applications for unemployment benefits as we deal with the COVID-19 crisis,” said UIA Director Steve Gray. “While an unprecedented number of calls and clicks has challenged the system, particularly during peak hours, we want to assure Michiganders that the system is providing emergency financial relief.”

As the website may be operating more slowly and full phone queues are resulting in busy signals for some callers, Gray urged patience and recommended that workers “go first to the online system at”

More information about the UIA’s updated information is available on their website.

Michigan Department of Education

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) reiterated today, March 25, that school meals will continue to be served to Michigan children throughout the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order issued by Gov. Whitmer.

Whitmer’s March 23 order makes specific allowances for food and agriculture work to continue, which include food service operations at schools, childcare institutions and centers, and emergency feeding operations across the state.

“Families will still be able to access meals for their children through this challenging time,” State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said. “I thank all of the school employees and volunteers for continuing their commitment to feeding the children of our state. Ensuring Michigan’s children continue to get the food they need every day is vitally important.”

To help families find where and when these meals will be offered, the MDE has developed an online Meet Up and Eat Up Site Locater Map for this purpose.

More information about the continuing food services for children is available on the MDE’s website.

Grand Rapids Public Schools

In light of the continued serving of school meals to children throughout Michigan, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) announced yesterday, March 24, location changes for their grab and go meal sites.

An additional site has been added on the northeast side of the city at City High Middle School. Three sites unable to continue serving meals at their sites are Creston Plaza, Campau Commons, and Walnut Grove.

As a result, GRPS is now offering a total of six grab and go meal sites. Details about the location and times these sites will be active is available on their website.

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