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Community updates: Friday, Aug. 13

Fiesta Mexicana returning to downtown Grand Rapids next month; City of Grand Rapids earns national award for residential recycling programs; and CDC classifies Kent County as "substantial" COVID-19 risk.
Dancers at a previous Fiesta Mexicana at Calder Plaza.

Dancers at a previous Fiesta Mexicana at Calder Plaza. /Gabriella De La Vega

Fiesta Mexicana returning to downtown Grand Rapids next month

An annual celebration of Mexican culture is back in downtown Grand Rapids next month, taking place for the community over three days at Calder Plaza.

Hosted by the Mexican Heritage Association (MHA), Fiesta Mexicana will run Sept. 10-12 and feature culturally-themed music, food, and dancing, a Queen contest, and more. The celebration will be free and open to the public.

This year marks Fiesta Mexicana's 52nd anniversary. It began in Grand Rapids in 1969 after a group of Mexican women, including late Latinx leader Maurilia Ortiz Blakeysought to share their heritage with the community. The group organized its first event as an intimate gathering for people from a local church. It resulted in a much larger festival including horses and a parade through the city, according to the MHA.

The MHA’s President, Gabriella De La Vega, said she’s kept the cultural pride and resilience of the festival’s original organizers in mind when helping plan for this year’s event.

In 1998, I had the opportunity to work with the amazing team of people from the original planning committee, and because of them, I continue to be fueled by the same spirit that powered the creation of ‘La Fiesta Mexicana’ to celebrate alongside you its 52nd anniversary,” said De La Vega.

It is within our nature as a community to overcome any situation because we are a group of hard-working people with many different dreams and a passion to share our culture and traditions with you,” she added. “This is why it’s so important now more than ever to share the great news that we continue to overcome, to be resilient, proud, and grateful about the beautiful city of Grand Rapids.”

In addition to entertainment activities, Fiesta Mexicana will serve as a space for community resources. Spectrum Health and Gentex will be present for on-site job interviews. Tables with representatives from the Kent District Library and local schools will also be available.

More details about Fiesta Mexicana 2021 are available through the MHA’s Facebook page.


City of Grand Rapids earns national award for residential recycling programs

Efforts to improve curbside recycling and reduce contamination in Grand Rapids have earned the city Resource Recycling Inc.’s 2021 Program of the Year award.

The award was won in the Large City category last week during the national Resource Recycling Conference. The category was open to cities with 150,000 residents or more. Olympia, WA earned the Small City category award.

The City of Grand Rapids’ honored work centered around a campaign to educate local households on best practices for curbside recycling, with an emphasis on preventing plastic bags and trash from entering carts. Carts were removed by city staff after high levels of these items were found in recycling at a residence three times. “Recycling 101” educational materials were provided before residents could get their carts back.

City crews collected 7,170 tons of recyclables from more than 50,500 households in the most recent program year, according to the City of Grand Rapids. It teamed up with The Recycling Partnership and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) for the campaign and its pilot.

“We are thrilled with the recycling results the City of Grand Rapids generated with their data-driven approach,” said Liz Browne, Director of EGLE’s Materials Management Division. “It’s more important than ever to communicate with the public in order to improve the quality of materials being recycled.”

“We all have a role to play in helping businesses get materials to make the essential products Michigan needs for our economic recovery from COVID-19, such as toilet paper, food containers, and shipping boxes,” she continued.

In its submission materials to the awards program, Grand Rapids reported a cart contamination rate of 7.4 percent. The percentage is far lower than what’s being seen in many local programs in the U.S., the City of Grand Rapids noted in a Thursday statement, where contamination rates above 20 percent are common.

More details about the city’s recycling program are available on its website.


CDC classifies Kent County as "substantial" COVID-19 risk

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised Kent County’s risk level of COVID-19 infection from “moderate” to “substantial,” it announced Monday. The agency is recommending people in risk designations of “substantial” or “high” wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Substantial” transmission is defined by the CDC as 50-100 cases per 100,000 people, or a test positivity rate of between 8 and 9.9 percent, in the past seven days. As of Monday, Kent County has a positivity rate of 6.7 percent and case average of 52.5 per 100,000.

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) says that while the COVID-19 vaccine cannot prevent 100 percent of infections, it does prevent many of them. It also says infections among vaccinated people are less severe than those who have not been vaccinated.

The vast majority of people who are becoming infected with COVID-19 in Kent County are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Adam London, Director of the KCHD. “The vaccines that are available are effective, safe, and available. They remain our best tool for ending this pandemic, so we encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Weekly case and test positivity rates for the virus in Kent County are viewable through the KCHD’s Data Dashboard.


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