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Community updates: Friday, Jan. 8

Community leaders address storming of U.S. Capitol; Kent County Health Department asks for patience with COVID-19 vaccine rollout; ArtPrize returning in 2021; and more.
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Downtown Grand Rapids during winter.

Downtown Grand Rapids during winter. /Experience Grand Rapids

Community leaders address storming of U.S. Capitol

In the wake of Wednesday’s rioting inside the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, several leaders in local government issued statements this week condemning the violence and calling for unity.

Kent County’s Board of Commissioners addressed the rioting on Wednesday, saying “violence has no place in our democratic process,” and calling on citizens to condemn the actions. Co-writing the board’s statement were Board Chair Mandy Bolter, Vice-Chair Stan Stek, and Minority Vice-Chair Phil Skaggs.

“We strongly condemn the violence and destruction that occurred today at the U.S. Capitol during the Electoral College certification,” the commissioners said. “A cornerstone of our democracy is the peaceful transfer of power. While peaceful protests are the right of every American, this attack was an insult to these principles and an assault on democracy.”

Wednesday’s events involved rioters breaching U.S. Capitol security, occupying parts of the building for several hours, and disrupting a joint session of Congress to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. The events have been reported on extensively by news agencies across the globe, such as Associated Press and Reuters.

“Now, more than ever, it is time for civil discourse and for us to unite as Americans,” the Kent County commissioners continued. “Please pray for our leaders, law enforcement, and our nation.”

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss also addressed the storming of the U.S. Capitol, in a Wednesday retweet of a statement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder – a Democrat and Republican, respectively.

“Today is a sad day for our country as we witnessed a violent attack on our democracy,” Bliss said Wednesday. “I stand with others in praying for unity and healing.”

For Gov. Whitmer and former Gov. Snyder’s part, the two leaders called on Americans to “pray for peace, calm, and healing” during this time.

“While we come from different backgrounds and political parties, Gov. Whitmer and I share a deep love for our country,” said Snyder. “We must always remember that we are Americans first, and we are not one another’s enemy.”


Kent County Health Department asks for patience with COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is urging residents to be patient as the rollout of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines continues across West Michigan’s health system.

In a video update from the KCHD on Thursday, KCHD Director Dr. Adam London said he’s pleased many people in the area have been eager to get vaccinated. He noted that the health department has been “overwhelmed with calls and emails” since Gov. Whitmer announced on Wednesday the opening of Phase 1B in the state’s vaccine rollout plan.

Starting Jan. 11, Phase 1B enables a new priority group of Michiganders to begin registering for vaccination, beyond health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities. However, London said area vaccine supply is “extremely limited,” and those eligible in Phase 1B may not be able to register immediately.

Residents eligible in Phase 1B are those age 75 and older, essential workers such as police officers, first responders, and frontline state and federal workers, plus pre-K-12 teachers and childcare providers. Whitmer also announced the state will begin vaccinating Group A of Phase 1C starting Jan. 11, which is people 65-74 years old.

In the coming days, we will activate registration information for people in Group 1B,” London said, on behalf of the area’s health departments and health care providers receiving vaccine doses. This information will be available at, which is an online portal created by a coalition of area health organizations, including the KCHD.

That information will include details about where to go for appointments,” London said. “However, please know that appointment slots are very limited because vaccine is very limited.”

Right now, the most important message I can share with you is to remain calm. Vaccine is coming,” he continued. “On behalf of local health departments and health care providers, we will do everything in our power to bring it to you as quickly as possible.”

Approximately 20,000 doses of vaccine have been administered in Kent County as of Thursday, according to London, as part of Michigan’s Phase 1A. All of the county’s remaining vaccine on-hand is assigned to appointments happening in the next few days.

The KCHD expects more vaccine to come from the state, but hasn’t yet been provided details about how much vaccine and exactly when.

In addition to, existing information about vaccine distribution for the area is available on the COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website.


ArtPrize returning in 2021

ArtPrize is coming back to downtown Grand Rapids in 2021, with dates now set for Sept. 16 through Oct. 3.

The return of the international art competition comes after last year’s run was cancelled over pandemic-related concerns.

ArtPrize’s run this fall will be its first since organizers moved the annual event to an every-other-year schedule, originally to start in 2020.

We look forward with anticipation into the New Year and the opportunity to work with our community to create the best ArtPrize yet,” ArtPrize organizers said in a newsletter to supporters last week. “One that will inspire hope and excitement in Grand Rapids and beyond, bringing us together in new ways, celebrating artists and art lovers, and fostering a sense of openness and healing.”

In the coming weeks, ArtPrize will share details on $450,000 in grants and prizes to be awarded during this year’s competition. It will also be providing artist and venue registration dates. The information will be available on its website, as well as through its newsletter followers can subscribe to.


The Rapid makes schedule changes to Route 1

The Rapid is reducing service frequency for its Route 1 - Division service in Byron Center, it announced Thursday.

Starting Jan. 18, Route 1’s Byron Center portion will decrease from every 30 minutes to every 60 minutes.

The service change was decided by the Byron Township Board of Trustees, in connection with a reduced annual contract with The Rapid.

Byron Center’s service portion, or “loop,” spans Division Ave. south of 60th St., 68th St. from Division Ave. to Clyde Park Ave., and Clyde Park Ave. north to 54th St. Meijer. It will run Monday through Saturday from 6am-6pm.

The Rapid’s GO!Bus paratransit service will maintain its normal schedule in Byron Township, Monday through Friday, with Saturday’s availability being from 6am-6pm.

Also starting Jan. 18, Route 1 service will be added to Metro Health Village via 54th St. and Gezon Pkwy. This will run every 60 minutes Monday through Saturday from 6am-6pm, every 30 minutes Monday through Saturday evenings from 6-10:15pm, and all day on Sunday from 6:30am-7:15pm.


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