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Community updates: Thursday, April 15

City of Grand Rapids launches e-scooter Community Pass for underserved residents; The DAAC to host Open Studio Nights in new Creston neighborhood space; Veen Observatory’s public observing nights return for 2021 season; MDHHS requests pause of state’s Johnson & Johnson vaccine use; and more.
Walkway behind DeVos Place, currently serving as the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic.

Walkway behind DeVos Place, currently serving as the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic. /Brett Townsend

City of Grand Rapids launches e-scooter Community Pass for underserved residents

Aiming to increase transportation access for Grand Rapidians in need, the City of Grand Rapids launched a “community pass” pilot on Tuesday for the city’s e-scooter sharing program, it announced.

In partnership with mobility company Spin, owned by Ford, the Spin Community Pass allows residents to take up to five free 30-minute scooter rides each day over the course of three months. Funded by the city, the pilot program provides up to 650 passes to residents who face transportation barriers, such as limited incomes and credit card or smartphone access, and need more options.

For determining residents in need of the passes, the city is deferring to community partners: the NAACP Grand Rapids, West Michigan Works, Baxter Community Center, Grand Rapids Urban League, and Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. The organizations will distribute passes to residents they serve.

"This program provides an opportunity to pilot ways to reduce transportation costs and provide city residents better access to mobility solutions,” said Kristin Bennett, the city’s Transportation Planning and Programs Supervisor. “We are pleased to partner with Spin and the community partners on these priorities in the city's Strategic Plan."

The e-scooter sharing program launched in Sept. 2020 and deploys the scooters across a 12 square-mile area covering downtown, neighborhoods, and business districts. According to the City of Grand Rapids, it serves 74 percent of underserved neighborhoods to evaluate how shared micromobility services can contribute to Grand Rapids’ multi-modal transportation system.

More details about the Spin Community Passes are available on Shared Mobility page on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


The DAAC to host Open Studio Nights in new Creston neighborhood space

The Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC) will begin hosting bi-weekly Open Studio Nights in its new Creston neighborhood location starting this month, it announced.

The events aim to give Grand Rapids area artists a new space to work creatively together in-person, with pandemic mitigation measures in place. They start Wednesday, April 28 and will continue every other Wednesday after, 6-8pm.

A volunteer-run arts nonprofit, the DAAC aims to serve as an all-ages, substance-free music venue, art gallery, and DIY project incubator for local and emerging artists. It reopened in Feb. of this year at 1553 Plainfield Ave. NE after the 2013 closure of its original Division Ave. space and temporary operations at Rumsey St. SW in between. The DAAC began in 2003.

“After conducting our Programming Poll, it seemed that folks really would like some in-person creativity time,” DAAC core committee member Charity Lytle said. “We thought there might be a way to do this safely while we aren't yet open for live music shows. So Open Studio Nights were born to allow local creatives to connect and work on their projects together.”

The DAAC’s Programming Poll from Feb. garnered 90 responses from community members ages 11-67 about the direction they’d like the nonprofit’s programming to head in. Through that feedback, its core committee volunteers determined an immediate need for the open studio-type events.

Pandemic-minded measures for the upcoming DAAC events include a 15-person capacity limit and COVID-19 screenings upon entry, among others. A $5 donation is suggested by the DAAC for attendance to help pay for its space’s overhead costs.

A full and growling list of upcoming DAAC events is available on its website.


Veen Observatory’s public observing nights return for 2021 season

For locals looking to relish the night sky, the Veen Observatory in Lowell is back with Public Observing Nights this year, the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) announced.

In partnership with the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association (GRAAA), owner and operator of the observatory, the organizations will host the events on various Saturdays between April and Nov., weather conditions permitting. The first is planned for this Saturday from 9-11:30pm.

The James C. Veen Observatory has three large permanently-mounted telescopes, which are augmented on public nights with instruments owned and supplied by GRAAA members. Visitors can also partake in a periodic audio-visual presentation introducing the facility, and orientations on prominent constellations currently visible.

Admission is free for GRPM members,” GRPM Planetarium Manager Jack Daleske said of the events. “Starting Saturday, April 17, we will point our telescopes at star clusters, the crescent Moon, and Mars.”

The GRAAA and GRPM will follow current state indoor and outdoor capacity restrictions for pandemic-related safety, much like last year. Other safety measures include cleaning and sanitizing all high-touch surfaces throughout the evening and spreading out portable telescopes.

A full list of planned Public Observing Nights is available on the GRAAA’s website.


MIOSHA extends state’s workplace emergency rules through Oct.

Michigan’s workplace emergency rules limiting in-person work have been extended by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) through Oct. 14, 2021.

Citing the state’s recent surge in new COVID-19 cases, the department announced on Tuesday that the emergency rules can be modified or withdrawn at any time in response to changes in the virus’ spread.

Under the rules, employers must continue to implement policies that require remote work for employees where remote work is feasible. While in-person work is permitted when remote work is not feasible, MIOSHA recommends remote work as a strategy to minimize in-person contacts.

“MIOSHA's emergency rules help keep us all safe by ensuring that employers implement common sense safety standards to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “When employers maintain a safe workplace, that gives workers and consumers the confidence to keep our economy moving.”

MIOSHA’s rules additionally mandate that businesses resuming in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees. Details about training requirements, as well as MIOSHA’s related Ambassador training program, are available on the COVID-19 Workplace Safety page on the state’s website.


MDHHS requests pause of state’s Johnson & Johnson vaccine use

Based on recommendations from the CDC and FDA, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has requested that all Michigan providers temporarily pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.

The request is based on the identification of six U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in women ages 18 through 48 after receiving the J&J vaccine, reported by the CDC and FDA.

Adverse reactions appear to be extremely rare, according to the federal departments, as more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. as of Monday, with nearly 200,000 of those doses administered in Michigan. Out of an abundance of caution, the departments aim to further review these cases and assess their potential significance.

"As we learn more about this from our federal partners, we will update vaccine providers and Michiganders across the state," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the MDHHS’ Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health. "We encourage everyone to continue making appointments to be vaccinated with the safe and effective Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at this time."

"These vaccines are the way we are going to end this pandemic as quickly as possible and move toward a sense of normalcy," she added.

For people who have received the J&J vaccine and develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination, the MDHHS urges them to contact their health care provider. Health care providers have been asked by the department to report adverse events to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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