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Community updates: Thursday, Nov. 5

All of Grand Rapids votes counted for Nov. 3 election; new COVID-19 testing site comes to Garfield Park neighborhood; and Grand Rapids Public Schools expands "synchronous time" for students’ online-only learning.
Cityscape of downtown Grand Rapids, facing east.

Cityscape of downtown Grand Rapids, facing east. /Ann-Marie Jurek

All of Grand Rapids votes counted for Nov. 3 election

All Grand Rapids ballots for the Nov. 3 election, including those returned by mail, have been counted, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalyn Bliss said Wednesday.

After two busy days for our City Clerk, city staff, and election workers, all of our Grand Rapids votes are in,” the mayor said via Facebook post. “I appreciate everyone's patience as we processed almost 60,000 absentee ballots.”

Bliss’ statement accompanied a link to, which is a service the city partners with to deliver unofficial election results.

As of Wednesday, voter turnout for the presidential and down-ballot races, across the city proper, was 65.5 percent – according to the reporting service. A total of 97,240 Grand Rapidians cast their ballots.

For the presidential race, 69.2 percent of Grand Rapids voters chose Democrat Joe Biden, 27.8 percent chose Republican President Donald Trump, and 2.2 percent chose third-party candidates.

In the race for U.S. Senate, city voters split along similar party lines: 64.4 for incumbent Democrat Sen. Gary Peters, 31 percent for Republican John James, and 2.2 percent for third-party candidates.

Another major race on the ballot, with no running incumbent, was a U.S. House seat for Michigan’s 3rd congressional district – encompassing Grand Rapids. 67.7 percent of city voters chose Democrat Hillary Scholten and 30.3 percent chose Republican Peter Meijer. No third-party candidate ran.

The Associated Press on Wednesday called the races for Michigan’s U.S. Senate and 3rd congressional district House seats. Peters and Meijer have been called the winners, respectively. No call has been made on the presidential election as of Thursday night.

Please join me in thanking all of our election workers who worked tirelessly to ensure a safe and secure election,” Bliss added in her Wednesday post. “Your service is deeply appreciated!”


New COVID-19 testing site comes to Garfield Park neighborhood

A new, free COVID-19 testing site opened on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced.

Called a Neighborhood Testing Site, it’s located in Grand Rapids’ Garfield Park neighborhood, on the city’s southeast side. The site’s inside Garfield Park’s gym at 211 Madison Ave. SE.

Testing will be available every week on Thursdays from 10am-6pm, Fridays from 10am-6pm, and Saturdays from 10am-2pm. Language translation will be provided, as well as assistance for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Neighborhood testing sites have proven to be a valuable resource for communities across the state to ensure free testing is available to all Michiganders,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the MDHHS’ Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy of Health. “Since these sites were opened at the end of August, more than 16,000 Michiganders have been tested at one of the Neighborhood Testing Sites.”

Locations were chosen in part to help address racial and ethnic disparities that existed prior to the pandemic,” she continued, “and were exacerbated by the virus.”

The opening of a new testing site in the city comes on the same day that the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) reported a new weekly average of 383 new COVID-19 cases per day in Kent County. The county’s test positivity rate – the percentage of tests coming back positive – is also now at 10.9 percent.

A month ago from Thursday, Kent County was averaging around 100 new cases per day and a test positivity rate around 4 percent.

Here at the [KCHD], we’ve been reaching out to people who test positive for COVID-19,” said KCHD Director Dr. Adam London in a video update. “We’ve been giving them isolation guidance and helping them to understand and deal with what they are experiencing.”

We’ve also been reaching out to their close contacts – people who may have picked up the virus from them and could be developing an infection,” he added. “This is all part of an evidence-based approach to infectious disease control using the tools of case investigation, isolation, and quarantine.”

The KCHD and City of Grand Rapids are partnering with the MDHHS for the Garfield Park testing site.

The MDHHS strongly encourages residents planning to get tested at the site to make an appointment. Residents can do so online at or by calling the department’s COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136. Walk-ins will be accepted as space allows.

More COVID-19 testing sites are available across Kent County, with a list and details on the KCHD’s website.


Grand Rapids Public Schools expands "synchronous time" for students’ online-only learning

Following parent and staff input, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) is expanding synchronous instruction time for its students, as they continue to navigate online-only learning this semester.

Synchronous instruction – teacher-led learning in real-time – has been used by GRPS this semester for online-only learning, in conjunction with asynchronous, or non-real-time, instruction. Starting Nov. 9, it’ll now be employed for students Monday through Thursday from 9am to noon, with the rest of the school days being asynchronous instruction.

“During our listening sessions, we heard that parents wanted increased direct teacher instruction and more small group academic support,” said GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby, in a Wednesday notice to parents and guardians. “We are pleased to share that we have reached an agreement with the Grand Rapids Education Association to expand the amount of synchronous time for students.”

Last month, GRPS leaders extended online-only learning for all of its students through rest of the semester, following a resurgence in new area COVID-19 cases. A hybrid in-person learning option for students is now planned for next semester’s Jan. 4 start.

Also starting Nov. 9, GRPS is expanding its automated attendance communications to parents and guardians, with robocalls, text messages, and emails all now included. Parents and guardians receive these around 10:30am on days their students did not attend synchronous instruction time.


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