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Community updates: Wednesday, July 8

Kent County Health Department explains Kent County’s resurgence in new COVID-19 cases; Grand Rapids City Commission approves $400 thousand police cut after blocked vote on $9 million cut; Grand Rapids Public Library limits branches offering curbside pickup for next two weeks; and more.
Dr. Adam London, Kent County Health Department's Director, provides a July 8 update on COVID-19 in Kent County.

Dr. Adam London, Kent County Health Department's Director, provides a July 8 update on COVID-19 in Kent County. /Kent County Health Department

Kent County Health Department explains Kent County’s resurgence in new COVID-19 cases

With Kent County’s new COVID-19 cases now averaging around 50 per day, that’s about twice as many as two weeks ago, the Kent County Health Department shared in its weekly video update on Wednesday.

The KCHD’s Director, Dr. Adam London, explained the county’s recent resurgence in new COVID-19 cases and clarified other facets of the state of the pandemic in the area.

I think it’s important for us to know that right now we are in a precarious position,” said London. “We are seeing cases increase and we know that we’re very vulnerable in our resurgence in cases.”

Although Kent County has increased its number of tests being performed each day, its positivity rate is staying largely the same at about 3.7% – higher than most of the rest of Michigan. However, the rate’s not increasing as dramatically as elsewhere in the state or around the county.

Because of the area’s increased number of cases and flat-to-slightly increasing positivity rates, the State of Michigan has moved the Grand Rapids region to the “high risk” category on its MI Safe Start Map. Along with the Lansing region, it's now classified as being at higher risk than the Detroit region, which remains in the “medium-high risk” category.

Right now that’s not affecting where we stand in our reopening phase,” London said.But it could lead to further decisions about reopening or re-closing certain parts of the economy by the governor in the near days.”

The director also noted that the average age of new cases in Kent County has dropped. The average age of a case was nearly 80 years old in late April. As of last week, the average age of cases was 30 years old. Residents ages 20-29 are also now 23% of all total cases in the area.

“We need to recognize that everyone is vulnerable to this infection,” London continued. “As long as any portion of our community is engaging in high-risk activities, like going to bars and parties – those kind of large social gatherings – that’s putting all of us at a higher risk level that makes it possible for this virus to continue to spread.”

Resources for mitigating COVID-19’s spread are available on the KCHD’s COVID-19 page, including those in multiple languages.


Grand Rapids City Commission approves $400 thousand police cut after blocked vote on $9 million cut

Grand Rapids’ City Commission held its bimonthly online meetings on Tuesday, debating police reform efforts, hearing hours worth of public comments, and outlining recent actions such as marijuana-related policy changes.

During the evening meeting, heated discussion ensued around a planned vote on whether to cut $9 million from the Grand Rapids Police Department’s (GRPD) budget. City Attorney Anita Hitchcock ultimately informed the commission it lacked the authority to make the budget amendment without concurrence from the City Manager, blocking the vote from taking place.

Instead, commissioners voted on and approved an amendment to cut the GRPD’s budget by $400,000. Voting against the amendment were commissioners Milinda Ysasi and Senita Lenear, who didn’t believe the cut went far enough to satisfy their constituents calling for a GRPD budget of 32% of the city’s general fund – a $9 million reduction.

The $400,000 in freed up funds will be spent on three new city positions promoting community-based oversight and engagement: A new position in the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability, a civilian public information officer in the GRPD’s office, and a civilian chief of staff position to assist the police chief in administration, strategic direction, and innovation.

More details about the commission meetings' proposals and actions are available in a statement on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


Grand Rapids City Commission approves fast-tracking of recreational cannabis businesses

Following the debate around police cuts, extending past midnight, the City Commission approved new measures to improve social equity outcomes for future cannabis businesses in Grand Rapids. The measures also expedite approval of medical and recreational cannabis businesses.

The equity policy calls for incentives in assigning zoning and licensing priority to applicants deemed “equity” or “advancing equity,” and the city’s establishment of a nonprofit to extend further equity work.

Under the new policy, equity applicants are eligible for discounted cannabis license fees. Additionally, applicants that don’t voluntarily participate with a social equity plan will be processed after applications that include a social equity plan.

The primary equity goals of the new policy and ordinance changes are to provide economic opportunities in the new cannabis industry for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “Those communities also were disproportionately impacted over the past 40 years. This policy will help us find ways to invest in segments of the community affected by that same impact.”

Regarding the fast-tracked approval of medical and recreational cannabis businesses in the city, medical and recreational facilities may begin applying for local licenses starting July 20.

More details about the city’s cannabis licensing process are available on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


Grand Rapids Public Library limits branches offering curbside pickup for next two weeks

The Grand Rapids Public Library’s (GRPL) curbside pickup service will be limited to a smaller number of buildings for the next two weeks, it announced on Wednesday. The service update comes in response to a present staffing shortage.

Since June, the GRPL To Go service has been operating in light of the GRPL’s continued indoor closures due to COVID-19. The GRPL closed its buildings to the public in March.

Locations still offering curbside pickup are its Main Library and Seymour, West Leonard, and Yankee Clipper branches

Ongoing updates to GRPL To Go services are available on the GRPL’s website.


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