The tri-community in which we live is getting smaller by the hour due to the coronavirus – COVID-19. The schools are closed, the new library and media center are closed, businesses are closed, and events are cancelled or postponed to unknown dates in the future — and there probably won’t be a Strawberry Festival.
Last Wednesday, before the Independent was delivered to Belleville from the printers in Adrian, a front-page story became incorrect. The FIRST Robotics competition at Belleville High School was no longer going to be held. It was postponed to a date unknown.
The next morning, the McBride Middle School play, also featured on the front page of that week’s Independent, was cancelled. That story became wrong, too.
The Keystone Academy school board met Thursday evening and the school was full of teachers, students, and parents for conferences. The school board meeting place had been shifted to the Music Room and when the Independent asked directions and explained that’s where the school board was meeting, a father asked if they were going to vote on closing the school. I didn’t think so.
But, later that evening, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer closed all the K-12 schools in Michigan from Monday, March 16, for three weeks, through April 5. This came after the number of presumptive positive virus cases in the state jumped from 2 to 12 and continued to climb.
On Tuesday, Van Buren Public Schools Supt. Pete Kudlak said the district is closed until April 6 by the state and then it will have its spring break and students will return April 13, unless the state decrees otherwise.
To feed the students, Supt. Kudlak said plans are to put four buses out with lunches for anyone between the ages of 0-18, who live in the district, including Keystone Academy students. They will not be checking IDs, but adults will not be fed. The buses will be at set locations for about a half hour each between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday. Places will be announced on Facebook and the district web site. He said teachers are going to be sending activities home to the students to do to help with their education, but they can’t be graded.
Supt. Kudlak said the district will continue to pay hourly employees even if they are not working and salaried employees continue to be paid by the year. He said the district gets about $8,000 each per student in state aid for 180 days of instruction. He said on Tuesday that the state legislature was taking up the proposal that day to give the districts 10 more days of foregiven closures.
Last Thursday, Wayne County Circuit Court adjourned all civil proceedings and delayed some criminal and juvenile cases in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Civil cases were adjourned through March 30 and criminal and juvenile cases in which the defendant is out on bond were to be adjourned, as well.
Because of the Governor’s emergency orders the court has given the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department authority to remove from the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice anyone showing signs of illness.
On Friday, the 34th District Court issued this statement: “We here at the courthouse have been actively monitoring the situation surrounding the spread of COVID-19. With the reports of instances of the virus occurring in Wayne County as well as the bans on gathering, we wanted to clarify the 34th District Court will remain open and operational until further notice.
“With this in mind, and the desire to keep health and safety paramount, as well as our duty to the communities we serve, we ask that if you feel sick with symptoms of COVID-19, or feel that you are at a specific ‘High Risk’ for contracting the COVID-19 that you please Contact Us instead of appearing in court.
“We are willing to work with you within the bounds of reason and understanding to ensure your business is taken care of either remotely or rescheduled for a later date. Understand that NOT ALL cases will be able to be handled in this fashion, and failure to comply with the court orders or deadlines will result in penalty.”
Senior Centers closed
On Friday, Sumpter Township announced the Senior Center was closed until further notice, but the Meals on Wheels deliveries would continue.
Over the weekend, Van Buren Township canceled all programs and events at the Senior Center and Parks and Recreation Department until April 6.
On Friday, Gov. Whitmer also signed an executive order canceling all events over 250 people and all assemblages in shared spaces over 250 people beginning at 5 p.m. that day and ending Sunday, April 5.
Certain assemblages are exempted, including those for the purpose of industrial or manufacturing work, mass transit, or the purchase of groceries or consumer goods.
Later, the Center for Disease Control recommended banning groups of 50 or more and then it was 10.
Chamber of Commerce
Also on Friday, the Belleville Area Chamber of Commerce postponed its March 21 Awards Banquet, but the $10,000 drawing will take place and be streamed live on Facebook.
On Friday, the Huron Clinton Metroparks announced all programs are canceled and buildings in the Metroparks are closing through April 5. The parks are to remain open, for now.
Many local churches have cancelled services and other activities. The Community Food Closet at Belleville First United Methodist Church was going to be closed down through April 5. Marilyn Wood of the Food Closet said, “Our volunteer food distributors are all over the age of 70 and many have significant health issues and we don’t want to jeopardize their health.”
But later, Wood said they are going continue to be open because two younger volunteers have offered to dispense the food. The regular hours are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Owen Intermediate School Food Pantry reported serving 40 families with food on Sunday and will give out food next Sunday, as well. This will take place between 10 a.m. and noon. People are instructed to drive around the back of the building and bags will be delivered to the cars. Those interested in reserving bags are asked to private message the Owen’s Community Closet & Food Pantry Facebook page by Wednesday night to reserve bags (not required). Donations of food will be accepted from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday and they can be dropped off at the back of Owen by Door 10.
Libraries, etc. closed
On Saturday, the new Belleville Area District Library in downtown Belleville announced it was closing through April 5, along with its Media Center in Sumpter Township. The museum is also closed.
On Monday, as of 3 p.m., Gov. Whitmer temporarily closed all theaters, bars, and casinos and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders. This is through 11:59 p.m., March 30.
Under her Executive Order 2020-9, the following places of public accommodation were closed: restaurants, cafes, coffee houses, bars, taverns, brewpubs, distilleries, clubs, movie theaters, indoor and outdoor performance venues, gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, Indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, spas, and casinos.
VBT, Sumpter, city hall closed
Van Buren Township voted Monday afternoon to close township hall for two weeks, until March 30, with directors and needed staff members working to keep up behind closed doors. The situation will be reevaluated after that.
Monday night, the city of Belleville council voted to give all power to make decisions on the emergency to its new city manager and police chief. City hall has been closed to the public, with appointments made by phone.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sumpter Township Hall closed until further notice.
Community Health program
The Belleville Area Lions Club has cancelled the Community Health Expo set for April 4, but will reschedule it in the future.
Flop E. Bunny cancelled
Also, the annual Flop E. Bunny candy hunt at Victory Park, planned for April 11, has been cancelled.
Over the week end the social media was full of reports of depleted, empty shelves at local grocery stores caused by the crowds of people buying emergency items and food. By the first of the week, the shelves had been restocked, according to reports, and then depleted again.
Patients with confirmed infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:
• Shortness of breath
The best prevention for viruses, such as influenza, the common cold or COVID-19 is:
• If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, call your health-care provider. If you do not have a health-care provider, call the nearest hospital.
• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick.
• If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others.
• Replace handshakes with elbow bumps.
• Stay at least 6 feet away from others when in a public setting.
Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus .
Van Buren Public Schools Food Service
For those ages 0-18 who live in the Van Buren School District
Stop Locations and Times
March 19-April 10 — Monday-Friday
10-10:30 a.m., Belleville Manor, 8701 Belleville Rd.
10:30-11 p.m., Parkwood Manor, 8800 Tyler Rd.
11-11:30 a.m., McBride and Van Buren St. (in Haggerty Sub)
11:30-12 p.m., Kirkridge Park, 8701 Kirkridge Park Dr.
10-11 a.m., Mary Catherine (between Jeff and Lori streets)
11-12 p.m., Lakeview Park (corner of Smith St. and Lakview Ave.)
10-11:30 a.m., 51000 Mott Rd. in the office visitor parking lot
11:30-12 p.m. Old Rawsonville and Sylvia Dr.
10-10:30 a.m., Sumpter Township Community Center
10:30-11 a.m., Savage Elemetary School
11-11:30 a.m., Owen
11:30-12 p.m., 49000 Denton Rd., Harbour Club Apts.