Our Community Deals with COVID-19

By Sue Moore

By proclamation of the Governor of Michigan, the population of the state is to stay at home to shelter in place, in hopes that the coronavirus pandemic will subside. It has caused havoc with the economy in a short period of time. The responsibility of the press is to document these activities, thereby performing a service to the community right now and importantly, to historians who will study this period of time after we are all gone.

Our printing company has been deemed an “essential” service and therefore has managed to stay in business and keep the presses running. Here, we offer the following vignettes of how the “quarantine” has affected people in our circulation area. It is a cross section with no intent to leave anyone out, just what we could compile while working from our home offices. Facebook and other entities have been humming with human interest stories that may fade away. Our belief is that the printed word will still be around in a hundred years, so we offer the following experiences as an historical record of the pandemic as it plays out locally.

From Kaye Bennett, retired journalist

As one of the earliest of the baby boomers, my tech skills are sorely lacking. I never considered this a major problem (I can always get somebody to come over and teach me what I need to know as technology changes and as I need it, right?). But what now, in this coronavirus age? After a week and a half or so of social isolation, I was thrilled when a friend suggested a cyber-get-together for wine and chats on Sunday afternoon, via FaceTime. Wasn’t too sure what FaceTime involved, but I was pretty lonely by that time. They set it up, so all I had to do was accept the call. They (Bill Krasean and wife Nancy Stern), being far techier than Mike (Hardy) and I, had theirs on a tablet. Not owning a tablet, all I had was my cell phone (forced on me by my daughter – otherwise I’d be like Mike and still relying on my track phone). This meant that Mike and I had to sit unnaturally close together to both appear on the screen at the same time and that, unfortunately, made the wine drinking a little awkward. Nonetheless, we were relieved to see our friends and do some face-to-face (sort of) catching up. I’m ready to buy a tablet now, if only somebody could get close enough to me to teach me how to use it. Note to fellow boomers: Learn to use technology while the tech guys can still come into your house – or while you can still get out of it.

From Kim Klein, Treasurer of the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market Board of Directors

Well the kids themselves are always excited when there is no school, lol. Kelli (my daughter) works a third shift at Ascension Borgess Gardens and is generally sleeping during the day. So, even though the kids are home, they are old enough to fend for themselves (one middle school, one elementary) and she’s available if there is an emergency. She works for a rehab facility that has been on lock-down for a couple of weeks now. The facility itself is taking precautions by providing personal protective equipment that staff can change into and out of so they are not taking soiled laundry home. She takes extra care by showering at home before each shift and showering at work before coming home. There are so many people that have it so much worse with younger kids at home, no day care and still have to work.

As far as myself, I am working from home. We asked our office staff to work from home last week unless they were “essential”, so there are only a few people in the office building. Our manufacturing at FlowServe is still 24/7/365 as we produce for the oil/gas sector and continue to work to support it.

From Dr. Paula Schriemer

From our standpoint [hospital], the recommendations are changing hourly (we’re kind of on information overload). We continue to work. So far, so good. We need more personal protective equipment (PPE), as noted in all the news reports. This will probably be a long road, more of a marathon than a sprint.

From Nathan Ferency, head Schoolcraft football coach and strength teacher

As a mom and dad:
This is really twofold. 1) We want our kids to be in school learning and progressing as students and as people. We don’t want our kids to lose out on those experiences academically and socially. It’s really heart-wrenching for them to miss their teachers, friends, routines, and the educational experience. 2) It puts a lot of stress on families at home. Parents might now be out of work. Parents might have to work but not have childcare available. Parents might be working from home, but how productive can they be while children need their basic needs met and their schooling needs met too? There are just so many variables that create a lot of stress for families. It’s all a little overwhelming.

As a coach dealing with athletes who can’t work out:
It is frustrating as a coach to see a lot of offseason work come to a screeching halt. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing kid’s heart’s broken trying to process how this affects them. I mean our basketball teams are having such special seasons and might not be able to see that through. It is heart-wrenching for those seniors and their families. On the football side of things, kids have worked so hard to improve themselves as athletes and it’s tough to not have control of that anymore. Our athletes have been given workouts they can complete at home so they can still try and improve or maintain their progress. Nothing is ideal in this crisis, but we make the best of it. Another interesting aspect is how this will affect recruiting for college football programs. A lot of plans were made for our athletes in their recruiting process to attend spring practices and games to meet with programs. That isn’t happening now. It really is unprecedented for everybody. At the end of the day, the health and wellness of our student athletes and families is the most important. Athletics should, and will, never come before people and doing what is best. We will play again and return to our routines. Until then, we make the best of our situation and do our part as responsible citizens.

From Mike Roy, Vicksburg High School Athletic Director

I just received word that we will not be able to host Hall of Fame on 3/28. We will reschedule once the dust clears with COVID-19. When that might be, I have no idea at this point. We will have an induction ceremony at some point.

Empty fields and locked gates will be the sight throughout the state for the immediate future, as organized team activities won’t be allowed until the curve is flattened and until the MHSAA gives the green light. I know the MHSAA is working diligently to salvage what it can for our student/athletes once that green light has been given by health officials.

Your heart goes out to all student/athletes during this unprecedented time. Maybe a little more for seniors. They have worked their tails off for four years and some of them are just now getting the opportunity to play up on varsity. You just feel for those student/athletes because for a lot of them, this is the last time they’re going to get a chance to play.

Unlike the NCAA, there’s no way for high schools to grant athletes another year of eligibility, which means seniors in all spring sports have potentially lost their final season.

The difficult part is we don’t know. That’s the one common phrase: “I don’t know what the future holds, and if we’re able to resume then we will.” The other seasons being prolonged kind of impact that too because we have a lot of kids that play multiple sports. We’re just going to have to kind of wait and see and we’ll adjust and adapt to what we have circumstance-wise.

From Jeff Clark, Schoolcraft High School Athletic Director

I know our seniors are disappointed along with the other players and coaches. Both teams have worked really hard to put themselves into a position where they have the opportunity to achieve their goals. For the girls, this could have been their third regional title in four years and possibly moving into uncharted territory with a win in the quarterfinal. On the boys’ side, I believe they were the only undefeated team left in Division 3. They positioned themselves well for a district title and I believe they would have made a deep run into the postseason with a good chance at being at the Breslin Center. This is not how anyone would like a season to end. You would like to have the opportunity to end on the playing surface win or lose. This is uncharted territory for our school and schools around the country. We will just have to see what happens and deal with things as they come in this ever-changing landscape.

From Generous Hands Executive Director Sheri Louis

Just like most of the population, we are still trying to process everything that has transpired these last several days.

Generous Hands is currently distributing Friday Packs at our 606 Spruce Street location. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m.-noon.

We will be trying something new this week. When families stop for packs and vouchers, we will be distributing through our back entrance. This will help with the inside traffic and keep our clients, as well as our volunteers, a safe distance from one another.

Generous Hands will issue an extra Family Fare Voucher to each family, to be used in March. If the need is there, we will also issue an additional April Voucher to each family.

The vouchers are extremely helpful for our families. Each family with 1-2 students receives a $40 voucher, and families with 3+ children receives a $50 voucher. The Family Fare voucher allows shopping for bread, milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables. At this time we are serving 280 children, 144 families!

We are all hopeful that with the food that is being delivered by the schools, and what we are able to provide, children and families will all be fed.

We are limiting volunteers. Mark (my husband) is helping a lot. Kay Anderson and Nancy Herson will be the only volunteers in the building in the week ahead.

I am not having contact with my kids/grandkids, because I am in contact with clients. Even though contact is limited, I am not taking chances. I am isolating myself from my family. Both of my daughters have serious health concerns and I cannot risk passing on germs to them.

We are using gloves when we bring in the many donations of food, and I am letting them stay on designated shelves for a few days before I stock the items.

We have sanitizer throughout the building and have been using Lysol on every doorknob, light switch, equipment, etc., taking every precaution to not spread germs.

We are making it work, but it has definitely been a challenge in the way we are operating. It saddens me that I cannot let more volunteers help, but we just cannot risk getting our volunteers OR our clients sick.

Mark has been making daily visits with me keeping things caught up at GH. Nancy Herson and Kay Anderson will be my only volunteers inside the building in the coming week.

This is crazy! Almost seems like a sci-fi movie.

Schoolcraft School Psychologist Michelle Schneider

It’s the people in the district who work with students primarily with behavior issues who are helping with the food distribution. We have me (school psych), Shelby Getsinger (school social worker) and Stephanie Dunham (student services coordinator). We just hired two more people like Stephanie (student services coordinators), Megan Boynton and Heather McIntyre whom we just hired before all this craziness. There will be one student services coordinator for each building and then Shelby and I will float as needed in the buildings. So, right now only Rusty, the principals, James and Amie are going in. He told the rest of us to work from home. Our behavior team is checking in on our kiddos by calling, texting, face timing etc… We also come in on Wednesdays to help distribute the food. That’s it. I was in most every day this week due to meetings and things but now pretty much working at home.

From Tamra Stafford, ride coordinator for South County Community Services

The staff at South County are working remotely as much as possible. I do check for messages throughout the day. We are still using the Metro Share van for appointments and do check with our clients to make sure they are not sick. The van has been thoroughly cleaned and we have wipes, masks and gloves on board the van. We are seeing a lot of rides being cancelled because they are not considered essential. We are asking all clients before taking them if they are sick or have been sick. We really are just doing rides for essential appointments.

As far as myself, we are just hunkering down at home like most other people. We are trying to support our local restaurants by purchasing take out. I am catching up on projects at home.

We sure do miss being with our friends enjoying a beverage at the Distant Whistle, or going to the Eagles or the American Legion for a meal and beverage.

From Jaime Hess, owner of Kids Court Learning Center

Overall, we’re getting along fine. Numbers are down quite a bit because some parents’ jobs have shut their doors temporarily, but I have a lot of parents still working that desperately need childcare in order to keep this country moving forward. Some of my parents are pharmacists, nurses, first responders, doctors, or just work in the general field of healthcare. Some parents are working for Stryker and are repairing or designing hospital beds, creating and shipping additional medical supplies, etc. I know there are mixed feelings about staying open, but I have an obligation not only to my families, but also to my employees. It’s a tough decision, but I can honestly say, we are 100 percent sick free at our center, and that says a lot. We’ll keep moving forward, helping out our fellow business friends such as Jaspare’s Pizza, Main Street Pub, etc. in order to provide some support to these local friends because we know they’re hurting right now too. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. Let’s help each other out through these rough times as it will make us stronger. This too will pass. We have high hopes and we do see that silver lining.

Kathy Forsythe, Vicksburg High School English Teacher and SCN Columnist

I have been sending a digital letter each school day, checking in and encouraging students to read and complete our online activities. I didn’t realize how much I would miss my students. I can stay in touch with them, but it sure isn’t the same as face-to-face contact.

Andrew Johnson, Executive Director of South County Community Services

There is a lot of fear/anxiety about the future, so many people are calling to learn about services in case they need them in the upcoming weeks. Many of our clients were a step or two behind on shopping and so are out of luck when it comes to meat, bread, toilet paper, etc. We anticipate large financial assistance need in the next few months as paychecks start to reflect under- or unemployment. We are concerned that state-level assistance has not adjusted to this new need and that we will need to fill it ourselves. We have altered our own services in order to reduce risk of infection (no shopping in the pantry—only pre-boxed food, only essential trips in the van, working with people remotely as much as possible, shortened office hours) and in order to meet new need (giving out more food cards, relaxing financial assistance requirements, soon delivering food to people who can’t get out on their own). Hope that helps!

Update on Monday, March 23 from Andrew Johnson

We closed the building completely to the public (no longer open even 10 a.m.-noon). We are continuing to offer all services, but only by appointment.

We are beginning to deliver food. We will be delivering 40 boxes of food (along with some meat and eggs) to local seniors this week and expect that to increase in the coming weeks.

We are developing a COVID-19 disaster relief fund for people directly affected by the virus and have loosened our guidelines for our “regular” Emergency Assistance as well

I am on quarantine! So, I am working completely from home right now (kids had fevers over the weekend, and Health Department policy is that I stay home for 14 days from the onset of the fever).

From Pat Wilson O’Leary, community volunteer

Right now we are staying home except for grocery runs. Glad we have lots of books and Portage Creek behind our house to watch ducks, muskrat, cranes, geese, and deer! Now I just want to start more outside, virtual communication than I’ve had in the last ten days. Going stir crazy is not allowed.

From Syd Bastos, Board President of Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center

We postponed the Destination Venezuela program which had five unique programs between March 20 and March 28. We are still installing the exhibit, The Long Walk and will do a virtual opening of the exhibit on Facebook. We will most likely reschedule everything for sometime in September. We expended a lot of effort on creating the events and a bit of money on marketing. The program team is quite disappointed, but we all understand that we need to do our part to minimize the impact of the virus on communities we serve.

We were working on Arts Exploration Lab, a day-long Arts Camp planned by teens for teens that was scheduled for May 23. Jake Munson is working with a group of high school students and will be contacting them over the next week to see how we can keep the momentum going, although they will most likely need to consider alternate dates for the camp.

Arts in the Burg summer camp was planned for June 22-26. We are going to stay with this week for now. We are recruiting instructors and volunteers for the camp and all selected will need to be flexible on the date. Camp registration will open soon with a revised refund policy that assures 100% refund if we have to reschedule and the child is unable to attend the rescheduled date.

From Kelly Haynes, co-owner of Stubby’s

Yes, we are open. We have everything stocked really well. Being in the meat business we have a special responsibility to provide healthy safe food for our community. Our staff and customers are taking safety measures seriously; we are committed to following our strict sanitary operating procedures totally “beefed up” along with social distancing and extra cleaning and disinfecting. Customers have been supportive with all that is happening and we all learn more daily. We are offering curbside pick-up for all of your fresh meat, jerky, take-out and grocery needs.

From Sheryl Oswalt, co-owner of the Dawg House grocery and catering service

We are open and very busy. Since take-out has always been a big part of what we do it’s pretty much the same. New people are coming in. We just serve them and they head out.

From Pam Ballett, Director of Schoolcraft Library

We are closed but the staff is here on Tuesday Wednesdays and Thursdays to work on DEEP CLEANING, programming, weeding, inventory among other things. We are open for curbside service to our patrons 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on those days if material requests are called in or reserved online. Our number: 679-5959.

We are also a dropoff point for Eagle’s Nest and will have the dropoff box for non-perishable food items outside our door, Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for those who are able to help donate food.

From Don Wiertella, President Vicksburg Historical Society

We are fortunate as we are retired and our only commitments are to various volunteer organizations. These organizations have either postponed or canceled their activities. We are “hunkering down” in our home and plan on doing a lot of reading and work in the garden and flowers. By the way, we refuse to “hoard” toilet paper and other items – to us this is an overreaction bordering on panic.

From Denney Veterinary Service

Denney Vet Coronavirus Precautions!
1. ONE human per pet allowed in the clinic. If you have children that need to come along with you, please leave them in the car. When checking in, we can take your pet and you can return to the car with your children. We can come out to your car to speak with you.

2. MED REFILLS OR FOOD ORDERS: You must call ahead. We will take your payment over the phone via credit card. When you arrive to pick up your med, please call us and we will deliver it out to your car. If you must pay in cash, let us know when you arrive and we will come out and get your payment.

3. If your pet is sick and needs to come in, please have a healthy person bring in your pet.

4. Boarding or hospitalized patients will not be allowed any personal items from home.

5. If you are dropping off a cat for surgery in a carrier, please clean your carrier with a sanitizing wipe upon arrival.

Please do not be alarmed if our staff is wearing masks, gloves, and gowns. We need to take precautions to keep our staff and families healthy so we can continue to take care of your pet.

From Eric Hansen, Executive Director Vicksburg District Library

The situation with the Census is unclear at this time, and we will await clarification from the federal government. When the library re-opens we will try to provide the resources we are allowed to offer, such as computer terminals where patrons may get information. As ever, we are unable to help people complete the individual surveys but we can assist people in finding websites that are sanctioned by the government.

We are closed in compliance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order. We are severely limiting the onsite number and hours of any staff in the spirit of Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Library Association’s admonitions that citizens practice good social distancing. Consequently, we cannot guarantee that a staff member will be available to answer phone-calls at the time they are received. Patrons who wish to contact the library are welcome to leave a message on our voicemail or e-mail us at info@vicksburglibrary.org.

We request that patrons abstain from donating any materials for the Book Sale until May.
Staff will not be available via phone or in-person but will periodically check the library’s voice mail and e-mail accounts.

The Library intends to share various electronic content via social media and our website. These updates may include educational, informative, and entertaining content.

We encourage our existing card holders to use our OverDrive electronic resource. OverDrive provides a range of books and audiobooks, available at https://smdl.overdrive.com/.

From Sue Kedrowicz, Schoolcraft High School Secretary

This is a quote from Shannon McDonald, middle school administrative assistant with a high school senior. It was on her Facebook page. I think it sums it up pretty well.

“Savannah is heartbroken and has shed many tears. She just wants to be with her friends, see her teachers and she keeps saying over and over daily, ‘I just want to play tennis!’. She has a coach from a college coming to watch her play next month! How many other kiddos have this same thing too? All of these things seem very trivial but it’s the end of a chapter they have spent their entire lives writing. Life isn’t fair, but the emotions still run strong and this is a high school senior’s whole world and they feel robbed. But boy will they have stories to tell their kiddos someday!”

I haven’t heard from any of the basketball coaches or players directly but to have your sights set on playing at the Breslin Center this year and then to have it cancelled and out of your control is surreal. And just so sad for them and all the college seniors who will never get another chance to play that last game and leave it all on the floor. Cancellation of the spring season is yet to come in high school but I know the college seasons have been cancelled and I’m sure it’s devastating.

From Leigh Fryling, Schoolcraft Drama Club and English teacher

Most of the core cast of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” are seniors, so it’s been particularly hard for them. But we are not cancelled, simply postponed. The show will go on as soon as restrictions are lifted and life gets back to normal. The biggest concern is forgetting all the work we’ve done over this long break, but the kids said they already have plans for how to get together online and run lines and blocking. They’re resourceful! I’m a planner by nature, and we have already moved a lot of our life online – we get most of our groceries from a company that combats food waste and delivers to our door, we get household things from another green company that is carbon neutral that delivers to our door. So, we haven’t felt the panic others have to stock up on essentials, we know we’re ok. Mostly I worry about the small businesses here in Mendon. I’m going to make sure I have at least one meal from a local restaurant every other day. I don’t want to see this close the diner or Viva or Gibby’s, restaurants make a small enough margin as it is. So, I’m focusing on what I can do to help the local economy, and to make sure my neighbors, especially the elderly, have everything they need. I’m blessed to be able-bodied right now – I’ll use whatever I have at my disposal to help others.

Sonya Sutherland, community volunteer worker for Indian Lake Elementary

The first Monday after the schools closed our family learned an important lesson: Practicing the drums and trumpet need to wait until after Steve (Dad) is done with his conference calls for work.

Our whole family is home, together, all day, every day. I work for an Intermediate School District, so my job was closed with the schools and my husband was assigned to work from home. It’s taken some time for us to figure out what is going to work for us. I made a schedule for my kids because that’s how we’ve always organized ourselves, even in summer. It also helped me feel like I had a plan, or at least a little control over this uncertain situation. Our schedule is sort of general, it gives them an idea of the type of thing they should do next, like art or homework or chores. It works for us because everyone knows what to expect from their day. I even made a schedule for myself, because I’m not used to having so much time around the house.

I initially hoped we would be able to go to the U.P. to see the ice caves because I hadn’t quite grasped how quickly this was going to spread. It only took a couple of days to realize that traveling was off the table for us. We have done a lot of biking and walks instead. We’ve met friends for bike rides but we aren’t visiting people in their homes or having visitors over.

My nephew is immuno-compromised, so we try to take the precautions seriously because we have seen how dangerous viruses are for some people. My kids miss their friends and it’s hard to explain why they can’t visit. We don’t want to scare them but since they are a little older, 9 and 11, they get the idea. The kids have done some video chats with their friends and one of Sawyer’s friends even had a virtual birthday party. We went out and got Solana, my daughter, a hamster for her to take care of since she has the time to learn and get used to the responsibility.

We are lucky for a lot of reasons, but one is that our kids like reading and are pretty independent with doing homework and other things. I know on Facebook there was a lot of discussion initially among parents about how much homework the kids were expected to do. It’s really hard for parents who are still working to try to manage their kids’ time, explain their homework and still do their jobs. I think that when everything is shutting down and uncertain, families need to do what works for their situation, hold close what is important and let the rest go. We need to take care of ourselves and our community, that’s really what all this distancing is about.

In our area of Vicksburg, the neighbors have checked on each other and the parents have some agreements about how to keep our kids safe. Folks text to see if anyone needs things before they head into town so people don’t have to make extra trips. We live in the country so really, neighbors means only a few homes, but it’s nice that people can help each other out. I hope that’s what our kids remember about this time, that it might have been weird and scary but when you’re part of a community, everyone can lean on each other.

From Elaine Oestrike, co-owner and pharmacist at Fred’s Pharmacy, Vicksburg and Three Rivers

Thank goodness we finally got the OK from insurance companies to not get a signature! We have been doing our best to keep everything so very clean, but this will help for sure. We have decided to work only through the drive-through right now. This is the best way we could keep the spread of infection down for both our patients and employees. We sanitize after every transaction. Our plan is to continue this way until some of the restrictions are lifted by the state. Antibiotics are processed and filled quickly in order to get the sick people home as quickly as possible. We have been really busy this week as everyone is trying to be prepared. Our community has been very understanding and we really appreciate that. Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed Executive Order 2020-25 on March 26 which will allow pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of prescriptions for up to 60 days’ worth of supply for patients and require insurers to cover these emergency refills during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

From Steve, Brenda, (Sarah) Schimp at Vicksburg Hardware

Dear friends, with each new day comes some sort of change. As of Monday 3/23/20 we will have new “open” hours that you can see BELOW. We do fall into the essential category… (think electrical repairs, plumbing repairs, new fuses, heaters, etc.)

In this time we will be trying our best to serve you and keep everyone safe in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Our physical doors will be CLOSED, so we are asking you to CALL IN your order and we will gather your necessities up for you and have it ready for CURBSIDE pickup. We ask that you pay with a credit card over the phone and we will include a copy of your receipt with your order. Thank you so much for your support, patience and understanding during this time. Our hope is that this is over soon and we can go back to normal business hours and operation.

Hours: Monday-Wednesday: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursday-Friday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday: noon-1 p.m. Phone: (269) 649-1918.

Editor’s note: we reached out to the hospital, doctor’s office, fire authority, EMS, police without receiving any information as of press time.

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