Coronavirus Update: Continuing Changes as Lockdowns Take Hold

by Josh Colletta

More changes are being made at the local level as all three states in the Michindoh area have announced orders to stay at home, with exceptions for essential jobs, recreation, and charity work.

That order is now in effect in Ohio and Michigan while Indiana’s restrictions go into effect at Midnight tonight.

Michigan’s order allows government bodies to conduct their meetings by phone or online until April 15th.

WTVB says the Branch County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to hold a work session electronically at one this afternoon.

Quincy’s village council will conduct their meeting electronically at 5:30 tonight.

The Branch County I.S.D. Board has a meeting at 4 PM tomorrow, and the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency board is scheduled to meet at 9 AM on Thursday — all electronically.

Departments of the Branch County government are also shifting to essential services staff.

County services will continue as normal, but the number of employees in one place at any given time is being reduced with social distancing practices in place so that replacements can be brought in if someone is exposed to the coronavirus.

Two factors contributed to that decision — there are now over one thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, and two of them are in neighboring Calhoun County.

Branch County officials also would have made the move if there had been ten or more deaths reported in Michigan. That count currently stands at nine.

In Williams County, the Bryan Times says the county commission there will now be meeting once per week instead of twice, and those meetings will take place each Thursday.

The Herald Republican says the Steuben County Courthouse is closed to the public unless the matter is absolutely necessary.

Hearings will continue as scheduled, but only parties who are named in the cases and their attorneys are allowed to be there.

Business with county offices located inside the courthouse, including the county clerk, should be conducted by phone or online if at all possible.

The Indiana court system yesterday paused timelines for laws, rules, and procedures through April 6th — and the state Supreme Court is allowed to oversee local courts in emergency situations, so Steuben County’s courts have petitioned for emergency relief.

All local hospitals have further restricted visitation policies, so if you have a friend or loved one in the hospital at the moment, you should call ahead and verify what their requirements are before you go.

The Daily News says the two major food pantries in Hillsdale have adjusted their services to stay safe and continue providing for those in need.

Trinity Lutheran Church’s King’s Cupboard has gone to drive-thru service during their regular hours.

Pastor Jessica Hahn tells the paper that bread is running low as higher demand at the stores has meant fewer donations.

Meanwhile, the Hillsdale Salvation Army is also drive-thru only for both the food pantry and lunch service.

Hours for both of those services have been extended, and Capt. Sean Grey says they’ve seen more people coming through since the pandemic began to take hold.

Both food pantries are restricted to Hillsdale County residents, but the Salvation Army’s lunch service is open to anyone in need.

In education, the Collegian says Hillsdale College has extended their campus restrictions until April 20th.

That decision was made due to the stay-at-home order in Michigan.

In an e-mail to students and staff, Provost Christopher VanOrman says that if classes can resume by that date, commencement will be held on May 9th as planned.

Students who are unable to return home should e-mail the dean’s office, and meal plans will be partially refunded based on the date when students return.

Students have been asked to refrain from shipping packages to campus and ship them home instead.

Meanwhile, Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to close schools for the rest of the academic year.

WTVB says the superintendent of the state’s largest district sent a letter to the governor on Monday saying that reopening the schools too early will cause numerous challenges — most importantly, absent students and staff, which he says will undermine the learning experience.

Vitti also argues against switching to virtual instruction.

The state Department of Education announced on Friday that online instruction would not count toward the 180 days of classroom time required by state law, denying a request from Gov. Whitmer to allow it.

And while it may seem trivial to talk sports right now, the Olympics are a massive economic engine, and that engine has been put in neutral for the time being.

U.S.A. Today reports that the International Olympic Committee has decided to postpone the 2020 Tokyo games with a new timeline to be set within the next four weeks.

The rescheduled games are likely to take place next year.

I.O.C. President Thomas Bach has ruled out cancelling the games, but he and the committee took the weekend to work out whether or not this year’s Olympiad would continue as planned.

Calls to postpone the games had been growing in recent weeks, with national teams and federations throwing their weight behind the idea as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded.

It is the first time the Olympics have been postponed. Games were cancelled during both world wars — those would be the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Olympiads. Boycotts also complicated things during the later Cold War era, but events continued as planned.