Flint Township View

State of emergency amid coronavirus pandemic has local ramifications

Cancellation of events, classes and procedural changes begin to mount


GENESEE COUNTY – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency declaration last week has led to several changes, cancellations and other disruptions locally as officials work to head off spread of the COVID -19 virus.

Michigan officials announced March 10 two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the state with patients reported in Oakland and Wayne counties.

Following that announcement, public universities around the state began announcing cancellation of in-person classes. Most are offering online classes through the end of March and some into April.  Most have cancelled major events.

The University of Michigan-Flint have cancelled classes through April 21 and will be resuming in another format (not in-person) soon. All housing and dining remain open while the university is cancelling all events of 100 or more people. International travel for the university and study abroad programs is suspended until April 21.

At Mott Community College in Flint, President Beverly Walker-Griffea said March 12 the college is still determining what it will do about classes, but it has cancelled all meetings, sporting events or gatherings of 100 people or more through the end of April.

Concerns about the spread of the virus have also affected the Sloan Museum and Longway Planetarium.

Both are currently open to the public, and officials there said they will continue to closely monitor the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus outbreak via the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

The museum and planetarium released a statement March 12 stating they have developed a response plan that prioritizes the health and safety of both staff and visitors.

They are currently taking the following precautions:

They will continue to disinfect all hands-on exhibits, classrooms, and other high-touch areas daily, and will increase frequency of cleaning.

Hand sanitizer dispensers are available for visitors in the traveling exhibits and family play area at Sloan Museum at Courtland Center Mall, as well as in the lobby and classrooms at Longway Planetarium. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer are available to employees in all work environments.

Nitrile gloves are provided for staff who regularly interact with cash, exhibit props, and hands-on programs.

All sick employees should remain home. Any employees becoming sick during the workday should notify their supervisor and go home immediately. Paid sick time is available to all employees during the Coronavirus outbreak.

All work-related air and mass transit travel has been suspended.

The statement goes on to say the Sloan Museum at Courtland Center Mall and Longway Planetarium would close to the public if all Genesee County school districts close due to COVID-19 or federal, state or local governments recommend all public venues close.

At this time, Sloan Museum and Longway Planetarium will remain open with normal operating hours and shows and events will continue as scheduled.

“In times of stress, it’s important to continue doing activities we enjoy with family and friends,” the statement said. “As you continue to look to Sloan Museum and Longway Planetarium for fun learning experiences with science and history, we ask that you take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of illness, as you would in a normal flu season. This includes frequent hand-washing, maintaining social distance, and coughing or sneezing into your elbow. We ask that you stay home if you’re not feeling well so you can recover quickly.”

The Whiting and the Capitol Theatre have suspended all events and performances convening 100 people or more for the next 30 days (April 11).

Patrons will be notified via email and website postings no later than March 20 with information regarding which performances will be rescheduled and which canceled. Additional information regarding ticket exchanges and ticket donation options for any presentations that result in cancellation will also be available.

Coronavirus concerns have also caused staff at the Genesee County Jail to implement COVID-19 screening measures for inmates of the jail.

Interim Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said the new protocols are in effect immediately and are measures to protect the staff, inmate population and the community identified by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Anyone entering the main jail is to have one point of entry, which is the main entrance. This includes staff, visitors, volunteers and contractors.

Each individual will be screened with a series of questions, depending on their responses, a digital temperature will be taken.

Should anyone show signs of illness, they will be directed immediately to a medical facility for further screening.

This protocol also applies to the Flint City Lockup with one point of entry being the #2 door just outside the service elevators.

Finally, all inmates that are currently housed, as well as additional inmates coming into the facility, will be screened by Corizon.

“This is potentially the first stage of our long-term response,” said Swanson.

The Genesee County’s Emergency Response Team is preparing for the coronavirus’ potential arrival in the county.

Although no cases have been confirmed in Genesee County, the Response Team was activated to provide the most current information to its residents, businesses, and employees.

“Our team will continue to meet on a daily basis and is prepared to make decisions based on current recommendations and changing conditions,” said Genesee County’s Health Officer, John McKellar.

The Genesee County Health Department is in close communication with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as other local health organizations in order to protect the public and to help us respond properly if the situation changes.