COVID, vaccines on council’s mind as 2021 begins

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 13, 2021


STERLING HEIGHTS — The coronavirus and next November’s city election are two big topics on city officials’ minds as 2021 begins.

For Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor, the biggest issue “first and foremost” for the new year is COVID-19.

He said in an interview that that includes preparation to help the county distribute vaccines, taking care of first responders and helping the city weather the pandemic’s financial storm.

“There’s still a pandemic out there. There’s still a state of emergency in Sterling Heights, and it’s something that occupies every single day of our time.”

Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool said at a Jan. 5 meeting that the city’s locally declared emergency grants it flexibility to sometimes streamline changes for things such as businesses’ outdoor tents without having to go through a months-long process.

He added that Sterling Heights had 284 deaths related to COVID-19 through Dec. 30, 2020.

“Hopefully, this number will start to come down, of course, with vaccinations that, obviously, everyone hopes is a long-term solution,” he said.

Vanderpool said that, under phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan, all Sterling Heights firefighter/paramedics have recently had the opportunity to get vaccinated for the disease. Vanderpool added that the Police Department would fall into phase 1B, which he expected to begin in a month or so.

At the end of the Jan. 5 meeting, Councilwoman Maria Schmidt and Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski asked Vanderpool where people such as educators and court workers fall within the vaccination schedule, and Vanderpool said he would get back with them to confirm.

As of Jan. 8, the Macomb County Health Department said on its website that it is scheduling vaccines for school employees, law enforcement and correctional officers, and all municipal employees. It also listed paramedics and EMS workers, home health and hospice workers, child care workers, homeless shelter workers, adult/child protective services workers, health care workers who deal with patients, and residents over 65 years old.

Taylor also noted that 2021 is an election year. He predicted the probability of a “record level of participation both from candidates and from voters” following the passage of two local ballot initiatives that extend City Council terms to four years while lowering the signature threshold to get on the ballot to 400 votes.

He also said the city has many road projects scheduled, and — while it’s merely a possibility at this point — he hopes that the city can have a more typical summer with events such as the Music in the Park summer concert series and the Dodge Park Farmers Market. The city canceled the former last year, and it delayed and scaled back the latter.

“That’s still a long ways off, but we need to start planning soon. It’s still a possibility,” he said.  “As we start 2021, there still is just a whole lot of uncertainty about this upcoming year.”

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