After new orders were released from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, public gatherings and programs such as exercise classes at locations including the Helm at the Boll Life Center, pictured, are being put on hold for three weeks to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

After new orders were released from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, public gatherings and programs such as exercise classes at locations including the Helm at the Boll Life Center, pictured, are being put on hold for three weeks to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Photo provided by Peggy Hayes

Harper Woods institutions react to 3-week pause on public programs

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published November 17, 2020

HARPER WOODS — On Nov. 15, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued new emergency orders enacting a three-week period delaying indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an attempt to curb rapidly rising numbers of COVID-19 infections.

The restrictions went into effect Nov. 18. They included ordering restaurants to halt dine-in service. Indoor residential gatherings, which are capped at 10 people, can include no more than two households. Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 25 people. Entertainment facilities such as theaters, bowling alleys and indoor water parks are ordered to stay closed again. Gyms and pools can stay open but not offer group classes.

The city of Harper Woods said Nov. 16, just prior to press time, that it will be following these orders and closing city facilities to the public.

“We’re closing City Hall starting Wednesday and it will be closed indefinitely until we get other directives from the governor,” said acting City Manager John Szymanski. “We are looking at closing the library but keeping curbside services available. We want to keep services available, but we need to make sure we are following state protocols and keeping everyone safe. We will be sending out messages on our website, on and on our message board in front of the building to update people as the situation develops.”

According to the regulations, high schools and colleges must stop in-person classes and organized sports are suspended — including any football playoffs. However, kindergarten through eighth grade schools are allowed to continue on-site classes if their individual districts decide to do so.

Steven McGhee, the superintendent of Harper Woods Schools, said that the district is taking the virus very seriously and will be keeping its staff as well as its students home during the three-week period.

“The district was already in 100% virtual learning for students. Now, based off of the announcement from the governor, teachers will be teaching 100% virtual and that will be for the next three weeks, and then we will update and review for what we will do then,” he explained. “Teachers were previously reporting to work since September and teaching from their classroom even though the students were at home. Now everyone is at home for the time being.”

The district instituted virtual learning at the beginning of the school year, with some exceptions for trade classes, athletic programs and other extracurricular activities. Now, all such programs are temporarily suspended from taking place in person.

“The primary goal for Harper Woods Schools is that our students, families and staff are safe as we continue to provide quality education for all,” McGhee said. “We are watching to see what the governor and Department of Health and Human Services are saying and paying attention to make sure we are doing everything possible to flatten the curve of the virus’ spread.”

As of Nov. 14, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services had reported 7,072 new confirmed cases, bringing the total number to 251,813. The number of fatalities in the state rose by 65, for a total of 7,994 deaths.

The increased spread of the virus is especially threatening to the senior citizen population, since they can be more susceptible to it. Peggy Hayes, the executive director of the Helm at the Boll Life Center, which caters to senior citizens in the Harper Woods and Grosse Pointe communities, said employees are paying close attention to what medical professionals are advising and will be suspending more in-person programs as well for the three-week period ending Dec. 9.

“We’re still figuring out what we’re doing,” she remarked Nov. 16. “We are still following government guidance and following all the rules. We have a vulnerable population, so we’re very careful about what we do. We are taking a three-week pause on all exercise classes and gathering programs. We plan to pick everything back up Dec. 9. We had a bunch of plans coming up that will now have to start later.”

Essential programs that provide necessities to seniors will still be happening.

“We still are providing essential services such as delivering Meals on Wheels each week and doing carryout lunches, which we have done throughout the whole pandemic,” Hayes said. “We are still putting things out on the porch through the medical loan program, which provides things like wheelchairs or other equipment, instead of having people come inside the building.”

They will still be offering bus service through the Pointe Area Assisted Transportation Services on Fridays in November and December. Riders can be picked up at their homes and brought to their choices of five stores in the Gratiot Avenue shopping corridor: Walmart at 12 Mile Road and Gratiot, Meijer at 13 Mile Road and Little Mack Avenue, Kroger at 13 Mile Road and Little Mack, Macomb Mall at Masonic and Gratiot, and Target on Gratiot north of 14 Mile Road.

“The transportation program is done through a different agency, SMART, so it’s not up to us,” said Hayes. “We will still be doing our part in a safe manner, since this allows seniors to go to things like doctors’ appointments or the grocery store.”

Riders must wear masks and reservations must be made at least two days ahead of time. Riders must be residents of Harper Woods or the Grosse Pointes and be at least 60 years of age or disabled. For more details and to arrange a ride, call (313) 343-2580.

She also said collections for gift baskets for homebound seniors will continue, although donations should be dropped off rather than anyone coming into the building. Items needed include nonperishable food, personal-sized hand sanitizer, large print puzzle books and monetary donations to purchase items.

“The homebound seniors collection is still being done, since people can just drop things off,” Hayes said. “We will be sanitizing anything that gets brought in, and it won’t be distributed until well into December anyway.”

The Helm is located at 158 Ridge Road in Grosse Pointe Farms and can be contacted at (313) 882-9600.