After remaining steady at 11 since late summer, the St. Joseph County death count due to the COVID-19 virus now stands at 15. One death occurred the week before last according to comments last week by Rebecca Burns, Health Officer with the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ). Three more deaths were added to BHSJ’s online statistics early this week.

The Glen Oaks Community College (GOCC) Board of Trustees held a planning retreat and regular meeting Thursday morning at the college. President Dr. David Devier and other administrators and staff provided updates on pandemic cases and measures at the college, as well as on several student funding programs provided with assistance from the State of Michigan. Devier also said Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the college’s 2021 budget at flat funding.

Superintendent Ron Moag said a recent masking policy for all students and staff will remain in place at all Three Rivers Community Schools (TRCS) buildings. At a Board of Education (BOE) work session Monday evening, Moag said state agencies like the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continue to require them despite a Friday Michigan Supreme Court Decision pertaining to the legal legitimacy of pandemic-related Executive Orders from the Governor’s Office.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday ruled that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not possess the legal authority under two laws to extend states of emergency and issue executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whitmer said after 21 days, a number of health and safety protocols she has mandated will continue under “alternative sources of authority that were not at issue” in Friday’s ruling.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues with an uptick in cases in St. Joseph County and elsewhere in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to issue orders that modify or add to existing orders regarding mask use. In light of the tighter rules, Watershed Voice spoke with some local law enforcement officials to find out how they are treating mask usage around Three Rivers and St. Joseph County.

“Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been trying to stay in front of this pandemic and is making decisions based on our safety, the constituents of her state. Requesting supplies from the federal government, closing schools, and issuing stay-at-home orders are all part of an attempt to flatten the curve on this deadly virus, and will save lives if done correctly. Her decision to extend the stay-at-home orders and to create more stringent rules are not because she has decided to be a dictator, nor are they because she is trying to become Joe Biden’s running mate.

“It’s because we as residents of this state were not making intelligent decisions.”