Anna Gustafson writes, “But it is that absence that has been so vital this year; it is that emptiness that has paved the way for life. Do not mistake this silence for a lack of numbers: Those of us who have followed the COVID-19 health orders coming from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) fill our state. And, now, after more than a year of listening to the scientists, wearing our masks and social distancing, life is moving towards something almost jarringly familiar, towards something that is beginning to remind us of the lives we were living some 14 months ago.”

Over the last two years, under the leadership of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Robert Gordon, Michigan made it easier to get and keep important benefits. The state now provides additional resources to low-income individuals, seeks to treat residents with respect and has reduced pointless complexity. Many challenges remain and the department’s new leader, Elizabeth Hertel, has an opportunity to accelerate these improvements.

DHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said the state “will continue to monitor the data to make decisions including three key metrics: case rates, percent positivity, and hospitalizations.” Sutfin said the DHHS’ goal “is to reengage while reducing public health risk, which is why we move slowly to maintain progress and momentum with thoughtful public health measures.”

Students at Three Rivers Middle and High Schools will resume full face-to-face instruction this Wednesday, Three Rivers Community Schools (TRCS) Superintendent Ron Moag said Monday. In a letter to parents, Moag said the move is the result of a change in the rate of recent, new cases of COVID-19 in St. Joseph County. The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ) provides TRCS with updated pandemic statistics on at least a weekly basis, and Moag announced the move upon receiving a BHSJ report Monday.