Helen McCauslin writes, “Our newspapers are filled these days with the news of the surge in Coronavirus cases requiring hospitalizations in local Michigan institutions. Three Rivers Health, the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency, and pharmacies are working daily to test and vaccinate against this evolving virus. Just a little over 100 years ago we faced a similar challenge in the Flu Epidemic of 1918. How prepared were we to care for the sick then?”

In Michigan, COVID-19 has translated to a 9.4% drop in the employment of women ages 20 and older. There were 213,000 fewer employed women in the state during the last three months of 2020 compared to the three months preceding the pandemic, the most recent data available, according to the state Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives’ assessment of numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Members of the Three Rivers Board of Education (BOE) heard 52 comments from the public at its online work session this week. Shortly after the start of Monday evening’s livestreamed evening, BOE Chair Erin Nowak read each previously submitted comment aloud to board members, Three Rivers Community Schools (TRCS) staff, and the public. All of the comments pertained to a BOE decision in February to again return to the hybrid instructional mode for middle and high school students.

In a reflection of statewide pressure to reopen winter athletic programs and other school activities, the Three Rivers Board of Education (BOE) adopted a resolution in support of lifting statewide restrictions that are currently in place. The resolution asks Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to approve restarting school winter athletic programs. BOE President Erin Nowak clarified that the resolution would not actually reopen Three Rivers Community Schools (TRCS) sports programs and other extracurricular activities, but instead would ask the state to lift restrictions.

Dates for reopening Three Rivers Community Schools buildings to students have changed following a Board of Education meeting Monday. Pre-K through fifth grade students will now begin attending school in person next Tuesday, January 19. Middle and high school students will return to hybrid learning as previously planned on Monday, January 25. However, they will now return to full face-to-face instruction two weeks later, on February 8. Also at Monday’s meeting, new school board members were welcomed, new officers were chosen, and Superintendent Ron Moag provided an update on current capital improvements.

WSV Columnist Steph Hightree writes, “Most of all, I have learned I never want to be a teacher, and that teaching is a thankless profession. We really need to give these teachers a little more grace and credit than we are giving them in this unprecedented time. Teaching in a normal environment is hard enough but teaching remotely during a pandemic? It’s nearly impossible.”

During a special meeting Monday, the Three Rivers Board of Education (BOE) voted to approve a plan to reopen schools to in-person and hybrid instruction on January 25. After discussion that continued from a previous meeting on December 7, BOE members decided not to approve a modification of the Three Rivers Community Schools’ (TRCS) “Return to Learn” (R2L) plan that would have continued all-virtual remote instruction for middle and high school students beyond the start of the next semester.

Beaver Lake Hunt Club General Manager Todd Reilly knew the pandemic meant that camaraderie shared during hunting could end in serious sickness and death for club members, especially considering many are older and susceptible to severe COVID-19 cases. As gravely ill patients flooded intensive care units and the death toll rose last spring, the manager knew he needed to protect his members and decided he’d close the facility’s lodge and kitchen this hunting season. While individuals couldn’t gather like they once had, they were still able to hunt there, and Reilly provided electric hookups for those who wanted to forgo a nearby motel room and instead set up a camper.

At a work session Monday evening, members of the Three Rivers Board of Education (BOE) and Three Rivers Community Schools (TRCS) administrators weighed options for returning to school following the New Year. After some discussion, the BOE tabled any final decisions on the matter pending a review and clarification of further options by administrators. Further discussion will take place at a special meeting next Monday, December 14, scheduled at 6 p.m. for the purpose of reviewing an annual TRCS budget audit.

More than a dozen U.S. House and Senate members are pushing for a bipartisan coronavirus relief package to aid struggling states and local governments and fund programs such as unemployment and rental assistance that are set to expire later this month. Among them are U.S. Reps. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), both members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.