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Marquette area adapting to COVID-19 era

MARQUETTE — The community still is innovating as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Marquette Downtown Development Authority announced the launch of Digital Downtown Marquette, an online page dedicated to information on the status of downtown businesses during the stay-at-home mandate.

The page, downtownmarquette.org/digital-downtown-marquette/, allows the public to quickly find the status of a business, how to contact it, purchase items and discover if they’re able to purchase gift cards remotely.

The businesses report the information, which is updated as new information becomes available.

The page will be operational until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office lifts the current stay-at-home order.

Downtown businesses are encouraged to self-report their status, and update it any time changes in their operations are made.

A local publication also has had to change, at least temporarily.

NMU’s student newspaper, The North Wind, has adapted to an online-only format in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time printing of The North Wind has been suspended,” said editor-in-chief Isabelle Tavares in an NMU news release.

The North Wind typically is distributed on campus and in the Marquette community, but with Whitmer’s order and associated campus policies, more than half of the newspaper’s distributions no longer exist.

Its stories can be read on thenorthwindonline.com as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

NMU has helped the community too to help during the pandemic. It reported that after the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency reached out on behalf of the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, two entities stepped up.

Volunteer Scot Wheeler picked up donated medical supplies from NMU’s School of Clinical Lab Sciences, along with personal protective equipment and sanitizing supplies from NMU’s Jacobetti Complex. Donations included gloves, accordion masks, lab coats, surgical gowns, eye protection, hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and other items.

Help offered

The Michigan Department of Attorney General has established a Know Your Employment Rights section on the department’s website at Michigan.gov to provide information and answers to questions about the legal rights of employees and employers under Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.

The website also provides information on which types of employees are considered “critical infrastructure workers” under the order, and therefore permitted to work outside home, as well as frequently asked questions about employee rights and employer responsibilities, and suggested practices for law enforcement and prosecutors.

The Stay Home, Stay Safe order was issued to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the public health and welfare of Michigan residents. Willful violations of the order can result in a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail for each violation.

Builders group issues statement

The Home Builders Association of Michigan, in response to Whitmer’s determination that industries such as housing construction are not essential, issued a statement asking the governor to rethink that assessment and to consult with federal homeland security officials and her colleagues from around the United States in deciding whether to shut down builders and contractors.

“Twenty-three states including Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota declared the housing industry in their states essential,” said Bob Filka, CEO of the HBAM. “In places like Sparta, Michigan, however, builders are being told to vacate incomplete homes even if those structures pose health and safety hazards. This needs to be corrected.”

He said the HBAM appreciates the effort Whitmer has taken to protect human health and has advised its members to err on the side of caution while following the executive order.

While there is a need to clarify what is allowed under the current order, Filka stressed there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the homebuilding, renovation and repair industries function.

“You can’t declare three quarters of our industry non-essential and expect to have a ‘safety and repair’ side of the industry available to help people maintain and repair their homes,” Filka said. “The supply chain that feeds maintenance and repair activities also feeds the home construction and renovation markets. Without the latter functioning, the former can’t be sustained.

“Lumber yards, plumbing and electrical suppliers and others will be closing their doors if construction activity is not allowed. While we will obviously continue to direct our members to comply with the governor’s order, we are asking the Whitmer administration to modify her order as it relates to our industry.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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