Thousands respond to vaccination pre-registration

MARQUETTE — As of late Tuesday, over 4,700 Marquette County residents have responded to the COVID-19 vaccination pre-registration system.

The Marquette County Health Department announced that the system for individuals age 65 and over launched at 10 a.m. Monday, and will continue to be available either online at mqthealth.org or by phone at 906-475-7847 until further notice.

Phone lines will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday for those who need assistance or who do not have internet access.

Individuals who have registered online will receive email confirmation, although the MCHD noted some people have reported the confirmation was sent to junk mailboxes.

Phone calls from the MCHD begin today for Thursday appointments, with about 400 slots available. Staff will contact registrants based on their place on the list using online and phone registrations.

Individuals who have registered are urged to pay attention for a phone call from 906-475-9977 or a similar number. The MCHD will not leave messages but will make two attempts to call. The names of people who miss a call will be remain on the list for the next round of appointments.

Vaccine allotments, the health department said, have remained inconsistent, but more information about future clinics will be released once it becomes available.

Food access continues

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday highlighted actions her administration has taken during the pandemic to provide access to food for residents whose finances have been affected by the coronavirus.

“Our philosophy is that no one should have to worry about putting food on the table for their families — especially during a pandemic,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Michiganders need access to nutritious food to keep them healthy so they can succeed in the economy and realize their dreams, and so their children can excel in school and achieve their full potential.”

Last spring Michigan was the first state to provide food benefits to children who could no longer take advantage of free and reduced-price lunches because they were staying home due to COVID-19, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It became one of the first states to deliver increased monthly food assistance to families that were not already receiving maximum monthly benefits for their household sizes.

Michigan also took action to prevent people from losing their food assistance during the pandemic, allowed them to use their benefits to buy food online, and provided the benefits to eligible college students enrolled in Career and Technical Education programs through a partnership involving MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

As of fiscal year 2019, one in eight Michigan residents received food assistance. Whitmer’s Michigan COVID Recovery Plan provides more support for families through food assistance so more Michiganders can afford to put food on the table for themselves and their families.

“Every day MDHHS staff in local offices from Southeast Michigan to the Upper Peninsula work to provide residents with access to food through SNAP benefits,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement.

In May, more than 1.5 million Michiganders received more than $263 million in benefits from the Food Assistance Program. That was up from fewer than 1.2 million people who received more than $137 million in February, prior to the first COVID-19 cases being identified in Michigan.

The Pandemic-EBT program that helped feed nearly 900,000 children who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at school accounted for a significant portion of the increase. EBT stands for electronic benefit transfer.

MDHHS quickly applied for and received federal approval for the program, making Michigan the first state to offer Pandemic-EBT. The benefits were available in March, April, May and June. MDHHS partnered with the Michigan Department of Education and is awaiting federal approval of renewed Pandemic-EBT benefits.

Other actions that Whitmer and MDHHS took to address food insecurity during COVID-19 include:

≤ Starting the Restaurant Meals Program, through which aging adults, residents with disabilities and homeless people can use their food assistance to get hot prepared meals at participating restaurants. The program also helps an industry that has been negatively impacted by COVID-19;

≤ Forming a Food Security Council that has made recommendations that are being implemented to address food insecurity;

≤ Providing home-delivered meals to older adults through Michigan’s aging network. More than 46,000 people received more than 6.4 million home-delivered meals from March through September 2020, an 8% increase in the number of meals;

≤ Providing home-delivered meals to older adults through Michigan’s aging network while congregate dining sites were closed during the pandemic. More than 37,000 congregate meal participants received more than 1.6 million home-delivered meals during fiscal year 2020;

≤ Distributing 47,600 quarantine boxes of 20 meals each to adults 60 and over through Area Agencies on Aging, as well as arranging for 115,428 USDA-produced boxes to be distributed to older adult by the local agencies; and

≤ Distributing 230,000 USDA Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers to allow older adults to get local, fresh fruit and produce.

MDHHS also implemented a 15% increase supported by Whitmer and MDHHS and secured by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, in the recently enacted Coronavirus Relief Act.

This will increase food assistance benefits by $102 per month for a household of four for six months.

To apply for food assistance or other public assistance benefits, go to www.Michigan.gov/MIBridges.

New home permits


Residential permit data, compiled by the Home Builders Association of Michigan from U.S. Census Bureau reporting, shows a total of 13,551 single-family home permits issued across Michigan from January through November 2020.

A total of 1,213 permits were issued in November, which is nearly 23% higher than November 2019 with 987. The 10,451 permits issued from May through November outpaced the 10,060 permits — an increase of nearly 4% — issued during the same timeframe in 2019.

In early March, the issuance of the initial “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, combined with the mandatory suspension of nearly all construction activity, essential brought new home permits to a halt, the HBAM said. Through April, a limited number of municipalities continued working remotely, and issued permits, although they were few in number. Residential construction activity resumed work under strict COVID-19 safety guidelines in May.

In December 2019, HBAM forecast 16,129 new single-family home permits. It revised its forecast in July to 13,556 permits for calendar year 2020 because of the effects of shutdowns related to COVID-19.

With only December remaining, HBAM CEO Bob Filka indicated that over 14,000 permits will be issued in 2020.

HBAM said seasonal slowdowns are expected in permit activity for new homes from December to February before a sharp upward trend in April. With mortgage rates are historic lows in addition to rates remaining low well into 2022, HBAM is forecasting 16,017 SFH permits to be issued this year, presuming there is a post-pandemic “return to normal.”

NMU updates numbers

Northern Michigan University’s COVID-19 reporting dashboard, found at nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/dashboard, showed there were 35 winter semester COVID-19 positive cases between Jan. 4 and Tuesday — 23 off-campus students, seven on-campus students and five employees.

As of Tuesday, there were 18 active positive cases that involve 10 off-campus students, seven on-campus students and one employee.

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


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