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Marquette DDA moving forward with spring, summer events

MARQUETTE — As large public gatherings for the coming year remain uncertain, the Marquette Downtown Development Authority plans to move forward with its traditional lineup of spring and summer events, with modifications to protect the public and event vendors from contracting COVID-19.

Restaurant Week is the first event, slated to take place April 11-17, providing a great opportunity to support downtown restaurants in turbulent times. Restaurants that would like to participate in the weeklong event can register through March 17. Although restaurants are allowed to open at 25% capacity, the DDA strongly encourages ordering takeout during Restaurant Week. A complete lineup of participating restaurants and menus for Restaurant Week will be released in late March.

Music on Third, which allows local musicians to showcase their talents on Third Street throughout the summer, will take place for three consecutive months rather than four, with the DDA eliminating the traditional June date in hopes that the overall coronavirus situation has improved by then.

The three event nights will take place July 15, Aug. 19 and Sept. 16 and each will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The DDA says that musicians will be placed in locations along Third Street that will ensure ample room for spacing, and will ensure there is ample room for the public to pass by on the sidewalks.

One of the premier DDA events of the summer is the annual Blueberry Festival, set for July 30. The event on Washington Street draws thousands to the downtown area to browse a wide variety of art, merchandise, food and of course, blueberries from an array of vendors.

This year, the DDA says Blueberry Fest will be modified to make it safer for those who choose to attend. The DDA has chosen to forgo opening registration to outside merchandise vendors and crafters, which will allow downtown businesses and the public more room to social distance.

Lastly, the annual Classic Cars on Third car show is set for Aug. 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration will take place on the day of the event, and COVID-19 safety protocols will be strongly encouraged.

While the DDA is optimistic, it reminds the public that postponements and cancellations of these events are not out of the question.

“At all Marquette DDA events, we encourage those who attend to socially distance, to wear masks indoors or when in close contact with others while outside, to frequently wash or sanitize hands, and encourage those who feel unwell to stay home,” organizers said in a news release. “Public safety will remain the Marquette DDA’s top priority at any event they host. While they will make every effort to ensure these events will take place in a safe manner, decisions and occurrences beyond their control may prohibit them from going forward with an event, including limitations on the number of individuals who can gather at an outdoor event. The Marquette DDA will keep the public up to date with any cancellations that may happen due to restrictions because of COVID-19.

“The Marquette DDA will continue to keep a close eye on state and local regulations and make decisions about holding any event based on those decisions. The safety of the public is always (at the) forefront of any decision made by the Marquette DDA.”

UPHS partners with health department, local schools to vaccinate

UP Health System reported on Friday that nearly 90% of educators in Marquette County schools have been vaccinated or are scheduled for vaccination, according to a news release.

That impressive number comes as a result of a partnership between UPHS, the Marquette County Health Department and local school districts in an effort to get teachers vaccinated.

“Since the COVID-19 vaccine administration process began in December 2020, UP Health System – Marquette and UP Health System – Bell have been carefully following prioritization guidance from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the federal government, our state and our local health department,” UPHS stated in the release. “When educators in our area became eligible to receive the vaccine, our hospitals were proud to administer vaccinations to this priority group and help ensure that educators can safely continue their important work in the classroom.”

UPHS stated that the partnership has resulted in large-scale vaccination clinics for area educators, resulting in at least 88% of them successfully vaccinated or scheduled for vaccination. This is the highest percentage among educators in the state, according to a recent survey conducted by the Michigan Education Association.

“In November and December, COVID-19 cases were on the rise — paralleling some of the highest rates in the country — and there were real concerns with that,” Marquette Area Public Schools Superintendent Bill Saunders said. “Getting our teachers and staff vaccinated as soon as possible ensures the health and safety of our employees, as well as keeping our students safe in the classroom.”

Since the beginning of the school year on Sept. 8, MAPS has had a total of 51 confirmed COVID-19 cases with a district population of 3,300. Fourty-two of those were students while nine were MAPS staff members. Seven other cases were listed as probable.

As of Friday, MAPS currently has zero probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its schools.

Negaunee Public Schools, with a district population of 1,687, has reported 34 confirmed positive cases to date, 27 of those being students along with seven staffers. Eight students are listed as probable positives, and the district currently lists one active case on its COVID-19 reporting dashboard.

NICE Community Schools has reported 37 cumulative COVID-19 cases among its population of 1,350 since Sept. 28, with all recovered and zero new confirmed, positive or active cases as of Friday.

Gwinn Area Community Schools has also reported that the district has no active confirmed cases or probable cases as of Sunday, with 34 total cases since Sept. 28 in its population of 1,170.

Ishpeming Public Schools, with a district population of 640, has had 15 total cases since Sept. 8 with zero active cases as of Friday.

Lastly, North Star Academy has reported just one positive case in its school population of 260 since Sept. 8.

UPHS is continuing its mission of vaccinating teachers and other frontline essential workers within the community. It has also partnered with other community organizations, such as local police and fire departments, to ensure priority groups are able to receive vaccines as quickly and efficiently as possible, according to the release.

“I believe the overall success we’ve had with administering COVID-19 vaccinations is rooted in the strength of our partnerships at the local level, and our collaboration with the health department and local schools districts is just one great example of this,” said UPHS Market President Gar Atchison.

For more information about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available to you, visit https://www.mgh.org/covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccine-faq.

Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine receives FDA approval

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization from the United States Food and Drug Administration on Saturday, joining Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna on the list of FDA-approved vaccines.

The vaccine showed an efficacy rate of 72% during clinical trials, and the New York Times reported on Saturday that Johnson & Johnson hopes to distribute 100 million doses by the end of June.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement Saturday shortly after the vaccine received the green light from the FDA.

“This scientific breakthrough is terrific news for our families, frontline workers and small businesses who are eager to get vaccinated and continue our steady return to normalcy,” Whitmer said. “We now have a total of three safe, effective vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

“As supply continues increasing because of the efforts of the Biden administration, I am confident that we can reach our goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders (age) 16 and up at a rate of 50,000 shots per day, a metric we have been meeting in recent weeks. Our vaccine rollout will continue to focus on our most vulnerable, promote equity and prioritize our essential workers and older at-risk Michiganders. The addition of this one-and-done vaccine will help us get shots in arms quicker.

“I also want to call on the Michigan Legislature to pass the MI COVID Recovery Plan so we can use the over $5 billion allocated to us in a bipartisan bill to speed up our vaccination efforts and expand testing, tracing and lab capacity. Every day, week and month that goes by, we get closer to putting this virus behind us, but I want to remind everyone that we must not let our guard down. It will take time to widely distribute the three vaccines, and we must all continue to do our part by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and washing our hands frequently.”

Whitmer’s office also reported that the state has administered more than 2 million vaccines to date.

For the latest state coronavirus data and information, visit www.michigan.gov/coronavirus.

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