Local News Archives

SMC Nursing Graduate Recovering From COVID-19

A Southwestern Michigan College nursing graduate is at home recovering after a bout with COVID-19. MaryBeth Seal’s resume includes being a healthcare provider, author, speaker, and lifeguard, and now, coronavirus survivor. She says she’d been home sick for eight days struggling with asthma symptoms, a low fever, chills, and fatigue when she spoke to her doctor and was advised to go to the emergency room. It wasn’t long before she was on a ventilator in the hospital. Seal says she has no idea how she got the coronavirus, and although she’s active and in good shape, she does suffer from asthma, likely contributing to the severity of her case. After being released from a hospital in Marshall on April 14, Seal is in quarantine and recovering. The Buchanan High School grad attended SMC’s nursing program starting in 1984.. ...Read Full Story

County Commissioner Warns Of Decreased Revenue

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is going to have to brace itself for a substantial cut in funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So says Commissioner Ezra Scott, who told the board on Thursday’s he’s been told by a rep of state Senator Kim LaSata’s office Michigan is already looking at a $6 billion shortfall. That’s going to mean less revenue sharing for the counties. Scott urged everyone to keep that in mind.. ...Read Full Story

Bangor Company Producing PPE

Barber Packaging in Bangor is now making personal protective equipment for front line medical workers and other essential personnel. The company has made industrial packaging for the auto industry since 1989. President Luke Barber says when the COVID-19 crisis started, the state called on businesses to retool, and that’s just what Barber has done. They’re making face shields.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Urges Congress To Support Full, Continuous Funding For PPP

Congressman Fred Upton is calling for the federal Paycheck Protection Program to extended as long as it’s needed. He and 73 other members of the U.S. House have signed a letter to the Congressional leadership saying Congress must “remove arbitrary funding barriers by having a plan to fully fund the PPP, at an appropriate level.” Upton tells WSJM News the first two rounds of PPP funding have shown there’s a will in Washington to keep the program going.. ...Read Full Story

Cause Of Fire At Former Deer Forest Under Investigation

A building on the property of what used to be Deer Forest in Coloma has been completely destroyed by a fire. North Berrien Fire Rescue was called out just before 10 p.m. Thursday to the property at 5400 Marquette Drive. The fire was under control within 45 minutes, but the building is a total loss. Firefighters had some trouble getting to the scene because of two large gates that were locked. There’s no cause known yet for the fire, and the scene was cleared just after 1 a.m. Friday. Deer Forest closed in 2014 amid a federal investigation into the treatment of the animals at the park after having been open since 1949.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Cases Statewide Rise To 36,641; Berrien County At 210

The number of new coronavirus cases for Friday stands at 1,350, with the state now having 36,641 cases. A total of 3,085 deaths are linked to the pandemic, a rise of 108 from Thursday. In southwest Michigan, Berrien County is now over 200 cases at 210, an increase of 21, with the number of deaths remaining at 11. Cass County is up by two cases to 25 with two deaths, and Van Buren County’s number has fallen for the second straight day by one to 34 with two deaths. The statewide fatality rate from COVID-19 is 8%, with the youngest being five and the oldest at 107-years-old.. ...Read Full Story

Baroda Man Arrested For Shooting At Couple Outside His Home

A 52-year-old Baroda man is in the Berrien County Jail on multiple felony charges after a shooting Friday morning at his home. The Baroda-Lake Township Police Department says he got into an argument with a man and a woman who were outside the home and fired three shots at them from inside. Two went into a van and one bullet went into the ground, and the two were not hurt. The shooting happened around 11 a.m. in the 88-hundred block of Stevensville-Baroda Road.. ...Read Full Story

County Board Gets COVID-19 Update

We’re going to be staying six feet apart, wearing masks, and washing our hands frequently for a lot longer. That was the message from Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners this week. She said if things reopen on May 1, it’s not going to be like flipping a light switch, but more like a dimmer switch.. ...Read Full Story

State Partnering With Over 200 Financial Institutions To Give Homeowners 90-Day Grace Period On Mortgage Payments

More than 200 financial institutions in Michigan are on board with a new program to help people hold on to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Whitmer on Thursday announced the creation of the MiMortgage Relief Partnership, and United Federal Credit Union vice president of mortgage lending Brett Wier says it’s needed and will provide a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments.. ...Read Full Story

County Board Asks Governor To Ease Some Restrictions

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to revise her executive orders that shut down the state to allow for regional flexibility. The board on Thursday approved a letter to be sent to the governor stating its support for allowing workers in occupations that can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and socially distance to go back to work. Board Chair Mac Elliott read that Berrien’s position along a state line gives it unique challenges as a county.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan COVID-19 Cases Spike; Third Straight Day Of Increases In New Positive Tests

After being under 1,000 for about a week, Michigan’s number of new COVID-19 cases has jumped by 1,325 to 35,291. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the number of deaths has risen by 164 to 2,977, but adds there are 55 deaths being reported that had previously not been linked to COVID-19. Locally, Berrien County is up to 189 cases with 11 deaths, Cass County is at 23 cases with two deaths, and Van Buren County has 35 cases with two deaths. Berrien’s total is up by 12, Cass is unchanged, and Van Buren County’s number is down by one from Tuesday. The Berrien County Health Department says 113 people in the county have recovered.. ...Read Full Story

KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship Donate $15,000 To Spectrum Health Lakeland Fund

The volunteer corps of the 2020 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship has donated more than $15,000 to the Spectrum Health Lakeland COVID-19 Response Fund. The PGA tells us more than 130 volunteers donated their uniform package fee to benefit Spectrum Health Lakeland rather than take a refund after the championship was canceled. Spectrum Health Lakeland CEO Loren Hamel says “the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who chose to donate their volunteer package fees toward Lakeland’s COVID-19 Response Fund is truly inspirational.” The Spectrum Health Lakeland COVID-19 Response Fund was established to support unexpected healthcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.. ...Read Full Story

Upton, Problem Solvers, Release Reopening Check List

Congressman Fred Upton hopes the nation can reopen itself for business safely as many states start pulling back from COVID-19 restrictions. Upton’s Problems Solvers Caucus this week released its Reopening and Recovery “Back to Work” Checklist. He tells WSJM News the Problem Solvers held several conference calls to iron out what issues need to be addressed.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Wednesday

Michigan is reporting 999 additional cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the total number of cases statewide is up to 33,966. There have been 113 additional deaths from Tuesday with that total statewide now at 2,813. Berrien County is reporting seven new cases and one additional death. Berrien has had a total of 177 cases and eleven deaths. Cass County is reporting 23 cases, and increase of one from Tuesday. Cass County has had one death from COVID-19. Van Buren County is reporting two new cases, bringing its total to 36 cases and two deaths. The overall fatality rate of coronavirus in Michigan is 8%.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Lakeland CEO Talks COVID-19

Spectrum Health Lakeland CEO Dr. Loren Hamel continues to urge everyone to keep themselves and others healthy by constantly washing hands, observing social distancing, and staying home as often as possible to limit the spread of coronavirus. Hamel joined WSJM’s Jim Gifford Wednesday morning to talk about the situation locally, and says they currently have 14 patients hospitalized.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Housing Market Posts Solid Numbers For March Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to show up in the area’s housing market, but not fully just yet. The biggest impact is in the inventory of homes for sale in the area, which has fallen slightly from last year. The numbers for March are out from the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors, showing the number of homes sold in March was up by 4% over a year ago with 244 homes sold, but year-to-date, the sales are down by 5% from the first quarter of 2019.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Postpones Vote On Improvement Plan

It’ll be at least another week before the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education votes on the district turnaround plan drafted by its Community Engagement and Advisory Committee. The board was set to vote on the plan during a virtual meeting Tuesday, but it was noted trustees and Superintendent Andrae Townsel have made adjustments to the committee’s recommendations. Townsel cited an example.. ...Read Full Story

Boys And Girls Club To Receive Earth Day Grant From Heart Of Cook

A $5,000 grant has been awarded to the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor by the Heart of Cook program for Earth Day activities. The Heart of Cook is run by employees of the Cook nuclear power plant. It supports a wide variety of community projects each year, but this is the first Earth Day Environmental Grant Award it’s announced, The Boys and Girls Club was selected to be the recipient because it was planning several Earth Day educational programs for this year. Although they’re now on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club plans to set up environmental science stations, a permanent water quality exhibit, raised garden beds, and other environmental education programs when the pandemic is over. Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor CEO Brian Saxton says they’re thrilled o get support from the Heart of Cook despite having to postpone the Earth Day celebration.. ...Read Full Story

Small Business Association Of Michigan Encouraged By Governor Whitmer’s Comments On Reopening Economy

The leadership of the Small Business Association of Michigan is encouraged by what they’re hearing from Governor Gretchen Whitmer concerning how her administration has responded to COVID-19 and her plans to safely reopen the economy. In joining SBAM for their daily briefing on Tuesday, Whitmer cautioned the recovery and reopening will be slow.. ...Read Full Story

Bronson Healthcare Announces COVID-19 Recovery Plan

Bronson Healthcare is cutting its CEO’s salary by 25% as it prepares to attempt a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The health system says other corporate employees are also getting pay cuts, company contributions to retirement accounts will stop for the rest of the year, and some non-clinical staff will be put on 16 week furloughs. Bronson says it’s taken a substantial financial hit from the coronavirus. It’s expecting community spread of the illness to continue through the fall, rather than to surge in the spring, assuming people practice social distancing. Based off that model, Bronson says it’s starting to ramp up surgeries and other procedures within the scope of the governor’s orders with a goal of having the hospitals back to 100% by September.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County COVID-19 Deaths Rise To 10

Two more people in Berrien County have lost their lives to COVID-19. The latest numbers from the state show Berrien County’s total cases are now at 170, up by six from Monday, with a total of 10 deaths. Cass County’s total cases have stayed at 22 since Friday with one death. Van Buren County has one new case, rising to 34 with two deaths. Statewide, the number of new cases is up by 967 from Monday to 32,967 with a total of 2,700 who have died. The number of deaths in the state is up by 232.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Proceeding Cautiously With Next Fiscal Year’s Budget

The city of South Haven is moving forward with its budget proposal for the coming fiscal year as it was worked out prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. City Manager Brian Dissette says they presented that idea to the city council this week. He says they advised them to accept the budget in its current format, accepting there will likely be “a series of amendments to the budget document as we truly understand the impacts of the health crisis, and then can better understand the potential for an economic slowdown,” Dissette tells WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Urging Protesters To Safely Demonstrate

Another protest of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order is planned for this week around the Capitol. Last week, thousands drove in from all over the state, and some left their vehicles and gathered in close proximity to each other on the Capitol lawn, violating social distancing guidelines. Whitmer says those actions compromised the health of people around Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Late State Senator Harry Gast Is St. Joseph Public School Foundation’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni Winner

The St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni of the Year is former state Senator Harry Gast. A member of the class of 1938, he died in 2015 at the age of 94. Congressman Fred Upton was among those nominating Gast for the honor, saying he “exemplified what it means to be a public servant,” adding the senator “never forgot those he represented” and added while he could be blunt, “you could never question his motives as he put our corner of the state on the map.” He began his political career in the 1950s, serving as township supervisor, township treasurer, and a school board member before being elected to the state House in 1970. Gast was elected to the Senate in 1978, and served until 2002. For 18 years, he served as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Room in the Capitol is named for him. Part of M-63 north of St. Joseph was named the Harry Gast Parkway in 2008.. ...Read Full Story

New Berrien County Treasurer Appointed

Berrien County has a new treasurer. Shelly Weich of Baroda has been appointed to the post and will serve the rest of the term of former Treasurer Bret Witkowski, which runs through December 31. Weich has been the Chief Deputy Treasurer for the past dozen years. She was selected by the Berrien County Treasurer Appointment Committee after the panel decided given the state of emergency, filing deadlines, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to make an appointment rather than go through the full application review and interview process. They also determined that due to the pandemic and social distancing, it would be difficult to train someone with no experience in the office. Witkowski left the position three weeks ago for a private sector job with Abonmarche. Weich will be eligible to run for a full term in November.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor To Provide Hand Sanitizer, PPE To Residents

The city of Benton Harbor is giving out personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to residents thanks to $250,000 in federal funds it’s receiving through the CARES Act. During a Monday virtual meeting, Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the city will buy hand sanitizer, N95 masks, and gloves for all residents. City Manager Ellis Mitchell said those items are not easy to come by.. ...Read Full Story

Federal Judge Delays Filing Deadline For Michigan Candidates

From the Associated Press — A federal judge has delayed a deadline for Michigan candidates to file petitions to qualify for the ballot. U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg on Monday cited the state’s stay-at-home order that’s in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. The deadline was Tuesday, but it has been pushed back 17 days to May 8. Berg says candidates can collect half as many signatures as normal, and they can gather them by email instead of getting a physical signature. The ruling is a victory for Eric Esshaki, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District in suburban Detroit.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Conservation District Gets $413,000 Grant To Reduce Runoff

The Van Buren Conservation District has been awarded a $413,000 grant to help prevent runoff into waterways. Watershed coordinator Erin Fuller tells WSJM News the funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will be used to reduce nutrient and pathogen runoff in Pine and Mill Creeks, which are both tributaries of the Paw Paw River. The Van Buren Conservation District will work with farmers on methods of reducing the runoff.. ...Read Full Story

Some Need To Take Additional Action to Get Stimulus Payments

The federal government is distributing financial relief to Michiganders during the COVID-19 pandemic through stimulus checks. However, some people need to take action to ensure they get their payments. Households without a federal tax filing requirement will not automatically receive the payment unless they file a 2018 or 2019 tax return. At Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency, Kerry Lenaghan-Baughman says there are IRS-certified volunteers who can help with tax preparation virtually or over the phone, or answer questions about the stimulus checks.. ...Read Full Story

Meal Packages To Be Delivered To Seniors In SWM, Volunteers Sought

Boxes of food are being delivered to senior citizens around southwest Michigan thanks to a state program and the Region IV Area Agency on Aging. The agency’s Christine Vanlandingham tells WSJM News the state has bought 10,000 Quarantine Boxes, also known as Q Boxes, to get out to seniors who are sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each box contains non-perishable food that could be used to prepare 22 meals.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Monday

The state of Michigan is reporting 576 new cases of COVID-19 for Monday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there have been 77 additional deaths from Sunday to Monday. The total number of cases is now 32,000, and the total number of deaths from COVID-19 statewide is 2,468. Berrien County is reporting 164 cases, up six from Sunday. The county’s deaths remain at eight. Cass County’s COVID-19 case total has stayed at 22 since Friday. The county has had one death. Van Buren County is reporting 33 cases of COVID-19, up one from Sunday. Van Buren County has had two deaths from the coronavirus.. ...Read Full Story

State House Republicans Unveil “Michigan’s Comeback Roadmap”

Majority Republicans in the state House are out with their plan to start to reopen the state’s economy. Theirs is a three-step approach, a little different from the five-phase plan released last week by Senate Republicans. The House plan would start with a transition to “a risk-based, regional approach” with the metro Detroit areas of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties designated the highest risk. Those would remain under Governor Whitmer’s current “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order but without current restrictions on retailers above 50,000 square feet. Other counties would be designated as “heightened risk” and have the same restrictions as the high-risk areas with some exceptions. Those would be to relax travel restrictions between homes, but continue to urge people to eliminate non-essential travel; allow for remote and curbside sales by businesses; relax the ban on elective and outpatient healthcare procedures so long as there’s enough testing for COVID-19 and PPE for workers; and reduce restrictions on outdoor activities while still being in compliance with social distancing rules.. ...Read Full Story

Donate Convalescent Plasma

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and have fully recovered, you may be able to help current patients with life-threatening COVID-19 infections by donating plasma.

As a result of your infection, your plasma now contains COVID-19 antibodies, which is one way your immune system fought the virus when you were sick. Your plasma is now known as convalescent plasma.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Sunday

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting an additional 633 cases of COVID-19 around the state for Sunday. It’s also reporting 83 additional deaths. In total, the state has recorded 31,424 coronavirus cases and 2,391 deaths. In southwest Michigan, Berrien County is reporting 158 cases of COVID-19, an increase of four from Saturday. The county has had eight deaths from the illness. The Berrien County Health Department says 83 patients have recovered. Cass County cases have remained at 22 since Friday. The county has had one COVID-19 death. Van Buren County is reporting 32 cases, an increase of one from Saturday. The county has had two deaths. The overall fatality rate for COVID-19 around Michigan is 8%.. ...Read Full Story

Man Killed While Working On Vehicle

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says a Niles man is dead after an accident while he was working on a vehicle. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the 1,100 block of Huntly Road in Howard Township around 5 p.m. on Friday on a report of a person pinned on the ground. They learned 45-year-old Kenneth Charles Horner Jr. had been working on a vehicle when the jack supporting it failed and he was pinned. When people at the home found him, they lifted the vehicle, pulled him out, and performed CPR until EMS arrived. Horner was then taken to Lakeland Hospital in Niles where he died from his injuries. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department was assisted in the investigation by SMCAS Ambulance, the Howard Township Fire Department, and Michigan State Police.. ...Read Full Story

Highway Project To Start Monday Near New Buffalo

A highway project is scheduled to get started on Monday near New Buffalo. The Michigan Department of Transportation says crews will be completing the resurfacing of more than two miles of I-94 from the Michigan-Indiana state line to M-239. It’s a carry-over project from 2019. The $9.5 million investment includes guardrail, culvert repair and replacement, and reconstruction under the bridges. The project is intended to extend the life of the road and increase surface friction, making for a safer drive. During Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay at home order, there will be daytime double-lane closures. After the executive order is lifted, there will be daytime single-lane closures and nighttime double-lane closures. The project is slated to be finished in early June.. ...Read Full Story

State Releases COVID-19 Totals For Saturday

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting 768 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 for Saturday, and 81 additional deaths. The total number of cases in Michigan is now 30,791 with a total of 2,308 deaths. Berrien County is reporting 154 cases of COVID-19, up ten from Friday, while the number of deaths in the county is unchanged from Friday at eight. The Berrien County Health Department says 76 have recovered. Cass County is unchanged from Friday with 22 cases and one death total. Van Buren County is reporting three new cases of coronavirus, bringing its total to 31. Van Buren County has had two COVID-19 deaths total. The overall COVID-19 fatality rate in Michigan remains 7%.. ...Read Full Story

$375,000 Grant To Help Improve Forests Going To SWM Land Conservancy

A grant of $375,000 has been awarded to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and four regional partners to help improve the health of damaged forests. The SWMLC, Ottawa County Parks, the Nature Conservancy of Michigan, Chikaming Open Lands, and the Shirley Heinze Land Trust were selected for the grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund. The SWMLC says over the course of two years the group plans to plant more than 40,000 trees, using species and creating forest habitats that can better adapt to climate change and invasive species. Over the next two years, the partners will also work to improve forest health and plant new forests across nature preserves and county parks spanning over 70 miles from northwest Indiana to the Grand River in west Michigan. Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy Stewardship Director Mitch Lettow says weather and other conditions in recent years have damaged many forests. He pointed to the Wau-Ke-Na, William Erby Smith Preserve in Fennville, which has been hit hard by the Emerald ash borer and heavy spring rains.. ...Read Full Story

Drive Collecting Food For Seniors During Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak is amplifying the usual barriers to food access in Michigan, and older residents are especially vulnerable. That’s why the Food Bank Council of Michigan and Area Agencies on Aging are partnering to distribute “Quarantine Food Boxes” to food-insecure seniors who need to shelter in place to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Dr. Dawn Opel with the Food Bank Council of Michigan says older adults may not be able to rely on their traditional family support.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Whitmer Urging Michiganders To Seek Mental Health Help When Needed

The focus has been on physical and social distancing and flattening the curve regarding COVID-19, but Governor Gretchen Whitmer is acknowledging this is having an impact beyond that, and she knows people are struggling. In her briefing Friday, she announced the Stay Home, Stay Mindful website in partnership with Headspace, a global leader in mindfulness and meditation. Whitmer says people need to know that if they need help, it is available.. ...Read Full Story