Local News Archives

Lawmakers Ask Governor To Reconsider Request For 70 Day Extension Of Emergency

A group of Michigan House Republicans have sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer asking her to reconsider her request for the Legislature to extend her emergency powers for 70 days. Among those to sign the letter is state Representative Beth Griffin, who says the governor should instead extend measures like the stay home order a few weeks at a time so as to give struggling businesses a fighting chance of survival. She told WSJM News last week she wants to hear from business owners as she and others plan for what comes after the pandemic.. ...Read Full Story

Second State Representative Tests Positive For COVID-19

A second member of the Michigan House of Representatives has tested positive for COVID-19. Representative Karen Whitsett has been in self-quarantine since feeling ill in March. House Speaker Lee Chatfield has been notified of the illness for the Detroit Democrat, who was not in attendance at the last House session on March 17. On March 26, Representative Tyrone Carter of Detroit was the first state lawmaker to test positive, and Representative Isaac Robinson died in March from what his family believes was COVID-19, but he was not tested. An intern for Republican state Senator Peter Lucido of Macomb County, Ben Hirshmann, died March 31 from suspected COVID-19 complications.. ...Read Full Story

Grants Available To Hospitality Workers From Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association Educational Foundation is trying to help hospitality employees forced out of work due to coronavirus shutting down restaurants and hotels. They have a Michigan Hospitality Industry Employee Relief Fund now available, with grants of $500 to approved applicants. MRLA Educational Foundation executive director and MRLA vice president Amanda Smith says that help is badly needed.. ...Read Full Story

Herald-Palladium Temporarily Suspends Monday Publication

If you are looking for your newspaper today, stop. The St. Joseph Herald-Palladium has temporarily suspended publication on Monday starting today. If you get the digital edition, there is also not a full newspaper published online, though the newspaper’s website does have some new stories posted and the paywall has been dropped for stories related to coronavirus, as has been the case for other newspapers around the country. Monday comics and puzzles will be published on Tuesday. The HP ceased Sunday and holiday publication several months ago before the coronavirus pandemic when they switched delivery to the U.S. Postal Service.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Cases Rise To 15,718

Michigan’s cases of COVID-19 are up to 15,718 as of Sunday afternoon, with 617 dead. In southwest Michigan, there are 18 new cases. Allegan County has 14, and increase of four; Berrien County has 58, up two from Saturday; Cass County is up one from Saturday to seven. Kalamazoo County has 53 cases, up eight from Saturday, while St. Joseph County’s 10 cases is up one from what the state posted Saturday, but the same as Friday, as that county’s number went down on Saturday. In Van Buren County, there are two new cases for a total of 14. In those six counties, six people have died from COVID-19. Those have been three in Kalamazoo County and one each in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s Record High Water Levels Collide With Coronavirus

From the Associated Press — Officials in Michigan are warning that efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic could have a serious impact on relief and repairs during what is expected to be another tumultuous spring flooding season. The Detroit Free Press reports that high water levels are expected to cause severe flooding, shoreline erosion, and road and infrastructure damage this spring. Providing shelter to those displaced by floods could be challenging when social distancing is advised. And some state agencies could find themselves unable to provide the usual level of assistance because they are financially stretched due to the coronavirus crisis.. ...Read Full Story

COVID-19 Cases Statewide At More Than 14,000

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has identified 1,481 additional COVID-19 cases around the state since Friday. Saturday’s report shows the total number of coronavirus cases in Michigan is now at 14,225. There have been a total of 540 deaths, with 61 of them since Friday. In Berrien County, the number of COVID-19 cases rose by four since Friday, now at 56. The Berrien County Health Department says 21 have recovered. Saturday’s report showed Cass County unchanged with six cases, and Van Buren County is also unchanged from Friday with 12 cases. Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties have each had one COVID-19 death. Metro Detroit remains the state’s hotbed for COVID-19. Detroit has 3,958 cases, Wayne County has 2,804, Oakland County has 2,785, and Macomb County has 1,838. You can learn more at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Gets Low-Interest Loan For Water System Improvements

The city of St. Joseph has been awarded a nearly $1.4 million low-interest loan for work on its water system. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or EGLE, announced more than $45 million in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Clean Water State Revolving Fund loans on Friday. The projects covered by the loans will address updates to wastewater treatment plants, pump stations, and pipes, including the removal of lead pipes. In the case of St. Joe, about $18,000 of the loan will be forgiven.. ...Read Full Story

Distillery Sees Huge Demand For Hand Sanitizer

Distilleries around Michigan are stepping forward to produce hand sanitizer in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Among them is Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, which started making the hot commodity last month. Journeyman accountant Ray Barskus tells WSJM News they’re in a good position to do so because distilleries produce ethanol, which is the primary ingredient in many hand sanitizers. Barskus says Journeyman started to produce its own sanitizer not long after the governor ordered restaurant dining areas closed.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Orders Car Wash To Close

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has ordered a Kalamazoo County car wash to close due to the COVID-19 disaster. She says a car wash is not an essential business allowed to remain open under Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay at home order. The State Emergency Operations Center has released the following statement:. ...Read Full Story

Michigan’s COVID-19 Cases Up By 1,953 To 12,744

There are 21 new coronavirus cases in the six counties of southwest Michigan, with Berrien County showing the largest increase and still the highest numbers in the area. Berrien’s count is now 52, up 12 from Thursday. Allegan County is up one to six, Cass County is unchanged at six, Kalamazoo County has six new cases to rise to 40, while St. Joseph County is up to 10 cases with two new positive tests. Van Buren County’s numbers are unchanged with 12 positive cases. Statewide, it was the largest day-to-day increase in new cases, rising by 1,953 to 12,744. The number of deaths in the state is up by 62 and now stands at 479. The city of Detroit has 692 new cases and is at 3,550 with 117 deaths.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Order Protecting Employees From Employer Retaliation If Sick Or Symptomatic With COVID-19

Michiganders who have to stay home from work if they or a close contact have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of the illness now have additional protection due to a new executive order from Governor Whitmer. The latest in a long string of moves she’s made in response to the pandemic bans employers from firing, disciplining, or retaliating in any other way against a worker who has to stay home. The new E.O. also declares it is now state public policy that everyone who tests positive or shows symptoms or lives with someone who is symptomatic or positive shall not leave home unless it’s absolutely necessary. That follows another order Thursday enacting a $1,000 civil fine that can be charged for people violating the Stay Home, Stay Safe order.. ...Read Full Story

Initial Unemployment Claims Set Weekly Record In Michigan

Claims for unemployment benefits continue to skyrocket in Michigan during the coronavirus pandemic. A record 311,000 people filed initial applications last week. That is more than double from the previous week – shattering the previous high of 128,000 that was set the week before. The system has been deluged. The website went down Tuesday before being restored. The state Unemployment Insurance Agency has implemented a schedule for people to apply based on their last name. It is urging patience and recommends that users apply online late at night or early in the morning. The high before what was set in March was 77,000 initial jobless claims in a week in January 2009 during the recession.. ...Read Full Story

Bridge Project Starts Next Week In Van Buren County

The Michigan Department of Transportation is advising drivers of a highway project to get started in Van Buren County on Monday. It says crews will be repairing the I-196 bridge over the Van Buren Trail. The work will include an epoxy overlay, bridge railing replacements, substructure patching, guardrail replacements, and approach repaving. One lane of I-196 will remain open in each direction while the project is done. It’s scheduled to be finished in mid-August.. ...Read Full Story

Liquor Control Commission Urges Restraint During Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol sales skyrocketed in the first days of the COVID-19 crisis, prompting the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to advise people to take it easy. According to data from the Nielsen Market Research Firm, national sales of alcoholic beverages spiked 55% in the week ending March 21, compared to the same time last year. Sales of spirits like tequila, gin, and pre-mixed cocktails jumped 75%compared to the same dates in 2019. Beer purchases were up by 66% while wine was up 42% year-on-year. With this being Alcohol Awareness Month, the commission reminds everyone excessive drinking can compromise a person’s immune system. Therefore, it recommends everyone follow safe consumption guidelines. They are one drink a day for women of all ages and men over age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men under age 65.. ...Read Full Story

Chickering Not Seeking Reelection

Berrien County Commissioner Bill Chickering is not seeking reelection. He represents the fifth district, which includes the city of St. Joseph, two precincts in St. Joseph Township, and the village of Shoreham. He told his fellow commissioners during Thursday’s virtual meeting he’s appreciated working with them.. ...Read Full Story

Wendzel, LaSata Oppose Governor’s Request To Extend Emergency Declaration For 70 Days

State Senator Kim LaSata and state Representative Pauline Wendzel both say they are “no” votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the current state of emergency and state of disaster by 70 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two Republicans say in statements they agree that an extension is going to be needed, but both object to the length of time being requested by Governor Whitmer. The governor on Thursday called out legislative leaders for what she feels is an unsafe idea for voting on the resolution on April 7.. ...Read Full Story

Wednesday COVID-19 Update: 9,334 Cases, 337 Deaths In Michigan

Michigan has another record increase in both the number of coronavirus cases and deaths from the illness over a 24-hour period. The new numbers from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services show 9,334 cases, up by 1,719 from Tuesday. COVID-19 has claimed 337 lives, with that number higher than the day before by 78. The youngest to die from it was 25, with the oldest being 107.. ...Read Full Story

Curbside Bulk Trash Pickup Temporarily Suspended In City Of South Haven

Curbside bulk pickup by Republic Services in the city of South Haven is being put on hold. Republic Services is suspending that temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but says residents can still use the transfer station at 200 Aylworth Avenue to drop off bulk items like furniture. That transfer station is open for city residents only starting next Monday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays. Yard waste will still be picked up at the curb, and regular trash collection is not impacted by the bulk pickup change.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Says Health Care Grads Can Help With COVID-19 Fight

(East Lansing, MI – AP) – Hundreds of new health care graduates from Michigan State University are available to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. State officials have made a desperate plea for health professionals to treat people as the number of virus cases rises each day. MSU says the state has created a temporary license for nurses who usually first take a national exam. Doctors from the colleges of Human Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine also can work ahead of their medical residencies. The number of coronavirus cases reported statewide reached 7,615 with 259 deaths. A nursing home in Cedar Springs in Kent County says 31 residents and five staff members have COVID-19.. ...Read Full Story

Horizon Bank Donating $250,000 To Help With Coronavirus Relief

$250,000 is going to be donated by Horizon Bank to non-profits throughout the area to help with COVID-19 response. The bank says its donations will go to United Ways, food banks, and those that provide rental assistance. CEO Craig Dwight says with this being an unprecedented time, “it’s critical for those that have the resources to do what we can to assist those who are feeling the most immediate impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.” Meanwhile, the bank is encouraging other companies and individuals to take similar steps if possible.. ...Read Full Story

BHAS Advisory Committee To Release Turnaround Recommendations

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Community Engagement and Advisory Committee will release its turnaround plan for the district during an online meeting on April 7. The committee was set up last fall on the recommendation of the Michigan Department of Treasury. Its goal is to turn around the finances and academic performance of Benton Harbor Area Schools. Its recommendations were originally set to be released in March, but that got pushed back by the COVID-19 crisis. The April 7 virtual meeting will include members of the Benton Harbor Area Schools and representatives of the committee. Treasury tells us the plan is to have a community presentation at a later date, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. Information on the online meeting will be put on the Community Engagement and Advisory Committee’s website.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Board Of Commissioners To Hold Virtual Meeting

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners is going to hold a virtual meeting this week. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order allowing governing bodies to meet virtually. The county board is taking advantage and relying on YouTube to stream this Thursday’s meeting. It will be held at 10:30, the board’s usual meeting time. To watch, just find the YouTube channel called Berrien County, Michigan. Those who want to make public comments during the meeting can use the live chatbox.. ...Read Full Story

Sheriff’s Department: Don’t Call 911 To Report Executive Order Violations

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is asking that 911 not be used to report violations of the governor’s stay at home order. Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit tells WSJM News they have been getting plenty of calls about people violating the order. Unfortunately, the calls are going to the 911 dispatch center. That’s not the number you’re supposed to call.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Businesses, Nonprofits Can Get Rent, Mortgage Help

Help is now available for qualifying businesses and nonprofits in Berrien County to help make their mortgage or rent payment for April or May. Zach Vaughn is the project manager for fiscal development at Cornerstone Alliance and says they’re partnering with the Berrien Community Foundation and the Southwest Michigan Tourist Council for a zero-interest loan program for those payments for April. He tells us it came out of assistance requests through the Small Business Association.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Suspends Paid Parking

All parking in the city of St. Joseph is free until further notice. The city’s Public Works Department is suspending the pay-to-park requirements at all parks including Tiscornia Park and Lions Park due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a Facebook post, the city notes all of its parks remain open for people to use. Social distancing guidelines to stay at least six feet apart from others remain in effect.. ...Read Full Story