Watch Focal Point: President Trump rallies in Lansing, enrollment down at MSU, and Spartan football prepares for game against U-M

On this edition of Focal Point, President Donald Trump visits Lansing for the first time ever. Our team meets supporters and protestors at the rally. With admissions down at MSU, Jacob Lothamer investigates how the school is handling a $54 million loss in revenue. We preview MSU football’s massive matchup with Michigan and catch up with Jalen Watts-Jackson. Those stories and more on Focal Point.

Saddleback BBQ operates as “ghost restaurant”

Shade Moore investigates a ghost at Saddleback Barbecue in Okemos. During this halloween season, there was more than brisket, ribs and pulled pork on the menu. See how the customers and employees benefit from the “ghost” before it leaves for good!

Meridian Mall stores sustain sales amidst COVID-19

The Meridian Mall Food Court entrance has the mall’s COVID-19 protective measures and protocols posted on it. (Photo/Isaiah Hall)

While there were challenges of operating a business during the pandemic, retailers in the Meridian Mall have been able to sustain their business because of its transition to new customer service approaches. 

“The closures also provided an opportunity for innovation,” said Stacey Keating, senior director of public relations & corporate communications at CBL Properties, the Tennessee-based company that owns the Meridian Mall. “Many retailers quickly launched curbside delivery programs and restaurants ramped up their delivery and curbside takeout options. “New delivery and curbside programs are continuing to evolve and we expect this to be a trend into the holiday season and beyond. As restrictions were lifted and malls reopened, we’ve seen traffic slowly build, and retailers have reported that sales are healthy and conversion rates are high.”

Shoppers have more cash

Businesses in the mall credit part of the reason why the conversion rates — the percentage of users who visit the mall who purchase goods or services — are high is that people have more money in their pockets, said Kris Vezino, Meridian Mall Sunglass Hut Store manager.

East Lansing and Okemos schools look to ease N95 mask shortage

Courtesy of Dean BuggiaOkemos Public Schools use 3D printers to make masks and filters that will be donated to Sparrow Health System to help ease the medical supply shortages during the COVID-19 crisis. East Lansing and Okemos school districts located in Ingham County are looking to help ease the spread of the COVID-19 virus by 3D printing N95 masks for healthcare workers on the front lines. They join Michigan State University and other local schools in replicating N95 masks. 

As of 2 p.m. April 9, Michigan had over 20,000 coronavirus cases, making it one of the top five states with COVID-19 cases. The United States has over 363,000 cases and over 15,700 deaths. 

Initial inspiration

The growing number of cases in the area forced several health care providers to run on depleted supplies of necessary PPE for doctors and nurses on the front lines, in the local battle against the virus. 

Sparrow Hospital created a donation list, filled with supplies the community can provide to help medical professionals in their open locations, including Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. 

Courtesy of Dean Buggia Dean Buggia, the Okemos High school technology teacher, estimates each mask and filter cost about $1.20 to produce. One of the items on the donation list, 3D printed N95 masks, caught the eye of both East Lansing Public School’s Technical Director Chrisitan Palasty and TinkrLAB founder and owner Melissa Rabideau. 

“So, I actually had a customer email me this project that she had seen, and I looked into it,” said Rabideau about coming across the project.

COVID-19 is causing chaos in grocery stores

It’s like the holiday rush, shoppers in a frenzy. 

COVID-19 has created chaos all over the world, including a place you might not expect: grocery stores. Shoppers have been scrambling to buy whatever is left, but there isn’t much. “I’m here ‘til like 10 and I don’t see it slowing down that much,” Meijer employee Dylan S. said. But the hot commodity isn’t a run on turkeys, it’s toilet paper. “Every store you go to, it seems like everyone’s bought toilet paper,” Jean Schlicklin said.  “They’re trying to restock them, but they can’t get them restocked quick enough.”

Toilet paper isn’t the only thing people have stocked up on.

Fate of senior season rests on day-to-day decisions

High school seniors around the state have most likely played their last games in their high school careers including Okemos seniors Mitchell Sambaer and Rio Tomlinson; Sambaer waits to close another noteworthy basketball season while Tomlinson’s final season had yet to start.

8th Congressional District ups its civic involvement

Gordon Trowbridge, spokesman for Slotkin’s re-election campaign, said from a campaign standpoint, he has noticed a difference this year in public participation. Trowbridge said it seems like voters are aware this is a big moment for Michigan because a lot of national issues addressed can also have a significant impact on a local level.  For example, concerns about medical costs and water quality is at the top of that list. 

“What was successful for Slotkin in 2018 and so far this year, was to be pragmatic toward these issues,” he said. “Slotkin has said participating in the choice-making is one of the most important symbols to show love for the country.”

Slotkin decided before voting took place to publicly endorse Democrat Joe Biden in the year’s primary. 

Infographic listing some of the candidates and topics voters may have seen on their ballot. Credit: Lauren Buchko

Trowbridge said he has definitely noticed a higher turnout during campaign events. “Slotkin realizes there’s a lot of attention on Michigan during the primaries,” he said.  “It’s kind of like a ‘ground zero’ when it comes to a campaign.”

Representing the district

Trowbridge said it’s quite a bit of work for Slotkin to represent Michigan while in Washington D.C. because of the complicated schedule, but she works to represent as best as she can.

Meridian Township wants a president to be a change agent

With the 2020 presidential election top of mind, some Meridian Township residents said they want a leader with a strong moral compass and who will improve the health care system. 

Sarah Howard, a Meridian Township resident, said even though she doesn’t keep up with the candidates’ positions, she wants to see a huge change. “I don’t think our healthcare system makes any sense,” said Howard. “I appreciate that we are trying to move toward a socialized health care system, but I do not think the current system makes financial sense.” 

Howard is also concerned that social media may become a greater issue with the next leader elected in office. She wishes media would report on more real issues instead of hot topics. Howard said: “I think most of the other changes I want to see are more social than something that has to do directly with the presidency.