Behind the mask

For her final project in Journalism 410, Samantha Sebestyen produced a video, “Behind the mask,” documenting how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced almost every aspect of students’ lives. Among her peers, she saw mental health issues rise because of the many months of isolation and the additional layers of stress that negatively affected already chaotic lifestyles. “In the past two years, college students have had to deal with the pandemic on top of continuing their education,” Sebestyen said. “On the campus of Michigan State University, a school that went fully online for two and a half semesters and has ever changing COVID policies, students still work to find that balance between working and keeping their mental health in mind.” “Throughout the course of a few weeks, I was able to discuss with several of my close peers to see exactly what they did when things took such a heavy toll on their mental and physical well beings,” she continued.

Q&A with John Lehman, fire chief of the City of Grand Rapids

Fire Chief John Lehman said he hopes to continue the Homeless Outreach Team after the pandemic ends. 

Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman is most proud of the Homeless Outreach Program that was started in an effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.  When the homeless became sick they needed implementation of a new program that allowed the sick to isolate while undergoing quarantine.  Safety threats prompted Grand Rapids leaders to make changes that would keep everyone safe, including the homeless community. 

Firefighters and police officers establish relationships with the homeless to connect them with Social Services, Substance Abuse Assistance, Mental Health Assistance and other resources. 

The fire chief also discussed the future of continuing the Homeless Outreach Program even after the pandemic ends. 

Spartan Newsroom Reporter Sarah Benner spoke with John Lehman, the fire chief of the city of Grand Rapids, about future careers in the fire department and how COVID-19 is impacting his job. Here’s an overview of his comments, edited for space and clarity. On how COVID-19 impacted the Fire Chief Department: 

COVID has taken a big operation toll on the operation, when we don’t have the bodies to fill the seats it impacts us in a large way. We were able to get through it by working with the labor and union to relax some work rules. Counting on the fact that all our employees were coming in working overtime shifts and working extra duty to fill in for those vacancies of those that were off sick.

Sabrina Seldon smiles outside of the Communication Arts and Sciences Building.

MSU students get COVID booster shots

Michigan State University students begin to receive the COVID-19 vaccine booster, whether for health reasons or work rules. According to CDC guidelines, people 18 and older who received Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are eligible for the booster if it has been at least two months since receiving the vaccine.

Will return of students help East Lansing’s labor shortage?

When walking around downtown East Lansing, you will run into help wanted signs out front of many of the businesses and restaurants. Starting fall 2021, Michigan State University is set to resume in-person classes for the first time since March, 2020. Will students returning to campus coincide with an increase in the labor workforce? Peter Dewan, who served on the Downtown Development Authority board for 11 years until resigning this July, said that the DDA was particularly concerned in helping downtown businesses navigate the negative effects of lacking students on campus during the pandemic. “So many businesses rely on the students,” said Dewan.

Small-town Massachusetts restaurant recovers from big changes

When COVID-19 shut everything down in March of last year, it hurt many businesses and restaurants to the point where they couldn’t recover. Bueno Malo, a small restaurant in the suburban town of Andover, Massachusetts, was not one of these. Despite the suddenness of the lockdown, co-owner Franco Lozano said that he even felt a little more prepared than most people when the world shut down. “We went through the gas disaster a few years ago,” said Lozano, referring to the gas explosions that hit three different Massachusetts towns in September of 2018, affecting many businesses. On the day of the explosions, a gas burner in the kitchen of Bueno Malo caught fire causing them to close.

With restrictions lifting, pools are opening in Massachusetts

Karen O’Connell is about to put the Dedham area on blast and let people know that the pools are open for the summer. “Because we were closed for so long, a lot of people started swimming other places,” said O’Connell.” I think I’m just going to send out another memo saying that we are fully open like, ‘Love to see you back’.”

On May 29, Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order ending the Massachusetts State of Emergency. This order rescinded most of the COVID-19 restrictions, including limitations placed on businesses. Bakers’ announcement turned out to be extremely helpful for the many pools, membership or not, in the state. 

One place that this announcement ended up helping was the Dedham Recreation Department, which opened up just after the announcement was made. Karen O’Connell, the aquatics director at Dedham, said reopening has been easy since they don’t have to worry about restrictions. 

“Reopening has actually been pretty awesome,” said O’Connell.

Wendell, N.C. restaurant struggles to find balance after mask mandates ends

Wendell restaurant Farmers & Merchants was planning its grand opening for the early months of 2020, but COVID-19 had different plans. Months were spent refurbishing the tired old building in downtown Wendell into a greatly anticipated eating and drinking establishment. When the global pandemic that shut down the state was declared on March 11, owners Brad Ellis and Sigurd Westerlund were surprised to find the Metro Raleigh restaurant patrons would travel almost anywhere to experience eating out again. 

In the small metropolis of Wendell, the enforcement of the mask mandates were not as strict as those in Raleigh. Because of the looser restrictions, Ellis and Westerlund decided to continue with the opening in June 2020. In hindsight,  Westerlund said they could have never predicted the success. 

“We also could not have pictured the effects of the city (Raleigh) opening back up,” Westerland said. 

Farmers & Merchants was able to keep its doors open during the pandemic, but as mandates lifted within Raleigh, residents have started to retreat back to the city rather than spend time in suburbs. 

Nights that traditionally led to a full house; now host only a few tables.

Detroit parents consider masking requirement for fall

Photo of Bates Academy Elementary School. Photo by Serenity Smith

Detroit natives convey mixed reviews of the mask mandate getting lifted. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that the COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted on June 22. Those who have not been vaccinated are still required to wear a face mask while those who have are required to wear them in certain establishments. You must still remain 6-feet apart.

Michigan State Theatre Department returns to in-person learning

The Theatre Department at Michigan State has allowed classes to return to in-person learning with COVID-19 safety measures in place. Theatre isn’t the only department to bring students back into classrooms, but with acting, singing and dance classes, it makes sense that it would be one of the first departments to do this. Normally, drama and singing classes would take place in the MSU Auditorium, but the Wharton Center for Performing Arts is allowing students to do their theatrics in its various theaters and spaces this semester. While the Wharton isn’t the typical classroom for the students, they were excited to be able to practice on stages that professional actors normally use. Students with in-person classes are required to participate in the Michigan State “COVID-19 Early Detection Program” and fill out a health screening prior to vising campus.