COMING TOGETHER • A COVID-19 Regional Survey

Regional Arts Organizations, Critical Infrastructure & Local Businesses Weigh in on COVID-19

Posted In: News, , Local,   From Issue 895   By: Robert E Martin

15th April, 2020     0

Over the past week, The REVIEW  reached out to several local businesses, critical infrastructure, and theatrical and arts ogranizations throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region to ascertain how they are coping and dealing with this crisis.  Because many of them are all in ‘survival mode’, several were not able to respond.  However, many of them did weigh-in on the topic and are presented here in this survey of how our region is coping with the COVID-19 Crisis.

As we enter the sixth week of the Coronavirus Lockdown, the need to get our economy re-opening is becoming increasingly apparent, as is the fact that the true case fatality rate involved with COVID-19 appears to be far lower than earlier reports suggested.

Regarding the evidentiary basis being used, the scientific evidence is changing every day - after all, it is a ‘novel’ coronavirus. Studies are showing widely varying reads in terms of how many people have actually been infected; and more important, what their recovery rates are. 

A Stanford University study concluded that more than twice as many people were infected with Covid-19 than current counts suggest, a number that would indicate it is both more widespread and less deadly than previously understood.  As of today (April 22) there are 819,321 COVID-19 cases in the United States, 45,356 deaths, and 83,008 recoveries. Moroever, of the 128,464 closed cases, 83,008 (65%) recovered and were discharged, which increased by 2% in just one day.

Additionally, most of the death  rates in states like New York & Michigan include PROBABLE death rates - meaning that if doctors were unsure if the death was caused by COVID-19, they ASSUMED it in fact was caused by COVID-19.

Though one cannot compare COVID-19 to other strains of the flu because it has a higher transmission rate, this year over 150,000 people  (3X as many) have died from seasonal flu deaths. And every year an estimated 290,000 to 650,000 people die in the world due to complications from seasonal flu viruses.  Indeed, this year we’ve had 517,541 deaths cused by HIV/AIDS this year in the world alone.

Despite the statistical debate currently being waged, there is no doubt that COVID-19  event cancellations seem to be barreling in by the hour, and the $26 billion global live events industry is watching with bated breath. Several sources across the booking, management, and venues sectors have declined to comment on the subject because of the uncertainty around the matter, or say they do not yet have them in place. There’s also the issue of unpredictability: Government entities have not given a solid timeline estimate for how long the outbreak will remain a health crisis.

When asked what the Dow Event Center in Saginaw was currently doing to navigate this lockdown and when they anticipated opening, Director Jon Block told The REVIEW:  “We are all working from home and we have had to make some very difficult decisions over the past few weeks as I am sure you have as well.  We have had to focus on minimizing our expenses and have not developed live streams or alternative entertainment at this point. Our focus has been remaining engaged via social media, maintaining the facilities and making sure that we are prepared for an uptick in the number of events we host once this is over.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 could be a near-extinction level event for Michigan's bars and restaurants. That's according to the results of a survey by the National Restaurant Association in conjunction with the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA), which represents more than 5,000 businesses in the state.   According to the study, Michigan hospitality businesses lost $491 million in sales and 72,000 jobs in the first 22 days of March. That represented a slowdown for 84% of Michigan restaurants, with 7% reporting flat sales and 9% reporting an increase. 

MRLA President and CEO Justin Winslow told The Detroit Free Press that he thinks that could lead to a closure of up to one in three Michigan restaurants.  "One-third of restaurants — you’re getting into 6,000-location territory," he told the Freep. "That’s kind of hard to wrap your head around. Six thousand businesses are going to close as a result of this. ... And through no fault of their own."   The MRLA estimated that Michigan's hospitality industry employed almost 600,000 people and accounted for $40 billion in annual sales. 

As for the way other businesses and organizations in our region our dealing with this crisis, here's how they weighted in.

REVIEW: How has this coronavirus pandemic impacted your lives the most?

Bay City Players:  Bay City Players has been directly impacted by the pandemic.  We were required to suspend all operations and postpone or cancel events and activities including, sadly, our last two shows of Season 102: God of Carnage and Newsies.

God of Carnage had one week until it opened and the cast and crew had put countless hours into its preparation. We hope to perform it in the fall. That, of course, is dependent on the governor’s orders.  Newsies was also postponed and rehearsals halted in compliance with the executive order and for the safety and protection of our theatre community. As you know, Players always has the best interest of our patrons in mind. We will do everything in our power to provide a clean, safe environment for everyone who enters our building. The show must go on … just not right now. 

Both of our youth programs, Youtheatre and Stages of Discovery, were directly impacted as well. Youtheatre was just starting up when we chose to cancel the program for the year. This decision preceded the governor’s stay at home order. We felt it was the most prudent thing to do to keep all our participants well. Youtheatre is a program in which students learn about theatrical productions by preparing and presenting one act plays from concept to performance. The group is composed of students. Third through ninth graders, who act inthe productions, while seasoned high school students function as production teams consisting of;  director, assistant director, costumer, tech director, props master, and set designer and decorator.  Adult staff provides guidance to the student production teams as well as any other needed support. Youtheatre serves over 130 youth who look forward to it every year. 

Additionally, we are delaying registration for Stages of Discovery until we are allowed to hold small group gatherings. Stages of Discovery is an intensive study of theatre for students ages 8 through 18. The program is led by adults with many years of education and experience in varying aspects of theatre. They are committed to developing theatre skills and imparting knowledge that the students may not get elsewhere. The three week session culminates with a full scale show. The students take part in all theatrical aspects as well as advertising; through t-shirt design, poster design, and sidewalk chalk art you can see much of their work. Stages of Discovery serves 35 youth each year.

Brian Wheeler • Consumer Energy: The COVID-19pandemic has affected the lives of our co-workers in ways that are familiar by now to most Michigan residents. Over half of our roughly 8,000 employees are working remotely, and we’ve put precautions into place to protect the health and well-being of co-workers and the customers we serve. Our team also remains on the job. We have ensured we are able to perform necessary duties during this stay-at-home period because we know providing electric and natural gas services is essential for households, businesses, our first responders and health care workers. We are sharing information with the public about our COVID-19 response at 

Joannah Lodico • Marshall Frederick’s Sculpture Gallery: We do miss being out in the community and interacting with visitors at the museum. But even though the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museumis closed, we are open online as staff work from home! The museum offers a virtual museum, a blog about Frederick’s life, art, and behind the scenes at the Museum, and various art activities for all ages. We encourage the community to check out our offerings through our Facebook and Instagram.

Marilyn Rodammer • The Listening Room: We're doing better than most, mainly because we don't depend on The LISTENING ROOM for our soul source of income.  I feel for those that no longer have a source of income.  The thing that has had the greatest impact on us, is our inability to welcome people into our business, or do service calls and installation work.   One can only do so much with just a phone conversation.  

Amy Spadafore • Pit & Balcony Community Theatre: I'm a workaholic and I love my job.  Not being able to do it has been hard.  I'm one of the lucky ones who got to turn her passion into her career and so it's one thing to be furloughed and an entirely different thing to not be able to do the thing that makes me tick, you know?  I never thought I'd have to stand in front of a cast and tell them their show was being cancelled or postponed.  I never thought we'd have to call our patrons and tell them more than once that the show for which they purchased tickets would not be going on as scheduled.  It's difficult to be the bearer of bad news.  It has been so encouraging to experience the amount of support we have, though.  The outpouring of love and understanding from our patrons, the amount of donated tickets, the excitement for the future make it all a lot easier.  

REVIEW: How do feel about the way this crisis is being handled? 

Bay City Players: Respectively decline to comment.

Consumers Energy: We realize this is a challenging time, so we’re working with our customers and our communities to make sure we’re focusing on needs that are emerging every day. As an example, our business call center is now focusing on providing help to small businesses. The idea is to help them get access to state and federal assistance, as well as any solutions that we can provide for their energy bills

Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Gallery: We are all in this together! We are thankful and proud to see so many people coming together to help each other the best way we can during this difficult time.

The Listening Room: Under the circumstances, with really not knowing what to expect from this virus . . . I feel things have been handled better than I would have expected.  Especially the fact that, for the most part, important decisions that needed and need to be made by our government officials have been made swiftly and with comparably little objections. 

Pit & Balcony: Oh man, is Michigan lucky to have the leadership we have.  Gretchen Whitmer has handled this crisis with assertiveness, compassion, and grace.  She has shown that she can make impossible decisions that may really piss some people off but will ultimately save thousands of lives.  She has responded quickly, clearly, and with an immense understanding of our plight.  She's done this all under intense scrutiny even on a national level and has consistently responded to such scrutiny with poise and good humor.  To be able to stand strong against this kind of adversity - natural and political - and still find the time and energy to put out messages to Michigan's children that the Easter Bunny is absolutely an essential worker, to speak with a student doing a story for her high school paper is the kind of compassion we need right now.  I'm very proud of "That Woman from Michigan."

REVIEW:  What are the most important things you feel our community can do to support one another during this difficult time? 

Bay City Players: We feel that the community can best support one another by staying patient and kind and supporting local businesses. If we make an effort to do the best we can in these unprecedented times, it will serve us well in the long run and may give us a little joy. If you are financially able, donate to a local business, buy local products online, buy a #BayCityStrong shirt, get takeout, or buy a gift card to use later when they reopen.  You can also support local businesses virtually via social media. Like, share, and comment or post. Tune in and support the virtual art community! There are tons of activities and virtual performances out there such as #MakeArtVirtual.  We have some pretty cool things in the works so be sure to follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

Consumer’s Energy: It’s important that we look after one another, whether it’s friends, family, co-workers or neighbors. It’s also important for people in our communities to let each other know help is available. That can be shutoff protection that Consumers Energy offers for seniors and low-income customers, or mental health resources, or nonprofit organizations that are providing a vital lifeline to thousands of households across the state. We encourage people to call 2-1-1 to connect with nonprofits across Michigan or to reach out to Consumers Energy directly at 800-477-5050 if they need assistance with their energy bill.

Marshall Frederick’s Sculpture Gallery:  Coming together in kindness, patience, and support!  As we stated, we're all in this together and can be there for each other in various ways such as offering a listening ear, supporting local businesses, providing supplies to those in need, and interacting with others in fun virtual activities. Above all, remember when this is over that we can be kind to one another and help each other with or without a crisis. 

The Listening Room: As always, support any of our local businesses that remain open to serve us.  But also, keep in touch with those that are closed and struggling.  I fear that after the dust clears and we are all able to open our doors again, we will have lost several of local businesses.  And, of course, follow the state mandates so that we can open again . . . soon.

Pit & Balcony: My mantra has been "peace, grace & good health."  It's my wish for myself and everyone right now: to find peace within - whether that's by picking up a new hobby, meditating, journaling, or weekly Zoom chat happy hour with friends - to have grace for ourselves and for others - allow space for growth, be slow to anger, strive for understanding - and, of course, to stay healthy - listen to the experts and the leaders whose job it is to keep us safe and follow those requirements.  I think that if we can all find something along these lines we'll be able to move forward together and we'll find more tangible ways to support each other when that time comes.







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