My main concern this month – as well as the foremost topic on everyone's mind – is the coronavirus (COVID-19) that is rapidly attacking our state and country and the impact it is having in the Birmingham/Bloomfield area.
But before I talk about how it affecting the local communities, let me dispense with the political side of this issue.
We have seen great leadership from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Oakland County Executive David Coulter during this time of crisis. Plain and simple. In both cases, what we have witnessed is proactive planning and decision-making – the kind you would expect (and rightly deserve) from elected officials, or in the case of Coulter, an appointed county executive. In times of crisis, we need assurance from those in office that they, first and foremost, know what they are doing or have the correct team in place to get them the necessary information, and a willingness to listen to the experts so the problem can be averted or the impact minimized.
Wish we could say the same on a national level where the country's president wasted two to three months spewing out misinformation at political rallies and tweeting out conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 threat was a hoax. It took until March 15 before he woke to the fact the country was under siege. Enough said.
Now for the impact on our local communities and Downtown newsmagazine itself.
General local impact: Everyone in recent weeks has learned the new set of operating rules, all intended to help stave off possible infection from the coronavirus, be it ramped up hygiene practices, safe distancing from others, how to shelter at home and work/study on a mobile basis. The learning curve was a quick one, with government, educational and religious institutions shutting down. Hopefully most people have learned that their personal behavior relative to the COVID-19 crisis has an impact on others and vice versa.
Business community: If there ever was a reason to talk about supporting local businesses, this is it. Along Telegraph, Woodward and commercial corridors, and in downtown Birmingham, retail businesses took the lead and began voluntarily closing in mid-March. To a person, you heard the shared logic that to stay open only provided a possible gathering place where COVID-19 could be passed on to more people, along with the concern that remaining open could lead to virus exposure for employees. Better to suffer through a temporary closure if it means bringing the threat of this virus to a quicker end.
I give a special nod to the business community in downtown Birmingham where business owners are also facing the upcoming road construction on Maple Road, the second time in two years that a major downtown thoroughfare will be shut down for several months for road and underlying infrastructure replacement, starting at some point this month.
So when the temporary closures end in the Birmingham/Bloomfield area, and during the upcoming road construction, it's important that the residential community show its support for the local businesses. The business community – retail, restaurant, professional – is an important ingredient that makes this area of Oakland County unique.
Skip the online purchase whenever possible and shop and eat out locally. Help these business right the ship, so to speak.
The non-profit world: I often tell people that the residents of this part of Oakland County are the major supporters of the non-profit groups in southeast Michigan, both in terms of financial support/giving and donations of volunteer time. The non-profit groups have taken a real beating with COVID-19. Nearly all fund-raising events were cancelled starting in late February – events that are the lifeblood for community groups that serve as the unofficial safety net for worthy causes and those in need in the region. Let's not forget them in the months ahead. Ratchet up your donations of funding and, when the restrictions on group gatherings are lifted, your volunteer time.
Downtown newsmagazine: The coronavirus is already having an impact on this publication.
For starters, the cancellation of major society gatherings by those in the non-profit world and our concern for those who work with us in terms of virus exposure will mean that reporter Gigi Nichols’ coverage of such events will be curtailed. It is possible that our upcoming May issue will not have the Society Notebook multiple pages of non-profit events coverage. Rest assured this part of the magazine will return when things settle down.
Faithful readers will also note that our back of the book editorial page, Endnote, is not appearing in this issue. Local governments have basically cancelled meetings for the short-term future. Further, the May election that was to determine the fate of a bonding issue for the Bloomfield Hills school district was still up in the air as we went to press with this issue. State election officials were considering cancelling all May elections, and moving the ballot issues to the August primary election.
While we are inclined to support the school bonding issue, if state officials determine the election can move forward, we will lay out our logic for supporting this bond issue in our May issue and post it on an earlier date on our website.
Our Metro Intelligencer restaurant column starting next month will carry an extensive list of restaurants in the local area that are providing carry-out/take-out service while the state has mandated that gathering places like that remain closed. You can also go now to our website – downtownpublications.com – to see the same list and connect directly with restaurants' websites, when available.
Lastly, if you have not signed up for our newsletter email blasts from our website, this would be a good time to do so. We have several thousands people who received our email newsletters during the course of each week, which allows you more immediate access to local news while waiting for our monthly publication.