GRAND RAPIDS — The Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan has postponed its annual Outstanding Growth Awards in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In an email this afternoon, directors of the local ACG chapter said the decision came “after careful consideration” to postpone the event scheduled for March 18 at 20 Monroe Live in downtown Grand Rapids.
“As you can imagine, this was not an easy decision. We feel this is in the best interest of the health and safety of our members, guests and community,” according to the email. “Uncertain times call for leadership, and we feel confident that we have made the correct decision.”
ACG said it would process refunds over the next few days and was working with 20 Monroe Live to secure a new date for the awards.
The ACG’s decision came a couple of hours prior to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urging organizations and businesses to cancel or postpone large gatherings, conferences or sporting events held in a shared space with more than 100 people in attendance.
“Community mitigation strategies are crucial to slowing the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Michigan, particularly before a vaccine or treatment becomes available. These strategies provide essential protections to individuals at risk of severe illness and to health care and other critical infrastructure workforces,” the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said today in a statement. “Preventing a sudden, sharp increase in the number of people infected with COVID-19 will help minimize disruptions to daily life and limit the demand on health care providers and facilities.”
The World Health Organization today declared the coronavirus and COVID-19 illness a global pandemic.
The outbreak has led to the cancellation or postponement of events, and many universities — including Grand Valley State Universiy, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University and Michigan Technological University — have cancelled classroom instruction and are moving to online classes. The NCAA also announced today that the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would go on without fans in attendance.
On Monday, MichBio, the Ann Arbor-based trade association for the state’s life sciences industry, cancelled its BioTalent Summit that was scheduled for March 16 at Schoolcraft College in Livonia. The event has been rescheduled for June 16.
“With the threat of the novel coronavirus continuing to grow, we are exercising precaution for our Summit participants and guest speakers,” MichBio said in a statement. “Many organizations have placed travel restrictions on their employees, whether for long-distance air travel or in-state car travel, and irrespective of the public gathering's size. Those restrictions alone have impacted our Summit preparations with speakers and other essential participants unable to join us.”
Employers have been responding to the outbreak as well.
For instance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan late this afternoon said it was closing its 10 walk-in customer service centers from March 16-31, requiring eligible employees to work from home two or three days a week and suspending all but the most essential air travel through April 30. In West Michigan, the health insurer has customer service centers in Grand Rapids, Holland and Portage.
“With the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, Blue Cross is quickly taking steps to protect our workforce while maintaining operations that are critical to the health of the people we serve,” Blue Cross Blue Shield President and CEO Daniel Loepp said. “We agree with Gov. Whitmer’s call for companies like ours to expand opportunities for employees to work remotely and virtually and cancel large meetings. We are putting those types of changes into effect immediately.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated to add that Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University have canceled classroom instruction, and to correct the headline to note that ACG postponed its event. It was also updated to add guidance from the state and to note Blue Cross Blue Shield’s response.