The Muskegon free COVID testing weekend story, in under 1000 words.
So there is a clear thought on the COVID testing offered in Muskegon Heights this weekend, I’d like to share as briefly as I can how it all came together and why. There are plenty of differing views on the virus, and in all honesty, yours, mine or anyone else’s are not needed. This is what happened and why.
At 5:30 Thursday, I received a text telling me to check my email. The text was from the State Director of Veterans Affairs Zaneta Adams, who I happen to highly respect and have watched work tirelessly for the benefit of veterans, and especially women veteran’s. When I hear form her about something that needs to be done. I listen quick. The meeting would be at 6pm.
In the email were the quick details of what could happen if the community wanted it and the logistics could be met. The Michigan National Guard had access to thousands of free test kits and could deploy to several communities over the weekend to help get those who wished for a test, symptoms or not, tested for free, without prior orders from a doctor. For a community that’s so used to having so much taken away from it, or given nothing at all, I thought ok, I will log on and see why I was being asked to help.
6pm hits and I am in the middle of one of the most unreal things I have ever heard. High ranking officials from every level of the State, National Guard, local authorities, health care providers, community support organizations….just surreal. What am I doing in the middle of all these very important people? Everything has less than 24 hours to come together. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. From the mobilization of the Guard to the guy sweeping up the place after. Where will this be held for people that can’t drive? Who will be on hand to dispose of the medical waste? Where are bathrooms for people going to be? Cost? Time? Traffic control? Food and water for those offering aid? It was a landslide of things that had to be in place and it had to be now as the National Guard had until Tuesday to get this accomplished and our window would be closed. Meeting wrapped up just after 7. I was asked to handle the media and getting the word out if it all came together. There was some post meeting discussion on a few texts about the enormity and near impossible task, but we had another meeting again at 10:30 Friday. We’ll reconvene.
10:30 Friday came. A bigger panel of people with more questions were now grouped. Some more clarity was given about roles. The National Guard could do the swabbing in teams of three but the rest of it was really on all of us here in town. Everyone’s contribution had to matter. Who could handle and dispose of hazmat? Who could get people out knocking on doors to spread the word for those that didn’t have other means of contact? Who else could give of what they have to help make it all happen? It was all resolved in an hour and not once did the words “we can’t” come up. Not once…not out of anyone.
By 3:30 Friday I had the press release and it was out to all media outlets, and by 4 Mayor Walter Watt of Muskegon Heights was on with me to talk about this opportunity directly to our community and by 4:30 we had that short conversation in front of almost every social media group in Muskegon County.
This opportunity was given to other communities around the state at almost the same time under the same circumstances. It was literally a use it or lose it opportunity and of those other communities, most failed and MUSKEGON DID NOT. Every single person, organization leader and angle was covered in under a day. The initial presentations of logistics, time crunch and limitations alone on any weekend, let alone a holiday weekend would get most to say “we just can’t”. Not Muskegon. WE CAN. WE DO. We can and we do every single time. To me that is what defines us as a community and that is what I work to fight for every day. It’s a fight both within and from outside our community. A fight from within for those who don’t see some of the overwhelmingly incredible things that go on and a fight from outside for how we are seen. We are so much better than we get credit for and quite often than we give ourselves credit for and it’s time we stood up and just said it.
The slogans, the slug lines the “rah rah” stuff is all great. It’s helpful and it makes us feel good. But if you really want to take home some community pride today, look back to the part in all of this where no one said “we can’t”. No matter your stance on the virus, the treatment, which tests are available or “en-vogue”, the cause effect or endless echo chamber conspiracy theories around it…one thing is abundantly clear…when needed…there is no stronger or more resilient community in this state than Muskegon Michigan, and I am overly proud of all of us this weekend.