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Welcome to the Civic Center TV Coronavirus Page.  We will continue to post information we hope you will find helpful.


CDC REVERSES COURSE ON INDOOR MASKS IN SOME PARTS OF US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.

Citing new information about the variant’s ability to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.

The guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the U.S. with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. That includes 60% of U.S. counties, officials said.

 

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday it’s a good idea to mask up indoors, but she has no intention to bring back the mask mandates imposed earlier in the pandemic.


THE MARBLE BAR WILL REQUIRE PROOF OF COVID-19 VACCINATION FOR ADMISSION

One popular Detroit nightspot will require proof of vaccination at the door.

On Monday, The Marble Bar on Holden, south of Grand Boulevard and west of the Lodge Freeway, announced it would require patrons to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results in order to be admitted into the venue.

The emergence and spread of the Delta Variant was cited as the reason for the additional safety measures in a post to the bar’s Instagram page.

“The Delta variant has proven to be more resilient against the vaccine and more transmissible in all environments. As an establishment aiming to bring people close together, we feel it is our duty to limit transmission and proliferation of COVID-19 in any way possible so that the party can continue,” the post read.

Online reception of the new policy was mixed. Some people praised the bar’s decision on Facebook, while others voiced frustrations and said they would be taking their business elsewhere.

The new policy will go into effect Friday, July 30. Patrons may present proof of vaccination or negative test results within 48 hours before admission. Physical proof or an image on a patron’s phone will be accepted, but the patron’s name must be visible and must match the name on their state-issued ID.


WHITMER OKS $385M BILL WITH AID FOR HOSPITALS, NURSING HOMES

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed a $385 million supplemental budget bill, two-thirds of which will go to Michigan hospitals and nursing homes confronting financial pressures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new law allocates $10 million in state emergency spending for places hit with tornadoes, heavy rainfall and flooding in late June. More than $100 million will go toward increasing subsidy rates by 40% for child care providers that serve low-income children, retroactive to last October, and paying providers based on enrollment and not attendance as of late June.

Grants to hospitals — $160 million total — will be proportional to their share of Medicaid revenue. Nursing homes that have seen a 5% or higher decline in occupancy will split $100 million based on their population of Medicaid-eligible residents.

 

All but $17 million of the funding is from federal COVID-19 relief aid enacted by Congress and former President Donald Trump late last year. Some funds will expand grants to county sheriffs to patrol roads amid an increase in fatal crashes and replenish a state fund that compensates wrongfully convicted prisoners.


WSU TO REQUIRE COVID-19 VACCINES FOR STUDENTS LIVING IN DORMS

Less than five weeks before students move back to Wayne State University, officials said Monday that residents of its dorms will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

WSU President M. Roy Wilson made the announcement in an email that accompanied results from an online survey showing 86% of respondents reported being vaccinated. Those who responded included 9,106 people, a 29.5% response rate out of the 30,853 members of the campus community. There were 23,052 students enrolled during winter semester.

WSU is gearing up for students to move back to campus during the last week of August as scores of people remain hesitant to get the vaccine and COVID-19 cases are increasing, particularly among those who are unvaccinated. Classes begin Sept. 1.

The vaccine mandate for students living in the dorms follows University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Oakland University, which announced mandatory vaccines four months ago for students living in campus dorms and it does not leave not much time for WSU students to get vaccinated before move-in during the last week of August. UM’s Ann Arbor campus set a deadline for students to provide proof of vaccination by July 15.

 

UM-Dearborn has announced tougher rules: students, faculty and staff returning for the fall semester must either provide documentation that they have received a COVID-19 vaccine or evidence of a weekly negative PCR test.


U.S. WON’T LIFT TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS, CITING SPIKE IN COVID DELTA VARIANT CASES

The United States will not lift foreign travel restrictions due to concerns over the rise in the more contagious Covid-19 delta variant cases, according to a White House official.

About 83 percent of new Covid cases in the U.S. this month are delta variant infections, and experts say the variant is behind the new wave of nationwide infections.

U.S. delta variant cases are concentrated among those who are unvaccinated and the number is likely to increase in the coming weeks, the official said. They also note that last Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom, given the surge of cases there.

The U.S. currently bars entry for most noncitizens who within the last 14 days have been in the U.K., European Union nations, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.


METRO DETROIT CONCERTS COME STORMING BACK: A LOOK AT WHAT’S AHEAD AT DTE AND OTHER VENUES

Sunday evening, Chicago will step onto the DTE stage — presumably to a pent-up roar from the crowd — to end a 665-day concert hiatus for America’s most successful summer amphitheater.

In the era of COVID-19, not much is set in stone. But as things stand, Chicago’s DTE show marks the opening of the floodgates as concerts return in full force across metro Detroit.

The veteran band with the big brass attack is fitting for the return of DTE, which ranked No. 1 nationally in attendance in 2019: Chicago has played the former Pine Knob more than any act in the venue’s history, logging 80-plus performances.

But this is the week concerts come back big time.

At Detroit’s big four amphitheaters — DTE, Michigan Lottery, the Aretha, Meadow Brook Amphitheatre — more than 70 shows are on the books through early October. Comerica Park will also be humming with music again, and some of the region’s familiar music festivals are on the way.

For a 2½-month stretch, there will be a major concert in metro Detroit nearly every night of the week.

More than 16 months after COVID-19 hit, nearly every live-music spot in Michigan is intact — not what many would have predicted in March 2020 if they had known venues would be dark for a year-plus. Clubs in Warren (Hot Rock Bar) and Lansing (the Loft) announced permanent closures, but the scene is otherwise resurrecting to its pre-pandemic state.


OAKLAND COUNTY SURPASSES 70% VACCINATION RATE, SOME COUNTIES LAG BEHIND

Oakland County has reached the state and national vaccinate rate goal of having at least one dose administered to 70% of adults — and a handful of other counties aren’t far behind.

Michigan’s second-largest county accounts for 1.2 million people and is the second in the state to reach the goal following Leelanau County, which has 77% of its 19,500 residents vaccinated.

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter announced Friday that while this is a significant milestone, the county is wary of highly transmissible COVID-19 variants that continue to spread.

As of Tuesday, Michigan has 13,772 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants — the majority, or 13,301 cases, being B.1.1.7. There are also 318 known cases of the P.1. variant and 71 known cases of the delta variant in the state.

“While reaching this vaccination goal is an important moment to acknowledge, we’re not done fighting this pandemic,” Coulter said in a statement. “The delta variant of the virus is still present in the state and Oakland County and these new mutations of COVID are highly contagious. With 30% of our population still unvaccinated, we can’t fully get back to normal.”


17 CASES OF COVID-19 IDENTIFIED IN FASTER HORSES FESTIVAL ATTENDEES

At least 17 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in people who attended Michigan’s Faster Horses Festival last weekend, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Some of those individuals were infectious while at the three-day country music festival at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

MDHHS is warning that those who attended the festival may have been exposed to the virus and is urging attendees to get tested. The agency is working with local public health departments to investigate the cases.

Faster Horses Festival officials said they “worked closely with local officials to ensure all recommended guidelines were followed” and they “strongly encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated.”

Symptoms of the virus, including fever, shortness of breath, cough, fatigue and loss of taste and smell, generally appear two to 14 days after exposure, MDHHS said. People who experience severe symptoms are advised to seek medical care.


FAUCI SAYS US HEADED IN ‘WRONG DIRECTION’ ON CORONAVIRUS

The United States is in an “unnecessary predicament” of soaring COVID-19 cases fueled by unvaccinated Americans and the virulent delta variant, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert said Sunday.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,’ said Dr. Anthony Fauci, describing himself as “very frustrated.”

He said recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration’ by the government’s leading public health officials. Also, booster shots may be suggested for people with suppressed immune systems who have been vaccinated, Fauci said.

Fauci, who also serves President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he has taken part in conversations about altering the mask guidelines.

 

He noted that some local jurisdictions where infection rates are surging, such as Los Angeles County, are already calling on individuals to wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. Fauci said those local rules are compatible with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that the vaccinated do not need to wear masks in public.

Nearly 163 million people, or 49% of the eligible U.S. population, are vaccinated, according to CDC data.


CONCERN ABOUT SAFETY MAIN REASON MANY DETROITERS ARE NOT GETTING VACCINATED, U-M SURVEY FINDS

About half of adults living in Detroit are not yet fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data just released from a University of Michigan survey (PDF).

Among Detroiters who have not received any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly 8 out of 10 cited concerns about the safety of the vaccine among their reasons. A similar number of unvaccinated Detroiters, 78%, also reported that concerns about side effects were among the reasons they had not gotten vaccinated.

In general, unvaccinated Detroiters were far less likely to say they trust the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the vaccine (51%) than those who have already been vaccinated (6%). When asked about the single, “main reason” Detroiters have not been vaccinated, safety concerns were the most common reason offered (29%). According to the representative survey of Detroit households conducted by U-M’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study, concern about side effects was a slightly less important factor, with 22% of respondents saying it was the “main reason” they had not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

Black (19%) and Latino (16%) residents were more than twice as likely as white (6%) residents to report that they did not get a vaccine due to concerns about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. Residents under 40 were also more likely than those between 40 and 64 to avoid getting the vaccine because they felt their risk of getting COVID-19 or getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is low.

Given these concerns, the U-M survey also asked respondents whom they trust for information about COVID-19. Among unvaccinated Detroiters, news media were, by far, the least trusted sources for information on COVID-19. Only 10% of unvaccinated Detroiters said they placed high trust in the news media for this information. On the other hand, about one-third of unvaccinated Detroiters reported that they trusted their doctors a great deal for information on COVID-19.


DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE NOT OPENING PROBE OF MICHIGAN NURSING HOMES

The U.S. Department of Justice says it’s not opening a civil rights investigation into Michigan nursing homes after requesting information from the state last yearamid intense scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August, when former President Donald Trump’s administration was still in office, the federal department requested data from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as it examined executive orders for nursing homes issued in some states led by Democrats.

The Department of Justice joins Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in declining to probe the policies on which Republicans have focused attacks. While GOP lawmakers have pressed to uncover more information about how the orders impacted the virus’ spread among a vulnerable population, the lack of law enforcement inquiries hinders their efforts.

The Department of Justice’s request in August came amid the presidential campaign and escalated a long-brewing fight over policies implemented by some governors on how to care for elderly individuals with the virus in nursing homes amid fears of hospitals being overrun.

 

For longer than a year, nursing homes have been a point of contention between GOP lawmakers, who control the state Legislature in Michigan, and the Democratic governor’s administration. According to state data, 5,756 COVID-19 deaths in Michigan have been either residents or staff of long-term care facilities, equaling about 29% of the statewide virus-linked deaths.


NFL WARNING TO TEAMS: COVID-19 OUTBREAKS AMONG UNVACCINATED PLAYERS COULD LEAD TO FORFEITED GAMES

The NFL has added an additional COVID-19 vaccination incentive for players, threatening forfeits and the loss of game checks if an outbreak among unvaccinated players causes an unresolvable disruption in the regular-season schedule.

Commissioner Roger Goodell informed clubs of the new policy Thursday in a memo. The league has encouraged vaccination for players but has not required it, per an agreement with the NFL Players Association.

Unvaccinated players will be subject to severe protocols during training camp and the regular season, including daily testing, mask-wearing and travel restrictions. Thursday’s memo made it clear that unvaccinated players could, in theory, be responsible for the losses of games and paychecks as well.

The new policy drills down on a scenario that never occurred in 2020, when the NFL postponed five games and moved 10 others to accommodate outbreaks. A forfeit will be called in 2021 if all of the following circumstances occur:

  • A game is postponed by requirement of government authorities or medical experts, or at the discretion of the commissioner, because of ongoing health concerns of an outbreak.
  • The league can’t find a suitable date to reschedule within the 18-week framework of the regular season.
  • The original postponement was caused by an outbreak among unvaccinated players of one team.

 

If the forfeit occurs, players from both teams will lose their game checks. The team that suffered the outbreak would be responsible for any shortfall in the league’s revenue-sharing pool and also would be credited with a loss for the purposes of playoff seeding, with the opposing team credited with a win.


U.S. MOVE TO EXTEND CANADA BORDER RESTRICTIONS THROUGH AUG. 21 DRAWS IRE

Canadian leaders were left “stunned” Wednesday by the U.S. decision to extend its border closure to “nonessential” Canadians until at least Aug. 21, despite plans by Ottawa to open its border to Americans 12 days earlier.

Some U.S. lawmakers are similarly unhappy with the announcement, with politicians from both sides of the aisle criticizing the move. Wednesday’s announcement comes two days after Canada said it would allow vaccinated Americans to start crossing the border for nonessential travel beginning Aug. 9.

The border discrepancy risks exacerbating tensions between the economic allies — especially if extended by the Americans beyond Aug. 21. Cross-border trade and tourism are the lifeblood of the industrial heartland in both countries, making the border crossing between Detroit and Windsor one of the busiest in North America.

Federal Register document published Wednesday from Customs and Border Protection announced the extension of the U.S. current policy through Aug. 21. The policy only allows for ground travel deemed essential from people looking to enter the U.S. from Canada.

The document, signed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, pointed to a “specific threat to human life or national interests” with COVID-19 spread between the two countries.


MICHIGAN HOUSE REPEALS EMERGENCY POWERS LAW GOV. WHITMER USED TO FIGHT PANDEMIC

A 76-year-old Michigan law crafted in the wake of Detroit race riots and used more recently to combat a generational health crisis is officially dead.

The Republican-controlled state House on Wednesday voted 60-48 largely along party lines in support of initiative petition language that repeals the Emergency Powers Act of 1945. The vote came one week after the state Senate also approved the initiative.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used the law to issue sweeping health and safety restrictions in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, moves that eventually garnered pushback from Republicans and other opponents.

Democrats blasted the initiative effort and opposed repealing the law, arguing the power is needed and lawmakers should allow the petition to go to voters in the form of a ballot question.

The House voted for the repeal to take effect immediately, but the Senate did not. That means the law officially takes effect 90 days after lawmakers formally adjourn their current legislative session.

Whitmer and her administration have used other laws to battle health emergencies, but this initiative process outlines a playbook for conservatives to take future action in a way that avoids a veto.


COIN SHORTAGE AGAIN PRESENTS INCONVENIENCES FOR BUSINESSES

Along with the many product shortages amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic over the past year and a half is the coin shortage, which has once again crept back up for many businesses and banks.

The original cause of the 2020 coin shortage was production at the United States Mint slowing down because of the pandemic — with last year’s “cumulative mintage” down to just over 4 billion as of May 2020, as opposed to 5.07 billion the previous year.

The other problem was that early in the pandemic, very few coins were circulating in the economy, thanks largely to stay-at-home orders and fewer people going out and spending money. Once the economy began to reopen, many businesses exhausted their coin inventories.

In May of this year, the U.S. Federal Reserve acknowledged businesses and banks in various parts of the country were having a hard time getting their hands on enough quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies.

“There is currently an adequate overall amount of coins in the economy,” a statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve read. “But business and bank closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted normal circulation patterns for U.S. coins. This slowed pace of circulation reduced available inventories in some areas of the country during 2020.”

The statement continued to read “the Federal Reserve continues to work with the U.S. Mint and others in the industry to keep coins circulating.

The U.S. Coin Task Force, which was formed in July 2020 to identify, implement, and promote actions to address disruptions to coin circulation, continues to meet regularly until coin circulation normalizes.”

Since mid-June of 2020, the U.S. Mint has been operating at full production capacity. In 2020, the mint produced 14.8 billion coins, a 24% increase from the 11.9 billion coins produced in 2019.


NEARLY 73 MILLION AMERICANS LIVE IN COUNTIES WITH HIGH COVID-19 INFECTIONS. IT’S TIME TO RESET AND PUT MASKS BACK ON, EXPERT SAYS

With the highly contagious Delta variant spreading, particularly among unvaccinated Americans, it may be time to hit the “reset button” on pandemic response and for much of the country to put their masks back on, an expert said.

“We are at a very different point in the pandemic than we were a month ago,” Dr. Leana Wen told CNN’s Jim Acosta Tuesday. “And therefore, we should follow the example of LA County and say that if there are places where vaccinated and unvaccinated people are mixing, then indoor mask mandates should still apply.

Los Angeles County reinstated a mask mandate over the weekend, requiring masking indoors regardless of vaccination status.

 

Wen, a CNN medical analyst, said there are two exceptions to the occasions she thinks people should be wearing masks indoors in public: when everyone is vaccinated and has provided proof or if there is a very high level of community vaccination.

 

But about 22% of the US population, or nearly 73 million people, lives in a county considered to have “high” Covid-19 transmission, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 48.7% of the total US population is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the CDC — a number far below the 70 to 85% health experts have estimated it would take to slow or stop the spread.


CMU ANNOUNCES VACCINE INCENTIVE PROGRAM FOR STUDENTS

In an effort to increase the number of students receiving COVID-19 vaccines, Central Michigan University today launched a vaccine incentive program with prizes including four scholarships equivalent to a full year of tuition and hundreds of gift cards.

 

Beginning today, students who have completed a full vaccine protocol — one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — may register online to enter the incentive program. And, while they can enter only once, students are eligible for every drawing held after they register.

 

“The earlier a student registers, they more chances they have to win prizes,” said Jennifer DeHaemers, CMU’s vice president for student recruitment and retention.

CMU will choose 101 winners during each of four scheduled drawings. Winners will be announced Aug. 2 and 23, Sept. 13, and Oct. 4. In each drawing, 100 students will receive a $75 gift card, and one student will win a full-tuition scholarship. All participants will also receive a 20% discount at the CMU Bookstore, DeHaemers said.


FRANCE REQUIRES COVID PASS FOR EIFFEL TOWER, TOURIST VENUES

Visitors need a special COVID pass to ride up the Eiffel Tower or visit French museums or movie theaters from Wednesday, the first step in a new campaign against what the government calls a “stratospheric” rise in delta variant infections.

To get the pass, people must show they are either fully vaccinated, have a negative virus test or proof they recently recovered from an infection. The requirement went into effect Wednesday at cultural and tourist sites, following a government decree.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to rush through legislation to mandate the pass for restaurants and many other areas of public life, as well as requiring that all health workers get a jab. The lower house of parliament starts a debate on the bill Wednesday.

It has prompted resistance in some quarters, and anti-vaccination protesters are planning a demonstration Wednesday.

France’s daily infections dropped sharply in the spring but have shot up again over the past two weeks, and some regions are re-imposing virus restrictions.


NEXT FEW DAYS LOOMLARGE FOR US GYMNASTS AFTER ALTERNATE’S POSITIVE COVID TEST

The biggest challenge to the gold rush for Simone Biles and the U.S. women comes even before the competition begins.

The news that alternate Kara Eaker tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday following a training camp with Biles and the rest of the Olympic team means there will be a nervous eye on test results the next few days. Biles is the biggest thing going at the Tokyo Olympics, heavily favored to win, well, everything, and the U.S. women are expected to cruise to a third consecutive team title.

They have to be able to compete, however.

If the last few days have reminded us of anything, it’s that the COVID pandemic is far from over, and being fully vaccinated does not give someone an impenetrable shield. Eaker said after last month’s Olympic Trials that she was fully vaccinated, and yet the 18-year-old is now quarantined, as is her training mate, Leanne Wong, who was deemed a close contact.

Masks were to be worn at all times except when athletes were eating, actively training or in their individual rooms.

 

Competition begins Sunday.


CANADA TO LET VACCINATED US CITIZENS ENTER ON AUG. 9. WHAT TO KNOW

Canadian officials announced Monday they will begin letting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens into Canada on Aug. 9, and those from the rest of the world on Sept. 7.

Entry will require not just the traditional passport but proof of vaccination.

Officials said the 14-day quarantine requirement will be waived as of Aug. 9 for eligible travelers who are currently residing in the United States and have received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca).

On Monday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who noted he spoke with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday, said the United States has not yet indicated any plan to change current restrictions at the land border. However, Canadians are able to fly into the United States with a negative COVID-19 test.

For the United States’ part, it must decide whether to extend its land border closures with Canada and Mexico by Wednesday.

 

Also, according to the Canadian government, fully vaccinated travelers must also:

  • Provide COVID-19-related information electronically through ArriveCAN (app or web portal) including proof of vaccination prior to departing for Canada (subject to limited exceptions)
  • Meet pre-entry testing requirements
  • Be asymptomatic upon arrival

Have a paper or digital copy of their vaccination documentation in English or French (or certified translation, along with the original) ready to show a government official upon request.


OAKLAND COUNTY CONTINUING RENT, MORTGAGE, AND UTILITY RELIEF PROGRAM

Oakland County is continuing a program that will provide $3.9 million in rental, mortgage, and utility assistance for low-income residents continuing to struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will be the third round of grant disbursements from the Oakland County Neighborhood and Housing Development Rent, Morgage, and Utility Relief Program. The program was first implemented in spring 2020 and uses federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

To receive assistance you must:

  • Be an Oakland County resident
  • Have a household income less than 80% of the area median income, as defined by HUD
  • Have had a COVID-19 related hardship beginning March 10, 2020 or later such as inability to pay due to temporary job loss, reduced work hours, or other income hardship
  • The household has not received assistance from any other source for the same activity and time period as requested through this program
  • Your landlord or property manager or mortgage company must agree to participate in the program.  (No payments will be made directly to the applicant.)
  • This program provides a one-time grant for eligible households and covers the following areas:
    • Rent payment (includes land contract payments, mobile home lot rent, late fees, court costs).
    • Mortgage payment and/or association fees
    • Utility payment (gas, electric, water and sewer).
  • Household liquid assets (e.g., savings, checking, cash) are limited to $15,000

Eligible Oakland County residents can fill out and submit grant application by visiting: http://www.oakgov.com/RMU.


HENRY FORD HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES PROTEST VACCINE MANDATE

Hundreds of Henry Ford Hospital employees and their supporters turned out in front of the Clinton Township hospital location on 19 Mile Road to protest against mandatory COVID vaccines.

 

Henry Ford Health System announced June 29 it would require all hospital workers, including students, volunteers and contractors, to be fully vaccinated for COVID by Sept. 10, 2021. Workers who opt not to get fully vaccinated could risk losing their jobs.

Many protesters expressed concern regarding the safety of the vaccine as well as what they see as a violation of their right to personal freedom under the Constitution of the United States as well as a violation of privacy laws and federal laws restricting release of medical information.

 

People lined both sides of 19 Mile Road holding signs with messages such as “My body my choice” and “I identify as vaccinated” and waving American flags.

Protests also took place at Henry Ford Health System’s main location on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit as well as HFHS locations on West Maple Road in West Bloomfield Township; North East Avenue in Jackson; and Biddle Avenue in Wyandotte.

 

President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer of the Henry Ford Health System Bob Riney pointed to the danger caused by the coronavirus in a prepared statement:

 

“We have received widespread support from our patients, team members and the community for our decision to require the COVID-19 vaccine for team members. At the same time, we acknowledge that uncertainty remains for some, and respect the rights of those members of our Henry Ford family, as well as those in our broader communities, to voice their concerns. The data and science continue to reinforce the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the mitigation of new and emerging threats like the Delta variant. As such, we know more than ever that vaccination is the absolute best way to end this pandemic and we remain confident in our decision. We are deeply committed to working alongside every team member who has concerns or questions.”

 

Riney said the HFHS COVID vaccine policy is in keeping with existing policy requiring employees to be vaccinated for the flu, measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough.


UM FACULTY SURVEY: MOST SUPPORT MANDATORY COVID-19 VACCINATION

Most instructors at the University of Michigan think COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory for all faculty, staff and students, with limited medical or religious exceptions — or if not, instructors should be able to opt out of in-person instruction, according to results of an informal survey obtained by The Detroit News.

Faculty Senate members, clinical faculty and lecturers were asked whether they would support a university mandate that all students, faculty and staff be vaccinated, with limited medical and religious exceptions — an expansion of a current requirement for students who want to live on the Ann Arbor campus this fall.

The instructors also were asked if they should be able to opt-out of in-person teaching, should such a mandate not be adopted.

 

Among the Faculty Senate, 1,484 out of 4,297 members responded to the survey, with 89.1%, or 1,305, saying Yes, they support mandatory vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff.

Among clinical faculty, 487 of 2,024 responded, with 88%, or 418, voting Yes on the vaccine requirement.  And among 399 of 1,169 lecturers who responded, 85.1%, or 339, said they support a mandate.

Asked if instructors should be able to opt out of in-person teaching if the University of Michigan doesn’t mandate vaccinations, 76% of Senate Faculty members, or 1,054 of those who responded, said instructors should be able to opt out.

The question of whether COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory has been hotly debated across the country, and some Michigan institutions have adopted vaccine requirements.


SOME DNR CUSTOMER SERVICE CENTERS TO REOPEN TO PUBLIC

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is resuming some regular operations that were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting this week, some customer service centers and field offices will be open to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through Labor Day. Staff in these offices sell hunting and fishing licenses and fuelwood permits, according to the DNR.

All customer service centers, field offices and other destinations are expected to return to their pre-pandemic office hours by Sept. 7.

The DNR also says that headquarters buildings at state parks and recreation areas, state-managed harbors and DNR shooting ranges are open.


AMERICANS WHO ARE FULLY VACCINATED CAN ENTER CANADA AS OF MID-AUGUST

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel and should be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.

Trudeau spoke with leaders of Canada’s provinces and his office released a readout of the call. He noted that if Canada’s current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue the border can open.

Trudeau noted Canada continues to lead G20 countries in vaccination rates with approximately 80% of eligible Canadians vaccinated with their first dose and over 50% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated. He said case numbers and severe illness continue to decline across the country as vaccination rates continue to increase.

 

Non essential entry into Canada by Americans and others has been restricted since the early months of the pandemic.


LOS ANGELES COUNTY TO REQUIRE MASKS INDOORS — REGARDLESS OF COVID-19 VACCINATION STATUS: LIVE UPDATES

Los Angeles County, the most populated county in the U.S., will once again require people to wear masks indoors – regardless of vaccination status – due to a recent surge in new COVID-19 cases.

The startling change, announced exactly a month after California became one of the last in the country to reopen and drop coronavirus mandates, aims to stunt an uptick in new cases combined with the spread of the highly infectious delta variant. It will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

The news out of California comes asthe U.S. is once again reporting more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections every hour, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data for the week ending Wednesday.

 

The nation is averaging about 25,300 new cases per day, more than double the rate of the week of June 22. The total rose in 48 states – all but Iowa and South Dakota. Still, the totals represent only about 10% of the numbers reported in the U.S. in its worst week in January.


MICHIGAN MAN GETS PRISON TIME FOR $590K COVID-19 FRAUD SCHEME

A Michigan man was sentenced to two years in federal prison on charges of bank fraud and money laundering after securing a $590,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan for a nonexistent business and using those funds to purchase vehicles, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

 

Before the fraud was uncovered, Darrell Baker, 56, of Detroit, withdrew about $170,000 of the loan and purchased two Cadillac Escalades, a Dodge Charger and a Hummer using cashier’s checks

The PPP was set up to provide loans to small businesses to keep their workforces employed during COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Baker pleaded guilty in September 2020 to one count of bank fraud arising from his effort to obtain the loan by defrauding Customers Bank, of Pennsylvania. He also pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering related to financial transactions with the fraudulently obtained funds.

He was sentenced this week to 24 months in prison. He was also ordered to forfeit the vehicles he purchased, to pay restitution of $89,864 and to repay the $172,484.40 that he withdrew from the loan.

Baker applied for and obtained the loan on behalf of “Motorcity Solar Energy, Inc.,” a business he claimed to own but that does not exist. He claimed the business had 68 employees and paid them $2.8 million during 2019 – those claims were false as the business does not exist.


FIRST FOUR WINNERS OF $50,000 VACCINE PRIZES NAMED — MOST HAIL FROM DETROIT AREA

The first four winners of $50,000 each were named Wednesday in the MI Shot To Win Sweepstakes that is aimed at increasing vaccinations against the coronavirus and its variants.

 

Three of the four winners, who were randomly selected for getting vaccinated from July 1 to July 4, were from Metro Detroit. The last winner from the Fourth of July was from west Michigan.

 

The governor cited the Delta variant of COVID-19 as a reason to get vaccinated, saying it must be taken “very seriously.” The Delta variant is considered more contagious and possibly more lethal than other versions of the coronavirus.

 

The effort, which is a collaboration of Meijer, Michigan Association of United Ways, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and other groups, is meant to encourage more Michiganians to get vaccinated and achieve Whitmer’s goal of having 70% of the adult population protected. Ohio and other states launched similar efforts in May.

Michigan’s vaccination rate on Wednesday was 62.4% of adults 16 years and older with at least one dose of the vaccine. When it was announced on July 1, nearly 62% had received one dose.


US VIRUS CASES ARE RISING AGAIN, DOUBLING OVER THREE WEEKS

The COVID-19 curve in the U.S. is rising again after months of decline, with the number of new cases per day doubling over the past three weeks, driven by the fast-spreading delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and Fourth of July gatherings.

Confirmed infections climbed to an average of about 23,600 a day on Monday, up from 11,300 on June 23, according to Johns Hopkins University data. And all but two states — Maine and South Dakota — reported that case numbers have gone up over the past two weeks.

At the same time, parts of the country are running up against deep vaccine resistance, while the highly contagious mutant version of the coronavirus that was first detected in India is accounting for an ever-larger share of infections.

Nationally, 55.6% of all Americans have received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The five states with the biggest one-week jump in cases per capita all had lower vaccination rates, according to the CDC data: Missouri, 46%; Arkansas, 43%; Nevada, 51%; Louisiana, 39%; and Florida, 55%.

The percentage of Michigan residents of all ages who have received at least one dose of the vaccine stood at 52%, according to the federal numbers. But as of now, Michigan is not experiencing a significant jump in cases.

As of Tuesday, Michigan had the 12th lowest number of new infections per capita over the last seven days among the 50 states, according to the CDC’s tracking.


AMERICANS FACING MASSIVE PASSPORT PROCESSING DELAYS, LAWMAKERS URGING STATE DEPT. TO ACT

A crush of Americans are seeking to travel overseas again as vaccination rates climb in the U.S., and foreign governments loosen their restrictions. But many of them are running into a critical problem: Their passport is expired.

That’s led to another crush — of passport applications — one that has overwhelmed the State Department’s 26 passport agencies across the country and created an enormous backlog of applications.

For Americans planning to travel abroad, the agency warned they should submit an application at least six months in advance.

 

The lengthy delays in processing have left many Americans unable to travel, sparking public frustration, as well as concern from Congress. Two top lawmakers urged the State Department this week to expedite applications and cut down the “well beyond usual processing times.

 

The State Department now says passports submitted through the mail for renewal can be expected back in up to 18 weeks, or 12 weeks if an applicant pays extra for expedited processing. It’s unclear how many applications in total are backlogged — a number that was previously available to the public.

For Americans who want to apply in-person, most of the offices across the country still have very limited appointments, reserving them for life-and-death emergencies. The State Department said it is returning staff to offices still, even though many cities across the country are already fully reopened.


THOUSANDS OF COVID-19 VACCINES COULD EXPIRE BEFORE BEING USED UP IN MICHIGAN

It wasn’t long ago that vaccines were a hot commodity in Michigan, with people waiting in long lines to get their turn at partial immunity against COVID-19 and few, if any, shots going to waste.

Fast forward to early summer 2021 and the state’s supply of shots has surpassed demand to the point of some unused doses heading toward expiration in the coming weeks.

Michigan estimates that at least 240,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine will expire in the next two months, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, health official estimate that approximately 45,000 doses of Moderna’s shot and 21,000 doses of Pfizer’s will expire at the end of July.

To limit the waste of vaccine, MDHHS Spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said the state is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to redistribute vaccines to other states, as well as large pharmacy chains within Michigan. The state recently sent some excess Johnson & Johnson doses to Minnesota, Sutfin noted.

The state is also urging vaccine providers to share doses with higher trafficked sites, and has provided strategies to vaccine sites for using up on-hand doses.

As of Friday, July 9, Michigan has administered more than 9 million doses of the three available vaccines. About 56.6% of the 12 and older population has gotten a first shot, and 52.3% are fully immunized.


U.S. INFLATION IS SOARING, HERE’S WHY GROCERY STORE, RESTAURANT MEAL PRICES KEEP RISING

The consumer price index, the U.S.’s key inflation measure, soared by 0.9 percent in June — the largest one-month increase in inflation measures in 13 years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s report released Tuesday.

 

The report from the Labor Department also noted that over the past year, prices went up 5.4%, the biggest jump in yearly inflation also in 13 years.

 

Much of the increase in prices is due to the rise in gasoline prices, which have increased way above summer 2020 levels.

The coronavirus pandemic caused a sharp drop in the number of cars on the road last year, leading to lower oil prices. But now that the nation is slowly recovering from the pandemic and getting vaccinated, demand for travel is back, and so is demand for oil and gas.

 

Gas prices went up 45.1% compared to last year, the Labor Department said.

Food prices also have increased over the past year by 2.4%, and prices for eating out at restaurants rose 4.2%, according to the Labor Department.

 

As restaurants are reopening, they are having trouble attracting help, which has led to sign-on bonuses and higher wages for employees.

 

But the increased cost for the employees comes at a price to the customer, leading to higher prices for menu items.

 

Economists at the Federal Reserve and the White House expect this round of inflation to pass, although some central bank officials have conceded that inflation is stronger than they had thought.


ARTS, BEATS & EATS FESTIVAL TO RETURN WITH 200 BANDS

The Soaring Eagle Arts, Beats & Eats festival is returning this Labor Day weekend after it was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last festival, which is presented by Flagstar Bank, was in 2019 and drew more than 343,000 people to downtown Royal Oak over four days.

“Arts, Beats and Eats is happening at full capacity” this year, said Jon Witz, producer of the annual event. “We got here because the majority of people (in the county) have gotten vaccinated. It’s really up to everyone to get vaccinated.”

Though he released no names of the headlining acts, Witz promised to deliver on the entertainment.

“We have reached out and gotten the biggest name band in our history,” he said.

Arts, Beats & Eats has been in Royal Oak since 2010 and before that was in Pontiac. It is now entering its 24th year.

This year there will be more than 200 performances on nine stages.

The event also features a juried fine art show, dozens of food offerings from restaurants and food trucks.

For the first time, the festival is eliminating food and drink tickets for festival goers, which were not always popular for those who ended up with unused tickets or ran out of tickets and had to wait in line to buy more.

Witz said attendees this year can buy food and beverages directly from restaurants with cash or credit cards. He described the less cumbersome payment system as an experiment that will give people more flexibility and reduce touch points.


US OFFICIALS FLAG “SMALL” REACTION RISK WITH J&J VACCINE

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine may pose a “small possible risk” of a rare but potentially dangerous neurological reaction, U.S. health officials said Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement it has received reports of 100 people who got the shot developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune system disorder that can cause muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis.

That number represents a tiny fraction of the nearly 13 million Americans who have received the one-dose vaccine. Most cases of the side effect were reported in men – many 50 years old and up – and usually about two weeks after vaccination.

The CDC said it would ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to review the issue at an upcoming meeting.


OAKLAND COUNTY SEES HISTORIC DROP IN PUBLIC SCHOOL ENROLLMENT DURING PANDEMIC

All but one of Oakland County’s 28 public school districts saw a drop in enrollment during the 2020-2021 academic year, one riddled with significant challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Carolyn Claerhout, Oakland Schools pupil services manager, is anticipating enrollment numbers to return to more normal levels this fall with the majority of students enrolled for in-person instruction, five days per week.

Claerhout said that school districts across the county are going to see a “very large” increase in kindergarten or first-grade enrollment compared to last year.

Last year, however, Oakland County had 6,038 fewer students in its public schools, of which the largest portion were kindergarteners, a trend that continued at the state level.

In Oakland county, 29 percent of the enrollment decline, or 1,715 students, was among kindergartners with parents choosing to either homeschool or hold their children back a year, putting them in child care instead.

If public school enrollment does not recover to the level that many school administrators are anticipating, schools could eventually see funding cuts down the road, though federal pandemic relief money is boosting budgets for now with Michigan receiving $3.7 billion in K-12 funding from the American Rescue Plan, which was signed by President Biden in March.


LIONS ‘THRILLED’ TO WELCOME BACK FANS IN 2021; FULL CAPACITY SET FOR FORD FIELD

Are you ready for some football? Like, real, live, in-person football?

The Lions sure hope so.

The Lions announced Monday morning that they plan to be back to full capacity for the 2021 NFL season, after playing in front of only friends and family during the COVID-19-impacted 2020 season.

“We have long awaited the moment where we can officially declare we will have 65,000 fans at Ford Field this fall,” Lions president and CEO Rod Wood said in a statement. “We’ve worked diligently with the NFL, as well looked to federal, state and local guidelines to monitor what’s best for our team, staff and fans. We’re thrilled to be at this point and to welcome One Pride back into the stadium.

The Lions say several considerations were factored when making the decision to welcome back fans, most notably the state’s vaccination level. More than 60% of Michigan residents age 16 and up have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Lions announced they will not require proof of vaccination, and face masks won’t be required.

Fan activities, including tailgating and zip lines, also are scheduled to return.

They said they “reserve the right” to go back to no fans should the COVID-19 situation worsen before or during the upcoming season, which starts Sunday, Sept. 12, at home against the San Francisco 49ers.

Single-game tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 28, at lions.com.


VACCINATED TEACHERS AND STUDENTS DON’T NEED MASKS, CDC SAYS

Vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday in relaxing its COVID-19 guidelines.

The changes come amid a national vaccination campaign in which children as young as 12 are eligible to get shots, as well as a general decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

The nation’s top public health agency is not advising schools to require shots for teachers and vaccine-eligible kids. And it’s not offering guidance on how teachers can know which students are vaccinated or how parents will know which teachers are immunized.

 

Another potential headache: Schools should continue to space kids — and their desks — 3 feet apart in classrooms, the CDC says. But the agency emphasized that spacing should not be an obstacle to getting kids back in schools. And it said distancing is not required among fully vaccinated students or staff.

All of this may prove hard to implement, and that’s why CDC is advising schools to make decisions that make the most sense.


FASTER HORSES FEST TO CRANK UP THE PARTY FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS AS THE MUSIC RETURNS TO MIS

Michigan’s biggest country music festival is back in the starting gate. And it’s poised to be not just the state’s biggest gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but one of the first major festivals to return nationwide.

Faster Horses, which traditionally has drawn 40,000-plus daily, will hit Michigan International Speedway next weekend for three days of camping, country tunes and red-white-and-blue partying as the July tradition notches its eighth installment.

Headliners Luke Combs (Friday), Thomas Rhett (Saturday) and Jason Aldean (Sunday) lead a lineup that’s unchanged from the bill originally set for last year before Faster Horses and the rest of the concert industry got sidelined by the pandemic.

Attendance won’t be announced until the festival concludes, but officials say they expect crowd numbers to approach those of previous years. If so, Faster Horses will be the biggest event in Michigan since Garth Brooks played for 70,000 at Ford Field in late February 2020. (At Comerica Park, which returned to full capacity in June, the largest crowd for a Detroit Tigers game so far has been 34,484 on July 5).


648,000 COVID JOBLESS AID RECIPIENTS IN MICHIGAN ASKED TO CLARIFY QUALIFICATIONS

More than 648,000 Michigan unemployment recipients have to file additional paperwork and may have to repay benefits because of unapproved qualification criteria developed by a state agency.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency mailed letters in late June to claimants who had marked one of four reasons provided by the state to indicate they were eligible for federal pandemic unemployment assistance, a form of jobless aid made available to part-time, self-employed or gig workers who wouldn’t normally qualify for benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the four qualifications listed by the state when it began distributing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits did not comply with federal guidelines. This forced the state to re-evaluate PUA eligibility for all individuals who selected Michigan’s non-qualifying reasons.

The UIA’s mailing came as a source of frustration for Rep. Steve Johnson, the Wayland Republican who’s taken hours of Oversight Committee testimony regarding delays, fraudulent claims and mistakes at the Unemployment Insurance Agency.

The agency experienced significant delays during the pandemic because of an unprecedented number of claims from laid-off workers and constant efforts to identify and root out fraudsters.

“The Unemployment Insurance Agency is a mess,” Johnson said. “If the state made the mistake, the people shouldn’t have to pay for it. The state should have to pay for it.”


ST. JOSEPH MERCY REQUIRES COVID-19 VACCINATIONS FOR EMPLOYEES

Trinity Health, which includes St Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac, has announced effective immediately all colleagues, clinical staff, contractors and those conducting business in its health care facilities must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The requirement applies to Trinity Health’s more than 117,000 employees in 22 states nationwide in an effort to stop the spread of the virus and keep all patients, colleagues, and the broader communities safe.

St. Joe’s Oakland employs between 2,500-3,000 who will be affected.

Henry Ford Health System announced a vaccine requirement for its 30,000 employees on June 29.

Employees at Trinity Health and its Health Ministries must meet a series of rolling deadlines, with most locations requiring them to submit proof of vaccination by Sept. 21. It has not yet been determined if a COVID-19 vaccine booster will be required annually, but if so, employees will also need to submit proof of the booster as needed. Exemptions are available for religious or health reasons and must be formally requested, documented, and approved. Employees who do not meet criteria for exemption and fail to show proof of vaccination will have their employment terminated.


PFIZER TO SEEK OK FOR 3RD VACCINE DOSE; SHOTS STILL PROTECT

Pfizer is about to seek U.S. authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying Thursday that another shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity and maybe help ward off the latest worrisome coronavirus mutant.

Research from multiple countries shows the Pfizer shot and other widely used COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant, which is spreading rapidly around the world and now accounts for most new U.S. infections.

Two doses of most vaccines are critical to develop high levels of virus-fighting antibodies against all versions of the coronavirus, not just the delta variant – and most of the world still is desperate to get those initial protective doses as the pandemic continues to rage.

 

But antibodies naturally wane over time, so studies also are underway to tell if and when boosters might be needed.

 

On Thursday, Pfizer’s Dr. Mikael Dolsten told The Associated Press that early data from the company’s booster study suggests people’s antibody levels jump five- to 10-fold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier.

In August, Pfizer plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization of a third dose, he said.


EXPANDED HOURS, NEW RENEWAL OPTIONS COMING TO MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE BRANCHES

Expanded hours and the ability to renew driver’s licenses and state IDs without visiting a Secretary of State branch are among improvements and changes coming to SOS branches.

 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says that the dreaded visits to SOS branch will become shorter with new methods of serving people. Online visits can be scheduled at Michigan.gov/SOS or through their number, 888-SOS-MICH. Or, you can go into an office and schedule in person.

There are two main advances to the operating model:

  • From July 19 to Sept 30, all offices will stay open until 6 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, and open at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays to deal with pandemic backlog. Offices are usually only open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays.
  • Drivers licenses and state IDs that expire on or after July 1st can now be renewed online. No need to wait in line to renew your expired license. In addition, photos only need to be retaken every 12 years rather than eight, making required visits even less frequent.

 

“The extra office hours will provide in-person service to 120,000 additional Michiganders, and the technology upgrade will enable hundreds of thousands of residents to renew their licenses and IDs from the comfort of their own home,” Benson said. “We have a strong plan in place to provide an abundance of in-person office availability in coming months, to work through the transaction backlog created by the pandemic, and to improve upon our service-driven operating model that provides the convenient, efficient and equitable service that Michiganders have sought and deserved for decades.”


AUDITOR GENERAL TO REVIEW MICHIGAN’S COVID-RELATED NURSING HOME DEATH DATA

The state auditor general will conduct a review to determine the accuracy of Michigan’s data pertaining to COVID-related deaths at long-term care facilities.

Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler estimated the audit would be complete between late September and the middle of October in a letter addressed last week to Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland.

Ringler, who was appointed in 2014, was chosen by a majority vote of lawmakers for an eight-year term. Ringler’s office is tasked with conducting “post financial and performance audits of all branches, departments, offices, boards, authorities, and other institutions,” according to the office’s website.

Johnson requested the Office of Auditor General undertake a “comprehensive study of reported and unreported deaths in long-term care facilities” in June following questions over the reliability of the state’s data.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that it had received a request from the Office of Auditor General and welcomed the opportunity to meet with the team.


JAPAN DECLARE STATE OF EMERGENCY IN TOKYO THROUGH OLYMPICS DUE TO COVID-19 SURGE

IOC President Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo on Thursday just as a ban on spectators at the Tokyo Olympics is likely after Japan Prime Minister Yoshihde Suga announced a state of emergency because of rising coronavirus infections in the capital.

Suga said the state of emergency would go in effect on Monday and last through Aug. 22. This means the Olympics, opening on July 23 and running through Aug. 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures.

Suga said the state of emergency was needed to “prevent the resurgence of the future spread on cases across the country.”

 

Bach’s arrival comes just two weeks before the postponed Tokyo Games are to open. The IOC and local organizers are attempting to hold the games during a pandemic despite opposition from the Japanese public and medical community.

 

The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close. A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the games on TV from home.


MICHIGAN’S COVID-19 OUTBREAKS DROP 89% IN A MONTH

drop

A month ago, Michigan was tracking 523 active COVID-19 outbreaks.

On Wednesday, July 7, the state updated its count to 56 active outbreaks, including two newly discovered clusters and 54 ongoing outbreaks.

Michigan saw a 89% decrease in active outbreaks since June 7, and a 54% decrease since last week, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. The department reports outbreak data weekly, typically on Mondays, with data up through the prior Thursday.

An outbreak is generally defined as an instance in which two or more cases are linked by a place and time, indicating a shared exposure outside of a household.

The two latest outbreaks involved a long-term care facility and a social gathering.

Among the ongoing outbreaks, 18 were tied to assisted living facilities, and 15 were linked to manufacturing/construction sites. No other setting reported more than three outbreaks.


PONTIAC OFFERING INCENTIVES TO ENCOURAGE RESIDENT COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

Pontiac is offering incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The “Let’s Get Pontiac Vacc to Normal” campaign kicks off Wednesday, July 7 and will take place in the parking lot of Pontiac City Hall, 47450 Woodward Avenue.

All participants will receive two free tickets to the “Unity in the Community” concert featuring Lakeside, Midnight Star and The Stylistics on Aug. 1. Anyone who gets vaccinated also receives a $50 gift card from Visa, Mastercard or American Express.

Other vaccination clinic dates include July 8, July 28 and July 29. St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital is sponsoring the July 7 and July 28 clinics. McLaren Oakland Hospital is sponsoring the July 8 and July 29 clinics.

Each clinic will be open to the public between 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Vaccines will be provided by Honor Community Health. Advance registration through their website is available but not required.


COSTCO WILL DROP COVID-19 SENIOR HOURS ON JULY 26 AFTER MORE THAN 16 MONTHS

Costco Wholesale will soon drop its senior hours after holding them for more than 16 months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailer said on its COVID-19 updates page that it plans to end the weekday senior hours and resume regular operating hours effective July 26.

“Until July 26, Costco warehouses in the U.S. and Puerto Rico are open for Special Operating Hours from 9 to 10 a.m., Monday through Friday,” Costco said on its website, listing a few locations that have different hours.

Like most of the nation’s major grocery stores, Costco started designating special shopping hours in March 2020 to help those the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considered most vulnerable and at-risk for COVID-19.

Costco’s hour is for members who are 60 and older, members with disabilities or those who are immunocompromised. The membership club does not allow guests who do not meet its criteria during the designated shopping time.

 

Costco started offering senior hours March 24 as a twice-weekly event and quickly extended to three times a week. When clubs resumed normal hours in early May 2020, clubs extended the senior hours to weekday mornings at most locations.

Last summer, Costco originally announced plans to reduce the special hours to twice per week in July 2020 but didn’t cut the hours as cases spiked.


MICHIGAN WILL NOW PUBLISH STATE’S COVID-19 DATA ON TUESDAYS AND FRIDAYS

From now on, the State of Michigan will publish COVID-19 data on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Previously, the state published data Monday through Saturday, but recently began excluding weekends before reducing updates to Tuesdays and Fridays.

COVID-19 case rates have been steadily declining in Michigan. Last month, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Michigan is now at the lowest COVID-19 case rate since the pandemic started nearly 15 months ago.

As of July 2, more than 9 million vaccines doses have been administered, with 56.5% of the state’s population fully vaccinated. The state’s first-dose vaccine tracker will continue to be updated daily.

The state is also working to continue to vaccinate Michiganders with vaccine sweepstakes that offer up to $5 million in prizes.

Michigan has recently dropped almost all COVID-19 restrictions across the state.


MICHIGAN ROLLS BACK MANDATORY COVID-19 TESTING FOR AGRICULTURAL WORKERS

Michigan will no longer mandate COVID-19 testing for agricultural and migrant workers.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) cited increased vaccination rates and declining COVID-19 cases when it rescinded the order Thursday, July 1.

The measure went into effect last August following virus outbreaks at farms and food processing plants.

Farmers challenged the mandate that required employers of migrant or seasonal workers with more than 20 employees on site at a time to test all workers. The lawsuit was dismissed in September.

 

MDHHS recently awarded $60 million to improve vaccination access for high-risk populations, including for seasonal agricultural workers.

Through a partnership with the Michigan Primary Care Association, health officials can bring a mobile unit directly to farms to provide vaccinations and testing for employees.

Other protections for workers remain in place. Emergency rules require agricultural laborer housing to have a COVID-19 response plan and provide quarantine housing for workers exposed to the virus.


MICHIGAN’S LATEST BUDGET COULD HELP ACHIEVE EQUITY IN SCHOOL FUNDING

A tidal wave of funding will hit Michigan schools this year, between federal funding and a record state budget.

State lawmakers passed an unprecedented $17.1 billion budget on Wednesday, and federal COVID-19 relief funding will also send billions to schools.

The latest budget hikes per-pupil funding in the state to $8,700, closing a persistent funding gap between Michigan school districts that state lawmakers for years have tried to incrementally close.

Education advocates hailed the massive infusion of funding, but said the state’s work on the funding system is unfinished.

 

While the new budget may mean the state is close to achieving equality in funding, they said achieving equity — the idea that many vulnerable groups may require more or different resources to receive an adequate education — would take a complete overhaul of the school funding formula.

 

The equal per-pupil funding from the state doesn’t mean all districts are now funded equally. Districts in wealthier areas can lean on local property owners to supplement funding still needed to improve buildings, among other uses.


COVID VACCINE TRIAL PARTICIPANTS CONCERNED ABOUT NOT BEING ELIGIBLE FOR MICHIGAN’S SWEEPSTAKES

The state of Michigan is on the receiving end of billions in COVID relief, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is now using about $5.5 million of those federal dollars to incentivize getting the vaccine.

However, there are concerns over who is eligible for the “MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes” money, and that is the very first people who received the vaccine.

The governor decided that since the vaccine became available to the public on Dec. 1, 2020, that was the date she’d use for people to register for a chance to win.

Officials with the Governor’s Office referred Local 4′s questions to Meijer, which they said is administering the program. Meijer could not be reached for comment by Monday afternoon.


WHITMER TO ANNOUNCE MICHIGAN COVID-19 VACCINE SWEEPSTAKES, SCHOLARSHIPS

Are you feeling lucky, Michigan?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer plans to announce details Thursday of a COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes that will give vaccinated Michiganders a chance to win a combined total of more than $5 million in cash and nine college scholarships worth $55,000 apiece.

Called the MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes, the lottery-style raffle will be operated by the state in conjunction with Meijer and the Michigan Association of United Ways as an incentive to encourage more residents to get vaccinated.

Any resident 18 or older who has gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine is eligible for the sweepstakes. For teens and tweens ages 12-17, there’ll be a chance to win one of nine Michigan Education Trust (MET) Charitable Tuition Program four-year contracts valued at $55,000. The scholarships can be used to pay for tuition and mandatory fees at a college or university in accordance with MET terms and conditions.

As of Wednesday, just over 5 million Michiganders ages 16 and up had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which amounts to 61.8% of that population, according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.


OAKLAND COUNTY EXTENDS $50 GIFT CARD INCENTIVE FOR RESIDENTS WHO GET COVID-19 SHOT

Oakland County Health officials said Wednesday they will continue to offer a $50 gift card to county residents who get vaccinated for COVID-19.

The county last week announced the gift card initiative for residents who received their first dose of the vaccine between June 24 and July 4. It now will remain in place until 70% of county residents 16 and up have received at least one dose. Those under 18 are eligible for the vaccine and a gift card with the consent of their parent or legal guardian.

As of Tuesday, 68.6% of county residents 16 and up have received at least one dose, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

County residents can visit Oakland County Health Division vaccine clinics or enrolled COVID-19 vaccine providers in Michigan to qualify for the incentive while supplies last.

The Health Division is holding daily vaccine clinics from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at both its North Oakland Health Center in Pontiac and South Oakland Health Center in Southfield.

Oakland officials are urging residents who have not yet received their first dose of the vaccine to get it, noting data shows unvaccinated individuals are most susceptible to the virus and at higher risk of becoming infected with the contagious Delta variant.


GOOGLE IS BUILDING SUPPORT FOR DIGITAL COVID VACCINE CARDS INTO ANDROID

Google is opening up Android’s built-in passes system to let Android users store a digital vaccine card, which it calls a COVID Card, on their phone. The feature will initially roll out in the US, and it will rely on support from healthcare providers, local governments, or other organizations authorized to distribute COVID vaccines. The feature will also support storing COVID test results.

For vaccinations, your COVID Card will show info on when you were vaccinated and which vaccine you received, according to a Google support page. The card can be saved from your healthcare provider’s app or website as well as from texts or emails sent to you.

Google recommends that you add a shortcut to the card on your home screen and will offer the option when you save your card to your device. Google says that the card won’t be saved the cloud and that it won’t use the information you provide for advertising purposes, but it does say that it will collect some information, like how many times you use your card and on which days. And you won’t have to have the Google Pay app downloaded to save and access cards.


COVID-19 VACCINATIONS REQUIRED FOR HENRY FORD HEALTH EMPLOYEES

OAKLAND PRESS – Being vaccinated against COVID-19 will be a condition of employment at the Henry Ford Health System starting on Sept. 10.

“We believe we are the first health care system in Michigan to mandate vaccination. Nationally we are aware that over 18 health care systems are requiring or are in the process of requiring vaccination for their employees and we anticipate that number will continue to grow.’’ Bob Riney, Henry Ford’s president of healthcare operations and chief operating officer, said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

This decision applies to all team members, medical staff, students, volunteers and contractors that do business in the Henry Ford facilities including employees who work remotely or those who have had COVID 19.

Exemptions will be granted for medical or religious reasons.

“With COVID-19 hospitalizations in single digits at each of our hospitals, and the positivity rate hovering at about 1%, we’re optimistic that the worst is behind us,’’ Riney said. “But we have lived this fight long enough to know the new variants are real and worrisome. They will continue to emerge and surges can happen any time, anywhere.’’

Employees who have antibodies will be required to receive the vaccine because it offers more protection against variants such as Delta.

Science and data has proved the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and Finey said he expects the FDA to grant permanent approval to the vaccines.

“No question in my mind that every person who walks through our doors will find some comfort knowing that their team care providers and everyone they come into contact with are vaccinated against COVID-19,’’ said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, Henry Ford’s system director of infection control and prevention.

Currently 68% or just over 23,000 of the 33,000 Henry Ford team members are vaccinated. About 90% of the physicians fall in that category which matches the national average noted by the American Medical Association.


EXTRA DEPUTIES TO PATROL OAKLAND COUNTY LAKES OVER JULY 4

DETROIT NEWS – Extra sheriff’s deputies will be patrolling Oakland County lakes over the July 4 holiday period as part of a national campaign aimed at reducing alcohol, and drug-related accidents and fatalities on bodies of water.

Operation Dry Water was launched in 2009 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and local, state and federal law enforcement.

Oakland County to the north and northwest of Detroit has 450 navigable lakes and 83,000 registered boats, according to the sheriff’s office.

The county’s marine unit has 13 full-time deputies trained in dive and emergency rescue. It also has more than 45 part-time marine deputies who respond to lake emergencies, 23 patrol boats, two rapid response jump boats, one hovercraft, six all-terrain vehicles and three specialty boats for search and rescue emergencies.


44 MICHIGAN COUNTIES HAVE NO ACTIVITY BUT VIRUS CASES PERSIST

OAKLAND PRESS – Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to mount but more than half of Michigan’s counties have no new cases or deaths.

There were 173 new cases and 32 deaths (27 from vital records reviews) announced Tuesday by the state health department, but no new cases or deaths in 44 of the state’s 83 counties.

The larger daily numbers continue to be in southeast and southwest Michigan.

There were 43 cases and three deaths in Wayne County, 14 cases and one death in Macomb County, eight cases and three deaths in Detroit, and eight cases and two deaths in Oakland County.

In west Michigan, there were 17 cases and three deaths in Kent County and 15 cases in Ottawa County. In mid Michigan, Clare County had one death, and Gratiot County had one case.

Vaccination levels statewide of residents ages 12 and older are above 50 percent, ranging from a low in Detroit of slightly more than 31 percent to a high of more than 71% in Leelanau County in the northern Lower Peninsula.

More than 60% of residents over age 50 have been vaccinated, and vaccination rates are higher with older age groups. Younger age groups are increasingly acquiring vaccinations, including 21% in the 12-15 age group.

Even with more normal economic and social conditions compared to a year ago, the state health department says it has no plans to halt daily updates of COVID cases and deaths, and vaccination rates.


MEDICAL PROVIDERS PARTNER WITH SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO VACCINATE YOUTH

Hundreds of children ages 12 to 17 in metro Detroit school districts have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with the help of local medical providers.

MedNetOne Health Solutions, based in Rochester, hosted multiple pop-up vaccination clinics since May. Approximately 700 students in Rochester and Berkley school districts were vaccinated, including some parents.

The healthcare provider said early vaccination efforts and partnerships with metro Detroit schools were part of a larger effort to vaccinate ethnic communities. Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Hmong, Thai, Vietnamese and Albanian communities were said to be immunized by these clinics.


OAKLAND COUNTY USING $6.6M FROM AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN TO SUPPORT CHILDCARE AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

Oakland County is beginning to distribute portions of its $244 million American Rescue Plan allocation to help those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the county was allocated $244,270,949 in federal Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan and has received the first of two expected disbursements in the amount of $122,135,474. The remaining funds will be distributed by May 2022.

In April, Dave Coulter, Oakland County Executive, reconvened the 31-member COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force, a group of community stakholders representing the education, health, construction, local government, hospitality, labor, non-profit, and business sectors, to make strategic recommendations on how the county should use its American Rescue Plan allocation.

Over the past few months, the task force has made recommendations to the Coulter Administration, which includes addressing immediate community needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative economic impacts

This week, the county board of commissioners is expected to approve a $6.6 million allocation that will be used by the county to enhance workforce training and education needs.

The Oakland Together Skilled and Educated Workforce Program dollars will be allocated for the following uses:

  • $2,874,000: To fund grade 6-12 Oakland80 Career Navigators to be embedded in communities across the county. The navigators will help students understand their skills and the potential
    education and training paths to gain access to high quality, in demand jobs with pathways to
    advancement.
  • $1.05 million: To continue and build on partnership with the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency (OLHSA) to deploy three success coaches in support of the Oakland County Business Resource Network. The network supports businesses and their employees to address issues related to workforce retention. Coaches guide the development of strategies to increase employee retention, provide supportive services, and share best
    practices.
  • $1.5 million: Provide assistance to individuals facing financial barriers that limit access to career
    credential and higher education programs. The financial assistance would be administered by Michigan Works! and include support for transportation, childcare, work clothing, books and supplies, housing, utilities and training/education opportunities.

$1.2 million: To provide childcare scholarships to individuals and families disproportionately impacted
by the COVID-19 pandemic who face barriers to employment opportunities. The scholarships would be granted at $1,200 per household who qualify at up to 300% of the U.S. federal poverty guidelines or meet Oakland County Michigan Works! Agency’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Dislocated Worker, Adult, or Youth Program Eligibility guidelines. The scholarships would support families with coverage costs which include co-pays, applications fees, and direct care costs.


GRETCHEN WHITMER CALLS FOR ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE, INFRASTRUCTURE WHILE ON FLOOD TOUR

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer toured a flooded Detroit freeway by air and on the ground Monday, calling it “a devastating moment” for many Metro Detroit residents.

Whitmer spoke with reporters Monday on Interstate 94 near the Martin Street overpass, a section of the freeway still closed and flooded with water. The roofs of several submerged vehicles were still visible from the weekend rain.

She urged residents cleaning up to be safe and to document their losses and file claims with local municipalities.

She blamed the flooding on climate change and a lack of political will to fund needed infrastructure repairs.

Whitmer said the long-term solution won’t be found in President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan and urged lawmakers to come together.

“Now we are seeing the cost of not fixing it and it would be overly simplistic to say that we should use one time dollars because this is an ongoing problem,” Whitmer said. “Republicans and Democrats have to put aside the traditional corners which they go when anyone talks about investment because investment in infrastructure is investment in our public safety. It’s an investment in our economy.”


MDHHS RECOMMENDS THAT SCHOOLS MAINTAIN COVID-19 SAFETY MEASURES

State officials are recommending that schools continue safety and sanitation steps in place for the last academic year to help reduce disruptions to in-person learning when classes resume in the fall.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued recommendations for schools to help protect those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. Currently, the vaccine is not recommended for children under age 12.

Key prevention strategies in schools include:

  • Promoting COVID-19 vaccination for eligible staff and students
  • Using masks in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control
  • Social distancing, physical distancing, including cohorting children to reduce potential exposures
  • COVID-19 screening, testing and contact tracing
    Encouraging students and staff to stay home if sick or having COVID-19 symptoms
  • Encouraging students and staff to get tested for COVID-19 if having symptoms or if they are not fully vaccinated and are in close contact with someone who has COVID-19
  • Conducting screening and implementing contact tracingand quarantine, collaborating with the local health department
  • Promoting handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes
  • Routine cleaning to help maintain healthy facilities

Avoiding crowded or poorly ventilated indoor activities (e.g., engaging in outdoor activities when possible and increasing ventilation for indoor activities).


FOREIGN CARMAKERS’ U.S. PLANTS RELAX COVID-19 PROTOCOLS AS DETROIT 3 KEEP MASKS

Foreign automakers are beginning to relax some COVID-19 protocols at their U.S. plants, including the wearing of masks, even as the Detroit-based carmakers and the United Auto Workers union continue to require workers to wear masks.

Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co, BMW AG and Geely’s Volvo Cars all are beginning to let workers at some U.S. plants shed their masks as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to climb across the country. Some companies are requiring workers to provide proof of vaccination before they can go mask-free.

In the meantime, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Stellantis NV all said their workers must continue to wear masks. The decision was made jointly with the United Auto Workers (UAW) on June 9, when a joint task force agreed to continue most workplace protocols, except for temperature screening.

UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg said the task force is scheduled to meet again this week.


ALMOST EVERYONE HOSPITALIZED IN MICHIGAN THIS YEAR WASN’T FULLY VACCINATED

More than 99% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations in Michigan between Jan. 1 and June 15 involved people who were not fully vaccinated against the virus, according to data from a statewide hospital association and state government modeling.

There were 50,954 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations in that time period, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. Only 447 of those hospitalizations were for fully vaccinated people two weeks out from their final dose, state modeling data shows.

Only about 0.88% of all hospitalizations were for fully vaccinated people. It takes about two weeks from the second dose for a COVID-19 vaccine to reach full strength, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the same period, less than 1% of people who were fully vaccinated later tested positive, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Those cases, called “breakthrough cases,” are expected but rare. In Michigan,  7,135 people of the nearly 4.3 million who had received their final doses by June 15 — less than one-fifth of 1% — were considered to be breakthrough cases.

The availability of COVID-19 vaccinations, which are free and now available to everyone 12 years and older, increased significantly over that time period, which doctors say helped to bring down case counts and hospitalization numbers to some of the lowest points seen in months.


MORE MICHIGAN RESTAURANTS TOLD THEY WILL NOT RECEIVE PREVIOUSLY APPROVED FEDERAL AID

After being approved for aid from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the owner of five Bobcat Bonnie’s locations, found out this week via email from the U.S. Small Business Administration they will not be disbursing the previously approved aid.

 

Nearly 3,000 restaurant businesses in the prioritized group, those owned by women, “socially or economically disadvantaged” individuals and veterans, received notice from the Small Business Administration stating they would not receive previously approved funds because of lawsuits filed by several white business owners.

 

Restaurants in Texas and Tennessee filed lawsuits against the SBA, arguing that prioritizing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to groups based on race and gender is unconstitutional. The fund is aimed at aiding restaurants, an industry decimated by the pandemic. Recent court rulings ordered the SBA to stop disbursing funds to the prioritized group.

The SBA opened the fund to the priority groups for the first 21 days of the application window. Prioritizing the applicants was mandated by Congress.

Since the fund closed on May 24, the SBA received more than 372,000 applications requesting $76 billion in funds — far exceeding available funding. To date, more than 100,000 restaurants have received $27.4 billion in relief funds.

It’s estimated that 1 in 6 restaurants across the country permanently closed because of the pandemic. But not everyone was eligible or will receive funds.


SURVEY: 7 OF 10 MICHIGAN SMALL BUSINESSES NOW EXPECT TO SURVIVE COVID-19

Survival is no longer a driving concern of small business owners in Michigan, where a recent survey shows that 72 percent expect to withstand the pandemic.

However, effects of the last 15 months linger for them: Nearly two thirds say COVID-19 is still negatively impacting their business and close to 50 percent say the pandemic caused permanent changes in their customer bases.

Business owners are moving toward the point where they can quantify what the pandemic means to their futures.

Things like office employees remaining at home for work and a lack of robust online presence for certain products mean that a so-called return to normal will mean future changes for many businesses. And with pandemic restrictions just ending in Michigan, it also will take time for event centers in the state to see the impact from customers returning, Calley said.

The responses come from a survey conducted June 8-18 by SBAM, which asked more than 600 small businesses based in the state questions about their outlook after the pandemic.

The answers offer glimpses into what types of issues the small businesses face as Michigan ends most pandemic restrictions. These businesses represent about 1 million entities and half of the state’s private employers.

Responses, according to SBAM, showed staffing and related issues played a role in many answers:

  • 47 percent of respondents say difficulty finding and keeping employees is the biggest problem facing their business.
  • 50 percent of those surveyed expect to increase the size of their workforce over the next six months.
  • 52 percent of small businesses have increased wages of their employees since the pandemic began.

33 percent of businesses reported staffing reductions due to the pandemic.


63RD ANNUAL MACKINAC BRIDGE WALK IS BACK THIS LABOR DAY

Grab your friends and put on your walking shoes because the Mackinac Bridge Walk is back this summer. The event, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic, will take place on Sept. 6.

The event, which began in 1958, usually garners 25,000-30,000 participants, according to a news release.

Beginning at 6:40 a.m., participants will have the chance to walk one of the largest suspension bridges in the world.

Walkers can start at either end and walk all the way across or turn back at the halfway point and return to their starting city. Since participants can start from either end, there will be no buses driving people from one side to the other.

The bridge will be closed to traffic from 6:30 a.m. until noon, and walkers must reach the midway point by 10 a.m. or they will be turned back.


OAKLAND COUNTY SPENDING $1 MILLION ON GIFT CARDS FOR NEWLY VACCINATED RESIDENTS

Oakland County is spending $1 million on gift cards to get more young people vaccinated.

The county will be using federal CARES Act dollars to pay for the program, which includes 18,000 gift cards worth $50 each to be given to newly vaccinated county residents. The gift cards will be offered through July 4, or until all gift cards have been distributed, whichever comes first.

To be eligible, you must be an Oakland County resident. Those interested in taking advantage of this program can visit any county health division vaccine clinic or any other COVID-19 vaccine provider in Michigan.

Although the program is open to all unvaccinated county residents, county officials are hoping young people will respond to this new incentive. Residents under 18 are eligible to receive a vaccine and a gift card with the consent of their parent or legal guardian.

Right now, 68.2 percent of Oakland County residents age 30 and above have been vaccinated, but only 49.4 percent of those between the ages of 12 to 29 have received their first vaccine dose, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

County residents who receive their first dose from June 24 to July 4 at a vaccine provider other than the health division may claim their gift card by: Visiting OaklandCountyVaccine.com or calling Nurse on Call at 800-848-5533.


EXPERTS: BENEFITS OF COVID VACCINE OUTWEIGH SMALL HEART RISK

Federal officials said Wednesday they plan to strengthen cautions about a rare side effect of some COVID-19 vaccines – chest pain and heart inflammation, mostly among teenagers and young adults.

But in an unusual joint statement, top U.S. government health officials, medical organizations, laboratory and hospital associations and others stressed the overriding benefit of the vaccines.

“The facts are clear: this is an extremely rare side effect, and only an exceedingly small number of people will experience it after vaccination. Importantly, for the young people who do, most cases are mild, and individuals recover often on their own or with minimal treatment,” the statement said.

There does seem to be a link between the Pfizer and Moderna shots and some cases of heart inflammation, experts said at a meeting Wednesday of an outside panel that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccinations.

The problem appears to be most common in young men after they receive their second of two doses, but it is nevertheless rare overall: There have been 323 confirmed reports of the inflammation in people younger than 30, and the vast majority recovered from their symptoms.


NEW REPORT SAYS MICHIGAN IS THE STATE WITH THE SLOWEST RECOVERY FROM COVID-19

The United States is slowly but surely recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and more and more businesses are reopening as restrictions are gradually eased. As a result, the unemployment rate has dropped to 6% from its high of 14.7% in April 2020.

About 32% of the population is also fully vaccinated.

Despite the great strides that some states have made others have lagged behind including Michigan, which is the state with the slowest recovery from COVID-19, according to Tuesday’s report by WalletHub.

To identify the states that are having the most successful recoveries, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 22 key metrics including the number of people fully vaccinated, doses delivered, hospitalization rate, number of seated diners from online, phone, and walk-in restaurants, presence or absence of state domestic travel and the presence or absence of policies that have banned gatherings of 25-plus people in the state.

In terms of the share of its population that are fully vaccinated Michigan was ranked 25, which is about average. It also ranked higher than most in terms of its unemployment rate now versus the pre-COVID levels at 15. However, other factors like its death rate and number of people hospitalized contributed to its poor ranking.


NEW COVID CASES FALL BELOW 100 TUESDAY

On Tuesday, Michigan health officials reported just 91 new cases of COVID-19 statewide. This is a new record-low for a single-day of reported cases, in line with numbers dating back to the very beginning of the pandemic. Last week, Michigan dipped below 1,000 total cases, also a rare occurrence since the earliest days of recording COVID-19 case metrics.

These numbers are extremely encouraging, as Michigan has mostly re-opened back to normal conditions, with restrictions in place such as mask mandates and business capacity limits, as well as some office restrictions, being lifted on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, hospital systems across Michigan confirmed just under 400 people total being hospitalized for COVID treatment, the fewest that have ever been recorded by the State of Michigan. Currently, Michigan testing data returns a 1.3% positive rate, well below the threshold of ‘community spread.’


OAKLAND COUNTY TREATMENT COURTS APPLY FOR NEARLY $1 MILLION IN STATE GRANT FUNDING

Oakland County may soon see nearly 1 million dollars in funding come its way for drug misuse, mental health treatment and sobriety programs through the Fiscal Year 2022 Michigan Drug Court Grant Program.

Per State website information quoted in this Oakland Press Article, “The funding should enable drug/DWI courts to promote public safety and contribute to a reduction in substance abuse and recidivism among nonviolent adult and/or juvenile substance abusing offenders; reduce reliance on incarceration within existing correctional systems and local jails; and establish monitoring and evaluation measures that will demonstrate the effectiveness of the program.”

Additionally, Oakland County’s District Court system applied for grants through the Michigan Mental Health Grant Program, aiming to focus on helping those with mental illness, developmental or cognitive issues and more.


DETROIT PISTONS LAND NUMBER 1 DRAFT PICK

On Tuesday night, the Detroit Pistons won the NBA Draft Lottery, acquiring the first overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, which will occur in late July. The Pistons entered the lottery with a 14% chance of landing the top pick, tied with the Houston Rockets and the Orlando Magic. The Pistons, in the virtual lottery presentation, were represented by Hall of Fame-elect and 2004 NBA Champion, Ben Wallace.

The presumptive pick for the Pistons is Cade Cunningham, a guard out of Oklahoma State University. Among other potential pickups with the number one pick would be NBA G-League guard, Jalen Green, USC center, Evan Mobley, or Gonzaga guard, Jalen Suggs.

This is the Pistons’ third time selecting number one overall, and the first time in 51 years. The last time Detroit selected the first overall pick, they selected (then) future hall of fame center, Bob Lanier.


MICHIGAN’S MASK AND CAPACITY RESTRICTIONS END TUESDAY. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

As previously announced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, as of today – Tuesday, June 22, 2021 – all business capacity limits and statewide mask mandates would be lifted. The lifting comes nine days earlier than previously declared, with a July 1, 2021 benchmark.

 

The change of plans came as Michigan’s COVID-19 metrics trended extremely positive. Currently, COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the Great Lakes State are at their lowest-recorded level since COVID-19 metrics began to be tracked by the State.

 

Prior to the lifting of restrictions, businesses such as retail shops, fitness centers and restaurants were restricted to 50% capacity limits out of an abundance of caution. While there is joy for the ending of these restrictions, many business owners across the state would still contend that the lifting of these mandates was far overdue. In 2020, Republicans challenged the Governor’s ability to enact emergency orders in court – a case in which they were victorious. Since the court’s decision, most public health orders regarding COVID-19 have been enacted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.


REDISTRICTING COMMISSION MAKES CASE TO MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT FOR NEW TIMELINE TO DRAW MAPS

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission which is tasked with re-drawing the State’s district lines for state and federal elections, has expressed a need to extend the deadline for submitting redrawn district lines for six months. This extension has been requested due to delays in receiving critical U.S. Census data, which provides critical information including population numbers, as well as race, sex and age demographics, which may factor in to redistricting decisions. The General Counsel for the Commission, Julianne Pastula, referred to the situation as “untenable.”

 

However, Michigan Supreme Court Justices have not been quick to grant the deadline, with one Justice (Viviano) even calling the request “strange.” Amounting factors such as natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest have been expressed as factors in the delays in critical data, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

The State Constitution mandates that the Commission have maps drawn by September 17 and, following a 45-day public comment period, adopt maps by November 1.The Commission has received support in its petition for a deadline extension from Deputy Solicitor General Ann Sherman and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.


CANADIAN BORDER RESTRICTIONS FRUSTRATE MICHIGAN BUSINESSES AND TRAVELERS

For 15 months and counting, the Canadian government has closed its borders to the United States for non-essential travel due to COVID-19. That moratorium was extended once again this week through at least July 21, 2021. This moratorium on non-essential travel is having a great impact on Americans and Canadians alike, preventing property owners from checking on their properties and families from visiting one another across the border.

 

Business advocated say that the border closure may prove extremely costly to the Michigan tourism industry, which saw over 1 million Canadians cross the border to visit the State of Michigan in 2019. The monetary impact of this closure could be upwards of $26 billion!

 

Travel Michigan’s Dave Lorenz, in this article from Bridge Michigan, was quoted saying “Travel and tourism is not just about those leisure activities that we normally think of like golfing ─ a big part of it is at the retail end. The two biggest things that people like to do when they are on a trip is shop and eat. Tourism is by and large small businesses, mom and pop businesses.” These financial gains do not just go from the Great White North to the U.S.; Michigan exported over 20 billion dollars of products to Canada the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.


IT’S OFFICIAL: WOODWARD DREAM CRUISE TO REV BACK UP AUG. 21

The Dream Cruise is back (officially)! Event organizers for the 26th Annual Woodward Dream Cruise announced this week that the official event will return this summer, following (official) cancellation in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Dream Cruise, a local tradition in southeastern Michigan, will pay homage to the Ford Bronco SUV at this year’s event, which began assembly once again in Wayne earlier this month. Organizers said that the 1966 Bronco will be the “featured heritage vehicle” of the 2021 Dream Cruise.

 

The M1 Concourse in Pontiac also has festivities planned during the traditional festival, and other events such as Roadkill Nights drag-racing will also return during this August’s event!


MICHIGAN STOPS RELEASING COVID DATA ON WEEKENDS

With COVID-19 cases falling to lows not reported in a year, the state has discontinued weekend updates on new cases, deaths and testing, officials announced Saturday.

On Friday, the state reported 162 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the seven-day average to 176 per day, mirroring lows seen last June.

The state reported 14 additional COVID-19 deaths on Friday. There have now been 19,612 confirmed COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The state reported 1.2 percent of nearly 19,400 tests came back positive. The weekly rate was 1.4 percent, the lowest ever recorded.


US-CANADA BORDER RESTRICTIONS EXTENDED UNTIL JULY 21

Canada’s public safety minister said Friday border restrictions on nonessential travel with the United States will be extended until July 21.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted the move has been made in coordination with the U.S. He said Canada’s No. 1 priority is to keep Canadians safe during the pandemic.

Blair noted the government plans to release details Monday about fully vaccinated Canadians who return to the country. The Canadian government has said it anticipates fully vaccinated Canadian citizens who test negative for COVID-19 will be exempt from two weeks of quarantine when returning to the country sometime in early July.

The border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed to all nonessential travel. The restrictions were announced in March 2020 in the early months of the pandemic and have been extended every month since.


JUDGE RULES FOR FLORIDA ON CDC ORDER BLOCKING CRUISE SHIPS

A federal judge on Friday ruled for Florida in a lawsuit challenging a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order making it difficult for cruise ships to resume sailing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday wrote in a 124-page decision that Florida would be harmed if the CDC order, which the state said effectively blocked most cruises, were to continue.

The Tampa-based judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the CDC from enforcing the order pending further legal action on a broader Florida lawsuit.

While the CDC could appeal, Merryday ordered both sides to return to mediation to attempt to work out a full solution – a previous attempt failed – and said the CDC could fashion a modification in which it would retain some public health authority.

 

The CDC first flatly halted cruise ships from sailing in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which had affected passengers and crew on numerous ships. Then the CDC on Oct. 30 of last year imposed a four-phase conditional framework it said would allow the industry to gradually resume operations if certain thresholds were met.


WHITMER RESCINDS MICHIGAN’S GATHERING, MASK RULES STARTING TUESDAY

Michigan’s remaining restrictions on gatherings and masks will be dropped next week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday, ending 15 months of broad limits on businesses and indoor activities in the state.

Under the changes that take effect Tuesday, maximum indoor capacity limits will increase to 100%, and the state’s mask mandate for non-vaccinated people will be removed 10 days earlier than the original goal of July 1. Indoor capacity currently is capped at 50%.

The decision marks the removal of the most significant remaining pandemic rules as infection rates plummet and the percentage of Michigan residents protected by vaccines continues to increase. The Tuesday changes will occur 469 days after the state reported its first COVID-19 cases.

Some orders remaining in place include those protecting individuals in long-term care facilities, prisons and jails as well as mandated COVID-positive reporting requirements at schools and prisons. Michigan’s rules for long-term care facilities, agricultural housing and prisons largely involve testing protocols and record-keeping requirements for staff and residents.

 

The Whitmer administration expects to release updated guidance for students and staff at schools next week.


$300 UNEMPLOYMENT SUPPLEMENT WOULD BE ELIMINATED UNDER BILL PASSED IN MICHIGAN HOUSE

The $300 federal unemployment bonus going to residents who lost work during the COVID-19 pandemic would be eliminated under a bill passed Thursday by the Michigan House.

Republicans insist the measure would help small businesses bolster hiring amid a crippling labor shortage.

During debate on the House floor Thursday afternoon, Republicans argued that HB 4434 would usher in a true “return to normalcy” as the state prepares to abandon most of its pandemic-related restrictions next week.

 

Republicans argued that residents who were collecting unemployment benefits are hurting small businesses, some of which have been decimated by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

 

Democrats scolded their colleagues’ efforts to stop using the federal funding for the supplemental benefits, saying that doing so would deny Michiganders their own tax dollars.

 

Whitmer, who has spoken in favor of continuing to use federal funding to boost the state’s economic recovery, would likely veto the bill.

 


COULD A FIREWORKS SHORTAGE AFFECT JULY 4TH CELEBRATIONS? PHANTOM FIREWORKS URGES CUSTOMERS TO SHOP EARLY

Another possible shortage might mean the sky isn’t as bright this Independence Day.

Weeks ahead of July 4th festivities, Phantom Fireworks, the nation’s largest consumer-based retail fireworks company, is urging customers to shop early as the industry faces a potential shortage for the second year in a row.

Sales of fireworks boomed in 2020 as more families opted to put on their own shows amid the COVID-19 pandemic after cities across the nation canceled public displays.

This year, Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks, which has approximately 80 stores throughout the U.S. and supplies thousands of retailers nationwide, says it has extended store hours and brought in additional staff to sell their backyard firecrackers to.

“Like many other industries, the fireworks industry has also experienced delays due to shipment challenges facing the global market,” Alan Zoldan, Phantom executive vice president, said in a statement. “The good news is that we prepared early in anticipation of high demand again this year, and are encouraging Phantom customers to do the same.”

Phantom says supply chains face slower turnaround times due to lagging global shipments.


40 MICHIGAN COUNTIES HAVE NO VIRUS ACTIVITY AS STATEWIDE CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS CONTINUE TO FALL

New cases of coronavirus in Michigan continue to fall with ever-increasing vaccination rates and in advance of the July 4 holiday weekend a couple weeks off.

Most social and economic activities have already resumed more of an appearance of pre-pandemic normalcy as the numbers continue to improve.

While case counts continue to fall, people are still dying from the effects of the deadly virus.

The state health department announced 182 new cases of the virus statewide Tuesday with 26 deaths, of which seven were from a thrice-weekly review of state vital records.

Forty of the state’s 83 counties had no new cases or deaths and, in a relative sense, activity remains the highest only in the most populated areas of the state.

There were 32 cases and four deaths in Wayne County, 18 cases and eight deaths in Detroit, 18 cases and two deaths in Oakland County, and 15 cases and two deaths in Macomb County.


GOV. WHITMER SUGGESTS MORE COVID RESTRICTIONS WILL BE EASED IN ‘COMING DAYS’

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday her administration could relax the state’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions “in the coming days.”

 

“It’s scheduled for July 1,” the governor said of her previous plan for when the next coronavirus policy changes would come. “But I think you should stay tuned.”

With the percentage of residents covered by vaccinations increasing, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Michigan has plummeted during the month of June

The changing numbers have increased pressure to more quickly ease the remaining restrictions, as other states have done, including California and New York.

On May 20, Whitmer announced plans to end statewide mandates on July 1 and, for the most part, bring life “back to normal” ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. Michigan has been under different levels of emergency orders on gatherings and businesses for about 15 months. The first COVID-19 cases were reported here on March 10, 2020.

The state’s June 1 epidemic order from the Department of Health and Human Services generally limited indoor crowds at businesses and restaurants to 50% of normal capacity constraints and required non-vaccinated individuals to wear masksat indoor gatherings. The order was initially scheduled to expire on July 1.


MORE EVIDENCE SUGGESTS COVID-19 WAS IN US BY CHRISTMAS 2019

A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and largest study to suggest that the new coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials.

The analysis is not definitive, and some experts remain skeptical, but federal health officials are increasingly accepting a timeline in which small numbers of COVID-19 infections may have occurred in the U.S. before the world ever became aware of a dangerous new virus erupting in China

The pandemic coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Officially, the first U.S. infection to be identified was a traveler — a Washington state man who returned from Wuhan on Jan. 15 and sought help at a clinic on Jan. 19.

CDC officials initially said the spark that started the U.S. outbreak arrived during a three-week window from mid-January to early February. But research since then — including some done by the CDC — has suggested a small number of infections occurred earlier

A CDC-led study published in December 2020 that analyzed 7,000 samples from American Red Cross blood donations suggested the virus infected some Americans as early as the middle of December 2019.

The latest study, published Tuesday online by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, is by a team including researchers at the National Institutes of Health. They analyzed blood samples from more than 24,000 people across the country, collected in the first three months of 2020 as part of a long-term study called “All Of Us” that seeks to track 1 million Americans over years to study health.


OAKLAND COUNTY COVID-19 CASE AVERAGE DROPS TO LOWEST IN NEARLY ONE YEAR

Due to the high number of residents who are vaccinated, Oakland County’s seven-day COVID-19 case average is the lowest it has been since June 26, 2020, with 19 cases per day.

Oakland County’s vaccine coverage for those 16 and older stands at 67.4%. It’s at 65.7% for 12 and up and 83.2% for seniors 65 and older.

The county needs 47,300 more residents 12 years and older to get COVID-19 immunizations to reach the 70% goal by July 4 that has been set by President Joe Biden.

Oakland County Health Division will host 13 COVID-19 vaccine clinics through June 19 in Commerce, Davisburg, Groveland, Highland, Milford, Pontiac, Southfield, Troy, West Bloomfield, and White Lake.

The Health Division will also host vaccine clinics in the South Lyon and Lyon Township area the week of June 21.

For information on clinics check OaklandCountyVaccine.com for upcoming locations and times. Those who do not have access to a computer or the Internet may call the Nurse on Call at 800-848-5533 for more information.


STATE SCRAMBLES TO REDISTRIBUTE COVID-19 VACCINES, AS MORE THAN 500K DOSES SET TO EXPIRE IN AUGUST

As demand for the COVID-19 vaccine continues to wane, the state has over a half-million doses set to expire between now and early August.

It’s pushing public health officials to try to vaccinate as many eligible residents as possible, in addition to redistributing vaccines to other states and large pharmacy chains across Michigan so that they don’t go to waste, the state’s health department spokeswoman said Monday.

The estimate is about 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, at least 240,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and about 50,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are nearing their expiration dates, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

More than 4.8 million Michiganders age 16 and older — about 60.5% of the population — have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the state’s dashboard.


VARIANT POSES NEW COVID-19 THREAT FOR MICHIGAN

The “Delta” COVID-19 variant first identified in India is gaining ground in the United States, including in Michigan where 22 cases had been identified.

Also known as the B1.617.2 variant, Delta has quickly become the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom, and some experts fear it will soon outpace other strains in the United States.

The Delta variant has been found to spread faster and cause more serious illness than the B.1.1.7 variant, now called the “Alpha” variant, which is currently the dominant strain in the United States and Michigan. The Alpha variant previously was more contagious and thought to be more likely to cause serious illness than earlier forms of COVID-19.

The Delta variant is responsible for about 90% of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom, and about 96% of cases in England, according to data cited by Public Health England, part of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom.

The United States is vulnerable to outbreaks from the Delta variant because it has pockets where there are unvaccinated individuals or there is a disdain for mask-wearing and other safety measures, said Theo Vos, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.


WHITMER: MICHIGAN TO USE FEDERAL $300 UNEMPLOYMENT BONUS AS BACK-TO-WORK INCENTIVE

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to expand how Michigan uses federal unemployment funds to incentivize Michiganders to return to work after the COVID-19 pandemic, she announced Monday.

The plan involves providing a bonus of $300 per week to specific employees returning to their previous jobs through the week of Sept. 4, Whitmer said during a wide-ranging news conference.

She did not say when the program would start, how many people are expected to be eligible or any eligibility dates for those returning to work.

The payments are currently available only to employers participating in the state workshare program who bring back people previously employed, Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said.

But the governor is working with the Legislature to change the law in order to provide bonuses for any new employee hired by a business through a workshare program, not just those previously employed who are brought back. Leddy said additional details would be available later this week.


WHITMER PITCHES $1.4 BILLION PLAN MAKING MICHIGAN CHILD CARE MORE AFFORDABLE

Michigan receives close to $250 million annually from the federal government to fund child care measures. Federal stimulus passed in December and March allocated an additional $1.4 billion  for the state to spend on child care, providing six times the state’s usual resources to go toward the initiative.

Under Whitmer’s proposal, the state would make more parents eligible to receive low-cost or free childcare by increasing the income eligibility requirement for a family of four from 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($39,300) to 200 percent ($53,000). That income eligibility increase would make about 150,000 additional Michigan children eligible for free or low-cost child care.

The plan also calls for increasing the pay of child care professionals and providing funding to support child care providers.

 

Seizing what she called “an opportunity to make historic, lasting investments in child care,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a proposal on Monday to invest $1.4 billion in federal child care funding to make taking care of kids more affordable for working parents in Michigan.

At a press conference at a child care center in Troy, Whitmer announced plans to increase access to childcare, arguing doing so would accelerate the state’s economic growth and returning to work efforts.


VACCINATED VISITORS SOON CAN TAKE OFF MASKS AT DISNEY WORLD

Walt Disney World in Florida is making it easier to see smiles again, but guests still can’t hug the characters.

Starting Tuesday, face masks will be optional for visitors to the theme park resort who are vaccinated, though Disney workers won’t require proof of vaccination, the company said on its website.

Visitors who aren’t fully vaccinated still will need to wear face masks indoors and on all rides and attractions. Because vaccines aren’t yet available for children under age 12, they too will have to mask up still.

All visitors, whether vaccinated or not, will still be required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails and Disney Skyliner, the resort’s aerial gondola, according to the latest guidelines.

The decision on masks is Disney World’s latest tweak to the virus-related safety rules it created when the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March 2020. Disney World closed for two months last year at the start of the outbreak and reopened last summer with strict safety guidelines that involved masking, social distancing and crowd limits.


NOVAVAX VACCINE OVER 90% EFFECTIVE IN PROTECTING AGAINST COVID-19 INFECTION, STUDY SHOWS

Novavax, the fifth company to receive large federal support for its COVID-19 vaccine, is as good as its competitors, according to data the company released Monday.

The vaccine is more than 90% effective in protecting against infection and even more protective against some of the variants, according to the trial of 29,960 volunteers in the U.S. and Mexico. No one who received the active vaccine fell seriously ill.

As with other vaccines, common side effects included tenderness and pain around the injection site, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue.

 

The company expects to request federal authorization for its vaccine this summer after it completes final chemistry, manufacturing, and control requirements.

 

Novavax took longer to prove the safety and effectiveness of its vaccine in part because the company is much smaller than other vaccine-makers. It had only about 40 employees when the pandemic began and has struggled to ramp up production,

 

Assuming its vaccine is authorized for use, Novavax expects to produce 100 million doses per month of NVX-CoV2373 by the fall and 150 million doses per month before the end of the year.


JUDGE RULES IN FAVOR OF A HOUSTON HOSPITAL REQUIRING EMPLOYEES TO BE VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Houston Methodist Hospital by employees who opposed a Covid-19 vaccine mandate as a condition of employment.

On Saturday, US District Court Judge Lynn Hughes ruled against Jennifer Bridges and 116 of her fellow Houston Methodist coworkers who sued to block the Covid-19 vaccination requirement. Houston Methodist Hospital moved to dismiss the case.

Bridges and her co-workers claimed the Covid-19 vaccines used in the US were “experimental and dangerous,” and that it would be “wrongful” to be terminated for refusing the get vaccinated.

 

The privately run Houston Methodist Hospital countered, saying not only were Bridges’ claims untrue, but that under Texas law, workers are protected from termination only if they refuse to commit a criminal act that carries criminal penalties.

 

“It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however if she refuses she will simply need to work somewhere else.”

Jared Woodfill, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said an appeal is expected.


MICHIGAN OFFICIALS ASKED POLICE TO HELP LEVY ‘THREAT’ FOR COVID VIOLATORS, EMAILS SHOW

Members of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration encouraged local police agencies in October to more aggressively help the state enforce restrictions on mask-wearing and social distancing — invitations they declined — according to emails released through an open records request.

The messages show Robert Gordon, then-director of the state’s health department, pitched the leaders of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association and Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police on a plan to ask people who saw violations of COVID-19 orders to “contact local police or sheriffs as appropriate.” The organizations rejected the proposal, contending an educational effort would be more effective to gain compliance.

The emails were included in more than 1,200 pages of documents recently obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch, which is based in Washington, D.C. The messages reveal a tougher approach Whitmer’s administration was considering taking on enforcement last fall after the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the governor’s ability to issue unilateral executive orders and as a second COVID-19 spike began to take hold.

 

According to emails, the MSA believed ticketing would be difficult to enforce both legally and from a manpower perspective and encourages all parties to refrain from emphasizing that message, as it is both counterproductive and negative,” Saxton wrote. “Let’s be positive and encourage our fellow citizens to mask up, social distance and be safe by being public examples, rather than encouraging them to increase calls to our offices to report mask violations.”


FEDERAL COVID WORKPLACE SAFETY RULES ARE HERE. BUT ONLY FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS

Fifteen months into the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a mandatory workplace safety rule aimed at protecting workers from COVID-19. But it only applies to health care settings, a setback for unions and worker safety advocates who had called for much broader requirements.

 

Called an emergency temporary standard, the rule takes effect as soon as it’s published in the Federal Register and can remain in place for up to six months, during which a permanent rule could be considered.

 

The new rule mandates that employers develop and implement a COVID-19 plan and take steps to reduce the chance of transmission, including keeping people at least 6 feet apart indoors, installing barriers between workstations where distancing is not possible, ensuring ventilation systems are working properly, and providing and ensuring each employee wears a face mask when indoors, or a respirator and other personal protective equipment when exposed to people with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

 

For unvaccinated workers, employers are now required to provide paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects from the shots.

It’s the first time in the pandemic that OSHA has imposed any requirements about COVID-19 workplace safety on employers. Until now, OSHA had only issued recommendations for measures employers could voluntarily take to keep workers safe.


CDC AWARDS MICHIGAN MORE THAN $40M TO ADDRESS COVID HEALTH DISPARITIES

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing the state with more than $40 million to address COVID-19-relate health disparities, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.

The $40,536,931 in grants was awarded to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the City of Detroit Health Department to “demonstrate our steadfast commitment to keeping equity at the center of everything we do,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, CDC Director.

The state has initiated several programs designed to increase Michigan’s vaccination rate including door-to-door outreach, free rides to clinics and mobile vaccine clinics.

 

The CDC’s new funding intends to: reduce COVID-related health disparities, improve and increase testing and contact tracing among populations that are at higher risk and are underserved, including racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural communities and improve health department capacity and services to prevent and control COVID-19 infection, said the release.


MICHIGAN WORKERS MANUFACTURE NEW ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY IN WAR AGAINST COVID-19: VACCINES

Michigan workers are helping to build a new Arsenal of Democracy — COVID-19 vaccines — in a modern world war against coronavirus, President Joe Biden said Thursday.

The shout out came in a speech ahead of the G7 summit, where Biden detailed the U.S. plan to buy 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, and supply them to the rest of the world.

Biden said Pfizer’s CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla and workers at the company’s manufacturing plant in Portage, Michigan, “really stepped up at this critical stage in our fight against the pandemic.”

And they’ve pledged to step up again, he said, to make the extra vaccine doses to aid other nations.

The president said it is America’s humanitarian obligation to do its part to stop the pandemic and help other countries in need of vaccines.


OAKLAND COUNTY MAKES PUSH TO HIT 70% VACCINATION RATE; STUDENT AMBASSADORS NAMED

Oakland County is one of the pacesetters in the state for getting shots into arms. More than 1.7 million county residents have had at least the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

It seems to be working. Oakland County’s seven-day COVID case average is now 32 cases per day

“We need at least 57,000 residents to get their vaccine in a little under four weeks. We can do it, I strongly believe we can do it. We’ve really looked at how we can pivot our vaccination clinics,’’ Stafford said.

She spoke at a press conference promoting the new One By One vaccine campaign, a partnership with the county and the Protect Michigan Commission, at the Oakland County Health Division’s Southfield office.

The promotion features Oakland County residents who have been vaccinated, hopefully compelling others to do the same.

As part of the campaign launch, the county introduced seven students — five of them from Troy High — who will serve as vaccine ambassadors. All seven were vaccinated on Tuesday at the press conference.


NEARLY HALF OF MICHIGAN COUNTIES HAVE NO NEW CORONAVIRUS CASES; FEW IN DOUBLE DIGITS

Nearly half of Michigan counties had no new cases or deaths from coronavirus Wednesday, and just seven counties and Detroit had new case counts in double digits in a sign of the waning impact of the virus.

The state health department announced 257 new cases statewide and seven deaths, with 37 of the state’s 83 counties having no new numbers.

Of the eight areas with new cases in low double digits, they were in southeast and west Michigan.

There were 38 cases and two deaths in Wayne County, 26 cases and one death in Oakland County, 26 cases and one death in Macomb County, and 18 cases and two deaths in Detroit.

But in all, the state has experienced 891,314 cases and 19,439 deaths since the start of the pandemic.


DETROIT GRAND PRIX’S RETURN STIRS TENSION DESPITE CAPACITY LIMITS

The Detroit Grand Prix returns this weekend after taking 2020 off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some Detroiters are questioning whether it’s too soon for such a large gathering.

A June 1 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order allows for unlimited attendance for outdoor events like the Grand Prix, which the IndyCar Series has been holding on Belle Isle since 2007.

But race officials plan to have “30% to 50%” of the capacity of past years when the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, presented by Lear, runs Friday to Sunday at Belle Isle.

“It’s concerning that they’re opening it up so soon after the lift of the pandemic orders,” said Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch, D-Detroit, whose district includes Belle Isle.

“A lot of people, specifically in the city of Detroit, have not gotten vaccinated,” Kinloch said as about 36% of the city’s adults 16 years and older had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine through Wednesday. “We have to understand that, and we have to continue to operate in a safe fashion.”

But Grand Prix boss Michael Montri said race officials planned for a smaller outing despite the lack of a crowd limit because of the uncertainty about restrictions, which changed about two to three weeks before the race weekend. This will prevent the Grand Prix from entertaining crowds of the past, which organizers said averaged close to 100,000 over three days.


CARDONA PROMOTES VACCINE, FREE TUITION IN DETROIT-AREA VISIT

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is visiting community colleges in Dearborn and Warren on Tuesday to encourage young people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to highlight the Biden administration’s effort to provide two years of free college.

Cardona’s first visit to Michigan included a stop at Henry Ford College, where he toured the college’s vaccine clinic and spoke to community members and college leaders. He also traveled to Macomb Community College for a tour with U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township.

Cardona is promoting the Department of Education’s COVID-19 College Challenge, aimed at encouraging higher education institutions to take a pledge to work to get their communities vaccinated against the coronavirus. Already, 350 colleges across the country have joined, including nine community colleges, two tribal colleges and Michigan’s 15 public universities.

The COVID-19 College Challenge is part of a national effort to make June “a month of action” and push the country toward President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of the U.S. adult population receiving at least one vaccine shot by July 4.


COVID-19 CASES PLUNGE IN MICHIGAN: ‘THIS 3RD SURGE … IS NOW OFFICIALLY OVER’

Coronavirus case counts have plummeted in Michigan to a level last seen in July 2020 as the percentage of Michiganders 16 and older who’ve gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine approaches 60%.

Hospitalizations from the virus also have plunged — dropping 83% since the peak of the last surge in Michigan. On April 19, 4,208 people were hospitalized statewide with confirmed cases of COVID-19, state health department data show. By Monday, that number had fallen to 707.

At Beaumont Health, the COVID-19 patient census dropped Tuesday below 100 for the first time in nearly a year.

Michigan’s downward coronavirus trajectory — with a seven-day case rate of 12.4 per 100,000 population — follows a trend being seen across the United States, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationally, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 hospital admissions has fallen 83% since Jan. 9, Walensky said, and deaths are down to 379 per day nationally.


WHITMER PITCHES BIG EXPANSION OF MICHIGAN’S FREE PRESCHOOL FOR 4-YEAR-OLDS

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed a massive expansion to the state’s taxpayer-funded preschool program Tuesday, which could eventually offer free preschool to an additional 17,000 Michigan 4-year-olds.

Whitmer proposed a $405 million infusion over three years to the Great Start Readiness Program, which offers preschool to 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. GSRP currently operates on an annual $237 million budget.

The money would be a combination of federal COVID relief funds and cash from the state’s school aid fund. After three years, when the proposal is fully phased in, the expansion would cost the state an estimated $150 million annually.

Combined with a separate $45 million increase proposed in Whitmer’s 2021-22 budget in May, the governor’s efforts, if approved, represent a stunning financial shot in the arm for a program that has been proven to improve academic skills of participants.

The additional funds would guarantee enough classroom seats for every eligible 4-year old whose family chooses to participate. Eligibility guidelines would remain the same, with children from families earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty line ($66,250 for a family of four, for example) attending GSRP for free.


NEW COVID OUTBREAKS AT 2 SCHOOLS IN OAKLAND COUNTY; 4 CASES CONFIRMED

With vaccinations available for those ages 12 and up and the school year coming to an end, COVID-19 outbreaks at schools dropped again in the last week.

Of the 21 new COVID cases at Michigan schools reported for the week of May 29-June 4, four cases occurred in two outbreaks at two schools in Oakland County according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website.

An outbreak, as defined by the state, is two or more cases that have shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households.

Rochester Adams and Clarkston Junior High each reported two cases among students.

Less than a month ago on May 10, the state had 176 cases at schools while Oakland County had 34 cases in 15 outbreaks at 12 schools.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services usually releases the school outbreak data each Monday but it was delayed due to Memorial Day.


U.S. REPORT FOUND IT PLAUSIBLE COVID-19 LEAKED FROM WUHAN LAB

A report on the origins of Covid-19 by a U.S. government national laboratory concluded that the hypothesis claiming the virus leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, according to people familiar with the classified document.

The study was prepared in May 2020 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and was drawn on by the State Department when it conducted an inquiry into the pandemic’s origins during the final months of the Trump administration.

It is attracting fresh interest in Congress now that President Biden has ordered that U.S. intelligence agencies report to him within weeks on how the virus emerged. Mr. Biden said that U.S. intelligence has focused on two scenarios—whether the coronavirus came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.

Scientists analyze the genetic makeup of viruses to try to determine how they evolved and spread in the population.


DETROIT TIGERS TO WELCOME FANS BACK AT FULL CAPACITY STARTING TUESDAY NIGHT

The Detroit Tigers will welcome back fans to Comerica Park with no capacity restrictions, the first time since September 2019.

The team is hosting its first home game since the state dropped outdoor COVID-19 restrictions on June 1. The return of full capacity means more than 41,000 fans are allowed inside Comerica Park on Tuesday night.

Since Opening Day, the state only allowed up to 20% capacity for outdoor stadiums and arenas, and only about 8,000 fans were allowed in the stadium.

If you’re going to the ballpark, you don’t have to wear a mask, it’s optional, and the pre-entry health screening will no longer be in place.

Contactless entry will remain. It’s when you show your ticket on your smartphone. It’s the same for parking and purchasing concession items.


CHANGE COMING: EMPLOYERS WELCOME WORKERS BACK DOWNTOWN DETROIT THIS WEEK

With the COVID-19 curve losing altitude and state regulations easing, downtown businesses are preparing to get at least some folks back into the office — for part of the week, anyway.

Rocket Companies Inc., for example, is bringing back some employees to its downtown offices starting with a first wave on Monday. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan plans to begin a phased return starting in mid-July.

DTE Energy, meanwhile, is waiting until October to bring back its employees. Like many others — including the Detroit Three automakers — Rocket and DTE will stick with a hybrid work model, with employees working from home some days and at the office on others.

The return of business to downtown offices isn’t expected to cause a stampede of workers back to the office. Instead, companies, industry representatives and experts predict a slow attempt to return to normal that aligns with the state of vaccination and the government’s pullback on pandemic restrictions.


COVID-19 STILL POSES SEVERE RISK TO UNVACCINATED TEENS: CDC

While most coronavirus hospitalizations occur in adults, the coronavirus still poses the threat of severe disease to teens, according to a new study issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly a third of teens ages 12-17 hospitalized with COVID-19 ended up in the intensive care unit, with 5% ultimately being placed on ventilators.

Most of the teens who were hospitalized with COVID-19, approximately 70%, had at least one underlying medical condition, while 30% of teens with no underlying medical conditions were still hospitalized. None of the adolescents in the study died from COVID-19.

The CDC is encouraging vaccination among those ages 12-17 and is referencing the data to make the case that complications of the virus are much more serious than the risk of getting vaccinated.

In May, the Pfizer vaccine was authorized for children ages 12 and up, widening the U.S. population that will be protected against the virus and bolstering chances for a safe return to summer activities and full-time school in the fall for children.

Last month, the CDC reported that more than half a million children ages 12-15 received a COVID-19 vaccine and that complications were extremely rare.


VACCINATION RATES FALL TO NEW LOWS

The rate of vaccinations around the country has sunk to new lows in recent weeks, threatening President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of American adults with at least one dose by July 4.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on June 3 that 63% of adults had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, only slightly up from the 62% the week before.

Twelve states, including Utah, Oklahoma, Montana, the Dakotas, and West Virginia, have seen vaccinations sink to 15 daily shots in 10,000 residents.

 

The “low-hanging fruit — those people who absolutely want to get vaccinated without you telling them anything” have already been vaccinated, which has led to the slowdown, Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-diseases expert, said on a White House-organized call with community leaders Friday, according to the Post.

 

The White House has already made plans to combat the slowdown. Biden announced a monthlong effort to encourage more Americans to roll up their sleeves for a shot last week.


MICHIGAN HEALTH DIRECTOR STANDS BY NURSING HOME COVID-19 DEATH TRACKING

Michigan health Director Elizabeth Hertel told lawmakers Thursday she believes the state’s tracking of COVID-19 deaths linked to nursing homes is accurate, but a key Republican said he wants the Auditor General’s office to examine the numbers.

The comments highlighted the continued and contentious dispute between Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration and the Republicans who control the Legislature over the handling of long-term care facilities during the pandemic.

Republican legislators argue the Department of Health and Human Services is under-counting coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, but direct proof of that claim remains sparse 15 months after the state reported its first COVID-19 cases.

“The number that is being reported is accurate,” Hertel told the House Oversight Committee on Thursday morning. “Because the number we have reported on our website is self-reported from the nursing homes.”

 

Michigan has relied on requirements that force long-term care facilities themselves to report COVID-19 cases and deaths. Providing false information could lead to a nursing home losing its license to operate.

There are more than 400 nursing homes in Michigan. As of Thursday, skilled nursing facilities accounted for 4,257 deaths linked to the virus, 22% of the statewide total.


GOV. WHITMER LOOKS TO USE COVID RELIEF FUNDS TO HELP WORKERS, SMALL BUSINESSES

As Michigan slowly reopensGov. Gretchen Whitmer rolled out a plan to use the Federal COVID Relief funding.

She called it the Michigan Economic Jumpstart Plan. It focuses on small business and their workers. She’s taking aim at raising wages, child care and getting people the skills they need to get back into the workforce.

The three-part plan targets key issues that keep workers out of the job market.

First, it directs $300 million to help businesses pay employees $15 an hour. Second, it sets aside another $225 million to help small businesses cover costs and $75 million for start ups.

Finally, the plan is to allocate $370 million to help 150,000 families with free or low-cost child care.

According to the State Budget Office, there’s still $22 billion federal dollars that still need to be divvied up to the state after months of log-jammed talks in Lansing, which have only recently begun to break.

Thursday afternoon, Michigan GOP Legislature said the hundreds of millions set aside for businesses are too little, too late.


COVID VACCINE POP-UP CLINIC AT FOX THEATRE WILL OFFER FREE TICKETS TO A TIGERS GAME

Get vaccinated against COVID-19 and receive a pair of tickets to see a Detroit Tigers game. That’s the latest offering to encourage those who haven’t been vaccinated to step up.

The Detroit Tigers, McLaren Health Care and Meijer announced on Thursday the launch of a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up clinic at the Fox Theatre in The District Detroit.

The clinic will open on Tuesday, June 8, and continue through the ensuing weekend series against the Chicago White Sox which wraps on June 13.

Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available.

Fans receiving a vaccine will also receive a voucher good for two tickets to either that day’s Tigers game or an upcoming game at Comerica Park, and a $10 Meijer coupon. Parking for those being vaccinated will be validated at the Fox Theatre Garage, located at 50 W. Montcalm St.

The pop-up clinic will open three hours before first pitch, and operate through the third inning, or one hour after the game begins. Interested fans are encouraged to schedule online in advance at tigers.com/vaccine, or by calling the McLaren COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at (810) 344-4050 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Walks-ups will also be welcomed, but scheduling in advance is highly encouraged to ensure availability.


MICHIGAN HOUSE OKS BILL THAT WOULD BAN STATE ‘VACCINE PASSPORTS’

The Michigan House voted 62-47 Wednesday on legislation that would ban state and local agencies from developing a vaccine passport or vaccine requirement to receive state services.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office has said no COVID-19 vaccine passport has been proposed in Michigan, but House lawmakers have couched it as a preemptive measure against such a policy.

Many of the appropriations bills passed by the House include boilerplate language preventing state agencies from requiring proof of vaccination for service. A separate House bill that has not yet had a hearing would prohibit employers from requiring a vaccine or forcing an employee to disclose whether he or she had a vaccination.

Included among the government entities covered by the legislation are public universities, some of which have imposed vaccine requirements for students living in university housing. Universities usually are considered constitutionally autonomous from the Legislature and state government, so it’s unclear what the effect of the bill would be on them.


MICHIGAN SENATE AND HOUSE VOTE ON BILL THAT LETS BUSINESSES GET REIMBURSED FOR SALES TAXES PAID ON COVID-RELATED ITEMS

Michigan businesses with COVID-19 safety protocols could retroactively seek a refund for sales taxes paid on personal protective equipment, disinfectants and plexiglass barriers under bills nearing the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Senate unanimously approved the Republican-sponsored legislation Wednesday.

It previously cleared the House but goes back for a final vote because changes were made.

The sponsor has said the cost of protective equipment is among the challenges businesses have faced in the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s not clear if the Democratic governor will sign the tax break, which could reduce revenue by at least $18 million annually.


MICHIGAN ADDS 420 CASES, 33 DEATHS FROM COVID-19

Michigan on Wednesday added 420 cases of COVID-19 and 33 deaths from the virus.

The figures bring Michigan’s total number of cases to 889,001 and deaths to 19,209 since the virus was first detected here in March 2020, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Wednesday’s confirmed case count marks the lowest daily total in Michigan since Aug. 21 when there were 374 COVID-19 cases reported. Cases and testing positivity in the state have declined for the last six weeks. The current statewide positivity rate is 6.6%.

The weekly record of 50,892 cases was set Nov. 15-21.  The weekly record of 808 deaths was recorded in mid-December.

As of Thursday, 58.5% of Michigan residents over age 16 had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The state’s fully vaccinated population includes 71% of all seniors 65 years and older, 56% of people aged 50 to 64; 43% of people age 40 to 49; 38% of people age 30 to 39; 28% of people age 20 to 29; and 25% of people age 16 to 19, according to the state’s data tracker.


PONTIAC’S COVID-19 EMERGENCY ORDER TERMINATED

An emergency order in Pontiac that went into effect March 13, 2020, was terminated today.

Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman made the announcement May 25, saying that she and other city staffers are ready to continue to offer services after about 15 months of interruptions.

The city will continue to adhere to guidelines issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

According to Dave Woodward, chairman of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, all full board and committee meetings will be held in person beginning next week.

The board has not held an in-person meeting since March 2020.


STATE COURT ADMINISTRATOR: ONLINE JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS ARE HERE TO STAY IN MICHIGAN

State Court Administrator Thomas Boyd says the use of online platforms such as Zoom to conduct court proceedings is “the biggest boost to access to justice in our lifetimes,” and it will continue long after the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Boyd sent a statewide memo to judges and court administrators last week that said several judicial pandemic orders will likely become permanent as Michigan emerges from the crisis, including one that says all judges “are required to make a good-faith effort to conduct proceedings remotely whenever possible.”

The major exception is jury trials, which will continue to happen in person, Boyd said in the Thursday memo.

In an interview Tuesday, Boyd said it is likely that testimony in all criminal trials, be they jury trials or bench trials, will need to be conducted in person so that accused people can confront their accusers. But it is possible that most civil trials can be conducted online, though some complex commercial litigation may still require in-person hearings, he said.

Details are still being worked out.


OAKLAND COUNTY RECEIVING $3 MILLION FROM FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO FURTHER SUPPORT BUSINESS PANDEMIC RECOVERY

Oakland County will receive $3 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to use as loans to support small businesses still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county’s economic development department, in collaboration with the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council and its CEED Lending program, applied for the CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant funding. The federal dollars will be dropped into the county’s revolving loan fund.

Initially, loans being distributed will target businesses impacted by and recovering from the pandemic. The dollars will be used to provide gap financing for small businesses that cannot access funding from traditional sources such as banks and credit unions.

The funding will also be used to support businesses in economically distressed areas, provide access to capital for minorities, women, and others who are underrepresented in mainstream financing, and support businesses that lack sufficient collateral and owners’ equity to qualify for mainstream financing.

In order to receive the funding, Oakland County provided a $1 million match from its unassigned fund balance and $300,000 to cover oversight and administrative costs to run the loan program.

Last month, the county recently received half of its $244 million American Rescue Plan allocation to help with its COVID-19 response efforts, including vaccinations, testing, and support for residents and businesses.


THESE MICHIGAN COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS ARE CHANGING TUESDAY

Many Michigan restrictions on businesses and gatherings aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 will be lifted or relaxed starting Tuesday.

Capacity limits for outdoor events and venues, such as Detroit Tigers baseball games and concerts, will disappear under a new state Department of Health and Human Services order that was released last week. Restaurants, bars and other indoor venues can increase capacity for customers to 50% from the current 25% limit, and common areas for pool tables and dancing can reopen.

In addition, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is loosening restrictions on COVID-19 workplace rules, making it easier for businesses to resume in-person work. Under the changes, employers may allow fully vaccinated employees to go without face coverings and social distancing indoors as long as they have policies to ensure non-vaccinated people continue to follow the state’s requirements.

DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston is scheduled to start its outdoor concerts July 25 with the band Chicago. Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit is scheduled to host an indoor non-televised superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment event on Aug. 1.

The pre-pandemic 2 a.m. curfew for bars and restaurants will be reinstated, and there is no longer a mandate that no more than six people can be seated together and groups of patrons must be six feet apart.


US AGENCY LOOSENS MASK GUIDANCE FOR SUMMER CAMPERS

Kids at summer camps can skip wearing masks outdoors, with some exceptions, federal health officials said this week.

Children who aren’t fully vaccinated should still wear masks outside when they’re in crowds or in sustained close contact with others – and when they are inside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Fully vaccinated kids need not wear masks indoors or outside, the agency said.

The guidelines open the door to a more conventional camp experience and came out in the nick of time, just before camps start opening in some parts of the country, said Tom Rosenberg, president of the American Camp Association.

The guidance is the first in a wave of updates that will incorporate the CDC’s recent decisions on masks and social distancing. Earlier this month, the agency said Americans don’t have to be as cautious about masks and distancing outdoors, and that fully vaccinated people don’t need masks in most situations.

Previously, the CDC advised that just about all people at camps should wear masks with only a few exceptions, like while they are eating, drinking or swimming.

The new guidance also says social distancing – staying 3 to 6 feet from others – is recommended for the unvaccinated, but not for the vaccinated.


BACK TO SCHOOL: INTEREST IN MICHIGAN’S TUITION-FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE PROGRAM EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

Since the Michigan Reconnect scholarship program was announced Feb. 2, applications have exceeded state goals of 60,000 by Memorial Day.

So far, nearly 72,000 people have applied for the tuition-free program to Michigan’s community colleges or skills certification programs.

Funded by $30 million from the Michigan legislature, the scholarships are open to anyone age 25 or older who have lived in Michigan for at least a year, have a high school diploma or the equivalent, and who have not completed an associate’s or bachelor’s college degree program.

Interest in the scholarship program has been widespread across the state, particularly in the more populated counties in southeast Michigan and other parts of the state.

Prospective students have to first apply through the state website at www.michigan.gov/reconnect and fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly referred to as FASFA, and apply to the community college of choice.


KIDS 6 MONTHS TO 11 YEARS SOUGHT FOR MODERNA COVID-19 VACCINE TRIAL AT HENRY FORD

Henry Ford Health System has become a leader in COVID-19 vaccine trials throughout the pandemic. That work continues.

The health system has opened enrollment for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine study for children ages 6 months to 11 years old. The announcement was made Thursday.

The KidCOVE study will evaluate the safety and efficacy of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine for this group of young children. This is the same vaccine that was given Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for adults 18 and older. Moderna said this week that it would apply for authorization in June to use the vaccine for 12- to 17-year-olds.

Participants in the study will receive two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart. They will each receive actual vaccine (not placebos) but the doses will be of different strengths.

Parents may sign up their children for KidCOVE at www.henryford.com/modernakidcove on the Henry Ford website.   Participation in KidCOVE will last about 14 months and require both in-person clinic visits and virtual visits.

To date, more than 122 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in the United States and more than 53 million people are fully vaccinated with it.


LOTTERIES, OTHER INCENTIVES MAY WORK TO GET MORE COVID-19 VACCINES IN ARMS

Incentives for getting a COVID-19 vaccine are starting to feel like a dime a dozen: free beer or doughnuts, a free cruise or Super Bowl tickets, one year of free travel or the chance to win a million bucks through a lottery.

But will they work to get more shots in arms?

During the last few weeks businesses and states have announced giveaways to either get more shots in arms or reward those who already have.

That included an announcement Thursday in which customers who received or plan to receive a vaccine through CVS Health can enter a sweepstakes to win prizes from June 1 through July 10. The #OneStepCloser sweepstakes is for those age 18 and older.

Prizes include five $5,000 giveaways for family reunions from CVS Health; 100 seven-day cruises for two in a balcony stateroom to your choice of destination from Norwegian Cruise Line, and a VIP trip to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles for two, including game tickets, by Procter & Gamble.

Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response, said Tuesday that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine “unlocked a secret” through the state’s Vax-a-Million lottery.  After Ohio announced its program, the state saw a 55% increase in its vaccination rate among adults ages 20 to 49.

Slavitt said during Tuesday’s briefing that the U.S. Treasury Department issued new guidance on these programs, providing additional information on how federal funds in the American Rescue Plan can be used to pay for vaccine incentive programs.

“And the bottom line is, with this guidance, we encourage states to use their creativity to draw attention to vaccines and get their states and the country back to normal as quickly as possible,” he said. “This includes lottery programs for vaccinated individuals, cash or in-kind transfers, or other monetary incentives for individuals who get vaccinated.”


THE LATEST: US TAKING ‘VERY CLOSE LOOK’ AT VACCINE PASSPORTS

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the government is taking “a very close look” at the possibility of vaccine passports for travel into and out of the United States.

Mayorkas told ABC on Friday that one of his guiding principles throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been “the value of diversity, equity and inclusion and making sure that any passport that we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised.”

The European Union, some Asian governments and the airline industry are scrambling to develop COVID-19 vaccine passports to help kickstart international travel. They’re working on systems that would allow travelers to use mobile phone apps to prove they’ve been vaccinated, helping them avoid quarantine requirements at their destinations.

Mayorkas says the underlying point is: “Everyone should get vaccinated.”


FASTER HORSES FESTIVAL SET TO RETURN AT FULL CAPACITY JULY 16-18

Faster Horses is a go, as the 2021 edition of the country music festival will gallop into the July 16 weekend as planned, festival promoters announced Wednesday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services’ lifting of capacity restrictions for outdoor events, announced last week, cleared the way for the return of Michigan International Speedway’s three-day music and camping festival, which will be headlined by Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Jason Aldean. Tickets and camping packages are on sale now at the festival’s website.

Faster Horses is set to be the largest scale concert on the books in Michigan since Garth Brooks hosted 70,000 fans at Ford Field in February 2020, just a few weeks before COVID-19 halted the live music industry. Faster Horses routinely brings around 40,000 fans to the Brooklyn, Mich., grounds of MIS

Big concerts are starting to once again fill the calendar, and Comerica Park will play host to Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer on Aug. 10, the first outdoor stadium concert on the books post-pandemic, a make-up date for a scrapped 2020 engagement.

Combs, Rhett and Aldean were set to headline Faster Horses in 2020 before the fest was scrapped in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


CAN YOUR EMPLOYER ASK FOR A COPY OF YOUR VACCINATION CARD?

Proof of vaccination for customers at stores and restaurants is largely reliant on the honor system – as unvaccinated customers are technically required to still wear masks.

But it’s a different situation at work.

While the rules aren’t much different, some employers are considering the conservative route and requiring workers to prove their vaccination status before going unmasked. Businesses are allowed to ask employees for a copy of their vaccination card, said Sean Egan, Michigan director of COVID-19 workplace safety.

“Our understanding … is that that’s not protected health information,” Egan said during a Q&A session with business owners.

The questions of allowing vaccinated workers to go unmasked and how to get proof of vaccinations has been “the hot-button topic” since Michigan announced changes to its workplace rules on Monday, May 24, said Southfield employment law attorney Nicole Foley.

It’s not a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ask for a copy of employees’ vaccination card, keep it on file and share peoples’ status with supervisors, Foley said.

Michigan gives employers four options when it comes to satisfying the requirement of making unvaccinated people still mask up when they can’t consistently maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

  • Keep records of which employees are vaccinated and require all others to mask and distance
  • Post signs in work areas reminding people that unvaccinated employees must still mask and distance
  • Allow or require remote work for unvaccinated workers

Require masks and distancing for all workers, regardless of vaccine status


BIDEN ORDERS US INTEL TO FURTHER PROBE ORIGINS OF COVID-19, RAISE ‘QUESTIONS FOR CHINA’

President Joe Biden said Wednesday he is ordering U.S. intelligence agencies to “redouble their efforts” to investigate the origins of COVID-19, including “specific questions for China.”

Biden said an initial report he asked for earlier this month on whether the virus came from human contact with an infected animal or from a lab incident in China was inconclusive, so he’s asking for a second report in 90 days to “bring us closer to a definitive conclusion.”

Biden’s directive is a significant change in how the White House is dealing with the theory the virus might have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology — one elevated last year by former President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other hawkish Republicans.

While the Biden administration had until now said the World Health Organization should lead a more intensive investigation and put pressure on China to be more transparent about what happened, Biden’s statement Wednesday calls on the U.S. intelligence community, not scientists, to spearhead the effort.


LABOR SHORTAGE FORCES CEDAR POINT TO SHUT DOWN 2 DAYS A WEEK

Restaurants aren’t the only industry facing a labor shortage as Cedar Point has announced it will close for two days a week in the coming weeks as it tries to fill out staffing for the summer months. In a post on the company’s Facebook page, officials said the company is offering several incentives to potential employees that they hope will draw in enough workers to open for a full schedule.

So far the company has announced closures on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on June 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23, according to the company’s reservation website. Cedar Point is requiring reservations ahead of your visit in order to control capacity in the park.

Those who’ve made reservations for the days the park is now set to be closed will be contacted by the company. The Cedar Point Shore Waterpark will also be closed on those days.

Cedar Point has already raised its hourly wage to a minimum of $20 per hour and is issuing a $500 signing bonus for new and returning workers. The company says it has already added 300 full-time employees but is in need of more workers to keep the parks running.


MICHIGAN PASSES 19,000 CONFIRMED COVID-19 DEATHS

Michigan reported 66 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, pushing the state past 19,000 since the pandemic started here in March 2020.

There now have been 19,053 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 1,206 probable ones in Michigan. The state, which is ranked 10th in population, has the eighth most deaths in the country.

But in terms of the death rate per 100,000 people, Michigan ranks 14th.

Michigan also reported 739 confirmed coronavirus infections, continuing the state’s downward arc in cases. For the past week, the daily average has been 1,028, 33 percent lower than the average of 1,541 per day just one week ago.

Michigan, which has a population of 10 million, is nearing 1 million total cases of the coronavirus, as there have been 885,319 confirmed cases since the pandemic began and another 103,628 probable cases.

Statewide, 59 percent of residents 16 and over have now gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, just behind the national rate of 61.2 percent. Michigan currently ranks 27th in the nation in terms of vaccinations for those 16 and older.


CDC SAYS BREAKTHROUGH INFECTIONS AFTER COVID VACCINATION ARE RARE

Of the more than 130 million people in the United States who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, there have been reports of at least 10,262 breakthrough infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A breakthrough infection occurs when someone tests positive for coronavirus more than 14 days after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the single Johnson & Johnson shot.

Roughly a quarter of the breakthrough cases didn’t have symptoms — they were likely detected through routine testing, the CDC found in a report released Tuesday. Of 955 people who were hospitalized, about a third were in the hospital for reasons unrelated to Covid-19, or were asymptomatic. About 160 people, or 2 percent, died. Twenty eight of the deaths were unrelated to Covid-19. The CDC didn’t report whether the people had underlying conditions or comorbidities such as obesity.

The majority of the breakthrough infections were women, 63 percent, and a majority of the patients were 40 to 74 years old.

The report cautions, however, that these cases are likely an underestimate because most people who have been fully vaccinated aren’t being regularly tested. Recently, the CDC said that, with some exceptions, people who are fully vaccinated don’t need a coronavirus test, even if they’ve been exposed to the virus, unless they show symptoms.


MICHIGAN EMPLOYERS DON’T HAVE TO REQUIRE MASKS FOR VACCINATED WORKERS UNDER NEW POLICIES

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration announced updates Monday to emergency rules guiding Michigan’s workplaces as the state continues its rollback of measures meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Under the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s changes, employers may allow fully vaccinated workers to go without face coverings and social distancing as long as they have policies to ensure non-vaccinated people continue to follow requirements.

The decision of how to handle the updated rules is up to individual workplaces.

The new emergency rules, which took effect Monday, also soften cleaning requirements and do away with industry-specific measures. The Democratic governor said it means restaurants can reopen common areas, such as pool tables and dance floors

The new emergency rules, which Whitmer signed Sunday, tell employers to maintain written COVID-19 preparedness and response plans. They also must require employees, except fully vaccinated individuals, to wear face coverings when they cannot consistently maintain six feet of social distance from others indoors.

To comply with the policies, employers can keep records of vaccination, post signs reminding workers who are not vaccinated to wear face coverings, allow remote work or require face coverings and social distancing for all workers regardless of vaccination status.


BEAUMONT, MICHIGAN MEDICINE EASE VISITOR RULES AS COVID-19 CASES DECLINE

With COVID-19 hospitalizations at their lowest level since mid-March, Beaumont Health and Michigan Medicine are easing visitor restrictions starting this week.

Beaumont Health will allow for one visitor per patient each day, regardless of vaccination status, starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday at its 12 hospitals.

Michigan Medicine said it will lift some visitor restrictions for adult patients, also allowing one visitor each day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. starting Wednesday.

In Michigan Medicine’s emergency rooms and for clinic appointments, adults will be allowed one visitor.

COVID patients will not be allowed visitors at either hospital system except in end-of-life circumstances.

Anyone visiting either hospital must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth at all times. Those who refuse will not be allowed to enter the medical campuses, hospital officials said.


MICHIGAN REPORTS 25% DECLINE IN ACTIVE COVID-19 OUTBREAKS

Michigan identified 94 new COVID-19 outbreaks last week, which marked the fewest new clusters in more than three months as cases continue to decline.

Additionally, the state’s weekly coronavirus outbreaks report indicated 798 active and ongoing clusters that had previously been reported by the Department of Health and Human Services.

That means the cumulative total of active outbreaks was 892 as of Thursday, May 20 — a decline of 24.8% from the 1,186 active outbreaks reported one week earlier

K-12 schools continued to lead the way in new outbreaks with 34, followed by assisted living adult day care and group home settings (22) and manufacturing and construction sites (14).

An outbreak is generally defined as an instance in which two or more cases are linked by a place and time, indicating a shared exposure outside of a household. Clusters being tracked by local health departments are included in the state’s online outbreak tracker, which is updated weekly on Mondays with data up to the previous Thursday.


WHITMER APOLOGIZES AFTER PHOTO SHOWS HER AT BAR VIOLATING HER OWN ORDER

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an apology Sunday after a photo emerged showing her at a restaurant with 12 other people gathered around tables pushed together in violation of her health department’s current epidemic order.

The May 15 order from the state Department of Health and Human Services says no more than six people can be seated together and groups of patrons must be six feet apart. The conservative news outlet Breitbart first reported the photo Sunday.

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been committed to following public health protocols,” Whitmer said Sunday in a statement. “Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn’t stop to think about it.

“In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize.”

Tori Sachs, executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, on Sunday blasted the Democratic governor, saying it was time for Whitmer to end her restrictions that she’s isn’t even following.


MICHIGAN BUSINESSES ALLOWED TO RESUME IN-PERSON WORK ON MONDAY

Businesses in Michigan are now able to have workers come back in buildings as of Monday, after the state reached a vaccination benchmark of 55% of those with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine two weeks ago.

It’s been about 14 months of remote work for most companies, and some people could be returning to the office for the first time today.

Many companies are easing back into things. In downtown Detroit, much of the office space owned by Rocket Companies will begin filling up as some employees will return to the office two or three days a week starting June 7.

The Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration still needs to issue clarifications on safety guidelines, and most companies aren’t jumping back in quickly.

Some, like Ford and General Motors, will have a gradual return to the office in late June or July, with a structure that offers much more flexibility with remote working.


U.S. CDC LOOKING INTO HEART INFLAMMATION IN SOME YOUNG VACCINE RECIPIENTS

Some teenagers and young adults who received COVID-19 vaccines experienced heart inflammation, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group said, recommending further study of the rare condition.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in a statement dated May 17 said it had looked into reports that a few young vaccine recipients, predominantly adolescents and young adults, and predominantly male, developed myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

The condition often goes away without complications and can be caused by a variety of viruses, the CDC group said.

CDC monitoring systems had not found more cases than would be expected in the population, but members of the committee on vaccinations felt that healthcare providers should be made aware of the reports of the “potential adverse event,” the committee said in the statement.

The CDC said the cases typically occurred within four days after receiving the mRNA vaccines.


WHITMER LIFTS OUTDOOR EVENT LIMITS ON JUNE 1, BROAD RESTRICTIONS ON JULY 1

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer accelerated plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions Thursday, detailing her intention to end statewide mandates on July 1 and, for the most part, bring life “back to normal.”

The governor made the announcements from home plate at Dow Diamond in Midland, where she revealed that outdoor capacity limits disappear June 1. The policy comes amid optimism that the state’s fight against the coronavirus could be nearing itsendand means the Detroit Tigers will be able to host larger crowds at their home games this summer instead of the current limit of 8,200 fans.

In addition to lifting outdoor limits, Whitmer said indoor capacity controls also will rise to 50% for the month of June — affecting such events as weddings, funerals and graduation parties. She later added that the 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars also would end starting next month.

An indoor mask mandate for unvaccinated people will remain in place through June under the new order, which is expected to be updated Monday. The state will lift the broad mask and gathering orders on July 1, she said.


WHITMER, LAWMAKERS REACH BROAD DEAL THAT INCLUDES SCRAPPING PERMANENT COVID-19 WORK RULES

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican legislative leaders  reached a broad deal late Thursday that may give lawmakers more authority in future pandemic orders and Whitmer’s team a better position on budget negotiations, according to news releases from the elected leaders.

The releases from Whitmer, House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, all include slightly different language on the terms of the deal. But the highest ranking elected leaders in the state agree there are terms in place between parties with a recently frosty relationship.

Wentworth and Shirkey said Whitmer gets to have her team involved in House and Senate budget negotiations. In exchange, the speaker said the governor agreed to establish a formal and permanent role for lawmakers in issuing future pandemic orders.

The Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Office must also revoke proposed permanent workplace COVID-19 rules, a source of great ire for Republicans and some business leaders.

Whitmer’s team said lawmakers also agreed to negotiate on how to spend billions in federal COVID-19 relief dollars.


US-CANADIAN BORDER RESTRICTIONS TO BE EXTENDED THROUGH JUNE

Restrictions on nonessential travel across the U.S.-Canadian border will be extended through June, Canadian news outlet CTV News reported Tuesday.

The report comes two days before the most recent extension is set to expire. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on April 20 that the restrictions will continue through May 21.

The restrictions apply to nonessential travel, while maintaining the flow of essential trade and travel. The measures were first imposed in March 2020, and had been repeatedly extended from month to month as the pandemic continued.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested on Tuesday that three-quarters of Canadians would have to be vaccinated before the border could be reopened, according to The Canadian Press.

Over 46 percent of Canada’s population has received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. By comparison, 60.2 percent of the U.S. adult population has received one dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


DAVE COULTER TOUTS RESILIENCY OF COMMUNITY, PANDEMIC RECOVERY DURING STATE OF THE COUNTY ADDRESS

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter talked plenty about the historic challenges faced over the past year, but also highlighted the resilience and resolve of county employees, residents, and small businesses during his State of the County Address Wednesday night.

Coulter delivered his virtual address from inside an empty 100 year-old Baldwin Theatre in downtown Royal Oak, which has been closed for the past 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of his address was focused on how the county has supported residents, schools, nonprofits, and small businesses during one of the most challenging years in American history while also touching on how the community has come together to help their neighbors in need.

By the end of the month, the county will receive half of its $244 million allocation in federal American Rescue Plan funding to further support pandemic recovery efforts across the county.

Coulter said none of the new funding will be used for ongoing county operations, but for targeted industries and demographics to promote recovery and transformational investments in the community.


WHITMER RELEASES BLUEPRINT FOR EDUCATIONAL RECOVERY FROM PANDEMIC

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a plan Wednesday, May 19, to guide districts and schools as they devise a recovery from the pandemic.

She said the MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery Plan will help local education leaders comprehensively address immediate challenges.

The blueprint addresses challenges across wellness, academics, school culture and climate, family and community engagement and post-secondary education, according to a release from the governor.

The blueprint directs each district or school to engage stakeholders and devise a multi-year recovery plan, funded by the federal American Rescue Plan. These local plans should be guided by the principle that the health and safety of students and staff must be safeguarded.

The blueprint directs districts or schools to hire new staff or expand the responsibilities of existing staff, compensating them for the additional duties.


COVID-19 VACCINATION CLINICS STARTING TO POP UP AT SCHOOL SITES IN METRO DETROIT

With children age 12 and older now eligible for the two-shot Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, health officials in metro Detroit are increasingly working with schools to host vaccination clinics in an effort to get more people inoculated.

Oakland County and the Henry Ford Health System have scheduled clinics at schools or school-based and community health centers starting as early as Thursday.

Oakland County is expanding its inoculation reach as the health division works with providers, municipalities and school districts to provide pop-up clinics near people’s homes.

The county has health division clinics scheduled in communities by week:

  • Week of May 24: Commerce, Highland, Milford and White Lake townships
  • Week of June 1: Pontiac area
  • Week of June 7: Southeast Oakland County
  • Week of June 14: Brandon, Groveland, Rose and Springfield townships
  • Week of June 21: South Lyon/Lyon Township area

To register for the clinics hosted by Huron Valley Schools, Troy School District and Brandon School District, go to OaklandCountyVaccine.com. Future school-based COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be posted there as district superintendents request them, according to the county.


CDC EASES COVID-19 TESTING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR VACCINATED PEOPLE

Not only can vaccinated people mostly avoid masks, they can limit testing for COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week said vaccinated people without symptoms mostly don’t need to get tested even if exposed to the virus. People who are fully vaccinated and don’t have symptoms also should not be randomly screened, the CDC said.

The CDC’s loosening of masking restrictions and updated testing guidance comes as large private employers and universities still routinely test vaccinated employees and students.

People still can become infected with COVID-19 after getting vaccinated, but they are much less likely to get sick and also less likely to pass the virus to others. Experts say the agency’s updated testing recommendations are consistent with past guidance and are designed to avoid unnecessary testing and disruptions.

The CDC still recommends people who show symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested, Also, vaccinated people without symptoms should get tested if they are in a prison or a homeless shelter. All health-care workers and residents of nursing homes with an active outbreak also must be routinely tested until no new cases are detected for two weeks.


FROM TIKTOK TO SCHOOL CLINICS, MICHIGAN RAMPS UP YOUNG TEEN VACCINATIONS

With nearly a half million 12-to-15-year-old Michiganders now eligible to be immunized against COVID-19, communities across the state are ramping up efforts to help young teens get back to normal.

Some schools are hosting vaccination clinics as they previously did for high school students. The state is rolling out an advertising campaign to promote the vaccine among adolescents. And hospitals and local health departments are working to make vaccinations as accessible as possible to the parents and children who want them.

It’s likely to be a long process. According to the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard, 37,336 Michigan residents between the ages of 12-15 have been vaccinated against the virus as of Tuesday, about 7.5 percent of the state’s adolescent population.

Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, said the department is attempting to reach teenagers and younger populations through social media advertising, including content on Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. Several ads are also being developed that specifically focus on parents and children to encourage them to get immunized.


LOST YOUR COVID-19 VACCINATION CARD?

Did you lose your COVID-19 vaccination card already? Or has it been destroyed?

You are in luck if you need to get another one.

Michiganders can contact the site where they were vaccinated, such as the local health department or health care provider, and request a new vaccination card, said Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

She said residents also can fill out a form to get a copy of their immunization record from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR), an immunization database that documents inoculations given to Michiganders, at https://www.mcir.org/public/.

In Oakland County, if anyone loses their vaccination card, the health division is able to give them their MCIR record and another card, said Bill Mullan, spokesman for County Executive Dave Coulter

Anyone with questions can call the Nurse on Call number at 800-848-5533. They could also make the request in person with the health division during business hours, Mullan said.

Sutfin said public health officials suggest residents take a photo of their vaccination card so that they have a copy of it on their phone.


MIOSHA TO BRING WORKPLACE RULES IN LINE WITH NEW MASK GUIDANCE

State regulators plan to update COVID-19 workplace regulations to bring them in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that ditches mask requirements for fully vaccinated people.

The Monday announcement by COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan came nearly three days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state health department adjusted the state’s mask mandate to exempt people who have been fully vaccinated.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been working to bring its emergency and proposed permanent rules in line with the order.

Businesses and chambers of commerce across the state have been pushing back on the agency, criticizing proposed COVID-19 permanent workplace rules as unnecessary.

The permanent rules, which first much go through a public hearing process, could be approved as soon as October, when the current emergency rules expire.


MEIJER DROPS CUSTOMER MASK-WEARING POLICY, OTHERS KEEP POLICIES IN PLACE

Grand Rapids-based Meijer announced on Monday that fully vaccinated customers now can enter its stores without a face covering.  But the Grand Rapids-based retailer will still require its store team members to wear a face covering.

The move comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health experts lifted mask restrictions in many public settings for people who have been vaccinated.

The sentiment around metro Detroit grocery stores is that no one wants to be the mask police asking customers whether they are vaccinated or not.

Grocery stores were among the first public places to require masks. While many still have policies in place, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Walmart and others are following the CDC and state health expert guidelines that those who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask.

The Kroger Co. is still keeping its policy requiring everyone in its stores to wear a mask.


NEW COVID OUTBREAKS AT 10 SCHOOLS IN OAKLAND COUNTY; 22 CASES CONFIRMED

New school COVID outbreaks declined slightly in Oakland County last week.

Of the 205 new COVID cases at Michigan schools reported for the week of May 8-14, 22 cases occurred in 10 outbreaks at 10 schools in Oakland County.

The previous week there were 34 cases in 15 outbreaks at 12 schools in the county and the state had 176 cases.

An outbreak, as defined by the state, is two or more cases that have shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households.

Schools with new outbreaks last week all involved students, not staff. Each school had two cases unless noted.

Those schools are: Rochester’s Hart Middle School, Rochester High School, South Lyon East High School (4 cases), Oakside Scholars Academy in Pontiac, Rochester’s West Middle School, Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Clarkston High School, Clarkston’s Pine Knob Elementary, Clarkston’s Sashabaw Middle School and Hazel Park High School

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services releases the school outbreak data each Monday.


FEDERALLY OPERATED COVID-19 MASS VACCINATION CLINIC INSIDE FORD FIELD ENDS MONDAY

The federally operated COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic inside Ford Field will end Monday night, eight weeks after it set out to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of Michiganders.

In its final days, the clinic also is a spot where the newest vaccine eligibility group — children ages 12 to 15 years old — can be inoculated with their first dose of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine. Those children can receive their second dose at a Meijer, local pharmacy, health department or other COVID-19 vaccine provider.

The clinic in the home of the Detroit Lions will be administering Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday. Walk-ins are welcome.

According to Protect Michigan Commission research, the site and its mobile vaccine clinics have administered 272,264 vaccine doses through Thursday.

Oakland County residents received the most doses at 118,615 followed by Wayne County residents, excluding Detroit, at 64,205 doses. Macomb County residents got 30,488 doses; Washtenaw County residents received 22,368 doses, and Detroiters received 19,945 doses.

As of Friday, 55.7% of Michiganders age 16 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state’s dashboard.


HERE’S HOW MICHIGAN WILL MAKE BUSINESSES ENFORCE ITS NEWEST MASK MANDATE

Michigan released specifics about how businesses must enforce the latest version of the state’s mask mandate – which went into effect at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 15.

The new mandate allows all fully vaccinated people – which means they’re two weeks removed from their final shot – to ditch their masks in most outdoor and indoor spaces.

Businesses must make a “good faith effort” to make sure unvaccinated people wear masks, per the order.

To count as a “good faith effort,” a business can do any of three options: Put up signs to say unvaccinated people must still wear masks, ask customers if they are vaccinated (or have any other exemption) or simply require everybody to wear masks.

Other components to the health order – like capacity restrictions for various types of gatherings – remain unchanged.

These changes to the mask mandate don’t impact employees – as they’re required to follow Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules. MIOSHA rules haven’t been relaxed yet to allow vaccinated people to unmask, but state officials said they’re considering tweaking those rules too.


MHSAA’S UYL DISCONTINUES FACE-MASK REQUIREMENT FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS

Michigan High School Athletic Association executive director Mark Uyl announced late Friday night that starting Saturday, outdoor sport athletes, coaches and staff do not need to wear masks. Fully vaccinated individuals (14 days past their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson) involved in indoor sports are no longer required to use a face covering.

Weekly testing of those participating in spring sports continues until May 31. At that point, vaccinated players will be exempt.

Spectator limits at spring outdoor events remain, Uyl confirmed.

Monday, when the Catholic League baseball tournament semifinals at Comerica Park take place, players from Detroit Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s will take the field at 10 a.m. without masks.


CDC: FULLY VACCINATED PEOPLE CAN LARGELY DITCH MASKS INDOORS

In a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people on Thursday, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

The country’s aggressive vaccination campaign has paid off: U.S. virus cases are at their lowest rate since September, deaths are at their lowest point since last April and the test positivity rate is at the lowest point since the pandemic began.

The new guidance is likely to open the door to confusion, since there is no surefire way for businesses or others to distinguish between those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not. People who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks indoors.


GIFT CARDS OFFERED TO DETROIT-AREA HOSPITALITY, RETAIL WORKERS GETTING VACCINATED AT CLARK PARK ON MAY 14

The first 400 Detroit-area hospitality and retail workers getting vaccinated at Clark Park on Friday can receive a $25 Visa gift card as part of a new statewide “shots in arms” incentive campaign.

The vaccination clinic will be open 2-7 p.m. on May 14 at 1130 Clark Street in Detroit.

  • Walk-ins are welcome, so no appointment is necessary.
  • Transportation, Spanish-language interpreters and wheelchair-accessible accommodations are available if needed. For information, call the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) at 866-962-5515.
  • Proof of health insurance is not required.
  • Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer doses are available.
  • The City of Detroit Health Department will administer the vaccines Friday. For questions, contact the City of Detroit’s Covid-19 Hotline 313-876-4000 and the Detroit Health Department COVID-19 at dhdoutbreak@detroitmi.gov.

The campaign was announced in partnership with Protect Michigan Commission, the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) and the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA).    Officials said Friday’s event is the first in a series of vaccination clinics hosted by the organizations across the state.


GOP-LED LEGISLATURE OKS BILLS BANNING MASK MANDATE FOR KIDS, LIMITING WHITMER’S POWERS

During Thursday’s sessions in the House and Senate, Republicans moved the remaining bills for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, while also passing bills prohibiting mask mandates for children, banning vaccine passports and limiting the powers of the State Administrative Board.

This week, both GOP-led chambers have been working to pass their own budget plans for the next fiscal year, but haven’t been able to garner bipartisan support for many bills.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her state budget recommendation in February worth $67.1 billion for the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1, an increase from the state’s current $62.8 billion budget. She and GOP leaders have not struck a deal.

One of the polarizing bills taken up Thursday was the Department of Health and Human Services budget, Senate Bill 79, which included an amendment, offered by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), prohibiting the use of funds from being used “to develop, create, implement or enforce vaccine passports or any similar document.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has not proposed vaccine passports in Michigan, but GOP-leaders are taking extra steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen.


MICHIGAN, WHITMER WANT DOCTORS TO ENROLL AS COVID-19 VACCINE PROVIDERS

The state of Michigan is asking all primary care physicians to enroll as vaccine providers in an effort to expand vaccinations across the state as children ages 12-15 become eligible.

The call to primary care physicians expands vaccine administration efforts that have so far largely been the purview of community vaccination clinics and pharmacies.

On Wednesday afternoon, an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must now sign off on the recommendation before it becomes final.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Wednesday the state wanted to make the process “as simple as possible for doctors” and, by extension, for individuals and families seeking the vaccine.

CVS Health said it was already scheduling vaccine appointment for those ages 12 to 15 years old at its nearly 70 pharmacies across Michigan starting Thursday.

Parental or legal guardian consent is required, and children must be accompanied by an adult.


POLL FINDS PUBLIC HEALTH HAS A TRUST PROBLEM

The public doesn’t trust public health agencies, that’s according to a new poll published Thursday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The survey of 1,305 people was conducted from mid-February to mid-March of this year.

Overall, the poll found that only 52% of Americans have a great deal of trust in CDC. Other health agencies were even lower — only 37% of Americans said they had a lot of trust in the National Institutes of Health or the Food and Drug Administration.

“We’re in a period of distrust of government in general,” notes Robert Blendon, emeritus professor at the Harvard Chan School, who oversaw the survey. “If we substituted the FBI for the CDC, it would not do a lot better.”

The poll found that trust isn’t just a problem for federal health agencies. State health departments have the trust of 41% of Americans, and local health departments only did slightly better at 44%.

Trust in public health during a pandemic is incredibly high stakes. Public health measures — like mask wearing and business restrictions — can’t work as intended to contain a pandemic if the community doesn’t believe they’re based on reliable information.

If that trust is not there, people won’t agree “to change their lives, take preventive [measures], take vaccines,” Blendon says.


UNEMPLOYED WILL SOON HAVE TO PROVE THEY’RE SEARCHING FOR WORK – OR LOSE BENEFITS

The work search requirement is about to restart in Michigan – meaning unemployed people must prove they’re looking for work if they want to keep getting benefits.

The requirement was halted in March 2020 when the pandemic started. The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency hasn’t been enforcing it since.

But starting sometime “soon,” the UIA will begin enforcing it again, it said on its website. The UIA hasn’t set an exact date, but said it will become mandatory again sometime in late May.

The work search requirement applies to everyone on unemployment, including state and federal programs.

To satisfy the work search requirement, applicants must report one “work search activity” per week. That includes applying for jobs in person or online, attending job fairs or employment workshops or searching job listings on websites like Monster.com, LinkedIn or MITalent.org.

The UIA will ask when and how you applied for each job and ask for the company’s contact information.

Lately, some employers have had issues with “ghost applicants,” who apply for a job, but never show up for an interview – as they only apply to satisfy the requirement.


UBER, LYFT TO OFFER FREE RIDES TO VACCINATION SITES IN US

The White House announced new efforts to vaccinate Americans, including an expansion of free rides from Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to get shots and a partnership with community colleges to administer vaccines.

Lyft and Uber will offer free rides through July 4 to anyone going to get vaccinated in the U.S., the White House said on Tuesday. It’s an expansion of programs they were already providing to some low-income users in cooperation with pharmacies and non-profits.

The Biden administration and its federal pharmacy partners are also seeking to start on-site vaccination clinics at community colleges in a bid to inoculate students, staff and those in nearby communities. The White House said it had selected community colleges because of the diversity of their student populations.

The pool of people who will eagerly seek out an appointment to get a vaccine is all but exhausted, forcing the government to shift its attention to those willing to take it but who don’t want to go out of their way.


CANCEL EXTRA $300, FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS, MICHIGAN BUSINESS GROUP URGES

As employers struggle to find workers, Michigan could make it easier by canceling the extra $300 in jobless benefits and getting rid of federal unemployment programs, a state business group says.

At least four states already decided to stop accepting federal unemployment benefits in mid-to-late June – Montana, South Carolina, North Dakota and Iowa.

Michigan should join them, says the Michigan chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Nationwide, 44% of small business owners report having job openings they can’t fill, according to an NFIB survey of 10,000 business owners. The numbers are likely even higher in Michigan, Owens said.

Michigan currently offers up to $662 per week to unemployed workers, thanks to the extra $300 in benefits from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The extra $300 and the federal unemployment programs – including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program – don’t expire until September.

Canceling the PUA and PEUC programs would toss more than a half-million Michiganders off unemployment.


OAKLAND COUNTY TO RECEIVE OVER $650 MILLION IN AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN FUNDING

Oakland County, its communities, and K-12 schools are slated to receive around $656 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to help with their COVID-19 pandemic response efforts.

The U.S. Department of Treasury released its final guidance on Monday on how $350 billion in American Rescue Plan funding could be used by state and local governments. Of the $1.9 trillion made available through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, just over $18 billion is available to Michigan through various federal revenue streams.

This includes $6.5 billion in direct assistance for the State of Michigan, which is $800 million more than initially expected, $1.93 billion for the state’s counties, $2.4 billion for the state’s local governments, and $3.9 billion for Michigan’s K-12 schools among other revenue streams.

States, counties, and metropolitan cities will receive their allocated dollars directly from the federal government. The non-entitlement communities will receive their funding from the State of Michigan.

Local governments will receive funding in two phases, with 50% of the allocation being provided this month and the remaining balance delivered approximately 12 months later.


MICHIGAN HITS FIRST VACCINE THRESHOLD FOR WHITMER’S RESTRICTION PLAN

Michigan hit the first trigger for easing COVID-19 restrictions under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s vaccination plan Monday, an achievement that will soon allow businesses to return more employees to in-person office work.

Michigan had 4.45 million residents with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, equaling just above 55% of the population age 16 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Whitmer called the benchmark a “huge milestone” for the state and encouraged unvaccinated individuals to get their shots. The restriction on in-person work is set to ease May 24, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.


FDA AUTHORIZES PFIZER VACCINE FOR CHILDREN 12 TO 15

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday lowered the age that people can receive Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in the United States to 12 — a move that is expected to make millions of more shots available.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for use in people ages 16 and up in December. The FDA has now amended the authorization to include children ages 12 to 15.

First, however, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet Wednesday to update its recommendation for who should receive the Pfizer vaccine.

If the head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, signs off on the committee’s recommendations, the first shots for children kids 12 and up could come within days.

The two Pfizer vaccine doses would be exactly the same as what are given to adults, three weeks apart, FDA officials said.


MSU LIFTS OUTDOOR MASK MANDATE

Michigan State University on Monday lifted its outdoor mask requirement after changes by the CDC and state health department.

As of Monday, masks no longer are required in outdoor settings on campus or MSU-affiliated properties for individuals or small groups, except for gatherings of 100 people or more, MSU President Samuel Stanley said in a release online.

Anyone who is fully vaccinated and not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is not required to wear a mask at residential gatherings, including those that are indoors.

Face coverings remain required indoors.

Meanwhile, “the city of East Lansing has informed the university it will potentially be changing its face covering policy as well,” MSU said in its statement Monday. “The East Lansing City Council is set to consider a policy resolution Tuesday that, if approved, would eliminate the requirement to wear masks in downtown outdoor public spaces, beginning Wednesday, May 12.”


FULLY VACCINATED STAFF AT LONG-TERM CARE FACILITES WON’T HAVE ROUTINE COVID-19 TESTS

Fully vaccinated staff members at long-term care facilities in Michigan will not have to be routinely tested for the novel coronavirus under a revised order by the state health department.

People are fully vaccinated at least two weeks past the second dose of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The changes affect skilled nursing facilities, homes for the aged and adult foster care facilities licensed to care for 13 or more people. The order is effective immediately.

Testing is required in the following circumstances:

  • Initial testing of all new or returning residents to a facility and newly hired staff when the person is unvaccinated and has not been tested in the 72 hours prior to intake or start date.
  • Testing any resident or staff member with symptoms of the virus or suspected exposure to the virus regardless of the person’s vaccination status.
  • Weekly testing of all residents and staff in facilities that are experiencing an outbreak — any facility-acquired positive cases among residents or staff — until 14 days after the last new positive case regardless of vaccination status.

Weekly testing of all unvaccinated staff.


PHYSICIANS GROUP SAYS COVID VACCINE MANDATES UNNECESSARY, BUT MICHIGAN UNIVERSITIES STICKING TO THEIR GUNS

Schools like the University of Michigan, Oakland University and Lawrence Technological University are requiring students in university housing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the fall semester.

However, a group of physicians is asking these schools to reconsider their mandates.

In a letter to deans, governing boards and trustees at universities with COVID-19 vaccine requirements, Paul Kempen, president of the conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, listed more than a dozen reasons why schools should reconsider those mandates, including vaccine side effects and the lower risk of young adults suffering or dying from COVID-19.

Kempen’s statements contradict the American College Health Association, which has recommended vaccination requirements for all on-campus college students, saying that comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective way for colleges and universities to return to safe on-campus experiences.


MICHIGAN: 54% VACCINATED, INCLUDING RESIDENTS OUTSIDE STATE

Michigan said late Friday that 54% of adults ages 16 and up have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot, a roughly 2.5 percentage point jump after factoring in people who were vaccinated outside the state or at federal facilities.

The addition of nearly 227,000 residents to the state’s count put Michigan close to a 55% benchmark Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says is needed to allow in-person work in all sectors, including offices. The reopening step will occur two weeks after the milestone is reached.

State officials said a new tracker uses data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which can access data from out-of-state providers and federal entities like veterans hospitals.

The state health department urged people who were vaccinated in another state to bring their card to their next doctor’s appointment or to their local health department, so their immunization information is updated in the Michigan Care Improvement Registry.

At a 60%, capacity at sports stadiums, banquet halls, conference centers and funeral homes will rise to 25% after two weeks — and 50% at gyms. Restaurants and bars will no longer have an 11 p.m. curfew.


MICHIGAN TO REVIEW PLAN ON EASING COVID-19 RULES IF KIDS BECOME VACCINE ELIGIBLE

Michigan will reevaluate — and potentially change — recently released benchmarks tying COVID-19 vaccinations to easing pandemic restrictions if federal regulators authorize immunizations for children, a health department spokeswoman said Thursday.

Currently, Michiganders 16 and older are eligible for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. But federal regulators could include children ages 12-15 as soon as next week.

Health officials say they have the infrastructure to accommodate the roughly 500,000 newly eligible tweens and teens in Michigan. However, the overall decline in vaccine demand will almost assuredly delay easing COVID-19 regulations. By increasing the pool of unvaccinated people, it will be more difficult to reach the benchmarks to adjust restrictions.

In order to hit the first benchmark in the governor’s plan, 4,453,304 Michiganders need to receive the first dose of a vaccine. As of Thursday afternoon, the state was at 4,121,924 first doses.

But that goal is based on 55% of Michiganders 16 and older getting a first dose of the vaccine. If 500,000 kids 12-15 are newly eligible, 55% of all eligible Michiganders would be more than 4,728,000 people.


VACCINATED 12- TO 15-YEAR-OLDS AT U.S. CAMPS WILL BE ABLE TO REMOVE MASKS OUTDOORS, THE C.D.C. DIRECTOR SAYS

As federal regulators prepare to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in adolescents aged 12 to 15, a top health official said Wednesday that vaccinated individuals in that age group will be able to remove their masks outdoors at camps.

The remarks by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, came after criticism that the agency’s recently issued guidance for campers was needlessly strict. That guidance had said children at camps should be masked except when eating, drinking, napping or swimming.

The Pfizer vaccine is now authorized only for people 16 or older, and the two other vaccines in use now in the United States are limited to those 18 or older. But federal regulators are expected to expand the Pfizer authorization to include adolescents as soon as this week.

Dr. Walenksy said on Wednesday that the agency’s guidance was intended to prevent a repeat of virus outbreaks last year that were traced to summer camps. She said that unvaccinated, unmasked children who engage in close-contact sports like soccer are at risk of transmitting the virus even when outdoors.


3 MAJOR RETAILERS OFFERING WALK-IN OR SCHEDULED COVID-19 VACCINES AT THEIR MICHIGAN STORES

COVID-19 vaccines are getting easier to find in Michigan as three major retailers announced this week they are offering walk-up and scheduled appointments at hundreds of their stores in the state.

CVS Health said Wednesday it will have walk-in and same-day vaccinations in its CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide, including nearly 300 locations across Michigan.

No appointment is necessary. Same-day scheduling, including appointments as soon as one hour from the time of scheduling, also is available at CVS.com, according to a release.

Walmart and Sam’s Club announced Tuesday they will have vaccines for customers and associates at their 115 pharmacies in Michigan, with walk-ins accepted as supplies allow.

Appointments can be made at walmart.com/COVIDvaccine and samsclub.com/covid. They are administering Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. People do not have to be members to receive a shot at Sam’s Club, according to a release.


US BACKS WAIVING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RULES ON VACCINES

The Biden administration on Wednesday joined calls for more sharing of the technology behind COVID-19 vaccines to help speed the end of the pandemic, a shift that puts the U.S. alongside many in the developing world who want rich countries to do more to get doses to the needy.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the government’s position, amid World Trade Organization talks about a possible temporary waiver of its protections that would allow more manufacturers to produce the life-saving vaccines.

“The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” Tai said in a statement.

She cautioned that it would take time to reach the required global “consensus” to waive the protections under WTO rules, and U.S. officials said it would not have an immediate effect on the global supply of COVID-19 shots.


MICH. LEGISLATURE OKS EXEMPTING GRADUATIONS FROM VIRUS ORDER

A split Michigan Legislature voted Wednesday to exempt high school graduation ceremonies from the state’s order that restricts crowd sizes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans who control the Senate and House supported the bills that lawmakers could finalize next week, while all but a few Democrats opposed them.

Under the state health department’s order, outdoor stadiums with enhanced protocols can operate at 20% capacity. Otherwise, 1,000 people can be in outdoor arenas with a fixed seating capacity of up to 10,000 — 1,500 if it is a bigger venue — as long as they do not surpass 50% occupancy. At indoor arenas, the limit is 375, or 750 if the seating capacity is more than 10,000.

“Most local school boards have done a good job of mitigating the risk of COVID. We should trust them to safely manage their own graduations,” said a bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Jim Runestad of Oakland County’s White Lake Township. The risk of the coronavirus spreading outdoors is low, he said, contending that students and their families deserve “this last irreplaceable high school memory.”

Last week, the state Department of Health and Human Services quietly issued guidance about high school end-of-the-year events such as graduations and proms

The state recommended that in-person events be held outside — not indoors — and that schools require all students, staff, volunteers and other attendees to test negative within 24 or 72 hours of the event, depending on the type of test. The use of cohorts or pods was encouraged for social events such as proms and year-end parties.

The state asked school officials to consider shortening the length of events and scheduling students in staggered time slots.


CORONAVIRUS DAILY CASE AVERAGE, HOSPITALIZATIONS LESS THAN 3,000 FOR FIRST TIME SINCE MARCH

Michigan reported 2,589 new coronavirus cases and 42 additional deaths on Wednesday, May 5.

The state is averaging 2,949 new COVID-19 cases per day and 67 new deaths per day over the last week. This is the 16 straight reported day where the seven-day case average decreased and is the lowest average since March 23.

It is also the first time the seven-day case average was less than 3,000 since late March.

Seventy-eight of Michigan’s 83 counties reported new cases on Wednesday. Wayne County led in new cases with 484, with the next closest being Macomb with 264 and Oakland with 248.


NEW ORDER EASES MICHIGAN’S MASK REQUIREMENTS

Masks will generally not be required outdoors in Michigan and fully vaccinated people who are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms won’t have to wear masks at indoor residential gatherings under a new order from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The order, announced Tuesday night, takes effect Thursday and comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its guidance for outdoor mask-wearing. The new policy marks the most drastic change yet in Michigan benefiting fully vaccinated individuals.

Under the new policy, which expires May 31, masks will generally not be required outdoors unless a gathering has 100 or more people, and routine testing for fully vaccinated participants in organized sports will no longer be required if they are asymptomatic.

Masks continue to be required for contact sports but are no longer required outdoors during active practice and competition for non-contact sports, according to a press release.

The new order also allows large outdoor events, including festivals, fairs and golf tournaments, to exceed the current 1,000-person limit as long as they create and post a safety plan and no more than 20 persons per 1,000 square feet are gathered in any space available to patron

Similarly, outdoor residential gatherings can be larger in some situations. They’re generally capped at 50 people. But now, if density does not exceed 20 people per 1,000 square feet of outdoor space, up to 300 people can be gathered.


MICHIGAN STILL LEADS NATION IN COVID-19 CASES BUT HOSPITALIZATIONS ARE FALLING

Michigan continues to lead the nation in new COVID-19 cases, but new infections and hospitalizations have fallen sharply in the last two weeks following the state’s third surge that began in late March.

Michigan on Tuesday added 2,527 new cases and 126 deaths from COVID-19, surpassing 850,000 confirmed cases, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The state continues to lead the nation in new cases per capita for the fifth straight week despite nearly two-fifths of its residents being fully vaccinated. However, cases and hospitalizations are trending downward.

As of Monday, 2,810 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 769 in an intensive care unit and 513 on ventilators. That’s a 39% drop from April 19 when hospitalizations peaked with 4,158 inpatients.


ALL SCHOOLS NEED IN-PERSON CLASSES THIS FALL, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION SAYS

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he expects every school to offer in-person instruction this fall — and that while there is a place for online learning, not every student requires a virtual learning option.

Cardona acknowledged challenges that have kept large swaths of students learning remotely this spring, including families’ lack of trust and concerns about how students were treated at school even before the pandemic.

His comments come as more districts are making decisions about how schools will work next school year. Already, some districts have said they plan to offer a fully virtual option for families who want it, while others are waiting to see what parents want as vaccine distribution ramps up and older students are able to get shots

And while Cardona said he was pleased with the results of a national survey that showed nearly 80 percent of schools were offering at least some in-person instruction in February, he still felt a “sense of urgency” to reopen the rest.


STARTING TUESDAY, FORD FIELD’S MASS COVID-19 VACCINE CLINIC TO SWITCH TO JOHNSON & JOHNSON

As Detroit’s Ford Field enters its final weeks as a federally operated mass COVID-19 vaccination site, it will switch from giving the Pfizer two-dose vaccine to Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose shot.

The J&J vaccine will be available starting Tuesday to anyone 18 and older who has yet to receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and it will continue to be offered through May 17.

Walk-ups will be available 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily starting Tuesday, although people are still encouraged to register in advance by testing “EndCOVID” to 75049 or by calling the state health department’s COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136.

Anyone seeking a walk-up vaccine should enter Ford Field through Gate G.

People who got a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine can also go to Ford Field to get a second dose, no matter where the first dose was received, through May 17 as long as at least 21 days have passed since the first one. People seeking a second dose are advised to bring their vaccination cards to the site.


MICHIGAN HEALTH DEPARTMENT: 70% VACCINATION GOAL NOT BASED ON HERD IMMUNITY

Michigan’s target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population is not based on reaching herd immunity, a spokeswoman for the state health department said Monday as a key Republican lawmaker questioned why those who are recovered from the virus aren’t included in the tally.

During a Monday radio interview, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, credited the governor for setting a metric-based reopening plan but argued that the plan should take into account people who have already had the virus. Shirkey said the state “should be opening this week” if the goal is immunity.

However, the 70% target is not based on community immunity or herd immunity, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It’s an “operational goal identified at the beginning of the vaccination campaign, based on the understanding of potential availability of vaccine and ages that would be eligible for vaccination,” Sutfin said.

There’s not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after an infection someone is protected from COVID-19, she added.

“Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this,” Sutfin said. “For this reason, people who have already had the virus but haven’t been vaccinated aren’t included in the 70% calculation.


PFIZER VACCINE FOR ADOLESCENTS TO GET FDA APPROVAL

The Food and Drug Administration is likely to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents within the next week, according to the New York Times and CNN.

So far, the vaccines have been approved only for use in adults and older teens. The FDA authorization would allow the Pfizer-BioNTech shots to be given to 12- to 15-year-olds for the first time, once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also signs off.

Many parents have been eagerly awaiting vaccines for their children, hoping for protection and to return school and social lives to something more normal.

The FDA is expected to  modify its emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine within the next week to allow younger adolescents to receive the shot.

The other two authorized vaccines, from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are so far only allowed to be used in adults. Moderna is testing its vaccine in adolescents and younger children and J&J plans to but has not yet begun similar studies.


$28 BILLION GRANT PROGRAM FOR RESTAURANTS AND BARS BEGINS MONDAY

From caterers to food trucks to brewpubs to wineries and more, businesses across the hard-hit restaurant industry on Monday can apply for their piece of $28.6 billion in grants earmarked as support in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

At noon Monday, the Small Business Administration, or SBA, will open the application process for restaurants, bars and other food service operators to apply for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, or RRF, on its website at sba.gov.

As part of the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act, the RRF fund is supported with $28.6 billion in grants meant to infuse funds nationwide into the industry that was decimated by due to shutdowns, capacity limits and curfews because of the pandemic.

Businesses can pre-register for the application process that goes live at noon Monday at restaurants.sba.gov. The website includes a sample application, program guidelines and information on how to apply.

An eligible business can use the funds for operating expenses including payroll, rent and mortgage, utilities, maintenance, constructing outdoor seating, and food and beverage expenses.

During the first 21 days, the fund is giving priority in direct relief to women, veterans and otherwise socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. It also includes $9.5 billion in set-asides for smaller businesses.

The minimum awarded will be $1,000 for businesses who meet certain conditions, according to sba.gov.


MICHIGAN HIGH SCHOOLS HOST VACCINE CLINICS

Vaccination clinics are popping up in high schools across Michigan, as health officials scramble to immunize 16 to 18-year-olds from COVID-19 before the school year ends.

The effort is key to tamping down spread of the coronavirus in Michigan, which currently has the highest infection and hospitalization rates in the nation, and to meeting the vaccination goals Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has linked to further loosening pandemic restrictions across the state.

When it comes to the state’s youngest and soon-to-be adults, there’s plenty of work ahead in helping to get the state to herd immunity.

As of Friday, half of Michigan residents 16 and older had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but that number fell to 29.7 percent for residents in their  20s, and is even lower for teens aged 16 to 19, at 25.9 percent. Fewer than 1-in-10 teens have been fully vaccinated.

The state doesn’t keep public school enrollment data by age, but considering the typical age of students in 10th through 12th grade, there are likely between 200,00 and 300,000 Michigan high school students who are at least 16 years old, the current minimum to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, high school vaccinations are being coordinated by individual county health departments, and some are further along in the process than others.


CVS, WALGREENS HAVE WASTED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS COVID VACCINES, DATA SHOWS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 182,874 wasted doses as of late March, three months into the country’s effort to vaccinate the masses against the coronavirus. CVS was responsible for nearly half, and Walgreens was responsible for 21 percent, or nearly 128,500 wasted shots combined.

CDC data suggest that the companies have wasted more doses than states, U.S. territories and federal agencies combined. Pfizer’s vaccine, which in December was the first to be deployed and initially required storage at ultracold temperatures, made up nearly 60 percent of the tossed doses.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which come in multidose vials, are fragile and have limited shelf lives. Overall, waste has been minuscule:

Months into the vaccination drive, the CDC has a limited view of how much vaccine is going to waste, where it’s being wasted and who is wasting it, potentially complicating efforts to direct doses where they are needed most. Public health experts say having a good handle on waste is crucial to detect problems that could derail progress and risk lives.


GOV. WHITMER UNVEILS PLAN TO TIE MICHIGAN VACCINATION RATES TO EASING COVID-19 RULES

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined a plan that ties specific vaccination levels to rolling back COVID-19 restrictions during a news media event Thursday morning.

The announcement mirrors the state’s goal of vaccinating 70% of all Michigander’s 16 and older, but comes as Michigan continues to grapple with the nation’s worst pandemic outbreak.

Whitmer outlined four steps to gradually ease restrictions:

  • Two weeks after 4.5 million Michiganders have received their first vaccine dose (55% of the eligible population), the state will lift requirements that employers mandate employees work remotely where feasible.
  • Two weeks after 4.9 million Michiganders have received their first vaccine dose (60% of the eligible population), the state will increase indoor capacity for sporting events, conference centers, banquet halls and other similar facilities to 25%. The state will also increase capacity limits at gyms to 50%, and lift curfews on restaurants and bars.
  • Two weeks after 5.3 million Michiganders have received their first vaccine dose (65% of the eligible population), the state will lift all indoor capacity restrictions and relax limits on social gatherings.

Two weeks after 5.7 million Michiganders have received their first vaccine dose (70% of the eligible population), the state will rescind the health department’s face mask and gathering order and stop issuing similar rules “unless unanticipated circumstances arise.”


HOW DID OAKLAND COUNTY SPEND $256 MILLION IN PANDEMIC ASSISTANCE?

Oakland County has spent $256 million in federal and state dollars over the past year to assist residents, businesses, schools, and communities in battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the county received $219 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars along with nearly $40 million from the State of Michigan to help respond to the pandemic.

On Thursday, the county launched two dashboards showing how all of those dollars were spent. The data can be broken down by grant type, industry, and local government.

In total, the county awarded grants to more than 15,000 local businesses, which employ 65,000 people; 22 local chambers of commerce; 57 cities, villages, and townships; 278 non-profit and 31 veterans services organizations; 28 local school districts as well as retailers, restaurants, community centers, and more.

Over $7 million of these dollars were used to directly assist 6,000 residents through the microgrant program, over 1,500 residents through the rent, mortgage, utility assistance program, and 120 musicians in collaboration with Arts, Beats and Eats Foundation.


THE C.D.C. EASES RULES FOR CRUISES, MAKING MID-JULY TRIPS POSSIBLE.

Cruise ships that have been docked for more than a year could restart sailing in United States waters by mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a letter sent to the cruise industry late on Wednesday.

After several meetings with cruise lines, the C.D.C. clarified several requirements in its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which outlined the steps that cruise companies had to follow to resume operations in U.S. waters. The agency said it will let the companies skip test voyages if they attest that 98 percent of the crew and 95 percent of passengers are fully vaccinated.

Previously, the agency required cruise lines to give 30 days notice before starting a test cruise and to apply for a conditional sailing certificate 60 days before a planned regular voyage.

The agency also eased its pre-sailing testing requirements for fully vaccinated passengers and crew, allowing them to take a simple viral test instead of a PCR test, which takes longer to yield results


JUDGE DENIES ADVOCACY GROUP’S BID TO STOP COVID-19 RULES FOR STUDENT ATHLETES

A judge on Wednesday denied an advocacy group’s request to halt COVID-19 testing for state school athletes and other measures health officials instituted amid the pandemic.

The group Let Them Play Michigan, which this year sued after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended a lockdown order on high school sports, filed a lawsuit this month challenging the rapid testing requirements of youths age 13-19 practicing and playing on teams.

The suit questioned the authority to impose the order and subsequent guidance while arguing that “student-athletes have endured unilateral orders enacted by Executive Branch officials that severely restrict their ability to freely associate with one another and compete in high school sports.”

In his opinion and order Wednesday denying Let Them Play’s motion for a preliminary injunction, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Michael Kelly said the “plaintiffs are not generally disputing defendant’s ability to take measures to regulate or set parameters relating to public health. The issue, according to plaintiffs, is how defendant went about the task of regulating matters affecting public health and state law “plainly gives the MDHHS director authority to issue emergency orders in order to control an ongoing epidemic. This permissive grant of authority expressly authorizes the very action taken in this case as it concerns emergency orders.”


SEVERAL WALK-IN COVID CLINICS SET FOR MASS VACCINATION WEEK IN METRO DETROIT

In an effort to get more of her constituents vaccinated against COVID-19, U.S. Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence has announced the 14th Congressional District’s Mass Vaccination Week

The Congressional Black Caucus initiative will start on Saturday, May 1, and run through May 8.

Lawrence is working with several vaccine sites throughout the district for walk-up COVID-19 vaccinations for all Michiganders. She is also partnering with several organizations to spread awareness and educate the public about the safe, effective, no-cost vaccine.

Information for clinics at two Pontiac sites — Welcome Missionary Baptist Church and the UWM Sports Complex — will be announced later.

Vaccine sites providing walk-in vaccinations during Mass Vaccination Week:

Beaumont Service Center

26901 Beaumont Blvd., Southfield, MI 48033

Monday, May 3, through Friday, May 7

10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Henry Ford Mobile Site

14300 Oak Park Blvd., Oak Park, MI 48237

Wednesday, May 5

8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

North Farmington Hills High School

32900 W 13 Mile Rd, Farmington Hills, MI 48334

Saturday, May 8

9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

TCF Center

1 Washington Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226

Monday, May 3 through Friday, May 7

9 a.m. – 5 p.m.


DETROIT OFFERS $50 A SHOT TO PEOPLE WHO BRING RESIDENTS FOR COVID VACCINES

Detroit is sweetening the deal to boost the city’s COVID vaccination rates, offering $50 per shot to people who bring city residents to vaccine sites, Mayor Mike Duggan announced Wednesday.

The incentives are handed over in $50 Mastercard debit cards — $100 for a two-dose vaccine — and there’s no limit to how many residents a person can bring in for shots under the Good Neighbor program.

In a city with the state’s lowest vaccine rates, Duggan called the program “uncharted territory.”

The “neighbor” who stands to financially benefit does not need to be a Detroit resident, but the person brought in for a vaccine must live in the city, under the terms of the program.

A $3.4 million state grant set aside to cover vaccine-related costs will fund the program, and there’s enough in the grant set aside to vaccinate 68,000 Detroiters, according to city spokesperson John Roach.


CDC SAYS MANY AMERICANS CAN NOW GO OUTSIDE WITHOUT A MASK

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines Tuesday on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.

And those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some situations, too.

The new guidance represents another carefully calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in U.S.

For most of the past year, the CDC had been advising Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of one another.

The change comes as more than half of U.S. adults — or about 140 million people — have received at least one dose of vaccine, and more than a third have been fully vaccinated.

Officials say the decision was driven by rising vaccination numbers; declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths; and research showing that less than 10% of documented instances of transmission of the virus happened outdoors.

The CDC says that whether they are fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They can also go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people.


WHITMER SAYS COVID-19 POLICY CHANGES COULD BE COMING SOON

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that a measure of normalcy might be on the horizon soon for Michigan in its ongoing battle against COVID-19.

Whitmer noted cases in the state are beginning to decline and officials are monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as information on the virus evolves and officials learn more about the efficacy and longevity of vaccines.

In Michigan, 48.5% of the population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination and about 2.8 million residents — or 35% of the adult population — are fully vaccinated. The governor’s goal is that 70% of adults in the state be vaccinated.

“I would anticipate forthcoming policy changes potentially that will feel a little bit more normal for all of us,” Whitmer said following a worker safety news conference in Macomb County. “The more people that get vaccinated, the more things we’ll be able to do. But, we are continuing to monitor what the CDC is recommending and our data here in Michigan.”

The Democratic governor’s comments come as Michigan’s COVID-19 hospitalization and infection statistics have improved over the last two weeks. The state still leads the nation in new cases per population, as it has for nearly a month, but there’s optimism that a peak has been reached in the latest surge.


METRO DETROIT RESIDENTS NEEDED FOR ORAL COVID-19 TREATMENT CLINICAL TRIAL

Metro Detroit residents who have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19 or are currently ill after being exposed are needed for a clinical trial for a new virus treatment.

Phase 2/3 of the national study will examine the safety and efficacy of Raleigh, North Carolina-based RedHill Biopharma’s drug RHB-107, or upamostat. The medication is an orally administered serine protease inhibitor with antiviral and potential tissue-protective effects that target human cells rather than the COVID-19 virus itself

Researchers are enrolling 300 patients with symptomatic COVID-19 who do not require hospital care in a randomized, double-blind study with placebos.

The trial requires one visit to Henry Ford Hospital on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit at the beginning of the study and the remainder of the trial will be self-monitoring at home with devices to monitor vitals. Nurses will make in-home visits to check in on patients, collect blood samples and test for the virus using PCR swabs at home.

Interested participants can visit https://1nhealth.com/feeling-the-symptoms/#details for more information and to pre-qualify for the trial.


MEIJER TO OFFER WALK-UP COVID-19 VACCINES AT ALL STORES

Meijer will begin offering walk-up COVID-19 vaccinations at all of its pharmacies, the Michigan-based retailer announced Monday.

Meijer is launching its walk-up vaccine program at all its stores using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, the retailer said in a news release. Every Meijer store will have a minimum of 100 doses per week for customers to get the vaccine. Doses will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis., the release noted.

While limited vaccines will be available on a walk-up basis at all Meijer stores, people interested in getting the vaccine can still register to get an appointment by texting COVID to 75049. People can also register online.

Monday’s announcement comes as the chain announced that it has crossed the one million mark for doses administered through its in-store clinics.


NEW COVID OUTBREAKS AT 5 SCHOOLS IN OAKLAND COUNTY LAST WEEK; 13 CASES CONFIRMED

New school outbreaks in Oakland County were limited to five schools last week. However, 26 Oakland County schools are dealing with ongoing outbreaks.

Of the 189 new COVID cases at Michigan schools reported for the week of April 17-23, 13 cases occurred in five outbreaks at five schools in Oakland County.

That is slightly less than the previous week when there were 21 cases in eight outbreaks at seven schools in the county. Last week, though, the state had fewer cases topping out at 162.

An outbreak, as defined by the state, is two or more cases that have shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households.

The five schools with new outbreaks are University Hills Elementary in Rochester Hills (2 cases); Norup International in Oak Park (2 cases); Clarkston’s Sashabaw Middle School (4 cases); Birmingham Seaholm High School (2 cases); and Waterford’s Mason Middle School (3 cases). All were among students except at Mason where only staff was involved.

Ongoing outbreaks were reported with 81 cases (down from 99 a week ago) at 26 schools with 31 outbreaks in Oakland County.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services releases the school outbreak data each Monday.


MICHIGAN REPORTS DECLINING CORONAVIRUS CASE RATE FOR 8TH STRAIGHT DAY, 35 DEATHS BETWEEN APRIL 25-26

Michigan reported 6,524 new coronavirus cases and 35 additional deaths between Sunday and Monday, April 25-26.

That means the state averaged 3,262 additional cases over the last two days.

The state is averaging 4,566 new COVID-19 cases per day and 60 new deaths per day over the last week. This is the eighth straight day the state reported a declining seven-day case increase, and it’s the lowest average since March 29.

Eighty-one of Michigan’s 83 counties reported new cases on Monday, as just Schoolcraft and Luce counties reported no new cases. Wayne County led in new cases with 1,381, with the next closest being Macomb with 720 and Oakland with 716.


MICHIGAN SAYS JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINATIONS SHOULD RESUME

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that providers resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for residents 18 years of age and older, according to a news release Friday night.

The department’s announcement came after the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended moving forward with the vaccine after an 11-day pause spurred by rare blood clotting cases.

U.S. health officials ended an 11-day pause on Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot Friday, after scientific advisers decided its benefits outweigh a rare risk of blood clot, according to the Associated Press.

The state health department said teams at FDA and CDC conducted extensive outreach to providers and clinicians to ensure they were made aware of the potential for adverse events and could properly manage and recognize the events.

About 2.7 million Michigan residents, 34% of the adult population, have now received their full COVID-19 vaccinations. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal is for 70% of the adult population to be vaccinated.


MICHIGAN GOP PUSHES TO BAN VACCINE PASSPORTS, UNIVERSITY MANDATES

Republicans in Michigan are joining conservative colleagues nationwide in a race to pre-emptively ban COVID-19 “vaccine passports,” citing concerns over privacy and liberty amid a mass inoculation effort.

New House legislation would prohibit the state or local governments from creating, issuing or incentivizing the kind of vaccine passports that Israel and other countries have used to ease travel restrictions for inoculated residents and provide special access to restricted sites like hotels, gyms, theaters and music venues.

separate spending bill would prohibit any of the state’s 15 public universities from requiring students to prove vaccination for enrollment or in-person instruction next fall, an option some Michigan schools are considering.

One bill would define a vaccine passport as any “written or electronic documentation for the purposes of certifying that an individual has received a vaccination for or is immunized against COVID-19.”

The push comes as demand for COVID-19 vaccines appears to be waning in Michigan, complicating efforts to achieve “herd immunity” by inoculating 70 percent of adults, or about 5.7 million residents.


VACCINATED AMERICANS MIGHT BE ABLE TO ADD EUROPE TO THEIR SUMMER TRAVEL PLANS

Travel restrictions keep evolving for those who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine shots.

Fully vaccinated Americans looking to travel this summer will be able to add the European Union to their list of potential destinations, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told The New York Times in an interview on Sunday.

The European Commission is working to make sure travelers can corroborate vaccination with documentation that is compatible with its proposed Digital Green Certificate.

The commission is working with U.S. Homeland Security on a system for the recognition Americans’ vaccination certificates, — referred to as vaccine passports — including in terms of ensuring coherence and compatibility.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can resume travel at low risk to themselves, the agency is still not recommending travel given rising COVID case counts.

The State Department last week said it was raising the alert level for a significant number of countries as it factors the CDC’s COVID-19 data more heavily into its rating system.

The agency said about 80% of countries will now carry the “Do not travel” label, a Level 4.

With immediate neighbors Mexico and Canada, the Department of Homeland Security borders will remain restricted to nonessential travel through at least May 21.


‘THE BENEFITS OUTWEIGH THE RISKS’: IT’S TIME TO ALLOW J&J’S COVID-19 VACCINE AGAIN, PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS SAY

Pausing Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine may have been a good idea, a number of public health experts say, but now it’s time to allow the shots back on the market.

A number of experts said they expect a government advisory committee, which will meet Friday for the second time in less than two weeks, to lift the hold on the shot. Depending on what it learns about a mysterious blood clotting ailment, the committee might add an age restriction or simply a warning label to the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported eight cases out of more than 7 million J&J vaccine recipients of an ultra-rare combination of blood clots, many in unusual locations such as the brain, and low levels of platelets, which help wounds heal.

Typically, a health effect is determined to be caused by a vaccine if it occurs at a higher rate in the vaccinated population than among the unvaccinated.

The CDC committee, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices or ACIP, can recommend that the agency add a warning label to the vaccine about this very rare side effect, or limit its distribution to a certain group of people. Any recommendation from the committee would have to be approved by the CDC and the FDA.

Vaccine experts doubt that the committee would recommend shelving the vaccine altogether, because the side effect is so rare.


MI RECEIVES ADDITIONAL FEDERAL RESOURCES TO BOOST VACCINATIONS

More than 200 federal personnel will be arriving in Michigan this week to assist at three mass vaccination sites, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office announced Thursday.

The federal personnel — a group comprised of members of the Department of Defense, U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Forest Service — will be assigned to DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Ford Field in Detroit and TCF in Detroit to help with COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Personnel will serve both clinical and non-clinical roles at the vaccination sites, according to a news release distributed by Whitmer’s office. Support is being provided to hire additional ambulance personnel for these sites, as well, the release states.

Personnel began arriving Wednesday and are expected to be fully operational no later than April 28.

Michigan recently reached a milestone of 6 million doses of vaccines distributed in just over four months, with the most recent one million vaccines administered in a record 11 days. To date, 47 percent of Michiganders have received at least one dose, with 33 percent of Michiganders being fully vaccinated, according to state data.


MICHIGAN LIQUOR CONTROL COMMISSION SOFTENS APPROACH TO COVID-19 RULE VIOLATORS

A handful of restaurants flouted the rules this winter when Michigan closed indoor dining.

While local law enforcement and some state agencies hesitated to step in, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission was perhaps the biggest enforcer – suspending liquor licenses at 36 businesses.

With the dine-in ban over, the MLCC has softened its approach and hasn’t suspended a liquor license in nearly two months. It’s transitioned to issuing “written warning tickets” instead of emergency suspensions in most cases, “due to increased compliance,” said MLCC spokesperson Jeannie Vogel.

“There is no penalty (fine, suspension or fee) to a liquor licensee for a written warning ticket, but it becomes a part of the licensee’s permanent violation history,” Vogel said in an email. “It may be a basis for more strict action taken by MLCC on future violations of the same type.”

The MLCC does not have an estimate on how many written warning tickets it’s handed out since March and isn’t publicizing which businesses are ticketed, Vogel said. The MLCC declined to comment on the reason for the new approach.

“The MLCC cannot share details about our internal investigations and reasons for actions taken or not taken on each one,” Vogel said.

While Michigan allows indoor dining again, there are still COVID-19 rules in place. Capacity is limited to 50%, there’s an 11 p.m. curfew and masks must be worn at all times when people are not eating or drinking – among other rules.

The health order expires at 11:59 p.m. on May 24, but could be extended.


MICHIGAN’S COVID-19 CASE RATE APPEARS TO HAVE PEAKED AS SURGE SLOWS

Michigan’s coronavirus case rate has begun to fall, dropping 12.5% over the last week, suggesting the state’s third surge — the worst in the U.S. — may be waning.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that the seven-day average of new cases in Michigan fell from 551.8 per 100,000 people on April 14 to 483 per 100,000 Wednesday.

Hospitalizations of patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide fell below 4,000 Wednesday for the first time in nine days. They topped out at 4,208 on Monday — higher than any previous surge.

We are not out of the woods yet.  Health officials say the B.1.1.7 strain is most dominant in Michigan, and it is at least 50% to 75% more contagious than those previous strains. It has the propensity to spread faster and cause larger outbreaks, particularly among unvaccinated persons, and it also appears to have a higher propensity to be spread by infected elementary schoolchildren in contrast to previous circulating strains.


AS MICHIGAN COVID VACCINE RATES EBB, POP UP CLINICS AND CASINO CASH APPEAR

From hospital emergency rooms to dollar stores, high schools to doctors’ offices, laundromats to casinos, public health authorities are getting creative in trying to get COVID-19 vaccines into more Michigan arms as vaccination efforts enter a critical and perilous stage.

After months in which a frenzy for vaccines far exceeded the state’s limited supply, officials are beginning to see a softening in demand, with weekly vaccination numbers in parts of the state beginning to slacken. And so begins the hard work of reaching residents who have been reluctant or indifferent to getting shots.

That may mean that mass vaccination clinics and drive-throughs will soon fade, giving way to pop-up clinics at neighborhood centers, high schools, churches and mosques, or being offered a vaccine at a doctor’s office during a routine visit.

Roughly 1-in-5 Michigan residents are considered vaccine hesitant, based on federal data that relied on vaccine surveys and then applied the results to state and county-level demographics. Michigan now ranks as the 18th most hesitant state, with 19 percent considered reluctant to get the vaccine, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services analysis.

State health officials are working on plans to address hesitancy and have already reached out to some communities to answer questions about the vaccines, said Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Sutfin said other campaigns are also being devised, including some relying on social media apps like Tik Tok, Instagram and Snapchat in an effort to reach younger state residents.


FDA INSPECTION FOUND PROBLEMS AT FACTORY MAKING J&J VACCINE

The Baltimore factory contracted to make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff, resulting in contamination of material that was going to be put in the shots, U.S. regulators said Wednesday.

The Food and Drug Administration released a statement and a 13-page report detailing findings from its recent inspection of the now-idle Emergent BioSciences factory.

Agency inspectors said a batch of bulk drug substance for J&J’s single-shot vaccine was contaminated with material used to make COVID-19 vaccines for another Emergent client, AstraZeneca. That batch, reportedly enough to make about 15 million J&J vaccine doses, had to be thrown out.

Other problems cited in the inspection report were peeling paint, black and brown residue on floors and walls in the factory, inadequate cleaning and employees not following procedures to prevent contamination.

Nothing made at the factory for J&J has been distributed, the FDA noted. The nearly 8 million doses of J&J vaccine given in the U.S. came from Europe.


TED NUGENT, IN TED NUGENT STYLE, ANNOUNCES HE HAS COVID-19

Rock guitarist Ted Nugent, the Motor City Madman, said he has COVID-19.

Nugent, 72, announced Monday he was infected with the coronavirus in a video posted on his Facebook page that at times uses strong and racist language.

Nugent said he has had flu-like symptoms for the last 10 days and “I thought I was dying.” He said mostly the symptoms have been a congested head, but he had to “literally” crawl out of bed on recent mornings.

A Michigan native who now primarily lives in Texas, Nugent has been a vocal hunting rights activist and an outspoken supporter of Republican politicians

In a Christmas Facebook message, the rocker downplayed the virus and criticized measures taken by state and federal governments, and those around the world, to slow its spread. “It’s not a real pandemic,” he says, and vows not to take any vaccine.


DETROIT’S AUTORAMA 2021 CANCELED DUE TO COVID-19 SURGE IN MICHIGAN

Autorama — considered by car enthusiasts to be one of the nation’s top custom hot rod shows — was supposed to make a comeback. But now it’s canceled amid rising COVID-19 cases and concerns that the event, which attracts hundreds of cars and thousands of people, could make the pandemic worse.

“We’re sorry,” the show’s website said Tuesday. “Stay healthy and see you in 2022!”

The annual car and hot rod show was slated to return to the TCF Center from April 30 to May 2, more than a month later than it is usually scheduled. However, in the end, the pandemic forced organizers to cancel the event altogether.

“With the very tight controls that will be necessary, we are concerned that the experience will be significantly diminished,” Peter Toundas, president and owner of Championship Auto Shows, said. “We want to ‘bring back the fun’ during such a difficult time, but we do not want to possibly endanger anyone’s health.”


NO-PRESCRIPTION, RAPID COVID-19 HOME TESTS TO BE SOLD AT CVS, WALGREENS AND WALMART BEGINNING THIS WEEK

Consumers will be able to buy rapid coronavirus tests without a prescription this week at three national chain retailers, an expansion that comes as the nation’s vaccination effort accelerates and states relax distancing requirements and mask mandates.

Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW coronavirus self-test kits will be shipped to CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and Walmart locations, and also will be sold online. The two-test kit, which last month received Food and Drug Administration emergency-use authorization for serial screening, will cost $23.99, the company said.

These retail tests eliminate another barrier for people who want to test themselves without visiting a doctor or a telehealth provider. Both tests deliver results in about 15 minutes and don’t require a lab.

The retail tests give consumers another option to get tested even as several states have converted mass testing sites to mass-vaccination sites. Testing nationwide began decreasing last winter as state and local public health departments steered limited resources to vaccination.


STATE DEPARTMENT TO ISSUE TRAVEL WARNINGS AMID ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ COVID-19 RISKS

The U.S. State Department on Monday announced plans to expand travel advisories, urging U.S. citizens to stay home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose “unprecedented risks” around the globe.

The updated travel guidelines are intended to curb visits “to approximately 80% of countries worldwide” which are currently experiencing dramatic spikes in cases, the department said in a statement. New guidance is expected be released later this week.

The latest recommendations come as the coronavirus “continues to pose unprecedented risks to travelers,” and the new guidelines “better reflect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s science-based Travel Health Notices,” according to the notice.

The United States has confirmed more cases than any other country in the world — 31,733,400 with India, Brazil, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Italy, Spain and Germany rounding out the top 10 spots. Meanwhile, global deaths have surpassed 3 million, according to the latest data.


MICHIGAN GOV. WHITMER DRAWS FIRE FOR OUT-OF-STATE TRIP BEFORE SHE WAS VACCINATED

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer traveled out of state before she was vaccinated for the coronavirus to visit her father, her staff has confirmed.

MIRS News reported on Monday that Whitmer traveled to Florida last month, bringing fresh accusations of hypocrisy from Republicans as the Democratic governor presides over a state with the highest COVID-19 rates in the nation.

In a statement, Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy said she left Michigan three times in the past six months, including a trip to “assist her elderly father who is battling a chronic illness.”

Leddy did not disclose additional details about Whitmer’s travels, but MIRS reported the governor traveled to Florida about “about one month ago.”

Whitmer received her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on April 6.

Whitmer’s office said her father was fully vaccinated and the trip was not paid for by taxpayers.

Whitmer was already facing questions over travel after a top aide who is overseeing the state’s vaccine plan, Tricia Foster, vacationed in Florida, and state Health Department Director Elizabeth Hertel spent spring break in Alabama while the third wave surged in Michigan.

Whitmer’s health department has recommended against travel on multiple occasions, including during the December holiday season, and most recently, during the latest COVID-19 surge.


GOLF COURSE, DENTIST, KROGER, BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD FINED FOR COVID-19 VIOLATIONS

Another 25 Michigan workplaces have been cited for COVID-19 violations, according to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

MIOSHA announced another batch of citations and fines last week. So far, the agency has cited more than 225 businesses for not following COVID-19 rules.

Violations include not training employees, not requiring masks and not alerting other employees when a worker tests positive for the virus.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is included in the latest list of fines. It’s one of the first workplaces to get in trouble for making employees work in person when they could be working from home.

Other workplaces to be fined include a marijuana dispensary, multiple school districts, a doctor’s office, a dentist’s office, a golf course, multiple restaurants, a tourist attraction, a Kroger and a mobile home park.

If employers fix the problems and agree not to appeal, they only have to pay 50% of the fine. Workplaces have 15 working days to appeal the MIOSHA citations.

Employers and employees with questions about COVID-19 workplace policies can call the MIOSHA hotline at 855-723-3219. To file a complaint against a workplace, go to Michigan.gov/MIOSHAcomplaint.

Employee complaints spurred inspections for 24 of the latest 25 citations.


MICHIGAN EXTENDS MASK ORDER, CAPACITY LIMITS AMID SURGE

Michigan on Friday extended by five weeks a pandemic order that limits business capacity and requires masks in public, even for young children in day care, as the state battles the country’s highest daily coronavirus infection rate.

The measure, which was expected and replaces one that had been due to expire Monday, says that in addition to existing measures, child care facilities and camps must make a “good faith effort” to ensure children ages 2 to 4 wear face coverings starting April 26. That age group was previously exempt.

The revision aligns with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the state health department said. Conservatives criticized putting masks on 2-year-olds.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has resisted tightening restrictions that were in place during two previous COVID-19 surges, including prohibitions on indoor restaurant dining, in-person high school instruction and youth sports. She instead is urging a voluntary pause on the activities and pushing vaccinations and treatments.

The order goes through May 24.


3 WHO DIED AFTER VACCINE WERE INFECTED BEFORE INJECTIONS, MICHIGAN OFFICIALS SAY

Three of four people whose deaths were previously identified as possible “breakthrough” cases — where a person contracts COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated — had actually contracted the coronavirus before getting the injections, state health officials have concluded.

The deaths were among cases identified during weekly reviews by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, when data on confirmed and possible cases of COVID-19 are compared with vaccination data.

No vaccine is 100% effective, and public health officials conduct the reviews to track the effective of the COVID-19 vaccines. Positive tests that occur 14 or more days after a person completes vaccination are flagged as possible “breakthrough” cases.

MDHHS announced April 5 that 246 such cases had been identified, including three people who died. The review included cases that were reported between Jan. 1 and March 31.


MSU TO ALLOW UP TO 6,000 FANS FOR SPRING FOOTBALL GAME

Michigan State will allow up to 6,000 fans at Spartan Stadium for its spring game on April 24, the university announced on Saturday.

In addition to the fans, the marching band and cheer team will be in attendance, keeping within guidelines established by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

While it’s still being called the spring game, the event which begins at 2 p.m. will be a 10-15 period practice that will include live scrimmage time.

On Tuesday, Spartan Fund members in the top three donor levels will be able to claim up to four digital tickets from a limited allotment. On Wednesday, tickets will be available beginning at 8 a.m. at msuspartans.com, with the opportunity to secure up to four tickets. MSU students will be able to claim on Wednesday one of 500 tickets allotted for students.

All those in attendance must wear face coverings and there will be a health screening.


GOV. WHITMER: COVID SURGE APPEARS TO BE “SLOWING DOWN A BIT”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that Michigan is making progress in its fight against a third COVID-19 surge and the outcome will come down “whether or not the citizens take this seriously and do their part.”

“We’re starting to see things look as though they’re slowing down a bit. I don’t want to, by any stretch, say that this isn’t serious and that we don’t all have to take this very seriously, but we’re making progress.”

 

The Democratic governor made the comments during appearances on “ABC News Live” and MSNBC after a day of warnings from hospital leaders about high numbers of patients with COVID-19 in the state.

Michigan has been leading the nation in new coronavirus cases per population for two weeks, and infection numbers have been climbing for seven weeks. However, after the number of adults hospitalized with COVID-19 reached a record high of 4,011 Tuesday, the tally dropped slightly the next two days to 3,960 Thursday.

At least eight hospitals across Michigan were listed Thursday at full capacity for COVID-19 patients. Beaumont Health CEO John Fox called the development “troubling and alarming.”


SURVEY: MORE THAN 8 IN 10 MICHIGAN TEACHERS ARE FULLY VACCINATED FOR COVID

More than eight in 10 Michigan public school educators are fully vaccinated from COVID-19, almost triple the rate of the state’s adults as a whole, according to a survey released Thursday by the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union.

The high immunization rate among teachers and other school employees is a likely result of Michigan prioritizing teacher immunizations in January, soon after vaccines became available, and is a welcome sign for the state’s schools amid a third coronavirus surge. Many schools had struggled to stay open last fall because of the high number of teachers who were infected or quarantined.

But teacher vaccinations haven’t stopped schools from struggling to stay open during the recent spike. Some school districts have paused classroom learning in recent weeks, as new infections spiked among students and the surrounding communities.


COVID-19 BOOSTER SHOT LIKELY NEEDED WITHING 12 MONTHS

People are likely to need a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine within a year of getting fully vaccinated and may subsequently need annual shots to protect against the coronavirus, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday.

Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, are studying how long the vaccines’ protective immunity will last. Their findings will guide whether additional booster shots will be necessary.

Bourla said it’s “likely” that a booster will be needed within 12 months of the initial two-shot regimen.

Pfizer and BioNTech said this month that data from clinical trials suggest that their vaccine offers high levels of protection six months after the second dose, with no serious safety concerns. The vaccine was also found to be effective against several known coronavirus variants, including one that was first reported in the U.K. and another that was thought to have emerged in South Africa.


WHITMER URGES USE OF COVID TREATMENTS; DOES NOT PLACE NEW RESTRICTIONS

With the worst COVID case numbers in the country, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on Wednesday that she will not add new restrictions at this point.

The governor urged the use of treatments including monoclonal antibodies by Regeneron and Eli Lilly for certain patients who test positive for COVID-19.

Whitmer said that Regeneron and Eli Lilly offer a promising treatment. Current data suggests both are likely effective against the B.1.1.7 variant which is the most common variant in the country and is prevalent in Michigan.

Currently people with pre-existing or underlying health risks qualify to receive these therapeutic treatments this includes all seniors, anyone with high blood pressure, asthma, lung issues, heart issues, cancer or anyone who is immuno-compromised.

“So far more than 6,600 Michiganders have received these treatments. And 65% of patients feel better within two days. Less than 5% require hospitalization following the treatment,’’ Whitmer said.


HALT ON J&J COVID-19 VACCINE WILL CONTINUE IN US UNTIL MORE DATA ON RARE BLOOD CLOTTING DISORDER IS AVAILABLE

A pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should continue until more is known about a rare vaccine side effect, a federal advisory committee decided Wednesday.

The committee will meet again in a week to 10 days to evaluate more data that is expected to become available.

Six women in recent weeks, as well as one man in an earlier clinical trial, developed a rare combination of blood clots and low platelet counts within two weeks of receiving the J&J vaccine. An eighth case with similar symptoms is under investigation.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met Wednesday to discuss the cases. It can only make recommendations and does not regulate drugs, but its advice is generally considered a gold standard by the agencies, and by other nations.


STUDY FINDS THAT BLOCKING SEATS ON PLANES REDUCES VIRUS RISK

A new study says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers said the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23% to 57% if middle seats are empty, compared with a full flight.

The study released Wednesday supports the response of airlines that limited seating early in the pandemic. However, all U.S. airlines except Delta now sell every seat they can, and Delta will stop blocking middle seats on May 1.

The airlines argue that filters and air-flow systems on most planes make them safe when passengers wear face masks, as they are now required to do by federal regulation.

More than 1 million travelers have gone through U.S. airports each day for the past month. While that is still down more than one-third from the same period in 2019, more flights now are crowded.


WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU GOT THE JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINE

People who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the last few weeks shoudn’t be nervous, federal officials said, despite the nationwide pause on administering the shots after six reports of a rare type of blood clot. But they should keep an eye out for possible warning signs.

The six cases were in women ages 18 to 48 who developed symptoms six to 13 days after receiving the shots. One died, and another patient is in critical condition, Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Tuesday.

For individuals who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than a month ago and are not experiencing any symptoms, there is little reason to feel anxious, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a separate White House briefing later Tuesday. That’s because any serious reaction would have been evident by now.

For those who received the Johnson & Johnson shot within the last few weeks, it’s important to be alert for symptoms.

The symptoms include:

  • severe headache
  • abdominal pain
  • leg pain
  • shortness of breath

 

The clots appear to be extremely rare: Almost 7 million people have received the Johnson & Johnson shots since the FDA authorized it for emergency use in February.


OU COVID VACCINATION CLINIC MAKES LAST-MINUTE CHANGE – PFIZER IN, JOHNSON & JOHNSON OUT

All systems were go at the Oakland University Recreation Center early on Tuesday morning preparing for a student COVID-19 vaccine clinic which was set to open at 9 a.m.    The Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been brought in from Oakland County which was running the clinic. Everything was in place.  More than 700 students, ages 18-24, had signed up for Tuesday’s clinic.

However, before a shot went in an arm, the FDA and CDC announced a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to blood clots in six women who had received the one-shot immunization.

“The Oakland County Health Department has both excellent people and excellent procedures in place so that they seamlessly were able to pack up the Johnson & Johnson and transport it back and bring the Pfizer vaccine over safely,’’ said Bill Mullan, Oakland County media and communications officer.

The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been targeted for the students so they wouldn’t need a return trip for the second shot. Now they will go back on May 4 for their second dose of Pfizer. With that visit they’ll also receive a cool OU Grizzlies lunch box.

The county’s Pfizer vaccine that was used had not been targeted specifically for another clinic this week so no appointments will be canceled because of the change.

Oakland University has mandated that all students who live on campus starting in the fall must be vaccinated. Lawrence Tech in Southfield announced the same mandate on Tuesday.


MODERNA SAYS NEW DATA SHOWS ITS COVID VACCINE IS MORE THAN 90% EFFECTIVE AGAINST VIRUS SIX MONTHS AFTER SECOND SHOT

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting against Covid and more than 95% effective against severe disease up to six months after the second dose, the company said Tuesday, citing updated data from its phase three clinical trial.

The update brings Moderna a step closer to filing its request for full U.S. approval for its vaccine. Full approval requires a more rigorous review process to show the shot is safe and effective for its intended use. Once it gets full approval, Moderna can begin marketing the shots directly to consumers and selling them to individuals and private companies in the U.S.

The new data included Covid-19 cases through April 9 and evaluated over 900 cases, including more than 100 severe cases, it said. The vaccine is currently authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration for people who are age 18 and older, and the agency can revoke the emergency use authorization, or EUA, at any time.

The company said its results are preliminary. Moderna said throughout the year it will share updated data on efficacy against asymptomatic infection as well as the persistence of antibodies.


US RECOMMENDS ‘PAUSE’ FOR J&J VACCINE OVER CLOT REPORTS

The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.

In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S.

U.S. federal distribution channels, including mass vaccination sites, will pause the use of the J&J shot, and states and other providers are expected to follow.

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases and the FDA has also launched an investigation of the cases.


FEDS WON’T PLAY ‘WHACK-A-MOLE’ BY SENDING MORE VACCINES TO MICHIGAN

The federal government will not change its COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy, “playing whack-a-mole,” by sending more doses to Michigan, said Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response, during a Monday morning news briefing.

Michigan is in the midst of another massive spike in coronavirus cases, with the worst-in-the-nation infection rate and a soaring hospitalizations that have forced some hospitals to postpone non-urgent surgeries and other procedures as they hit capacity.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Michigan can’t vaccinate its way out of the current surge

“We know that if vaccines go in arms today, we will not see an effect of those vaccines, depending on the vaccine, for somewhere between two to six weeks,” Walensky said. “So when you have an acute situation, an extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer is not necessarily give vaccine.

“In fact, we know that the vaccine will have a delayed response. The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer and to shut things down, to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another, to test to the extent that we have available, to contact trace.”


MIOSHA’S COVID EMERGENCY OFFICE RULES TO BE EXTENDED SIX MONTHS, GOV SAYS

The state of Michigan plans to extend COVID-19 emergency business place rules that expire Wednesday, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday the extension does not mean six more months of prohibitions on in-office work.

Whitmer said her administration is working with businesses, labor and public health experts “to promulgate what that back-to-work cadence looks like.”

There has been pressure from chambers of commerce and business leaders to lift the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rules that have kept many workers from returning to the office. Business chambers and leaders launched a coalition last month to call on the governor to ease the policy that Michigan employers are able to bring more people back to the office.


NEW COVID OUTBREAKS IN OAKLAND COUNTY FALL THIS WEEK DUE TO SPRING BREAK; 15 CASES REPORTED

Since many schools were on spring break last week, the new outbreaks of COVID-19 were limited, however the number of ongoing outbreaks remained high.

Of the 201 new COVID cases at Michigan schools reported for the week of April 5-9, 15 cases occurred in six outbreaks at six schools in Oakland County.   That is down substantially from the previous week when there were 50 cases in 30 outbreaks at 17 schools in the county, along with 293 cases in the state

An outbreak, as defined by the state, is two or more cases that have shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households.

The six schools with new outbreaks: Oxford Bridges High School (two cases, students), Lawrence Tech football team (three cases), Birmingham Seaholm/Groves (three cases, students), Sashabaw Middle School (two cases, staff), Ferndale’s Webb Elementary (two cases, students)and Oxford Middle School (three cases, students).

Ongoing outbreaks were reported with 169 cases at 35 schools with 52 outbreaks in Oakland County.

The schools with more than one ongoing outbreak included Novi Detroit Catholic Central, Clarkston High School, Detroit Country Day, Holly Academy, Lawrence Tech (men’s hockey and women’s volleyball), Oxford High School, Oxford Middle School, Rochester High School, Birmingham Seaholm, Stoney Creek High School and Van Hoosen MIddle School in Rochester Hills.

In other outbreak news, in region 2N which includes Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties, last week there were 70 new outbreaks including eight new outbreaks at long-term care facilities; 6 in manufacturing and construction; two at healthcare facilities; four at office settings; zero in a bar; 13 in retail among employees; seven in restaurants among employees and one in restaurants with an employee and a patron.


MICHIGAN COVID-19 CASES RISE FOR SEVENTH CONSECUTIVE WEEK

Michigan on Saturday added 6,892 new COVID-19 cases and 74 deaths as infections rose for the seventh consecutive week.

The latest figures bring the state’s total number of cases to 738,023 and deaths to 16,500 since the virus was first detected in March 2020, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer strongly urged Michigan’s high schools to suspend in-person classes and youth sports for two weeks as well as asking diners to avoid eating at restaurant indoors for the same period to combat a surge

The percentage of COVID-19 tests bringing positive results has been rising for six weeks and is at 18%, the highest since the spring 2020 surge, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Friday.

Cases among kids ages 10 to 19 have risen for the last five weeks, faster than any other age group as outbreaks continue to rise in schools and youth sports. From January to March, there have been 291 outbreaks from youth sports resulting in at least 1,091 infections, Khaldun said

During the week of April 3, Michigan led the nation in percent positivity, case rates and hospitalizations, which have been increasing for four consecutive weeks.

Deaths have increased 75% since March 9. The state also has the 12th highest death rate, according to the CDC’s COVID data tracker.

Some hospitals are canceling elective surgeries and limiting visitations, begging for intervention.


PFIZER ASKS FDA TO OK ITS VACCINE FOR KIDS AGES 12-15

Pfizer and its German collaborator BioNTech on Friday asked for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow their COVID-19 vaccine to be used on adolescents ages 12-15. Their vaccine is already authorized for those 16 and up.

The companies also plan to ask for similar authorization from regulatory agencies in other parts of the world. In trial results released recently, the companies showed that their vaccine prevented all COVID-19 symptomatic disease in trial participants ages 12-15, generated large numbers of protective antibodies in that age group, and did not pose any safety concerns.

The companies will follow all of the more than 2,200 trial participants for two years after their second dose to ensure safety and vaccine durability.


FREE BEER FOR COVID VACCINE: SAMUEL ADAMS ANNOUNCES INCENTIVE ON NATIONAL BEER DAY

Get a COVID shot and get a free Samuel Adams beer.

The beer brand released a new national TV spot “Your Cousin From Boston Gets Vaccinated” “to help combat skepticism amongst drinkers with humor” and announced the #ShotForSam vaccine incentive program.

A couple of caveats: The free beer for the COVID-19 vaccine offer starts April 12 – and is for the first 10,000 drinkers who “share evidence of their vaccination on social media” by May 15 or while supplies last.

A vaccine card or medical information is not required and the beer brand suggests showing an “I’m vaccinated” sticker or bandage photo with the hashtag #ShotForSam on Instagram or Twitter for a chance to receive $7 cash through the Cash App to cover a Sam Adams of their choice from their favorite local bar or restaurant.

Winners will receive direct messages, the beer brand says. Learn more at www.samueladams.com/shotforsam


FEMA APPLICATIONS OPEN MONDAY FOR COVID FUNERAL REIMBURSEMENT

FEMA will reimburse funeral expenses for COVID-19 victims with up to a maximum amount of $9,000 per funeral.

The application process starts on Monday, April 12. Call 1-844-684-6333 between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. No online application is available.

The deceased must have died in the United States after Jan. 20, 2020, and have COVID-19 listed as the cause of death. The financial assistance is for funeral services and interment or cremation.

It is suggested to have the following information available:

— An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.

— Funeral expenses documents (receipts, funeral home contract, etc.) that includes the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses happened.

— Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. We are not able to duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies, or other sources.


HEALTH OFFICIALS SPLIT ON RAPID COVID-19 TESTS AS ADMISSION TICKETS

Epidemiologists and other public health experts are debating whether to use rapid COVID-19 tests as admission tickets to schools, businesses and entertainment and sports venues.

Even with the quickening pace of vaccinations, it will be months before all Americans who want COVID-19 vaccines receive them. As a result, testing could become ubiquitous as a requirement for students, office workers, spectators and visitors seeking to gather indoors.

Manufacturers of tests say they are seeing a surge in interest from both public and private sources.

But some epidemiologists think that with uneven test and lab quality and varying skill levels among people administering the tests, the effort isn’t worth the time and money.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved all COVID-19 tests and vaccines on the market under an emergency use authorization. During a public health emergency, the FDA can waive or loosen certain evaluation requirements to get essential products to the public as quickly as possible.  The COVID-19 tests now on the market were mostly studied for their effectiveness on those exhibiting symptoms of the disease, not evaluated on asymptomatic people.


COVID-19 RISK FROM TOUCHING CONTAMINATED SURFACE IS LESS THAN 1 IN 10,000, NEW CDC STUDY SAYS

If you’re still disinfecting your groceries because of COVID-19, you can stop.

The risk of contracting the virus from touching a contaminated surface is actually quite low, the federal Centers of Disease Control said in a new scientific brief released this week.

“Generally less than 1 in 10,000, which means that each contact with a contaminated surface has less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection,” the CDC briefing paper says.

Essentially, the paper concludes most people get COVID-19 by breathing contaminated air vs. touching a contaminated surface.

“The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus,” the briefing paper says. “It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered to be low.”

Handing washing is still recommended: “Case reports indicate that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted between people by touching surfaces an ill person has recently coughed or sneezed on, and then directly touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. Hand hygiene is a barrier to fomite transmission and has been associated with lower risk of infection.”


CDC: MICHIGAN SHOULD RESTRICT INDOOR YOUTH SPORTS NOW TO SLOW COVID-19 SPREAD

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that Michigan and other states with high rates of coronavirus transmission should restrict indoor youth sports and consider other steps now, such as a potential pause on indoor dining, to rein in the spread of the virus.

“I would advocate for sort of stronger mitigation strategies … to sort of decrease the community activity and shore up mask wearing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team news briefing

Walensky’s comments came one day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she’s not willing to address Michigan’s nation-leading COVID-19 case rate of 452.5 cases per 100,000 people with new COVID-19 restrictions.

Vaccines, however, aren’t an immediate fix to the state’s current surge. It takes at least five weeks for a person who gets the Pfizer vaccine to be fully protected and six weeks for people who get the Moderna vaccine. For Johnson & Johnson’s single dose shot, the best protection comes after 28 days, clinical trials show.

Walensky said the CDC has sent teams to Michigan to help state health officials manage the third major coronavirus surge in the state, which has hospital leaders concerned that they will soon be overwhelmed once again with COVID-19 patients.


MICHIGAN COLLEGES RUSH TO GET COVID VACCINE IN STUDENT ARMS AMID SURGE

Michigan’s colleges and universities are rushing to get shots in student arms, with COVID vaccine clinics springing up on campuses amid a startling surge in coronavirus cases across the state.

Those efforts will get a big boost in coming days, when the state allocates thousands of doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to public and private colleges and universities across the state, specifically for students before they leave campuses for their hometowns.

School officials have been informed of the number of J&J doses they’ll receive in the first allocation; more allocations are anticipated in coming weeks.

Vaccination eligibility in the state dropped to age 16 Monday. By Wednesday, vaccinations were being administered on numerous campuses, including at Oakland University in Rochester and Saginaw Valley State University, in Saginaw County.

On Wednesday, students at all three University of Michigan campuses could start signing up for appointments next week for the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccination

Michigan State University will begin student vaccinations Friday, with the J&J vaccine.


UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SET TO STUDY ALLERGIC REACTIONS TO COVID-19 VACCINES

Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s health system, will lead the first national study on allergic reactions to the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the health system announced Wednesday.

The clinical trials will be the first to examine whether people who are highly allergic or have a mast cell disorder are at greater risk of having a reaction to an mRNA-based vaccine. The two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are the first to be based on mRNA technology.

Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the study will enroll 3,400 patients who will receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. A substantial number will have previously experienced anaphylaxis, a sometimes-fatal allergic reaction.

The shots will be administered by allergists who are trained to recognize and respond to severe allergic reactions within seconds. The allergists will observe all of the participants for at least 90 minutes after they get the shot.

Adults interested in participating in the trial at Michigan Medicine should visit https://michmed.org/lAxgj for information on how to enroll.


WITH MORE ELIGIBLE TO BE VACCINATED, DOSES INCREASE IN OAKLAND COUNTY

With the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility now open to everyone 16 and older in Michigan, more people are trying to find appointments.

The doses allotted to Oakland County this week from the state number 37,090 which includes 2,340 Pfizer doses from FEMA. That’s up from 30,690 doses a week ago.

Vaccine doses distributed to the state dropped this week. After receiving a record number of 620,000 doses a week ago, Michigan is expected to receive nearly half of that with 313,700 doses this week from the federal government, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website.

All individuals 16 and 17 years of age are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine only. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available for those 18 years and older. Any minors ages 16 and 17 will need a parent or legal guardian to accompany them to their appointment to provide consent to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Michigan, residents must be proactive to grab a vaccine appointment especially now with less doses available.

Oakland County will make appointments for the mass vaccination clinic at the UWM Sports Complex site in Pontiac from its COVID sign-up list which contains about 200,000 names. Go to OaklandCountyvaccine.com and click on “Save Your Spot.”

For the homebound in Oakland County, call 810-331-0902 to make an appointment directly with Ready Nursing Solutions which has a contract with the county.


WHITMER: VACCINATIONS THE KEY TO LIFTING MOST BUSINESS RESTRICTIONS BY SUMMER

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer indicated Tuesday that Michigan may be able to lift most remaining COVID-19 business restrictions this summer if Michigan’s vaccination rate increases, but said the state may take additional action to stop the spread of the virus through school and club sports.

Whitmer made the comments to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer after he asked whether Michigan would follow California’s lead and consider fully reopening businesses by mid-June.

Whitmer said Tuesday that Michigan’s restrictions would likewise depend on where the state was in relation to its goal to vaccinate 70% of individuals over the age of 16. The rate was 22.8% through Monday.

Nearly 3 million people or 36.7% of the state’s population had received at least a first dose of the vaccine.

Michigan opened vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16 on Monday after weeks of administering the medication by age group, profession and medical history.

The governor on Tuesday also expressed concern about the spread of coronavirus through school sports.


246 FULLY VACCINATED MICHIGANDERS GOT COVID-19 BETWEEN JANUARY AND MARCH, STATE REPORTS

State health officials say 246 fully vaccinated Michiganders contracted coronavirus from January to March, and three have died.

“These are individuals who have had a positive test 14 or more days after the last dose in the vaccine series,” said Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the state health department.

The three fully vaccinated people who died, Sutfin said, were all age 65 and older. Two of them were within three weeks of full vaccination.

“While the majority of the population develops full immunity within 14 days of completion of their vaccine series, a small proportion appear to take longer to mount a full antibody response,” Sutfin said. “CDC is actively working to better understand the risk characteristics of this group.

Although so-called vaccine breakthrough cases are extremely rare, and all three COVID-19 vaccines on the market are considered highly effective with efficacy rates ranging from 72% for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to 94% and 95% for Moderna’s and Pfizer’s, respectively, it can happen.   Keep in mind that the 246 breakthrough cases occurred among the more than 1.8 million Michiganders who are fully vaccinated.


MICHIGAN SCHOOL COVID OUTBREAKS SURGE 47% IN 2 WEEKS; SOME RETURN TO REMOTE

COVID cases continue to rise in Michigan’s classrooms, with school outbreaks jumping 23 percent in just the past week in a state that has been hit the hardest in the nation by the wave of the pandemic.

The number of outbreaks tied to Michigan preschools and K-12 schools rose to 296, from 241 the previous week, according to data released Monday. Outbreaks have surged 23 percent in one week, and 47 percent over two weeks.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered middle and high school buildings to close in November because of rising COVID cases, at a time when cases were lower than they are now.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services last week said the state had no plans to close schools again, at least partly because most teachers are now fully vaccinated.

However, some school districts are making the decision to return to fully remote learning on their own.

In Oakland County, Troy School District and Hazel Park Schools both will stay out of classrooms an extra week.


OAKLAND UNIVERSITY WILL MANDATE COVID-19 VACCINATION FOR SOME STUDENTS

Oakland University announced Monday that students living on campus will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Oakland is believed to be the first public university in Michigan to require vaccination but is not expected to be the last, said Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities.

OU is requiring students who plan to live in the residence halls, apartments and cottages this fall to be vaccinated before moving in on Aug. 27. Exceptions will be made for those who seek an exemption based on religious or medical reasons.

The university has obtained 5,200 doses of vaccine, a combination of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson brands, that will be offered to students, staff and faculty starting this week.


CDC PROVIDES MICHIGAN TENANTS WITH EVICTION PROTECTION THROUGH JUNE

The extension of a federal moratorium will continue to protect thousands of Michigan renters from eviction.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended its eviction moratorium through June 30 to prohibit the eviction of tenants who fail to pay rent and protect them from utility shutoffs.

According to the CDC, the moratorium is intended to delay costs for renters, thus reducing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families in need. If tenants quality, they must fill out an eviction protection declaration form and provide it to their landlord.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey (data collected from March 3 through March 15), of the 1,363,248 Michiganders who reported living in renter-occupied housing units, 192,388 (14 percent) reported that they were not caught up on their rent payments. A total of 377,712 (27.7 percent) reported that they had little to no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent.

Katie Bach, spokesperson for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), said even with the moratorium in place, district courts can still accept eviction filings and do initial processing and hearings, but added that writs of eviction cannot be issued in situations where the CDC protection declaration has been submitted by the tenant.


GOV. WHITMER INDICATES NO NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS ARE COMING

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that the solution to Michigan’s highest-in-the-nation COVID-19 spike rests with the state’s residents, not leaders in Lansing.

Whitmer made clear, at a mass vaccination event in Oakland County, that she has no intention of ordering new restrictions on the state’s businesses and people, as she enacted during a surge of cases in the fall. Instead, she said, residents now have more tools to avoid COVID-19: getting vaccinated and continuing to adhere to long-standing guidelines of wearing masks and keeping social distance.

“You don’t have a policy problem in Michigan,” Whitmer said of the state’s skyrocketing infections and hospitalizations. “You have a compliance, mobility and variant problem and that’s why vaccines are so important.”

But unlike in the fall, when no one had been vaccinated, more than 2.8 million state residents have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and the state is getting more and more vaccine doses each week, creating potential firewalls against more infections.

In the past week, more than 540,000 Michigan residents received a vaccine — 14 times more than those who contracted COVID-19 in the past week. Whitmer acknowledged her concern with the latter but said her hopes rest with the former.


MICHIGAN VACCINE ELIGIBILITY OPENS UP TO AGES 16+

Anyone 16 years old or older is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday in Michigan.

This comes at a time when Michigan is a hotbed for COVID-19 cases. The state health department reported 8,413 new COVID-19 cases and 57 deaths Saturday, which is the highest case total since Dec. 4, 2020.

In addition, surges like the one currently happening in Michigan are a “distinct possibility,” in other states because of the spread of the U.K. variant of the virus, relaxing of social distancing mandates and increased mobility, according to a policy briefing from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Michigan residents interested and eligible can now choose where to receive their vaccines, whether through city or county vaccine sites, through their health provider, or at pharmacy chains.


FDA AUTHORIZES TWO RAPID CORONAVIRUS TESTS FOR HOME SCREENING

Consumers will soon be able to buy rapid coronavirus tests at chain pharmacies and grocers without a prescription after the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized two home tests.

The BinaxNOW  coronavirus self-test will include two tests per kit for serial screening. The no-prescription test will deliver results in 15 minutes and does not require a lab. The FDA also authorized the Quidel QuickVue coronavirus test, which delivers results in 10 minutes and also can be used without a prescription.

The FDA has authorized more than 300 coronavirus tests and technologies in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded field of medical labs and tech firms touting different technologies.

The federal agency authorized only two other no-prescription home tests, but the companies that make those tests are ramping up production, and the tests not yet available to purchase. Several more tests allow people to collect nasal or saliva samples at home, but people must send samples to a lab, which delays results for one to two days.


MICHIGAN IDENTIFIES FIRST CASE OF NEW COVID-19 VARIANT

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday it confirmed the first case of a COVID-19 variant that formed in Brazil, making it the fifth variant found in Michigan.

The P.1 variant was identified in a Bay County resident during a routine test on Wednesday, the Michigan health department said in a news release.

The Bay County Health Department has been notified and is investigating the resident’s exposure  history to attempt to identify the source of the infection. The county is also requiring a 14-day quarantine for all of the resident’s close contacts.

The P.1 variant was first identified in travelers from Brazil during routine airport screenings in Tokyo in early January. The variant has been associated with increased transmissibility and there are concerns it might affect both vaccine-induced and natural immunity, according to the state health department.


PFIZER SAYS ITS COVID-19 VACCINE PROTECTS YOUNGER TEENS

Pfizer announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12, a step toward possibly beginning shots in this age group before they head back to school in the fall.

Most COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out worldwide are for adults, who are at higher risk from the coronavirus. Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and older. But vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic — and helping schools, at least the upper grades, start to look a little more normal after months of disruption.

In the vaccine study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15, preliminary data showed there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among those given dummy shots, Pfizer reported.

Kids had side effects similar to young adults, the company said. The main side effects are pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose. The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.

 Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in the coming weeks plan to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European regulators to allow emergency use of the shots starting at age 12.


HOW TO OBTAIN OR REPLACE A COVID-19 VACCINATION RECORD CARD

Everyone who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 should have been given a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card after receiving their first shot.

Right now, it’s the only way someone can prove that they were vaccinated against the virus. But, what happens if you didn’t receive or have lost that card?

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has information for these individuals. Here are some more details about obtaining or replacing a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card

  • Contact the facility where you were vaccinated and request either a completed COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or a print out from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR) if your vaccine was administered in Michigan.
  • You can also visit https://www.mcir.org/public/ to request your official immunization record, which will show that you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Both the record card and immunization record are official vaccination records.

Michigan vaccine providers are required to provide a record of a vaccination to their state’s immunization system within 72 hours. That means that once you receive your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s within the MCIR within three days.

MDHHS officials are also suggesting that vaccinated Michiganders take a picture of their COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card on their mobile phone upon receipt.


JOHNSON & JOHNSON’S VACCINE IS DELAYED BY A U.S. FACTORY MIXUP

Workers at a plant in Baltimore manufacturing two coronavirus vaccines accidentally conflated the ingredients several weeks ago, contaminating up to 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and forcing regulators to delay authorization of the plant’s production lines.

The plant is run by Emergent BioSolutions, a manufacturing partner to both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish company whose vaccine has yet to be authorized for use in the United States. Federal officials attributed the mistake to human error.

The mix-up has delayed future shipments of Johnson & Johnson doses in the United States while the Food and Drug Administration investigates what occurred. Johnson & Johnson has moved to strengthen its control over Emergent BioSolutions’ work to avoid additional quality lapses.

The error does not affect any Johnson & Johnson doses that are currently being delivered and used nationwide, including the shipments that states are counting on next week. All those doses were produced in the Netherlands, where operations have been fully approved by federal regulators.


BEAUMONT REQUIRING COVID-19 VACCINATION RECORD CARDS FOR VISITORS

Beaumont Health System is requiring visitors vaccinated against COVID-19 to show proof before they can see loved ones being treated at its hospitals, officials said Wednesday.

The move is part of the health care company’s efforts to protect its patients as the number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan surge, they said. It also comes about a week after Beaumont reinstated visitor restrictions and limited who can see patients at its hospitals.

Under the policy, which went into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday, patient visitors must have finished their vaccination schedule, be 14 days past their final dose and show proof of vaccination.

Officials said the hospital will accept two forms of proof:

► A completed, official Vaccination Record Card and photo identification

► A photo of a completed, official Vaccination Record Card and photo identification.

Also Wednesday, the health care system said its number of COVID-19-positive or suspected positive inpatients has skyrocketed from 128 on Feb. 28 to more than 500 patients as of Tuesday.  It also said it is treating more than double the number of COVID-19 patients than any other hospital system in the state, citing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services data.


COVID-19 METRICS HAVE MET THE THRESHOLD TO CLOSE SOME BUSINESSES, BUT THE STATE IS KEEPING THEM OPEN

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and case positivity rates are spiking across Michigan, but restaurants, bars and schools remain open with some health restrictions.

In the early days of the pandemic, the state put in place the MI Safe Start Plan to create COVID-19 safety metrics by region which would contribute to reopening plans for different sectors of the state’s economy and schools.

 

But after a year, the MI Safe Start plan seems to have fallen to the wayside.

Across the state, COVID-19 spread is worsening. Of the eight regions in the MI Safe Start Plan, five of these regions are in the E risk level, or the highest risk

The Advance asked Whitmer’s office and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) if the state is considering reinstating stricter restrictions for bars and restaurants, like Michigan saw during past surges, or if the state is considering closing schools or shutting down youth sports.

DHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said the state “will continue to monitor the data to make decisions including three key metrics: case rates, percent positivity, and hospitalizations.” Sutfin said the DHHS’ goal “is to reengage while reducing public health risk, which is why we move slowly to maintain progress and momentum with thoughtful public health measures.”

Many of the state’s restrictions issued in November during the second wave have been lifted, including high schools and colleges reopening for in-person learning and restaurants reopening with a 50% capacity limit.


COVID OUTBREAKS JUMP 20 PERCENT IN MICHIGAN SCHOOLS. MORE CLOSURES AHEAD?

Outbreaks of the coronavirus jumped 20 percent in one week in Michigan schools, and officials worry about whether classrooms can stay open if the surge continues.

Several superintendents in metro Detroit said they worry there could be more outbreaks after students return from spring break, which in Michigan schools is staggered over several weeks in March and April.

Officials urged students and families to not let their guard down, warning that in-person learning is again at risk.

As of March 25, there were 241 new or ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks tied to K-12 schools and preschools, according to data released by the state Monday. The previous week, there were 201

Last week, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said there were no plans for another statewide school building closure order.


BIDEN INCREASES MICHIGAN’S VACCINE ALLOCATION AMID RISING INFECTIONS

President Joe Biden’s administration is increasing Michigan’s vaccine allocation next week amid rising COVID-19 cases in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office announced Tuesday evening.

The White House has assigned 66,020 additional doses for Michigan’s shipment next week, putting the total at 620,040, a record high, according to the governor’s office. The action follows requests from Whitmer to the Biden administration for more vaccines to help mitigate climbing infection rates, the office said.

Michigan’s new case rates and the percentage of tests bringing positive results have been steadily climbing for five weeks after declining in January and February. Michigan now ranks behind only New York City for new cases per population over the last seven days, according to tracking by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Monday, 2.7 million Michigan residents, 33% of the adult population, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.6 million residents, 20% of the adult population, had received their full vaccination.


43% HAVEN’T EATEN IN A RESTAURANT SINCE MICHIGAN DINE-IN BAN ENDED, SURVEY INDICATES

A segment of Michigan’s population is still hesitant to eat inside at restaurants or go to hotels, a new survey of 600 Michiganders indicates.

The March 18-22 phone survey found 54.6% of respondents have eaten inside a restaurant since Michigan’s dine-in ban ended on Feb. 1, while 42.8% said they have not. The study was done through the Marketing Resource Group, paid for by the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association.

People are slowly warming up to the idea of dining in again, the survey shows, with most respondents saying they’re about ready to go back – or will be once vaccinated

Starting March 5, Michigan restaurants were allowed to open at 50% capacity instead of 25%. While some have called for expanding to 100%, most of the survey respondents think it’s too soon.

About 37% said restaurants should open at 100% right now, while about 31% said businesses need to wait on more vaccinations, and almost 27% said raising capacity should wait until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director say it’s safe to do so.

Respondents were slightly more concerned about hotel stays than restaurant visits – even though health experts have said hotels are much less risky than restaurants.


BUSINESSES WHO VIOLATE COVID-19 RULES LISTED ON STATE’S NEW ONLINE DASHBOARD

The State of Michigan has launched an online dashboard listing businesses cited for violating regulations related to COVID-19 as well as the status of citations.

Provided by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the dashboard is billed as an effort to “streamline reporting of workplace safety violations” and to “enhance transparency with ongoing information related to COVID-19,” according to a news release.

The dashboard is to be updated every Friday at 3 p.m. with full citation documents, a brief description of violations and where each citation is in the enforcement process

Employers cited have 15 working days from receipt of the MIOSHA citations to contest violations and penalties.  Find the dashboard at Michigan.gov/MIOSHACOVIDCitations.

Employers and employees with questions about COVID-19 workplace policies can call the MIOSHA hotline at 855-723-3219. To file a complaint against a workplace, go to Michigan.gov/MIOSHAcomplaint.


HENRY FORD HEALTH SYSTEM REINSTATES VISITOR RESTRICTIONS AT 3 HOSPITALS

Henry Ford Health System has tightened its visitor policies at three Metro Detroit hospitals in response to rising COVID-19 cases.

Visitor restrictions were reinstated Monday at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township and Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.

Michigan has seen an increase of 133% in cases the past two weeks and a doubling of hospitalizations in that same period. At Henry Ford’s hospitals, 245 patients are hospitalized and another 60 were awaiting admission from the Emergency Department or with suspected COVID-19 awaiting a test result.

 

What has changed

  • Masks must be worn at all times by staff, patients and visitors age 5 and older. Anyone who refuses to wear a mask will not be allowed to enter the facility.
  • All patients, visitors and staff are screened for COVID-19 before entering facilities, including a temperature check.
  • All visitors should remain with the patient except for quick trips to the bathroom or to purchase food.
  • All visitors should refrain from eating, drinking or sharing patient’s restroom while visiting the room.
  • Visits are discouraged by people who are at high risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19, including older adults and those with underlying medical conditions.
  • Hospitalized* patients may have one adult visitor within a 24-hour period, from 10 a.m.–7 p.m. A total of two visitors will be permitted for the duration of the patient’s hospital stay.

Pediatric patients may have one parent/caregiver accompany them for inpatient stays. One parent/caregiver is allowed for outpatient and clinic visits unless it is for an infant two months old or less. In that case, two parents/caregivers are permitted.


DETROIT MAYOR WARNS FANS WITHOUT TICKETS TO AVOID DOWNTOWN ON TIGERS OPENING DAY

We’re just a few days from Tigers Opening Day but Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has a message for fans without tickets – to stay home.

“If you don’t have a ticket to the game, please do not come into the city,” Duggan said.

That means no tailgating outside Comerica Park, because not only are we in the midst of a pandemic, new COVID-19 cases have doubled in Detroit in the time past 10 days.

Now health officials say more young people are being hospitalized.

“If you think it’s going to be one of those Opening Days where everybody fills up the bars and restaurants and nobody enforces it, you’re wrong,” the mayor said. “We will shut them down, the bars and restaurants, we will fine them and they could have their licenses suspended.”

There will be some lucky fans who do get to watch the game from the stands but only at 20 percent capacity allowing plenty of social distancing between seats.  Duggan said the city does not want police to write tickets to tailgaters but they will if they have to.


SPRING BREAK COULD SPIKE ALREADY RISING COVID NUMBERS IN OAKLAND COUNTY

Combine the soaring COVID-19 case numbers in Oakland County with spring break vacations and it’s not a pretty picture.

“I am scared to death of spring break,’’ said Dr. Russell Faust, Oakland County’s Medical Director, on Friday.  “Our numbers right now are a hundred new cases per day on the daily average higher than we were a year ago. You remember what a year ago was like? We’re already 100 more cases a day than that. That was 300 cases a day. We’re already over 400 new cases a day right now,’’ Faust said

The seven-day average of new cases in Oakland County is 401 as of Thursday. That’s up from a seven-day average of 94 a month ago on Feb. 23.

It’s not just in Oakland County. The seven-day average positivity rate in Michigan is 10.19% as of Tuesday, March 23.   If students and families go out of state for spring break, Faust said they should quarantine for 14 days when they return.


STATE MUST INFORM PEOPLE J&J USED EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS TO MAKE COVID-19 VACCINE

When Michiganders get a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine paid for with certain federal funds, a new state law mandates that they must be informed that it was developed using a stem cell line from an aborted fetus.

The requirement was tucked away inside a broader state bill that distributed federal COVID-19 funds. Although Congress approved billions of dollars for Michigan in December, it falls on the state Legislature to allocate the money.

The language in the bill states that anyone who receives a vaccine paid for through $110 million appropriated in the measure “shall be provided with information or informed if and in what manner the development of the vaccine utilized aborted fetal tissue or human embryonic stem cell derivation lines.

It does not include language as to how this notification process would work, who would be required to notify the vaccine recipient or who will enforce this requirement. A spokesman for Whitmer did not immediately respond to questions about the issue.

Vaccines for chickenpox, rubella, and hepatitis A are all similarly made by growing the viruses in fetal cells. The new informed consent law does not apply to them


RUNESTAD BILL WOULD FUND INVESTIGATION OF NURSING HOME POLICIES

State Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake Township, introduced legislation Thursday that would fund a special investigator to look into the Whitmer administration’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.

Senate Bill 338 would designate funding to investigate the administration’s nursing home policies, including the number of cases and deaths attributed to transferring patients to and from hospitals, and whether patients died in the hospital or the long-term care facility, according to a release from Runestad

The measure comes days after Attorney General Dana Nessel denied a request to investigate the administration’s long-term care policies.

Runestad and another Oakland County senator, Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, were among eight Republicans in the Senate who asked Nessel to investigate.

The Whitmer administration has said her orders, which — among other things — required the creation of dedicated coronavirus units within certain nursing homes and established regional “hub” homes with COVID-19 wings, followed federal guidance.


SOME OAKLAND COUNTY COMMISSIONERS NOT COMFORTABLE RETURNING TO IN PERSON MEETINGS

Some Oakland County commissioners are calling on Lansing lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow for the continuation of remote meetings past March 31, when those remote provisions are set to expire.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, public bodies were required under the state’s Open Meetings Act to gather in person. The Act was amended last spring to allow public bodies to meet remotely while moving public comment and attendance online. On Dec. 22, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 1246 with extended the remote meeting provisions through March 31.

The 21-member board is prepared for the resumption of in person meetings, but some commissioners are apprehensive about doing so with the recent uptick on the number of new COVID-19 cases. Since Feb. 21, the county’s 7-day average case rate has increased over 480% from 68 cases per day to 397 cases per day.


MORE JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINES HEADED TO MICHIGAN

More Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are expected to start arriving in Michigan next week, three weeks after the first shipments were delivered and sprinkled throughout local health department clinics and other providers, with officials saying some people sought out the one-dose vaccines.

The state is ordering 58,100 Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which are expected to start arriving early next week, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She didn’t have specific information on sites Thursday, but said it is her understanding the doses will go to local health departments and hospitals.

An additional 11,400 Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been ordered and will go to correctional facilities, Sutfin said.

Johnson & Johnson vaccines are slated to be administered during the seventh and eighth weeks of an eight-week, federally-operated vaccination clinic inside Ford Field, which opened this week and plans to inoculate 5,000 people per day on site. The downtown Detroit stadium is one of 22 FEMA-operated clinics across the country.


MICHIGAN HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS AT A TIPPING POINT AS COVID CASES SURGE

As coronavirus case rates, positivity rates and hospitalizations rates begin to surge once again in Michigan, the high school sports landscape continues to be impacted by quarantines.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association said this week that a combined 101 boys and girls basketball teams have withdrawn from the state tournament over a nine-day period that started on March 15. Also, there have been numerous reports of hockey, wrestling and cheer teams withdrawing from their respective state tournaments as well.

With high school teams entering quarantine because of at least one positive test or because of close exposures to opponents who had a positive test, the last two weeks of sports in Michigan have been especially tumultuous because quarantines continue to end seasons daily.

In hopes of avoiding another sports shutdown, the MDHHS and MHSAA are partnering for a widespread testing program starting April 2 for all remaining basketball players and all spring sports athletes. On Wednesday, the MHSAA released guidance from the MDHHS that requires schools to complete an antigen test of athletes one time per week. There is no requirement that the antigen tests be completed before specific practices or contests, meaning schools could potentially test athletes at any point during the school day to help with schedule flexibility.


COVID-19 HOSPITALIZATIONS SURGE 800% IN MARCH AMONG PEOPLE 40-49 YEARS OLD

An alarming trend is emerging as coronavirus hospitalization rates in the state this month are surging among younger people, a group with the lowest vaccination rates among the state’s populations, according to inpatient data collected by the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

The group said Wednesday that from March 1 through Tuesday, hospitalizations increased by 633% for those aged 30 to 39 and by 800% for those aged 40 to 49.

The association’s report said hospitalization rates decline as the vaccination rates per age group increases, underscoring the need for vaccinations. For example, hospitalizations are increasing by only 37% for those age 80 and older, and in Michigan 44% of the population age 80 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the report — a far lower rate than for younger populations where the numbers are soaring.


BEAUMONT REINSTATES VISITOR RESTRICTIONS DUE TO RISING COVID CASES

As cases of COVID-19 increase in Michigan, Beaumont Health System has reinstated visitor restrictions, limiting who can see patients starting Thursday.

The restrictions come just over a month after Beaumont loosened some visitor limitations in February. The health system is following previous constraints by not allowing visitors for patients, regardless if they have COVID-19, except in extreme circumstances.

Effective at 8 a.m. Thursday, no one will be allowed in rooms of patients with pending or positive COVID-19 tests unless those patients are nearing the end of their life, younger than 21, women in labor or other extreme circumstances at all Beaumont campuses.

 

For patients who do not have COVID-19, one visitor may be allowed in situations such as:

  • Patients in serious or critical condition
  • Patients being evaluated for hospice care or near the end-of-life. Additional family may take turns at the patient’s bedside with two people permitted at the bedside.
  • Adults with disabilities who need help with communicating or managing anxiety and people undergoing a surgical procedure.
  • Those having an outpatient test or procedure.
  • Woman in labor or with pregnancy complications. A doula in addition to the designated partner is permitted.
  • Children 21 or younger, with two parents being permitted.

Masks are still required in the hospitals regardless of people’s vaccination status. Exceptions apply only if a family member or friend screens negative for symptoms of respiratory infection, Beaumont said. Anyone younger than 16 is restricted from visiting, except under extreme circumstances, and visitors cannot remain in waiting and public areas or cafeterias.

The restrictions will be in place until further notice, Beaumont said.


GOVERNOR WHITMER VETOES BILL AIMED AT LIMITING HEALTH DEPARTMENT’S EMERGENCY POWERS

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer again vetoed legislation that would have put limits on the state’s health department’s ability to issue public health-related emergency orders Wednesday.

The bill in question, Senate Bill 1, would have capped any emergency orders issued by the Department of Health and Human Services to 28 days without legislative approval. Whitmer’s veto did not come as a surprise — she’s frequently said she would not support efforts to curb her administration’s powers, and she vetoed a similar bill last session.

Slightly more than $347 million in COVID-19 testing funds was tied to Senate Bill 1 as part of a COVID-19 aid package signed into law by Whitmer earlier this month.

Whitmer signed into law most of the Legislature-approved funding for various COVID-19 response and relief measures, the bulk of which was funded by Congress, but line-item vetoed $652 million in spending and a separate tie-barred policy bill, House Bill 4049, that would have shifted shift authority on closing in-person learning and sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic from the state to local health departments.


OAKLAND COUNTY TO HOLD 16 COVID-19 VACCINATION CLINICS

Sixteen COVID-19 vaccine clinics — by appointment only — will be conducted by the Oakland County Health Division from Tuesday, March 23 through Monday, March 29. The clinics will be held in Holly, Madison Heights, Novi, Pontiac, Rochester, Southfield, Waterford and West Bloomfield.

The county received 26,400 doses of COVID vaccine from the state this week which includes 2,340 Pfizer doses from FEMA. The allotment is up from 22,760 doses received last week.

The Health Division will administer the FEMA doses, provided as part of the establishment of Ford Field as a regional vaccination site, in Waterford and Pontiac to residents who live in areas with a higher Social Vulnerability Index.

The Health Division will also administer COVID-19 vaccine at four long-term care centers. To date, 30 long-term care centers have received a first and second doses of vaccine. The county also is redistributing vaccine to 28 providers this week.

The county is receiving 3,000 doses of Moderna with the balance from Pfizer. No Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been received.

To register with the county for a vaccination spot go to OaklandCountyVaccine.com.


MICHIGAN REPORTS HIGHEST ONE-DAY POSITIVE TEST RATE THIS YEAR

Twelve percent of Michigan’s 20,787 COVID-19 tests came back positive Monday, March 22, marking the highest single-day positivity rate of 2021, and the highest rate since Dec. 8.

The state’s latest surge in cases, combined with a reduction in tests processed per day, has resulted in a positive test rate higher than 5% for 11 consecutive days. The seven day average is up to 8.1%.

Additionally, the state health department reported 3,579 new coronavirus cases and 16 new deaths Tuesday, March 23. Of the new deaths, eight occurred outside the last 24 hours and were identified during a vital records review by the state health department. These reviews occur three times per week

The state is averaging 2,938 new COVID-19 cases per day and 16 new deaths per day over the last week. The weekly average has exceeded 2,000 cases for six consecutive days. This is the highest weekly average for cases since Jan.12, when the week’s average was 3,029.


REGAL CINEMAS TO REOPEN IN APRIL

Regal Cinemas, the second largest movie theater chain in the U.S., will reopen beginning April 2, its parent company, Cineworld Group, announced Tuesday.

Regal had been one of most notable holdouts in the gradual reopening of cinemas nationwide. For nearly half a year, its 7,211 screens and 549 theatres in the U.S. have been dark, including theaters in Walled Lake and Lansing. Doors will open early next month with attendance limited to 25% to 50% capacity in about 500 locations.

Cineworld also agreed to a new multi-year deal with Warner Bros. Beginning next year, the studio’s releases will have a 45-day exclusive window at Regal cinemas, roughly slicing in half the traditional period. That doesn’t apply to Warner releases this year, which are streaming simultaneously on HBO Max when they open in theaters.

Regal’s April 2 reopening coincides with the release of Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla vs. Kong.”


OAKLAND COUNTY MOVING ITS STOCKPILE OF PANDEMIC SUPPLIES

Oakland County will soon be storing its inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) and vaccine supplies in a new space.

For the past year, Roger Penske, chairman of the Penske Corporation, donated to the county warehouse space in Bloomfield Township, saving the county around $200,000. Penske recently informed the county that he has intentions to utilize that facility and needs the county to vacate in mid-April.

The county has identified a 27,000 square-foot facility in Pontiac with a 1.61-acre paved parking lot, which will cost an estimated $175,000 annually including utilities. There is a one-time cost of $6,900 for an inventory management system.

The Oakland County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been purchasing PPE as needed to maintain inventory. The county is using the majority of its stockpile, at this time, for vaccine clinic operations and plans to maintain a six-month supply of inventory to support county government operations and 30 to 60 day supply to support groups outside of county government.


AS COVID SPREAD, FEWER HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES ENROLLED IN COLLEGE

Michigan high school graduates enrolled in college this past fall at the lowest rate in at least a decade, amid a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Less than 55 percent of 2020 Michigan high school graduates enrolled in college within six months of getting diplomas, a plummet of 5 percentage points in one year, according to data from the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information, which tracks state education data.

Most troubling, college-going rates dropped most steeply for student groups that already struggle to reach campus, increasing a gap between low-income students and their more affluent classmates, as well as between white students and their Black, Hispanic and Native American peers.


KRISPY KREME OFFERING FREE DOUGHNUT TO VACCINATED INDIVIDUALS

Starting Monday, Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut to those who have received one or two doses of the vaccine.

For the promotion, anyone who has received one or two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine can request one free glazed doughnut. A COVID-19 vaccination record card must be shown to receive the offer.

The offer can be redeemed in the drive-thru or walk-in location but not through online ordering or delivery. A customer can receive one free doughnut per day with no purchase necessary, but there are no limits to how many times you can redeem it. All customers in a group can receive the free doughnut if they show their vaccination card. All U.S. locations are participating in the offer.


AstraZeneca: U.S. DATA SHOWS VACCINE EFFECTIVE FOR ALL AGES

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine provided strong protection against sickness and eliminated hospitalizations and deaths from the disease across all age groups in a late-stage study in the United States, the company announced Monday.

AstraZeneca said its experts did not identify any safety concerns related to the vaccine, including finding no increased risk of rare blood clots identified in Europe.

Although AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been authorized in more than 50 countries, it has not yet been given the green light in the U.S. — and has struggled to gain public trust amid a troubled rollout. The study comprised more than 30,000 volunteers, of whom two-thirds were given the vaccine while the rest got dummy shots.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is what scientists call a “viral vector” vaccine. The shots are made with a harmless virus, a cold virus that normally infects chimpanzees. It acts like a Trojan horse to carry the spike protein’s genetic material into the body, which in turn produces some harmless protein. That primes the immune system to fight if the real virus comes along.


PONTIAC SPORTS COMPLEX TO SERVE AS OAKLAND COUNTY VACCINE SITE

United Wholesale Mortgage has partnered with Oakland County’s Health Division on a COVID-19 vaccination site for residents at the lender’s sports complex in Pontiac beginning April 2.

The county’s health office expects to vaccinate 1,000 to 3,000 residents per day at the UWM Sports Complex at 867 S. Boulevard E., which has the capacity to take up to 5,000 appointments per day, if enough of the vaccine becomes available

UWM said vaccinations will be offered at the complex by appointment only. Oakland’s health division will pull appointments from its Save Your Spot list. Currently, about 6,000 individuals are registered, officials said.

To sign up for Save Your Spot, visit OaklandCountyVaccine.com.


MICHIGAN COVID VACCINE ELIGIBILITY STARTS MONDAY

Michigan will see a big expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility starting on Monday, March 22.

  • Starting Monday (March 22) all areas of the state may, as vaccine supplies are available, implement vaccination of people who are aged 50 and up (part of Phase 2), as well as vaccination of people aged16 and up who have disabilities and/or medical conditions, as well as their caregiver family members and guardians.
  • By April 5, 2021, all areas of the state may, as vaccine supplies are available, implement vaccination of all people aged16 and up who were not previously eligible.

As of Friday, 27.1% of residents, including about 2/3 of the 65 and up group, had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

 

How to get an appointment

Other local orgs: Nonprofits, churches and other community organizations are setting up COVID-19 vaccine clinics as vaccines are made available. Check with your local groups.


COVID-19 CASE SPIKE FORCES CLOSURE OF KEITH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Walled Lake Consolidated Schools officials informed parents late Wednesday that rising COVID-19 cases will force them to close Keith Elementary School in West Bloomfield through April 5.

“I regret to inform you that nearly 25% of the students and staff has either tested positive for COVID-19 or is considered a close contact to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,” principal Marci Augenstein wrote to parents. “Based on our protocols, this necessitates a short-term closure of Keith Elementary School.”

The closure means students will shift to all virtual learning for the rest of this week and all of next week. The week after that is scheduled for spring break. The district’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates that nine elementary school students are positive, as are four middle schoolers and 11 high school students.

Another 200 district students are in quarantine after potentially being in close contact with a positive case, as are 15 staff members.


CDC LOOKING INTO RELAXING DISTANCE GUIDELINES IN SCHOOLS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into whether 6 feet of distance is necessary to keep students safe at school — or if 3 feet will suffice.

The debate carries major implications for school reopenings: The current CDC guidance recommends maintaining 6 feet of distance between students, severely limiting the number of people who can safely fit into each classroom.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was grilled about the issue during a Wednesday subcommittee hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

One recent study showed lower physical distancing policies can be adopted in school settings with masking mandates without negatively impacting student or staff safety.”

Walensky said additional studies on the matter are pending and that the CDC expects to update its guidance on physical distancing in schools “soon.


VACCINE ARRIVING SOON AT SOME CVS STORES IN MICHIGAN

CVS pharmacies in Detroit, Fraser, Holt, Jackson and Lansing will begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations as early as Sunday, the company said Thursday.

The doses will be shipped to the CVS locations from the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and will be in addition to Michigan’s regular allotment of doses. The shots may become available at CVS stores in more Michigan communities as the supply of vaccine increases, the company said in a press release.

The vaccinations will initially be available in at least eight CVS stores statewide, including five in the Metro Detroit area. CVS isn’t announcing the addresses, because these could change depending on the supply of vaccine, a company spokesperson said.

CVS will administer the vaccinations to residents who meet state eligibility criteria, as well as K-12 teachers and staff and childcare workers.

Appointments will become available to book on Friday as stores receive shipments of the vaccine. Patients must register in advance through CVS.com or the CVS Pharmacy app.

People without online access can contact CVS Customer Service at (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be accommodated.


MICHIGAN HAS 5TH HIGHEST CORONAVIRUS RATE IN THE U.S. OVER THE PAST WEEK

Michigan had the country’s fifth-highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the last week and is among 14 states where infections rose over the past two weeks, a trend that may be tied to the increasing prevalence of a more contagious coronavirus variant, health officials said Wednesday.

One out of every 602 Michigan residents was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the seven-day period that ended Monday — a rate that trailed those of only four East Coast states. Michigan had the country’s 10th-highest per-capita case rate over the 14-day period that ended Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

The seven-day case average was 2,372, an increase of more than 1,000 from the 1,335 seven-day average as of March 1. The average positivity rate, 6.4%, was 3.8% two weeks ago.

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have increased over the last three weeks but are well below the peak from over three months ago. More than 60% of people ages 65 and older — those more at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 — have gotten at least one vaccine dose.


MICHIGAN LOOSENS TESTING REQUIREMENTS FOR NURSING HOME VISITORS

Michigan’s nursing homes don’t have to require visitors to get tested for COVID-19 prior to allowing them into the facility under changes state health officials made Wednesday to its visitation policy.

The state still is strongly encouraging testing for indoor visitors, but has removed a mandate that nursing homes require such a test to reflect changes in guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which updated guidance March 10. The federal guidance also notes visitors are not required to be vaccinated to visit loved ones in nursing homes.

The new policy is a change from March 2 that required facilities in the state to use point-of-care rapid tests on indoor visitors or, when that option isn’t available, to require regular testing 72 hours ahead of a visit. Testing still is recommended by the state and some individual facilities can still require them for visitors.

The new policy also loosens restrictions requiring appointments for visits and capping visitors at two people. Instead, federal guidance asks facilities to limit the length of each visit and restrict the number of people based on the size of the size of building.

The state has administered about 270,000 vaccinations for nursing home residents and staff and provided more than 1.3 million antigen tests since the start of the pandemic.


FORD ROLLING OUT HYBRID REMOTE WORK PLAN

It’s a question occupying the minds of millions of employees who have worked from home the past year: Will they still be allowed to work remotely — at least some days — once the pandemic has faded?

On Wednesday, one of America’s corporate titans, Ford Motor Co., supplied its own answer: It told about 30,000 of its employees worldwide who have worked from home that they can continue to do so indefinitely, with flexible hours approved by their managers. Their schedules will become a work-office “hybrid”: They’ll commute to work mainly for group meetings and projects best-suited for face-to-face interaction.

Ford‘s announcement sent one of the clearest signals to date that the pandemic has hastened a cultural shift in Americans’ work lives by erasing any stigma around remote work and encouraging the adoption of technology that enables it. Broader evidence about the post-pandemic workplace suggests that what was long called tele-commuting will remain far more common than it was a year ago.

A report this week from the employment website Indeed says postings for jobs that mention “remote work” have more than doubled since the pandemic began. Such job postings are still increasing even while vaccinations are accelerating and the pace of new confirmed COVID cases is declining.


MICHIGAN’S POSITIVE TEST RATE AND DAILY CORONAVIRUS CASES CONTINUE TO CLIMB

Michigan reported 2,048 new coronavirus cases and 27 new deaths Tuesday, March 16.

Of the 27 deaths reported Tuesday, six occurred outside the last 24 hours and were identified during a vital records review. These reviews happen three times per week.

Nearly every Michigan county reported new cases.  Wayne County led in new cases (354) and deaths (four). Oakland County added 269 new cases, while Macomb added 252.

Of the 20,919 diagnostic tests processed Monday, 8.6% came back positive for SARS-CoV-2. It was the highest one-day rate since Jan. 7.  The positivity rate has been increasing since March 10, when 4.5% of 45,901 diagnostic tests came back positive.

The state is averaging 1,951 new COVID-19 cases and 16 new deaths per day over the last week. This is the highest weekly average for cases since Jan. 20.


MICHIGAN RANKS SECOND IN COVID VARIANT CASES AS STATE HITS ‘TIPPING POINT’

The latest outbreak of a more contagious coronavirus variant has now grown to 47 suspected cases.

And while just two of the 47 cases were genetically sequenced to confirm the B.1.1.7. variant in this community northwest of Lansing, the state now has at least 616 confirmed cases of the variant across Michigan so far, according to the latest data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only one other state — Florida — has more cases of the so-called United Kingdom (U.K.) variant than Michigan, according to the CDC.

Variants are concerning to public health officials because they appear to spread more rapidly than the original virus that produced the pandemic. There’s also emerging research that suggests that the U.K. variant may be more deadly.

The COVID vaccines now authorized for emergency use in the U.S. appear generally effective against the variants, but to what extent is still not clear.

On the positive side, a growing number of people are becoming vaccinated across the state. As of Tuesday, more than 2 million Michiganders had been vaccinated, according to state data. And with warmer weather, more people will move back out into the open air, making it more difficult for the virus to spread.


NURSE DETAINED FOR POCKETING COVID-19 VACCINES AT DETROIT’S TCF CENTER

A nurse practitioner was detained by Detroit police Monday after allegedly pocketing two doses of COVID-19 vaccine at downtown’s TCF Center.

A member of the medical staff at the center saw the woman take the two syringes of the Moderna vaccine and immediately reported it, Detroit Chief Operating Officer Hakim Berry said. Officers on site stopped the suspect before she made her way out of the facility, he said.

The nurse is employed by one of three staffing firms that the city contracts with.

About 200 staff are on-site daily and include police officers, the center’s traffic management team, medical and pharmacy workers and support staff, he said.

The doses were provided to Detroit’s Health Department by the federal government.

Officials say no one missed getting a dose because of this incident.

The TCF Center first began administering the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 13. To date, about 109,000 people have been vaccinated there.


5 NEW COVID-19 OUTBREAKS REPORTED AT OAKLAND COUNTY SCHOOLS

Of the 268 new COVID cases at Michigan schools reported for the week of March 8-12, 44 occurred at outbreaks in five schools in Oakland County.

The new outbreaks are at Birmingham’s Our Shepherd Lutheran (15 cases, students and staff); Country Oaks in Commerce Township (2 cases students); Ferndale High School (2 cases, students); Stoney Creek High School (6 cases, students; and two outbreaks at Lutheran NW in Rochester Hills — one with 8 students and another with 2 staff and students.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services releases the school outbreak data each Monday.

In other outbreak news, in region 2N which includes Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties, last week there were five new outbreaks at long-term care facilities; eight in manufacturing and construction; three at healthcare facilities; four at office settings; and zero in restaurants and bars.


REGISTRATION FOR VACCINE AT FORD FIELD NOW OPEN

The registration system is now open for the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Ford Field in Detroit, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The mass vaccination site is set to officially open on March 24, and will operate from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week through mid-May.

Sign-up is available through these three options:

  • Online at meijer.com/register/CL2021
  • Text EndCOVID to 75049
  • Call the MDHHS COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 (press 1) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is expected that the call center will have long wait times, so calling is recommended only people who cannot register online or by text.

After the registration process is completed, people who have registered will receive an invitation either by “voice or text when it’s their turn to schedule the appointment. Vaccine appointments will be scheduled a few days in advance.

The vaccine will be offered at no cost, and insurance is not required, nor will it be requested at the vaccination center. Any Michigan resident who is eligible to receive the vaccine under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services vaccine prioritization guidance will be able to register for an appointment.

Free parking will be available at the vaccination site. For those who indicate, during the registration process, they need assistance obtaining transportation to and from the vaccination site, the state is working to provide free of charge ride share options.


VOLUNTEER AT OAKLAND COUNTY VACCINE SITE TO RECEIVE COVID-19 VACCINE

For anyone willing to volunteer time to get a COVID vaccine, Oakland County has opportunities available.   With so many people waiting for vaccines, it might provide a quicker path to actually getting a shot in the arm.

Those interested in volunteering should send an email to OakEOC@oakgov.com.

People with some medical background are a plus but not required. Volunteers may assist greeting people in lines, social distancing, wheelchair assistance and orientation.

As of March 11, 388,236 doses of vaccine have been administered in Oakland County.

Currently anyone over age 65 is eligible to be vaccinated in Michigan.  Also, those 50 and older who have underlying health conditions are eligible. On March 22 anyone over age 50 will be eligible for the vaccine.

On March 22, anyone 16 and older with medical conditions will be eligible. And on April 5 vaccines will be available to anyone 16 and older in the state.


MICHIGAN RESIDENTS 16 AND OLDER TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR COVID VACCINE BY APRIL 5TH

All Michiganders 16 and older, regardless of health status, will be eligible for a COVID vaccine beginning April 5.

For people 16 and older with a disability or medical condition that place them at higher risk from COVID-19, eligibility will begin March 22, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday. The state had previously said only residents 50 or older, regardless of health issues, were eligible beginning March 22.

The announcement may be welcome news to some, but frustrating for others in previously prioritized groups, including many seniors, who are still waiting to secure an appointment for a vaccine when they’ve been eligible for weeks or more

It was not immediately clear whether or how providers will prioritize Michiganders based on their risk since the April 5 opening means healthy teenagers and older people with health problems will be equally eligible.


MICHIGAN KROGER PHARMACIES BEGIN ADMINISTERING VACCINES

The Kroger Co. of Michigan announced Friday that its Kroger Health division is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations at Kroger store pharmacies in Michigan.

Kroger received a limited supply of vaccines through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership plan, according to a news release. As  doses are received, they will be allocated and administered across all 103 Kroger pharmacies in Michigan.

Kroger will administer doses according to state and local health department rollout guidelines, the release said.

Individuals must meet the current phase eligibility criteria in order to make a vaccination appointment at kroger.com/covidvaccine or by calling 866-211-5320.

So far, The Kroger Co. says it has administered nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses across 25 states.


IN-PERSON VISITS TO RESUME AT MICHIGAN PRISONS

For the first in more than a year, Michigan prisoners will be able to receive visitors — although they’ll have a plexiglass shield between them — starting March 20, state corrections officials announced.

The Michigan Department of Corrections on March 13, 2020, suspended in-person visits at its facilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visits will resume with two-hour time limits, and no physical contact will be allowed.

 

Among the mandated safety protocols:

  • Prior to entering MDOC facilities, visitors will be screened, including a temperature check and an antigen rapid test.
  • Visitors will be asked to store their personal masks in lockers provided; the MDOC will give them new masks that must be worn during visits.
  • Prisoners receiving visitors also will take an antigen rapid test before the visit.
  • During visits, interactions will be modified. “Elevated health and safety protocols are in place and include hand sanitizer and plexiglass, which serves as a divider between the prisoner and their visitor,” the release said.
  • “Prisoners are prohibited from physical contact with their visitors until further notice,” the release said.

Visits must be scheduled 48-72 hours in advance.

“Information about how to schedule visits will be available soon on the MDOC website www.michigan.gov/corrections,” the MDOC release said. “Once visitors have scheduled their visits, they should monitor the MDOC website to ensure the facility is not in quarantine, or the housing unit of the prisoner they wish to visit is not in quarantine.”


WHO GETS THE THIRD STIMULUS CHECK, AND WHEN?

The third round of stimulus cash could start arriving as soon as this weekend for those with direct deposit, giving many an extra financial lift after being ground down by a year-long pandemic.

And we’ll know more specifics soon now that President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan relief package into law Thursday afternoon, a day sooner than had been expected.

Biden said the relief package was “about rebuilding the backbone of this country” and giving those who are struggling a “fighting chance.”

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

The full $1,400 goes to single people earning up to $75,000.   A full payment of $2,800 goes to a married couple filing a joint federal income tax return earning up to $150,000.

The IRS will use the 2019 tax return information or 2020 tax return information, based on what they have available, to calculate the payouts that go out soon.


MICHIGAN SENATE AUTHORIZIES LAWSUIT AGAINST GOVERNOR WHITMER OVER RELIEF DOLLARS

The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate authorized Thursday a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, setting up a potential legal fight over millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds tied to limits on the administration’s power.

The dispute focuses on two policy bills the Legislature connected to a portion of the funds in its $4 billion COVID-19 relief plan​​. The proposals would limit the state Department of Health and Human Services’ epidemic orders to 28 days and shift decisions on school closures from the state department to local health agencies. Whitmer opposes the bills.

If Whitmer’s administration spends the money tied to the bills but blocks the limits on her power, it “would be contrary to both law and Michigan’s constitutional system,” said a resolution approved Thursday in a party-line vote by the Senate.


MICHIGAN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS- BUT LARGELY BECAUSE PEOPLE GAVE UP LOOKING FOR WORK

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says about 270,000 Michiganders were unemployed in January.

Yet, Michigan paid unemployment to at least 600,000 unemployed workers during each week in January – including the final week, when 991,000 Michiganders got benefits.

The difference is largely because of varying definitions of “unemployed,” with one count leaving out those who’ve stopped actively searching for work, and the other including those who have left the workforce.

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.2% in December 2020 to 5.7% in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state announced Thursday, March 11. That’s the largest drop in the unemployment rate since last July, when it went from 14.1% to 9%.

The number of unemployed Michiganders went from 400,000 in December to 270,000 in January. Of the 130,000 fewer people on unemployment, only 10,000 became employed. The other 120,000 left the labor force.


ENROLLMENT DECLINES IN MICHIGAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS DUE TO COVID-19

The Michigan Department of Education reports an enrollment decline of about 3.7% in public schools in fall 2020, compared to the previous fall.

Oakland County lost an estimated 6,400 students, a drop of about 3.5%, over the same period.

State and county officials say that most of the losses are due to parents deciding to homeschool their children, to enroll them in private schools or to delay enrolling their children in kindergarten.

But state and local officials have few means of tracking these shifts.  Oakland Schools, heads a team that assisted local districts in calling families to find out why their children weren’t attending school this year, either in person or virtually.

The parents or guardians of more than 17,000 students statewide told their public school districts upon exiting last year that they were homeschooling their children. In a typical year, that number would be only about 3,000, according to MDE.


GOVERNOR WHITMER STANDS BY NURSING HOME POLICY AMID LEGAL THREATS

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has faced criticism over a nursing home policy that her administration put in place in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, patients who tested positive for COVID were placed in the same facility with patients who did not have COVID. Whitmer ended that practice after the first six months of the pandemic.

There is growing scrutiny over the policy with the prospect of lawsuits and other legal action. Whitmer said she remains proud of her team’s overall response to the coronavirus.

Whitmer’s policy differed from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo because Whitmer didn’t force COVID-positive patients to reside with COVID-negative patients. Instead, Whitmer incentivized the process by paying homes to take patients who had contracted COVID-19.

The most current count puts the long-term care death count at 5,537 in Michigan, which is more than 35 percent of all of the state’s COVID deaths

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido is expected to announce an effort to prosecute Whitmer for her nursing home policy.

The Department of Health and Human Services sent an update saying that nursing home patients who were transferred to the hospital and then died would be counted as a nursing home death — if they had not been discharged from the care facility.


OAKLAND COUNTY HOSTING COVID-19 TRIBUTE WALK

To mark the one year anniversary since the area’s first case of COVID-19, Oakland County is opening a tribute walk in Waterford later this month.

The half-mile long Oakland Together COVID-19 Tribute Walk will feature interactive public memorials and light displays at Waterford Oaks County Park. It was designed as a way to help visitors reflect on the impact of the pandemic, show gratitude to frontline workers and remember those who have died locally from the virus.

The county also created two online memorials to coincide with the tribute walk — The Oakland Together Remembrance Story Map for memorials and the Oakland Together Gratitude Story Map, to honor those who contributed to the community in the pandemic.

The light display will begin behind the park’s Lookout Lodge, located at 1702 Scott Lake Road in Waterford. It was created by Bluewater Technologies, which also designed Glenore Trails in Commerce Township. Oakland County Parks and Recreation is co-hosting the event.

The Oakland Together COVID-19 Tribute Walk will take place from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. from Monday, March 15 to Sunday, March 21. Tickets are $5 per person and will go on sale on Thursday, March 11. Net proceeds from the event will go to an Oakland County charity, to be announced later this week. No walk up admissions will be accepted as ticket sales will be issued in half-hour increments to allow for social distancing.


WHITMER SIGNS BULK OF CORONAVIRUS AID PACKAGE, BUT VETOES LIMITS ON EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday signed into law most of the Legislature-approved funding for various COVID-19 response and relief measures, but vetoed $652 million in spending and a tie-barred policy bill limiting the administration’s authority to issue pandemic-related orders.

The spending plan, the bulk of which comes from federal funds appropriated to Michigan by Congress, includes funding for vaccines, testing, direct care worker payments and property tax relief, as well as money for addressing learning loss and returning schools to in-person learning

Of the $4.2 billion plan passed out of the Republican-led Legislature, about $840 million in school funding included in 4048 was tie-barred to House Bill 4049, which would shift authority on closing in-person learning and sporting events during the COVID-19 pandemic from the state to local health departments

And slightly more than $347 million in COVID-19 testing funds was tied to passage of Senate Bill 1, which would require legislative approval of DHHS emergency public health orders after 28 days and calls for the specific science and data behind each declaration.


WHAT MICHIGAN WOULD GET FROM $1.9 TRILLION COVID RELIEF LEGISLATION

Michigan would get an estimated $10 billion in direct aid from the COVID-19 relief package expected to clear Congress this week, including $5.6 billion for the state government and $879.59 million for Detroit alone.

Metro Detroit counties would receive a windfall, with an estimated $339 million for Wayne, $244 million for Oakland and $196.5 million for Macomb.

The state and local aid is expected to be released by the Treasury Department within 60 days of President Joe Biden’s signing the legislation, after months of pleas for help from local leaders who have seen their revenues plummet amid an increased need for services.

The House is expected to take up the stimulus legislation again Wednesday after the Senate passed it with changes on Saturday.


MORE THAN HALF OF SENIORS IN OAKLAND COUNTY ARE FULLY VACCINATED

In Oakland County 55 percent of the senior residents have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to data released by the Oakland County Health Division on Tuesday..

So far 59,771 senior residents have completed vaccination while 119,915 have received the first dose. Overall there are 217,676 senior residents in the county.

The state of Michigan distributed 17,710 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Oakland County Health Division this week. That includes 15,210 doses of Pfizer (9.350 first doses, 5,850 second doses), 2,500 of Moderna (1,100 first doses and 1,400 second doses) and none of Johnson & Johnson, the latest vaccine to be approved by the Centers for Disease Control.

The Health Division will conduct 17 COVID-19 vaccine clinics — by appointment only — the week of March 9–15 in Holly, Novi, Pontiac, Rochester, Southfield, Waterford and West Bloomfield.

In addition, the Health Division will administer COVID-19 vaccine at seven long-term care centers. To date, 26 long-term care centers have received a first or second dose of vaccine. The county also is redistributing vaccine to 13 providers this week.


MICHIGAN REPORTS FIRST CASE OF COVID-19 SOUTH AFRICAN VARIANT

A child in Jackson County has the first known Michigan case of a COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa.

The B.1.351 variant of COVID-19 was identified Monday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Laboratories today, according to a release late Monday night from the State Emergency Operations Center.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief state medical executive, in a statement in the release expressed concern at the discovery, but said it was “not unexpected.”

Cases tied to the B.1.351 arrived in the U.S. in January. As of March. 7, 20 states reported having the variant, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest variant in Michigan is believed to be more contagious than the coronavirus strand that afflicted the U.S. at the start of the pandemic.


NEW CDC GUIDELINES FOR VACCINATED PEOPLE: AGENCY STILL ADVISES AGAINST TRAVEL

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided new COVID-19 guidance for fully vaccinated Americans on Monday including some eased restrictions such as gathering inside without masks. The CDC, however, didn’t provide an update or relax travel measures.

The agency maintained that Americans should refrain from traveling, referring to the organization’s travel guidance last updated on Feb. 16.

“Because of the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 during travel, fully vaccinated people should still take all CDC-recommended precautions before, during, and after travel,” read a CDC statement provided to USA TODAY by spokesperson Caitlin Shockey.

“While we work to vaccinate more people, prevention measures such as pre- and post-travel testing and post-travel self-quarantine, along with wearing well-fitted masks, will help us prevent spread of COVID-19,” the CDC continued.

While travel remains off the table, the agency’s new guidance states those who have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccine may get together with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups inside their homes without masks or physical distancing. They can also visit unvaccinated people from one other household who are at low risk for severe disease. The guidelines also say fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test if they’ve been exposed unless they’re symptomatic.


GOVERNOR WHITMER ASKS MICHIGANDERS TO TURN ON PORCH LIGHTS IN HONOR OF COVID-19 VICTIMS

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist are asking all Michiganders to turn on their porch lights from 8-9 p.m. on Wednesday to mark one year since the first known COVID-19 cases in Michigan and honor those lost to the pandemic

“As we mark this occasion, we also look towards the light at the end of the tunnel. We have three safe, effective vaccines, all miracles of science, that will help protect you, your family, and others from COVID and help us get our country and the economy back to normal,” Whitmer said in a news release.

Since March, Michigan has lost 15,670 people to COVID-19. There have been 598,014 cases, according to the state health department.


FREE COLLEGE TUITION PROGRAMS SPREAD ACROSS MICHIGAN

Tuition-free programs are spreading across Michigan’s four-year college campuses, a movement that appears to have been sparked by two new and wildly popular free community college programs initiated recently by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made community college tuition-free for most Michigan residents ages 25 and older in January, just months after she did the same thing for pandemic frontline workers.

 

There are at least 11 four-year colleges and universities with tuition-free programs for designated groups of students. Include recently announced state programs offering free community college to most Michigan adults, and colleges that accept students who qualify for a special scholarship for Detroit students, and that number swells to at least 23 four-year universities and colleges and 31 community colleges.

Freshmen enrollment was down an average of 7 percent at the state’s 15 public universities last fall, much of it likely tied to remote learning, closed dorms and safety concerns relating to the coronavirus.


HOW WELL IS MICHIGAN PROTECTING CHILDREN DURING COVID-19

A new report looking at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children shows how kids in Michigan are faring compared with the rest of the country.

The report from Save The Children looked at data from a bi-weekly survey administered by the U.S. Census, with the aim of understanding the impact on children and where they have been most and least protected during the pandemic.

The group says it looked at food scarcity, lack of access to remote learning tools and difficulty paying for household expenses.

Michigan ranked No. 32 in the child protection rankings.

Data from the end of 2020 shows that in Michigan:

18.3 percent of children did not have enough to eat
12.5 percent of children had inadequate tools for remote learning
46.2 percent of families had difficulty paying the bills

Despite the rankings, the report notes that families in every state and at all income levels are suffering with poorer families struggling the most.

Black and Hispanic families are twice as likely to struggle with food insecurity compared to white families, the report says. It also says these families are 1.5 times more likely to have difficulty paying bills and lack access to tools for remote learning.These communities are also more likely to be affected by unemployment and school closures, according to the report.


COVID VACCINATION ELIGIBILITY IN MICHIGAN EXPANDS MONDAY

Michigan residents — ages 50 and up — will be able to get vaccinated starting Monday as long as they have a pre-existing condition.

“It includes cancer or diabetes, overweight, smoking, a lot of conditions,” said Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, with the Washtenaw County Health Department.

However, Ringler-Cerniglia said that although eligibility is expanding, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be vaccinated soon.

 

“We — like a lot of other counties — are still vaccinating folks that have been eligible, so we still have some of our older adults are 65 and older that are waiting for their appointments,” Ringler-Cerniglia said. “So we will be continuing to schedule those older adults, but the ability to request an appointment is now open wider.”

In a few weeks’ time — on March 22 — everyone 50 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine across the state, which is why if you qualify, it’s best to set up your appointment as soon as possible

These vaccines are free of charge, but patients do not have any say on which of the three vaccines they’re set to receive.


HOMEBOUND OAKLAND COUNTY SENIORS TO GET COVID-19 VACCINE

The Oakland County Health Division announced Thursday it is partnering with Ready Nursing Solutions to assist the county with administering COVID-19 vaccine to long-term care staff and residents as well as homebound seniors.

The Oakland County Health Division reports that more than 101,000 Oakland County residents 65 years and older have received their first dose and all 23,000 school personnel on the Health Division’s Save Your Spot list have received their first dose or offered an appointment.

There are about 70 long-term care centers in Oakland County that need COVID-19 vaccine because they are not covered by the federal contract with Walgreens and CVS. The Oakland County Health Division has administered COVID vaccine at 36 of these facilities so far, even as it operates multiple vaccine clinics seven days a week throughout the county.


BUSINESS COALITION CALLS ON WHITMER TO LIFT RESITRICTIONS FOR OFFICES

Business leaders are calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to ease restrictions on offices across Michigan with safety measures in place by April 14, the day emergency rules banning in-office work expire.

The state said Thursday it was “very likely” the rules would be extended past April 14 while the agency creates a permanent plan for employees to return to work places. In the meantime, businesses are welcome to bring employees into the office if it isn’t feasible for them to work from home.

The effort to stop the emergency rule extension was announced Thursday by Reopen Michigan Safely, a new business coalition that includes the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and other chambers in Grand Rapids, southern Wayne County, Lansing, Saginaw, Battle Creek and Birmingham

The group argued businesses were losing jobs permanently because of the restrictions from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, whose six-month order prohibiting most in-person work in offices expires April 14. The state Department of Health and Human Services also has a ban on nonessential in-office work that can be done from home, but that order is not as long-lasting as the prospect of another six-month extension from MIOSHA.


HOW US WILL HAVE ENOUGH COVID-19 VACCINE FOR EVERY ADULT IN MAY

As vaccine experts welcomed President Joe Biden’s accelerated timeline for distribution, they offered some caution about whether the companies can reach their promised doses and delivery dates. While there’s never 100% certainty in manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing is especially finicky and demanding.

The process is complex, with so many variables that vaccine manufacturers can’t count on every batch making it through to the end.

Biden said Tuesday there will be enough COVID-19 vaccine available in May for every adult in the U.S., nearly two months earlier than his administration predicted three weeks ago, thanks to a deal brokered between pharmaceutical giants Merck and Johnson & Johnson.

To get there, officials plan on 400 million doses from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, enough to vaccinate 200 million people, plus an additional 100 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That is more than enough for the nation’s 255 million adults.


OVER 2000 MICHIGAN BUSINESSES SETTING STANDARD FOR COVID-19 WORKPLACE SAFETY COMPLIANCE

Dozens of Oakland County businesses have joined the over 2,000 businesses statewide that have participated in the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) COVID-19 Workplace Safety Ambassador Program.

The program is a partnership between MIOSHA and NSF International, which provides staff to serve as workplace safety ambassadors who visit and work with Michigan business owners to help them better implement COVID-19 workplace safety measures and best practices. The program was launched in September. 

To date, the program has been primarily focused on retail stores, restaurants and fitness centers, but recently MIOSHA announced it would begin offering Ambassador visits to childcare centers across the state

The ambassadors have reported that over 90% of businesses visited are complying with face covering, cleaning and disinfection and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements. There have also been observed opportunities for continued education and improvement in employee training, record keeping, COVID-19 signage and written plan documents.


MICHIGAN TO OPEN VACCINE TO PEOPLE OVER AGE 50

The state of Michigan is preparing to open COVID-19 vaccine availability to people older than 50 years old with health risks, such as preexisting conditions or disabilities, starting Monday.

People over the age of 50, regardless of health condition, will be eligible to begin receiving the vaccine starting March 22, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The state also will open eligibility, starting Monday, to caregiver families and guardians caring for children with special health needs. The expanded eligibility came as at least one Metro Detroit leader expressed skepticism that local health agencies and others could meet the demand.

The state health department is making the move because the state will have a historic number of vaccine doses available in the next couple of weeks, Whitmer said. About 400,000 vaccine doses a week will come from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, she said.


MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE PASSES $4.2 BILLION COVID RELIEF PLAN

Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature finalized its long-awaited COVID-19 plan on Wednesday, authorizing the state to spend $3.45 billion out of roughly $5 billion in federal funding sent here in December by Congress and former President Donald Trump.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wanted a $5.6 billion plan and is likely to veto some of the proposed funding because it’s tied to separate bills that would force her to give up her authority to respond to the pandemic.

The plan, which includes state funding and totals $4.25 billion, passed with bipartisan support and clears the way for increases in education funding, vaccine distribution, temporary business tax breaks; unemployment assistance and help for renters and those behind on their property taxes.


WHITMER ADMINISTRATION EASES COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration issued wide-ranging epidemic orders on Tuesday that will ease COVID-19-related restrictions on businesses, nursing homes and other gatherings, a move the governor described as “good news” for Michigan.

The new policies come amid a decline in weekly coronavirus cases and deaths in the past seven weeks, but right after the state experienced its first weekly increase in cases since early January. They will allow larger outdoor events to resume, double capacity limits at restaurants from 25% to 50% and move the curfew for indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. starting on Friday and running through April 19.

The new orders will also relax capacity limits on retail stores, moving them from 30% to 50%. The limitation on indoor household gatherings will go from 10 people from two households to 15 people from three households. Those orders also take effect on Friday and run for six weeks.

The latest directives allow family members who test negative for COVID-19 immediately to visit relatives in a nursing home as long as the facility has not had a new COVID-19 case in the last 14 days, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.


OAKLAND COUNTY COMMISSIONERS PREPARE TO RETURN TO IN PERSON MEETINGS

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners are preparing to hold in person meetings next month for the first time in a year.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, public bodies were required under the state’s Open Meetings Act to gather in person. The Act was amended last spring to allow public bodies to meet remotely while moving public comment and attendance online. On Dec. 22, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 1246 with extended the remote meeting provisions through March 31.  Unless new provisions are passed by the Legislature and signed by Whitmer, elected public bodies will resume in person meetings next month as required by law.

David Woodward (D-Royal Oak), board chair, said the 21-member board is considering a resolution to appropriate $25,000 to reconfigure its Pontiac auditorium to protect staff and the public once in person meetings resume. The safety measures include the installation of plexiglass barriers, floor decals to ensure social distancing protocols are followed, and reduced seating.

“We are planning to start meeting in person April 1,” he said. “We’ve been taking steps to prepare for coming back in person.”

Although the board may soon meet in person, Woodward added that residents who feel unsafe about attending in person would continue to be provided, for the time being, options to participate in the meetings virtually.


AT LEAST 8,000 AUTOWORKERS IN DETROIT NOW ELIGIBLE FOR COVID-19 VACCINE

The Detroit Three’s autoworkers who live or work in Detroit can now get their COVID-19 vaccines.

That means at least 8,000 union members working for Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, will be eligible for the shots. Most of those workers work for two Jeep plants in Detroit, others live in the city and work for other Stellantis facilities.

Also thousands more manufacturing workers, even those who work for Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, can also get the vaccine, provided they live in Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Tuesday expanded vaccine availability in the city to those in manufacturing.  Any autoworker at the Detroit Three manufacturing plants can get a vaccine from the city, and there are no age restrictions, Duggan said. The only criteria is the autoworker must either live in Detroit or work in Detroit.

The city will start by offering the shots to employees of Stellantis’ two Jeep plants as well as to other autoworkers at the TCF Center downtown.  Appointments can be made by calling 313-230-0505.


FORMER MICHIGAN HEALTH DIRECTOR GOT PAYOUT IN CONFIDENTIALITY DEAL

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration agreed to pay former state health department director Robert Gordon $155,506 in a separation deal that also required the two sides to maintain confidentiality about the circumstances that led to his abrupt departure.

The agreement is the clearest evidence yet that the split between Gordon, a central figure in the state’s response to COVID-19, and Whitmer was not amicable, and it shows the Democratic administration used taxpayer funds to ease his departure.

On Feb. 22, one month after Gordon resigned without explanation, he and Mark Totten, Whitmer’s chief lawyer, signed the four-page agreement. The state agreed to pay Gordon a total that represents nine months of salary and health benefits, and he released the state from any potential legal claims.

Both Gordon and the Whitmer administration also pledged not to discuss the details of the resignation “in the interest of protecting deliberations among government officials,” according to the deal obtained through an open records request.

“In response to any inquiries from prospective employers, employer will state that employee voluntarily resigned,” the agreement says.

Both Gordon and Whitmer have refused to say why he stepped down on Jan. 22, fewer than eight hours after he signed an epidemic order to lift the suspension on indoor dining at restaurants.


NO NEW CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAKS REPORTED IN OAKLAND COUNTY SCHOOLS

No new outbreaks of the coronavirus were reported in Oakland County schools by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Monday, according to the state’s latest data.

However, six schools in Oakland County remain on the state’s list of sites where ongoing outbreaks are present.

In all, 29 schools were added to Michigan’s list of ongoing coronavirus outbreaks Monday.

It’s important to note that a coronavirus outbreak is different than a case. A COVID-19 outbreak is defined as two or more cases with a link by place and time indicating a shared exposure outside of a household.

Students or staff exposed to COVID-19 outside the school building and are not thought to have spread the virus in the school due to quarantine or self-isolation are not included in the data.


OAKLAND COUNTY TO RECEIVE JOHNSON & JOHNSON COVID VACCINE THIS WEEK

Oakland County will receive its first shipment of the single-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday or Wednesday, County Executive Dave Coulter said Monday.

The Oakland County Health Division is expecting 6,700 doses of the newly approved vaccine, Coulter said.

Also this week, the health department received 16,380 vaccine doses from Pfizer, more than 9,300 of which are first doses for residents, officials said. The county also is receiving 4,400 doses from Moderna, 900 of which are first doses.

Oakland County is hosting 15 COVID vaccination clinics by appointment only in Holly, Madison Heights, Novi, Pontiac, Rochester, Southfield, Waterford, and West Bloomfield. In addition, Oakland County’s public health nurses are administering second doses at seven long-term care centers.


CDC ENDORSES JOHNSON & JOHNSON’S ONE DOSE COVID-19 VACCINE

A panel of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given its blessing to a new one-shot vaccine for COVID-19.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 12-0, with one recusal, to recommend the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for people aged 18 and older. The move comes one day after the Food and Drug Administration authorized this vaccine for emergency use, making it the third COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S.

 Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one jab. It also stays stable in a refrigerator and doesn’t require storage in a specialized freezer.

Johnson & Johnson says it has already started shipping the several million doses it has ready to go, and expects to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March. By the end of June, the company says it will have delivered enough vaccine to protect 100 million people.


MICHIGAN PRISON FINED FOR COVID-19 VIOLATIONS

A state agency has fined a state prison $6,300 for COVID-19 safety violations that were discovered during an investigation of a correction officer’s death, the agency said Friday.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration assessed the fine against Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian for violations the agency deemed “serious.”

It is believed to be the first MIOSHA fine assessed against a state agency in connection with the pandemic.

According to the citation, a corrections officer at the prison tested positive on April 17 and reported the finding to prison officials on April 20, but that officer was never interviewed to identify close contacts. By May 6, four other officers had tested positive and they were all officers the first officer ate lunch with on a daily basis, according to the citation.

“Since they were not identified as close contacts, they were not required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, thus potentially exposing (other) employees,” the citation said.

The corrections department “disagrees with the MIOSHA citation announced today” and plans to appeal it, spokesman Chris Gautz said.


RECORD CROWDS FLOCK TO 3 OF MICHIGAN’S 5 NATIONAL PARKS

Most national parks saw a decrease in visitors in 2020 as many faced obstacles brought on by the coronavirus and COVID-19 restrictions.

That wasn’t the case everywhere as travelers sought out wide-open spaces, most frequently during summer and early fall, according to the National Parks Service.

Fifteen parks — including three in Michigan — saw a record number of visitors in 2020, per data provided by the National Parks Service.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Empire and River Raisin National Battlefield Park near Monroe all topped previous highwater marks.

Nowhere was that more evident than at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

The Upper Peninsula gem saw a record 1,212,251 visitors in 2020, more than 41% higher than 2019 when a previous record number of 858,715 made their way to the Lake Superior getaway.


MICHIGAN SENATE APPROVES $2 BILLION COVID PLAN, HOLDS OFF ON RELEASING BILLIONS MORE

The Michigan Senate approved a $2 billion COVID-19 relief plan on Thursday with money for schools, testing and vaccine distribution, but intense debate focused on Republicans’ decision to hold  off on allocating billions more in federal funding.

In January, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed a $5.6 billion relief plan with about $5 billion of the money coming from the federal government. But the GOP-controlled Legislature has decided to delay authorizing many of the dollars in order to have continued oversight over how they’re spent.

“Our plan funds our state’s most pressing needs and saves additional resources so we can continue to assess the situation and respond to problems as they arise,” said Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Senate spending plan now has to go to the House, which approved its own $2.1 million proposal on Feb. 4.


AS FEDS REQUIRE STATE EXAMS, MICHIGAN EDUCATION OFFICIALS LOOK TO PROMOTE LOCAL TESTS INSTEAD

Michigan education officials appear poised to ask the federal government to allow the state to use benchmark assessments — tests that gauge academic improvement at multiple points during a school year — to meet U.S. student testing rules.

Those benchmark assessments, which Michigan schools are required to administer at least twice during this school year, would be administered instead of state exams such as the Michigan Student Test of Academic Progress and the SAT.

State Superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement late Monday that the Michigan Department of Education will reach out to federal education officials “to share the value of the benchmark assessments.”

Rice’s statement came several hours after the U.S. Department of Education announced that states must administer federally required standardized tests this year, but schools won’t be held accountable for the results. The administration said states could give shorter, remote, or delayed versions of the exams.


NEW AD CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES WITH GOAL OF REMINDING PEOPLE WHY TO GET THE VACCINE

Prepare for an onslaught of ads reminding us of all the things we miss about life before the pandemic – hugs, going to church, family gatherings and hanging with friends – and information about how COVID-19 vaccines can bring them back.

The ad campaign from The Ad Council will include more than $500 million in donated media and talent. It launched Thursday and will slowly change as the landscape of who’s eligible for vaccine and what questions they have shifts

The ads are aimed at the 40% of Americans who haven’t yet made up their minds about getting vaccinated, Sherman said. The Ad Council focused on in-depth focus groups and surveys to understand what questions people had and what their worries were.


GOVERNOR WHITMER SUGGESTS COVID RESTRICTION CHANGES IN COMING DAYS

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that her administration will examine easing some COVID-19 restrictions in the coming days as infection rates continue to decline.

The governor said decisions will be made on how to move forward on a “number of fronts.” She specifically mentioned policies surrounding nursing homes and limitations on gatherings.

In October, the health department issued an order allowing indoor visitation by appointment at long-term care facilities if a facility has had no new cases within 14 days and is in a county where COVID-19 prevalence falls within permissible boundaries.

Currently, through an epidemic order from the state Department of Health and Human  Services, Michigan limits indoor residential gatherings to no more than 10 people from no more than two households. For outdoor gatherings at residential venues, the current limit is 25 people from no more than three households.


MICHIGAN GOP WANTS INVESTIGATION INTO WHITMER’S NURSING HOME POLICIES

A group of Michigan Senate Republicans has requested that the state attorney general’s office investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and in particular—the governor’s nursing home policy.

Separate letters sent to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the U.S. Department of Justice Wednesday from Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and some of his Senate Republican colleagues argue that COVID-19 cases and deaths among older adults have skyrocketed in the last year.

The letters suggest this increase is an unintended consequence of Whitmer’s policies and noted discrepancies in the reported numbers of cases and deaths in the state’s long-term care facilities, according to a statement from Michigan Senate GOP members.

Runestad compared Michigan’s nursing home deaths to similar issues in New York state, where more than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic. The FBI and federal prosecutors have opened investigations into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus task force, also focusing on the governor’s handling of nursing homes.


CDC LAUNCHES WEB TOOL TO HELP AMERICAN’S FIND COVID-19 VACCINES

The scramble to secure a COVID-19 vaccine appointment is chaotic and fierce. There are not yet enough doses for everyone who’s eligible and wants to get vaccinated. As frustration rises, the federal government hasn’t offered much besides assurances that things will get better and appeals for calm.

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital and Castlight Health, is launching a new tool which allows Americans to search for COVID-19 vaccine providers with stock of vaccine where they live.

The tool, which builds on the existing VaccineFinder.org platform, will capture inventory data from vaccine providers around the country.

In most states, the initial launch is limited to certain providers — those getting vaccine directly from the federal government.

One concern is that — even though providers are supposed to update their inventory to VaccineFinder every 24 hours — they may not all do so consistently. If that happens, places that appear on the map to have doses in stock might actually not have any, says Claire Hannan, who leads the Association of Immunization Managers.


COVID RATES PLUNGE AT MICHIGAN NURSING HOMES FOLLOWING VACCINATIONS

Widespread vaccinations at Michigan’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for senior citizens have helped cause a steep decline in coronavirus cases.

Among nursing-home residents, the drop is massive — a 91 percent decrease in weekly coronavirus cases from Dec. 28 until Monday.

That decline, and an 83 percent decrease among staff, far exceeded than the state’s overall 65 percent decline in coronavirus infections over that time — trends that could add to the growing proof of the vaccines’ effectiveness.

It’s welcome news because nursing homes and other facilities for seniors have accounted for 37 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Of the 15,273 confirmed deaths, 5,515 have been residents at long-term care facilities. Another 79 employees at those facilities have died from COVID-19.


3.7% OF COVID-19 VACCINES WENT TO BLACK MICHIGANDERS AS STATE AIMS TO BOOST THAT RATE

Just 3.7% of the nearly 1.3 million Michiganders who have gotten at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are Black, even though they make up 13.7% of the state’s population, new data released Tuesday from the state health department shows.

People who identified as white got 41.7% of the first-dose vaccines, and 1.1% of first-dose vaccines were put into the arms of people who are listed as Asian or Pacific Islander, though they account for about 3.3% of the population. American Indian/Alaskan Natives got 0.3% of the vaccine first doses, the data shows. Some 9.5% of those vaccinated are listed as “other.”

However, state health officials say the statistics are incomplete, and don’t tell the full story because race and ethnicity information is missing for 43.7% of people who have gotten at least one shot in Michigan since mid-December — more than half a million people. 


BUSINESS LEADERS TO WHITMER: IT’S TIME TO LET EMPLOYEES WORK IN OFFICES AGAIN

Six of Michigan’s largest business organizations have signed onto a letter asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to allow workers to return to office settings.

While the latest state health order doesn’t mention offices in its list of restrictions, emergency rules from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration require office employees to work from home whenever their work can be done remotely.     Health officials say offices are less risky for COVID-19 spread than many currently-open places in Michigan, like movie theaters, casinos, schools, restaurants, bars, gyms and churches.

Offices can mandate masks, clean thoroughly, do daily health checks and require social distancing to help prevent virus spread, the letter says.

These six organizations signed onto the letter:

  • Grand Rapids Chamber
  • Detroit Regional Chamber
  • Small Business Association of Michigan
  • Michigan Chamber of Commerce
  • Michigan Manufacturers Association
  • Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce

OAKLAND COUNTY WARNING RESIDENTS OF COVID-19 VACCINE APPOINTMENT SCAM

The Oakland County Health Division has issued a warning that someone is trying to scam residents under the guise of attempting to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Residents have been encouraged to sign up on the county’s Save Your Spot Waitlist, which county public health officials pull from to schedule vaccine appointments based on eligibility and registration time stamp. There are currently over 500,000 residents registered on the list with the health division administering 6,000 to 7,000 vaccinations per week at its various drive-thru sites across the county.

According to the county, there is potential scam going on that involves a caller is asking questions in order to schedule a vaccine appointment, and then is asking for personal and financial information.

Leigh-Anne Stafford, the county’s health officer and health department director, said county staff will never ask for any financial information including credit card or social security numbers when calling to schedule vaccine appointments.


UM FINDS FIRST CASE OF COVID SPREAD FROM ORGAN DONOR TO PATIENT

Surgeons at Michigan Medicine have confirmed what is believed to be the first proven case of COVID-19 spread from an organ donor to an organ recipient through transplantation.

A woman in Michigan came down with symptoms a few days after receiving a double lung transplant and died two months later, according to the University of Michigan health system. A surgeon who handled the donated lungs was also infected but recovered. 

The discovery, which was made in October, comes as transplant surgeries are returning to normal levels following a sharp downturn early in the pandemic. It also is leading to calls to change the way lung donations are tested to better detect COVID-19.


MICHIGAN STUDENTS MUST TAKE M-STEP, DESPITE COVID

Michigan students will have to take the M-STEP this spring, after federal authorities denied a state request to cancel the standardized tests because of pandemic classroom disruptions.

The Monday decision from the U.S. Department of Education means students, some of whom still haven’t returned to classrooms since the pandemic began 11 months ago, will take the same tests as students do at the end of a normal year of learning.

It’s unclear yet whether students in districts that are still fully remote, as well as students who have opted to learn at home, will be allowed to take those tests in their homes or will be asked to come into classrooms.

The federal government requires some form of standardized test to compare student achievement between schools and classrooms. In Michigan, that test is the M-STEP, administered to students in grades 3 to 8 and 11. In Michigan, test scores can have ramifications for schools as well as for individual teachers, whose annual evaluations are based partly on student growth measured by standardized tests.


NEW CDC GUIDELINES SET A HIGH BAR FOR MICHIGAN SCHOOLS TO RESUME IN PERSON LEARNING

Despite a sense of urgency to return students to the classroom, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set a high bar for how to do it safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new CDC guidelines come as parents and educators in many Michigan communities are engaged in intense debate over reopening schools. The federal agency says schools can open safely if they put layered mitigation measures in place and offers a road map based on the surrounding community’s rate of COVID-19 transmission.

 

The CDC guidance — which is not a mandate — call for hybrid learning models in the majority of counties across Michigan and closing down secondary schools in counties with the highest community transmission.


FEDS SEND MICHIGAN MONEY TO FIND UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD

Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency estimates the state paid “hundreds of millions” of dollars in unemployment fraud in 2020, but so far has found about $93 million in overpayments and recovered about $47 million in 2020.

The federal government is sending money to 28 states – including Michigan – to help find unemployment fraud. Michigan received $2.5 million in August and another $2.5 million this month to search for fraud, in hopes of recovering some of the money.

Nearly all of the $2.5 million is going toward staffing, said Lynda Robinson, a spokeswoman for the UIA. Michigan has hired 50 temporary workers to solely focus on unemployment fraud.

Some funds are also going toward technology needs, Robinson said.

While officials believe hundreds of millions of dollars were swindled from Michigan, a majority of that is federal funding, not state funding, Robinson said.


MICHIGAN CORONAVIRUS CASES CONTINUE TO DECLINE

New coronavirus cases continued to decline Saturday as state health leaders reported 635 cases and 63 deaths.

The new cases for Saturday, Feb 20 was one of the lowest daily totals in last two weeks, with only Feb. 9 coming in lower at 563 cases.

Michigan now has a total of 579,919 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began nearly a year ago and 15,359 deaths.

The 63 deaths reported Saturday included 57 death identified through a routine review of death certificates, meaning they may not have occurred in the last 24 hours.

Data shows that 37,983 people were tested Friday, with 3.11 percent coming back positive.

State health leaders earlier said that a “positivity” rate of less than 3 percent is a good indication the virus spread is under control.

The state reports data on coronavirus recoveries once per week. As of Friday, 529,080 people had recovered since the beginning of the pandemic.


MICHIGAN’S COVID-19 VACCINE SHIPMENTS DELAYED DUE TO WEATHER 

Officials are urging residents to confirm their COVID-19 appointments because winter storm conditions in Kentucky and Tennessee are delaying vaccine shipments to the state, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified Michigan on Wednesday of shipment delays due to weather conditions of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The delays are affecting shipments across the country.

Pfizer vaccines were not shipped out on Monday due to the weather but some shipments are being processed this week.

Moderna vaccines were not shipped on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Severe weather affected a Moderna vaccine distribution center in Memphis, Tennessee, from air and ground transportation to the workforce, including those who pack and sort the vaccine.

The state health department said it will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as more information is learned.

 

Macomb County RESTAURANTS FILE LAWSUIT SEEKING COMPENSATION FOR COVID-19 LOSSES 

The Macomb County Restaurant, Bar, and Banquet Association have asked for a jury trial in an attempt to for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to pay for the losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Macomb County Restaurant, Bar, and Banquet Association — filed the lawsuit that alleges “new, different and unforeseen business expenses attributable to the COVID-19 orders are extreme,” and that “lost profits suffered by these businesses are astronomical.”

The lawsuit is looking for monetary compensation for the potential lost profits.


US LIFE EXPECTANCY DROPS FULL YEAR IN COVID-19 PANDEMIC 

Life expectancy in the United States dropped a staggering one year during the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused its first wave of deaths, health officials are reporting.

Minorities suffered the biggest impact, with Black Americans losing nearly three years and Hispanics, nearly two years, according to preliminary estimates Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is a huge decline,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees the numbers for the CDC. “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”

Other health experts say it shows the profound impact of COVID-19, not just on deaths directly due to infection but also from heart disease, cancer and other conditions.


MICHIGAN RESTAURANT GROUP PROPOSES PLAN TO ALLOW FOR 100 PERCENT CAPACITY  

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association has crafted a proposal for restrictions based on coronavirus testing statistics.

The MRLA proposed an “economic reintegration strategy” Wednesday, Feb. 17, which would base reopenings on the percentage of Michigan COVID-19 tests coming back positive.

Restaurants would close whenever more than 15% of tests are positive for 14 days in a row, using the seven-day average. This fall and winter, Michigan’s seven-day average peaked at 14.3% – meaning the MRLA plan would not have forced restaurants to shut down. The plan was designed by looking at other states’ reopening plans.

Whitmer addressed the proposal during a news conference Wednesday, saying she’ll always listen to input. But she added that if Michiganders want to raise capacity at restaurants, they need to keep helping COVID-19 numbers decline.


MICHIGAN’S LATEST CORONAVIRUS CASES  

Michigan reported 939 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

The state is averaging 901 new COVID-19 cases per day and 30 new deaths per day over the last week. This is the second straight day where the seven-day average of cases has increased, after 19 straight days of the average decreasing.

Since the start of the pandemic, Michigan has reported 577,203 confirmed cases and 15,188 deaths related to COVID-19.

Sixty of Michigan’s 83 counties reported new cases Monday. Wayne County led in new cases with 129, with the next closest being Oakland and Kent with 124.

As of Monday, Michigan had administered more than 1.68 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.


PRESIDENT BIDEN’S TRIP TO MICHIGAN DELAYED DUE TO WEATHER 

President Joe Biden’s Thursday trip to Michigan has been postponed due to the weather, according to a CNN report.

The announcement was confirmed by a White House official.

Biden was scheduled to tour the Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility in Portage on Thursday. Biden’s visit is now expected to take place on Friday, Feb. 19. It will be the president’s first visit to the state of Michigan since he was elected.

Pfizer said it takes about 110 days to produce a batch of the COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier this month, the company said it is launching “Project Light Speed” as it plans to make vaccine production more efficient. Pfizer expects to make a batch of the vaccine in about 60 days, meaning more doses are on the way.

 

 


90 CASES OF COVID-19 VARIANT DISCOVERED AT IONIA PRISON 

State health officials Tuesday reported 90 cases of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7. in an Ionia prison after identifying one case last week.

Results from daily testing of prisoners and staff at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility found 88 prisoners and two employees tested positive for the variant. An additional five members of the jail tested positive for the virus, according to Michigan State Police.

The Michigan Department of Corrections began routine testing after an employee at the prison was found to have the variant last week, state police said.

The variant is believed to be more contagious than the virus that causes COVID-19, authorities believe.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, there are 930 active COVID-19 cases, and more than 22,500 prisoners are considered recovered. There have been 138 prisoners and four staff member deaths.

 


WHITMER URGES PRESIDENT BIDEN TO COORDINATE FEDERAL VACCINATION DISTRIBUTION WITH STATE 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other governors across the country urged President Joe Biden to give states more data on where allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine are going, particularly in light of new federal programs that work directly with pharmacy chains.

Both Republican and Democratic governors from the National Governor’s Association co-signed a Feb. 15 letter stating that “the CDC reporting mechanism has created unnecessary confusion.”

Whitmer and the other governors want to distinguish information derived from federal vaccine distribution efforts from those conducted by the states.

One of the main concerns from the Whitmer administration is if vaccines sent to pharmacies such as CVS or Walgreen’s by the federal government count towards the state’s allotment.

Michigan ranks No. 38 among states in administering the COVID-19 vaccine per 100,000 residents according to CDC data (not including U.S. territories and the District of Columbia). As of Monday, Feb. 14, Michigan distributed about 2.3 million doses and administered more than 1.6 million, a gap of nearly 700,000 doses.

 


OAKLAND COUNTY PREPARES COURTROOMS FOR RETURN OF IN PERSON TRIALS 

Oakland County administration is seeking board of commissioners approval to spend nearly $70,000 on upgrades to seven courtrooms to prepare them for in person jury trials during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As of now, all circuit and probate court courtrooms are closed for in person jury trials due to the pandemic, but are scheduled to resume later this year.

The funding would be used to install plexiglass barriers and social distancing floor decals in six circuit court courtrooms and one probate court courtroom. The project would also involve reducing seating and moving tables to further promote social distancing in accordance with state and federal workplace safety guidelines.

 


BEAUMONT CANCELS APPOINTMENTS DUE TO VACCINE SHORTAGE  

Beaumont Health announced Monday it has canceled nearly 2,000 appointments this week for people expecting their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

The health system canceled 1,884 second-dose appointments scheduled for Thursday after learning on Friday of an unexpected reduction in Pfizer vaccine allocations from the state.

The hospital system said it is working to reschedule those appointments one week later on the same day, at the same time, barring the state supplies enough of the vaccine by then.

Additionally, Beaumont Health will not schedule new first dose vaccine appointments at the Beaumont Service Center until it gets more doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

While Pfizer’s vaccine doses are recommended to be given three weeks apart, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the vaccine remains effective when patients receive the second dose up to six weeks after the first dose, the hospital system said.

 


MICHIGAN TO DISTRIBUTE VACCINES TO HEALTH CENTERS SERVING VULNERABLE POPULATIONS

The state of Michigan will begin distributing vaccine to certain federally qualified health centers to ensure those at highest risk of serious COVID-19 complications — racial or ethnic minorities, or people with lower incomes or disabilities — are prioritized for vaccines.

The new program also will prioritize vaccinations for mortuary workers and, starting March 1, roughly 79,000 workers in food processing and agricultural settings.

The 41 federally qualified health centers eligible under the new strategy will help to vaccinate people over the age of 65 who are in medically under-served areas. Separately, health providers with specific plans to remove socioeconomic barriers to the vaccine will be allowed to request vaccine for folks over 60

The new populations and administrators prioritized for vaccine distributions advance the state’s goals for both equity in vaccine administration and a 70% vaccination rate among those over the age of 16, said Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

 


COVID VACCINES MAY BE TWEAKED IF VARIANTS GET WORSE

The makers of COVID-19 vaccines are figuring out how to tweak their recipes against worrisome virus mutations — and regulators are looking to the flu as a blueprint if and when the shots need an update.

Viruses mutate constantly and it takes just the right combination of particular mutations to escape vaccination. But studies are raising concern that first-generation COVID-19 vaccines don’t work as well against a mutant that first emerged in South Africa as they do against other versions circulating around the world.

The good news: Many of the new COVID-19 vaccines are made with new, flexible technology that’s easy to upgrade. What’s harder: Deciding if the virus has mutated enough that it’s time to modify vaccines — and what changes to make.

The WHO and FDA are looking to the global flu vaccine system in deciding how to handle similar decisions about COVID-19 shots.   Influenza mutates much faster than the coronavirus, and flu shots have to be adjusted just about every year.

 


BEAUMONT ALLOWS FOR LIMITED VISITATION FOR PATIENTS WITHOUT COVID-19  

Beaumont Health has announced a change to its guidelines effective Monday, Feb. 15, which will allow visitation for patients who do not have COVID-19, and are not suspected of having the virus.

If the number of cases goes up at Beaumont or within the community, further adjustments will be made to visitation.

The new rules include visitation of one support person for those without COVID-19, between 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Patients who are end-of-life, or being evaluated for hospice care, may have have two support persons.   Patients 21 and under may have two parents or legal guardians present, and one may stay overnight.


DETROIT RESEARCH PROMISES TO HELP FIGHT COVID VARIANTS 

Research underway in Detroit is exploring the potential for convalescent plasma to treat and possibly prevent COVID-19 infections caused by variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Wayne State University physicians are conducting clinical trials that are part of a Johns Hopkins University study to determine if convalescent plasma could help prevent serious disease in people newly infected with COVID-19 — or perhaps even prevent infections in people who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The trial aims to enroll about 1,300 patients with at least 500 in the prevention arm. As of now, there are more than 700 enrolled in the COVID-positive part of the trial, and more than 150 in the prevention arm.

There are two sets of convalescent plasma trials being conducted in Michigan by Johns Hopkins University, which is still seeking volunteers. Participants in the prevention trial must be 18 or older, and not been vaccinated against COVID-19, while participants in the treatment trial must be 18 older and not have received any experimental therapy for COVID-19. For information or to enroll, visit covidplasmatrial.org.

 


MICHIGAN ADMINISTERS MORE THAN 1.5 MILLION DOSES OF COVID-19 VACCINE

About two months after starting the vaccination effort, more than 1.5 million doses have been administered to heath care workers, people over 65, and others in Michigan as of Thursday, Feb. 11.

The state remains in phase 1B of the vaccination schedule. Counties around the state continue their efforts to administer two doses of the vaccine to people as they become eligible to receive them, based on the state’s guidelines

Michigan reported 1,193 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths Friday, Feb. 12.

Since the start of the pandemic, Michigan has reported 573,372 confirmed cases and 15,062 deaths related to COVID-19, as of Feb. 12.


OAKLAND COUNTY ANTICIPATING MILLIONS IN ADDITIONAL FEDERAL PANDEMIC AID 

Oakland County officials are anticipating to receive hundreds of millions in additional federal COVID-19 assistance to support its proactive COVID-19 pandemic response efforts, but that’s only if lawmakers in Lansing and Washington D.C. decide to take action on pending supplemental budget proposals.

Last month, the State of Michigan recently received $5.6 billion from the federal government as part of a $900 billion relief package passed by Congress in December

Included in that pot of federal funds is $665 million to support vaccine, testing, and contact tracing-related efforts across Michigan, including in Oakland County.

Sean Carlson, deputy county executive, said Oakland County could receive around 11% of that $665 million, amounting to around $73 million. That’s only if the state decides to distribute funding straight to the locals governments rather than administering and distributing through state government channels.

 


MICHIGAN IS NOT COLLECTING RACE DATA ON COVID VACCINES

Ten months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made racial equity a cornerstone of the state’s pandemic response — and two months after the first COVID vaccines arrived in Michigan — the state still doesn’t collect standardized data on race to ensure vaccines are fairly distributed.

Elizabeth Hertel, who took over as director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services last month, told Bridge the state is trying to catch up on collecting demographic data on the vaccine. The problem, she said, is that the computer system the state uses to track vaccinations had never been asked to collect race data

For more than two decades, the state has used an immunization record-keeping system, known as Michigan Care Improvement Registry, or MCIR, to track vaccines.

Now the state is scrambling to figure out how to get race data that may be captured elsewhere — such as electronic patient records kept by hospitals, clinics and other health providers — and connect it with COVID vaccine records in MCIR, Hertel said.

More than 1 million Michiganders already have gotten at least one of the two required doses of the vaccine.


CDC SAYS FULLY VACCINATED PEOPLE DO NOT NEED TO QUARANTINE IF EXPOSED TO COVID-19 

Individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to quarantine after being exposed to someone with coronavirus if they’re not symptomatic, according to new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fully vaccinated means a person has gone two weeks since receiving the second of two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and that they’re within three months of receiving the last dose in the series.

However, if you’re been vaccinated and you become symptomatic following an exposure, you should still follow the CDC’s quarantine guidelines as well as be clinically evaluated for COVID-19.

The guidance comes with an exception: vaccinated in-patients and residents in health care settings should continue to quarantine following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

 


oakland county MAY WAIVE SOME FEES FOR RESTAURANTS 

The Oakland County Health Department may soon waive certain fees for licensed food establishments with so many businesses continuing to struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Commissioner Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake) recently introduced a resolution seeking to waive all county food establishment fees through September. These would include annual inspection, license, class and testing, and food plan review fees, all of which are collected by the health department.

Kowall said the resolution aims to address the economic impact of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on the local food service industry. She added that these dollars could be reimbursed using eligible pandemic relief dollars received from the state and federal government.

Eligible businesses would be those that provide dine-in services and can demonstrate a 25 percent loss of income.

 


STATE WORKER TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID VARIANT

The COVID variant that first originated in the United Kingdom continues to spread in Michigan and has now been detected in a state prison near Lansing.

There are 61 people in Michigan who have contracted the B.1.1.7. variant, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. The majority of the cases, 39, are within the University of Michigan community, the Washtenaw County Health Department said.

In addition, the variant that is believed to be more contagious than COVID-19 has also been detected for the first time in a Michigan Department of Corrections facility. MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz said Wednesday an employee at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia tested positive.

All prisoners and employees there will now be tested daily as opposed to the weekly testing that has been the norm. The regimen will include a daily rapid test. If a test result is positive, a PCR test will be administered and sent to the state lab for testing for the variant


FEDS INVESTIGATE COUNTERFEIT N85 MASK SCAM 

Federal authorities are investigating a massive counterfeit N95 mask operation in which fake 3M masks were sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. The foreign-made knockoffs are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and could put health care workers at grave risk for the coronavirus.

These masks are giving first responders “a false sense of security,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with the Homeland Security Department’s principal investigative arm. He added, “We’ve seen a lot of fraud and other illegal activity.”

Nearly a year into the pandemic, fraud remains a major problem as scammers seek to exploit hospitals and desperate and weary Americans. Federal investigators say they have seen an increase in phony websites purporting to sell vaccines as well as fake medicine produced overseas and scams involving personal protective equipment. The schemes deliver phony products, unlike fraud earlier in the pandemic that focused more on fleecing customers.


oakland county partners with software company to help with covid screening 

Oakland County is partnering with a Rochester-based software development company to help make it easier for restaurants and schools to adhere to State of Michigan workplace safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county has signed a five-month contract with Clear To Go! for use of its software and smartphone app that helps ensure people entering a school or restaurant are healthy and adhering to state and local health protocols. The app will be used by schools and restaurants to screen employees and guests, collect information for contact tracing and case management purposes, and to manage employee availability and visitor presence.

The county is paying $500,000-$750,000 for the cost of the software using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars, which were approved by Congress in December 2020. The software is also being used by Orion Township, Lake Orion Schools, and the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester.


MICHIGAN governor to gop: release covid relief aid or vaccinations will suffer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that “time is of the essence” and urged the Republican-run Legislature to appropriate federal COVID-19 relief dollars without strings to better fund vaccination efforts.

The request comes after both the state House and Senate introduced supplemental spending plans that hold back some of the federal funding approved by Congress in December. Both chambers indicated the funding would be meted out gradually to maintain spending oversight.

The Democratic governor had proposed a $5 billion supplemental spending plan, while the House plan came in at $3.5 billion and the Senate’s came in at $2 billion

House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, defends the GOP’s plan. “Despite what the governor said, our plan simply refuses to throw all the money in at once,” Wentworth said Tuesday. “It’s not what we do in our households and it’s not what we’re going to do with hard-earned taxpayer dollars. We’re going to be careful, responsible, and accountable.”


MICHIGAN reports lowest coronavirus case increase since the FALL

Michigan reported 563 new cases of the coronavirus Tuesday, its lowest single-day increase since September 2020 and the first time the state has had a single-day increase in case below 1,000 cases since October 2020.

The state also reported 60 more COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, bringing the coronavirus death toll in the state to 14,965. Thirty-one of the deaths were identified through a vital records review, officials said.

Tuesday’s update was Michigan’s lowest single-day increase in cases since Sept. 22, 2020.

Michigan’s Tuesday coronavirus update came as the state continued to stress its push to have residents vaccinated against the coronavirus. Beginning this week, a string of pharmacy chains in Michigan will be provided doses of the COVID-19 vaccines directly, allowing them to administer vaccines.

 


JUDGE DISMISSES CHARGES AGAINST PROTESTING HAIRSTYLISTS 

A Lansing District Court judge has dismissed charges against six hairstylists who cut hair on the Capitol lawn in May as part of a protest against stay-home orders that barred salons and barbershops from opening.

More than 20 hair stylists cut hair during the rally on the Capitol lawn in part to support 77-year-old Owosso barber Karl Manke, who reopened his business despite threats from state and local health departments. “Operation Haircut” was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and was one of several rallies protesting the governor’s stay-home orders last spring and summer.

They had been charged with disorderly conduct for operating an illegal profession or business.  The charge would have been punishable by up to a $500 fine or 93 days in jail.

Lansing District Court Judge Kristen D. Simmons dismissed charges against the demonstrators Monday in a verbal ruling. During the short hearing, Simmons dismissed all charges because Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office had failed to appear in court or respond to a motion to dismiss.

Licensing sanctions against the stylists are still being deliberated. Nessel’s office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

 

 


KROGER OFFERS BONUS TO EMPLOYEES WHO GET COVID VACCINE 

The Kroger Co. is giving a $100 bonus to its employees who get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Kroger employees, including about 19,000 in Michigan, receive the one-time payment of $100 when vaccinated with the “full manufacturer-recommended” dose along with proof of the vaccination.

Those employees who, for medical or religious reasons, cannot get the vaccine can complete an educational health and safety course to receive the $100, according to a news release.

Grocery workers are part of Phase 1b of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine rollout recommendations.

.On Friday, Kroger also announced it will invest an additional $50 million in rewards as a thank you to its associates. The rewards include a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points loaded to associates’ loyalty cards on Feb. 11. Hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates are eligible for the additional rewards.

Nationwide, Cincinnati-based Kroger has nearly 500,000 associates across more than 2,700 stores.


MEIJER TO LAUNCH VACCINE CLINICS IN MICHIGAN STORES 

Meijer is launching a series of COVID-19 vaccination clinics at stores across Michigan this week, with plans to administer up to 25,000 doses in its first week.

Meijer says the vaccines will be administered to Michiganders 65 years and older who have pre-registered through the company’s vaccine registration process.

During the last few weeks, Meijer says it has conducted vaccine clinics in numerous counties throughout the state, administering up to 1,200 vaccines in a single day at some stores. Since its first clinic on Jan. 15, the retailer has administered more than 20,000 doses in Michigan and more than 30,000 doses overall, primarily to seniors 65 and older.


MICHIGAN’S GENERAL POPULATION MAY NOT GET VACCINE UNTIL FALL

Michigan health officials revealed Friday how the slow rollout of the two COVID-19 vaccines has dimmed an earlier forecast about when the shots would be available to the general public.

In late December, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said she expected the vaccine to be available to the general public by late spring. But Friday’s presentation by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services officials included a timeline showing that members of the general public — those who don’t belong to a special group like people older than age 65 or specified front-line workers — would not be vaccinated until October or November, a shift of about four to five months.

But Khaldun noted Michigan’s timeline could change depending on how much vaccine is available.

Officials outlined a detailed strategy Friday to get at least 70% of residents immunized against COVID-19, but they said the plan can’t be fully implemented until the state receives more doses of vaccine from the federal government.


FEDERAL MASK VIOLATIONS COULD RESULT IN FINES UP TO $1500 

The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it will recommend fines ranging from $250 to $1,500 for people who do not abide by the new transportation mask order issued by President Joe Biden on his second day in office.

The agency said it could also “seek a sanction amount that falls outside these ranges,” and noted in the announcement that the higher fines would apply to repeat offenders.

Biden’s order requires people to wear masks in airports, bus and train terminals and on trains, planes, buses and public transportation

The TSA has been charged with implementing Biden’s executive order and subsequent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask-wearing rules that took affect Feb. 1 and built on the order.

 

 


AVERAGE MICHIGAN RESIDENT HAD NEARLY 1,000 ALCOHOLIC DRINKS IN 2020 

Michigan was apparently full of heavy drinkers in 2020, survey data shows.

It could be because many of us stayed home binge-watching shows and movies with a drink in hand to escape the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced us to stay home in the first place. While we might not know the exact reason so many drinks were downed, here’s what the latest data says about us.

The average Michigander consumed nearly 956 alcoholic drinks in 2020, a study by DrugAbuse.com revealed. That comes out to 18 drinks per week, which exceeds “heavy drinking” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Nearly 25% of Michiganders admitted to drinking more during pandemic stay-home orders and bar closures, according to DrugAbuse.com.

Michiganders were the 10th heaviest drinkers across the country. Alaskans consumed the most alcohol with an average of 27 standard drinks per week – a total of 1,404 over the year on average. Comparatively, residents in Hawaii and New Hampshire drank the least with just 10 drinks per week.

 


WHITMER LIFTS BAN ON CONTACT HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that high school sports leagues in Michigan will be able to begin holding practices and competitions on Monday, another sign of the state’s improving COVID-19 metrics.

The announcement came after a weeks-long push by the parents and student-athletes that has included protests, committee testimony and a Wednesday lawsuit challenging the ban on contact sports, which had been scheduled to remain in place through Feb. 21. The campaign has been operating under the name Let Them Play.

Under a new epidemic order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, masks are to be worn during practices and competition. If masks cannot be worn, participants must be regularly tested for COVID-19 consistent with guidelines issued by the department, according to a press release

Asked what impact the Let Them Play demonstration on Saturday had on her decision to allow sports, Whitmer said “none” during the Thursday press conference.

“I’ve been very clear that we are going to follow the science, and that’s what we have been doing,” the governor continued.

 


MICHIGAN LAWMAKERS ALLOWED TO JUMP TO THE FRONT OF THE VACCINE LINE 

As thousands of seniors scramble for the coronavirus vaccine, some politicians in southeast Michigan are jumping to the front of line with the help of their local governments.

Oakland County and Detroit have offered the vaccine to politicians, with Oakland offering it to state legislators and county commissioners and Detroit offering it to legislators and city council members. Macomb County allows elected municipal leaders to sign up as well.

The decisions to prioritize public officials appear in conflict with established priority groups that currently favor people 65 years old and older — or a liberal interpretation of “frontline workers.”

Oakland County confirmed it had offered the vaccine to state representatives, senators, and county commissioners, saying they were part of the “vital public interest during the pandemic.”

Michigan gives counties and municipalities some discretion in administering the vaccines, so there’s nothing illegal about giving it to politicians before some seniors.

 

 


HOW MICHIGAN FLATTENED THE COVID-19 CURVE 

Michigan has seen a dramatic reduction in positive COVID-19 cases, deaths and outbreaks after experiencing a fall surge that prompted state health officials to expand controversial restrictions.

According to data from the state health department, Michigan has decreased case rates by 72% from a peak in November, and weekly death tallies have declined for five consecutive weeks. Active outbreaks also are down 6% from the previous week.

A University of Michigan COVID-19 model now estimates the impact of social distancing during the state’s “Pause to Save Lives” that began in November prevented approximately 109,000 cases.

While it’s difficult to say for certain what helped flatten Michigan’s curve, Dr. Preeti Malani, UM chief health officer and professor of infectious disease, believes it’s a combination of the pause, mitigation such as wearing a mask and washing hands, less travel, fewer festivities and the rollout of 1 million doses of vaccine in the state.

 

 


MICHIGAN TO OFFER WEEKLY COVID-19 TESTING FOR TEACHERS 

Michigan will offer weekly COVID-19 tests to teachers in both private and public schools with the hope of achieving Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal of all schools offering in-person instruction by March 1, state health officials announced Tuesday.

The Michigan Safe Schools Testing Program will provide supplies for COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to schools at no cost to districts, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. About 300 schools and 9,000 staff members have signed up for testing so far, officials said.

The testing program is modeled after Michigan’s pilot project that tested student athletes and coaches who were participating in playoffs for high school fall sports such as football, health officials said. In that program, more than 8,300 people were tested, and it resulted in the detection of 69 asymptomatic COVID-19 cases that otherwise would have been missed, according to data provided by the health department.

 


FAUCI WARNS SUPER BOWL PARTIES COULD BECOME SUPERSPREADERS 

Many Americans will likely want to celebrate this Sunday’s Super Bowl as they have in previous years, with large, snack-filled watch parties. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser and the nation’s top infectious disease official, is urging people to break from tradition to prevent a potential spike in COVID-19.

In appearances on NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday morning – and again at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing – Fauci implored people to limit their gatherings to household members only.

“You don’t want parties with people that you haven’t had much contact with, you just don’t know if they’re infected,” he told Good Morning America. “So as difficult as that is, at least this time around, just lay low and cool it.”

While acknowledging that the Super Bowl is not officially a national holiday, Fauci on Today compared it to other major events that have prompted upticks in the country’s COVID-19 case count, like Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.


STUDY FINDS COVID-19 VACCINE MAY REDUCE VIRUS TRANSMISSION 

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine does more than prevent people from falling seriously ill — it appears to reduce transmission of the virus and offers strong protection for three months on just a single dose, researchers said Wednesday in an encouraging turn in the campaign to suppress the outbreak.

The preliminary findings from Oxford University, a co-developer of the vaccine, could vindicate the British government’s controversial strategy of delaying the second shot for up to 12 weeks so that more people can be quickly given a first dose. Up to now, the recommended time between doses has been four weeks.

The research could also bring scientists closer to an answer to one of the big questions about the vaccination drive: Will the vaccines actually curb the spread of the coronavirus?

It’s not clear what implications, if any, the findings might have for the two other major vaccines being used in the West, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.


MICHIGAN makes strides in nursing home vaccinations

Every person who wants a coronavirus vaccine who lives in a skilled nursing facility in Michigan has had the chance to get at least a first dose, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, in written testimony Tuesday submitted to the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

As of Jan. 28, 104,209 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been injected into the arms of residents and staff, she said.

And by the end of February, Khaldun said she expects all of the staff and residents at the state’s 4,400 long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities as well as adult foster care homes and homes for the aged, will have had a chance to get at least a first dose

However, it is unclear what that might mean for strict visitation rules at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that have kept families separated from their loved ones for nearly a year.

 

 


 MICHIGAN’s superintendent calls for increasing required school days 

Michael Rice, Michigan’s state superintendent, wants lawmakers to increase the number of required school days in the wake of COVID-19, saying “more time is the clearest need” for students.

Rice made the comment during a Tuesday joint hearing of the House and Senate education committees. The meeting came as schools across the state grapple with how to offer in-person instruction and effectively teach students amid fears of a spreading virus.

Michigan schools have been required to provide at least 180 days of instruction. But that number was too low even before COVID-19 hit, Rice said.

With the virus overhauling education and leaving dozens of districts with only online learning for nearly a year, most students are receiving less instruction time than in any similar period previously, the superintendent said.

He didn’t identify how many days should be added to the current requirement.

 

 


more MICHIGAN teachers leaving profession as pandemic drags on   

A rising number of teachers are retiring or leaving the profession early during the COVID-19 pandemic, deepening Michigan’s long-running educator shortage just as more districts are reopening classrooms and asking faculty to lead both online and in-person classes.

State data on school employee retirements from the last five years show more educators are retiring mid-year than in previous years. Retirements in September through December were up 42% to 71% over the same period in the previous four years, said Doug Pratt, spokesman for the Michigan Education Association.

When teachers must quarantine or get COVID-19 during the school year, that means school officials have to find a replacement for at least 10-14 days. The same goes for bus drivers, food service workers and custodians. In some districts, teachers and other staff members are taking 12 weeks off as allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Last week in her State of the State address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revealed she plans to award previously approved grants of up to $500 each for teachers and support staff.

 

 


MICHIGAN WORKERS ENDURE ANOTHER GLITCH IN UNEMPLOYMENT SYSTEM 

The Michigan government website used by jobless workers to file and certify claims stopped working on Monday, one day after the state emailed long-term unemployed workers directions on how to extend their benefits.

Instead of being allowed to reactivate accounts or certify that their layoffs continue, workers were met with a blank screen as they tried to navigate from the Unemployment Insurance Agency system into the system known as MILogin, run by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).

The issue started Monday morning, and by 5:30 p.m. no cause had been identified. Also undetermined was when it will be fixed or how many workers were shut out of the system.

While the system problem rests with DTMB, it follows nearly a year of complaints with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) due to logjams and other problems – including massive fraud attempts – that delayed benefits payments to jobless workers during the pandemic.

 

 


MODERNA VACCINES THOUGHT SPOILED OK TO USE 

Nearly 9,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine that officials thought were spoiled because of temperature-control issues during delivery to Michigan last month can be used, state health officials said Monday.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said it has been notified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the doses  “remain viable and can be used to vaccinate Michiganders,” according to a news release.

The monitoring devices used to check the vaccine temperature while in transport showed that 8,900 doses shipped by McKesson Corp. in mid-January went outside of the recommended range, getting too cold, health officials said.


 OAKLAND COUNTY SCHOOLS REPORT ZERO NEW COVID OUTBREAKS 

Of the 129 new COVID-19 outbreaks at Michigan schools reported for last week, none of them were at Oakland County schools.

An outbreak, as defined by the state, is two or more cases that have shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households.

Ongoing outbreaks continue to be listed at five schools in Oakland County including Kent Lake Elementary in South Lyon (2), Holy Name in Birmingham (2), Our Lady of the Lakes High School in Waterford (3), Everest Collegiate in Clarkston (7) and Lawrence Tech (4) in Southfield.

Oakland University which was on the ongoing outbreak list for months, has been removed from it.

In other outbreak news in region 2N which includes Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties there were 13 new outbreaks at long-term care facilities; six in manufacturing and construction; six at health care facilities; three at office settings; two at childcare settings; and one each at social gatherings and outdoor community exposure.

 


 BEAUMONT CANCELS VACCINE APPOINTMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO BYPASSED PRIORITY GROUPS 

Beaumont Health is canceling hundreds of COVID-19 vaccination appointments scheduled without authorization after a user found a vulnerability in its scheduling tool, according to the health system.

After the user found the problem in the hospital’s Epic medical record system and shared a scheduling pathway publicly, 2,700 people were able to cut in line and sign for vaccine appointments, according to a release from Beaumont. The hospital detected ‘unusual activity’  Saturday and all the appointments were canceled.

The unauthorized method of scheduling allowed users to essentially cut in line in front of those in priority groups, according to Beaumont.

No medical records were compromised during this incident and standing vaccine appointments made through the standard process on Epic are unaffected, according to Epic.

Those who scheduled an appointment using the alternative pathway will be notified that their appointment has been canceled via email.

 


 MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY TELLS STUDENTS TO STAY HOME DUE TO COVID SURGE 

With COVID-19 spreading through residence halls and test positivity rates triple the state average, Michigan State University is asking students to stay in their dorm rooms or apartments.

The “enhanced physical-distance directive,” sent in a letter to students Saturday, will be in effect through Feb 13. The University of Michigan announced a similar directive last week that runs through Feb. 11.

No cases of COVID-19 variants — some of which are believed to be more contagious — have been detected yet at MSU, according to university spokesperson Emily Guerrant. There were 14 variant cases identified at the University of Michigan as of Wednesday

MSU officials cited rising test positivity rates in its residence halls as the reason for the directive.

 


 MICHIGAN RELEASES COVID-19 SAFER DINING PLAN 

Michigan released the COVID-19 Safer Dining Plan, which includes a voluntary program that allows restaurants to work with a licensed HVAC contractor to improve air ventilation.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced restaurants can reopen starting Feb. 1, with safety measurements in place.

The plan outlines guidelines including 25% capacity limits, mask-wearing when not eating or drinking, 6-feet between tables, no more than six people at a table and a 10 p.m. curfew.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) also launched a new site dedicated to COVID-19 workplace safety Friday, complete with fact sheets, reopening checklists and coronavirus safety posters for employees.

Through MIOSHA, the governor proposed funding to support the program as part of the $10 million budget plan for COVID-19 safety.

 


MICHIGAN IS GETTING BETTER AT VACCINE DISTRIBUTION, IT’S STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH 

After a slow start, Michigan has ramped up its coronavirus vaccinations and now is one of the better states at getting shots into arms.

Michigan now ranks 20th in the rate at which it is vaccinating its residents, up from 45th just weeks ago. But despite the improvement, frustration is rampant among residents, as well as county and health officials.

Most say there still simply are not enough doses of the vaccines designed to stop the spread of a disease that has killed over 14,000 people in Michigan alone.

So far, vaccine manufacturers have shipped nearly 1.5 million doses of the vaccine to Michigan and over 802,000 have administered to residents: 659,000 in first doses, with 143,000 of those already getting the required second dose

One other source of frustration is that some counties appear to be doing better than others at vaccinating residents. Statewide, about 6,500 per 100,000 residents have gotten at least the first dose of the two-dose vaccines.

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced that all states can expect a 16 percent increase in doses starting next week.

For Michigan, that would mean another 30,000-40,000 doses. County health officials say they need far more.

 

 


 PEPAID DEBIT STIMULUS CARDS ARE NOT A SCAM 

As more stimulus payments are sent out, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reminds residents prepaid Visa debit cards are not a scam.

Look out for a white envelope with the U.S. Department of Treasury seal, Nessel said. Stimulus debit cards will have a Visa logo on the front and ‘MetaBank, N.A.’ on the back.

Prepaid stimulus Visas are mailed with instructions, but Michigan residents can expect stimulus payments in one of three ways, Nessel said.

The second round of stimulus payments is half the amount of the first in the spring. Individuals making $75,000 or less will get $600. Couples filing taxes jointly and making less than $150,000 will get $1,200.

People making less than $87,000 and couples making less than $174,000 can also get partial stimulus payments. However, the $600 payment will decrease by $5 for every $100 for individuals making over $75,000, or $150,000 for couples.

The Visa cards come with some protections against fraud and loss, Nessel said. For more information on how to use the prepaid card or to track its status, check with the IRS here.

 

 


AS WHITMER CALLS FOR UNITY, GOP LEADERS CLAIM SHE SHUT THEM OUT

Amid calls for unity, a war of words erupted Thursday as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican lawmakers traded verbal blows just one day after the State of the State address.

On Wednesday afternoon, Whitmer delivered her third-ever State of the State address, touching on issues related to the coronavirus pandemic as Democratic and Republican state leaders struggle to see eye to eye on coronavirus response and aid plans.

Michigan’s top GOP leaders Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Jason Wentworth said in a joint response Thursday that Whitmer did not deliver a concrete plan during the State of the State address, and they want more from her going forward. Shirkey said legislators have not had a productive meeting with Whitmer’s office in the last nine months.

“Since March 13, I’ve been invited to one conversation with the governor, but invited to many presentations,” Shirkey said. “The point being that you can’t govern, you can’t acknowledge input from others, by doing one way, one-sided presentations.” Shirkey repeatedly reiterated that there had been few discussions with Whitmer’s office over the course of the pandemic.

In response, Gov. Whitmer’s office issued their own statement saying Republicans were invited to COVID-19 briefings.

“Governor Whitmer is briefed weekly by top public health experts in the state on COVID-19, including an overview of cases, trends and modeling for the state of Michigan and neighboring states, as well as a discussion of policy interventions,” wrote Deputy Press Secretary Bobby Leddy. “The legislative leadership and their designees have been invited to join the governor’s briefing, however Republican leadership’s attendance is hit or miss. Governor Whitmer will continue to invite legislators to these calls and their frequent quadrant meetings, as it’s more important than ever to work together to combat our common enemy, COVID-19.”

The Republican-led Senate made an unusual political maneuver Wednesday, blocking 13 of the governor’s appointees for several boards and commissions. Normally, nominees are considered for appointment one at a time rather than as a group. Shirkey ultimately said Thursday that the Senate would continue to hold nominees hostage and would continue to take action against the governor until she “stops acting unilaterally.”

 

 


GOVERNOR WHITMER seeks common ground in STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH  

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged a move toward “common ground” with Republican lawmakers Wednesday during her third State of the State address as she called for ending the COVID-19 pandemic and boosting the economy.

The less-than-30-minute speech was short on criticism but emphasized working together despite high-profile clashes with Republican lawmakers as recently as Wednesday afternoon.

Whitmer called on the Legislature to pass her $5.6 billion COVID-19 relief plan “immediately.” On Jan. 19, the governor proposed the plan, which would rely heavily on dollars from the federal government and features $2 billion for schools, $225 million for economic development programs and an extension of unemployment benefits.

So far, Republicans in the Legislature have rebuffed the plan. The House GOP unveiled its alternative, $3.5 billion idea on Wednesday. It included tying $2 billion in education funding to the governor handing her administration’s power to close schools and halt sports over to local health departments.

 


university of MICHIGAN issues stay at home recommendation 

All students on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus are being told to stay home, except for a handful of in-person classes, for the next two weeks. The school asked students to limit their time outside their residence following a recommendation from the county health department.

It comes days after the university’s athletic department suspended all operations for 14 days to try to slow the spread of a variant strain of the coronavirus.

Students are being asked to remain at their campus-area addresses and to not gather with others outside of their household members.

Students are permitted to leave their residence only to participate in limited activities, including in-person classes, work or research that cannot be completed remotely, obtaining food and medical care and other approved activities.

“The stay-in-place recommendation is in place immediately through 11:59pm on Feb. 7,” the school and health department said in a news release. “More stringent actions may be necessary if this outbreak continues to grow and additional variant clusters are identified. All U-M students living on or near campus also are strongly encouraged to participate in free weekly testing provided by the university. Undergraduates living on or coming to campus are required by the university to be tested weekly.”

As of Wednesday, there were 14 cases of the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant in Washtenaw County. The outbreak traces back to one female student athlete.

 

 


ray’s ice cream raises more than $50,000 to keep doors open

Business is so slow at Ray’s Ice Cream in Royal Oak that the 63-year-old shop was forced to launch a crowdfunding campaign this week to stay afloat thanks to the pandemic.

The response was overwhelming.

The family-owned business smashed its $50,000 goal in just 24 hours, raising more than $52,000. And the majority of contributions were small — $5 to $250, according to a Facebook post by Ray’s Ice Cream.

“We are speechless. The amount of love and support we have received in the last 24 hours has been amazing,” the shop stated. “We love our customers and would not be the community staple we are if it wasn’t for all of you!”

With the lack of indoor seating and some restaurant closures, the ice cream shop’s business has suffered.   Half of Ray’s Ice Cream’s business is distributing to restaurants while the other half is their retail soda fountain store.

 


GOVERNOR WHITMER PREPARES TO DELIVER UNUSUAL STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH  

COVID-19, the virus that’s taken lives and reshaped Michigan’s economy, is expected to be the focus Wednesday of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s third State of the State address, a speech that could make history in its format alone.

Because of concerns about the spread of the virus, the governor will break tradition by not delivering her speech directly in front of state lawmakers in the House chamber. Instead, she will speak over a video feed at 7 p.m. with legislators planning to watch from their homes.

Whitmer, a Democrat, is expected to expound Wednesday on what’s become a familiar theme over the past year: Her administration’s response to COVID-19 and the state’s potential emergence from the pandemic through vaccinations, a plan to address learning lapses and a boost to the state economy through stimulus dollars.

The address comes as Republican leaders lobby for a return to normalcy, moving away from executive decision-making to allow for the GOP-controlled Legislature’s resumed involvement in state policy choices.

 


MICHIGAN CONTINUES TO SHOW DECLINE IN COVID-19 CASES 

The Michigan health department reported 1,476 new cases of COVID-19 and 79 new deaths in the state Tuesday.

Michigan now has a total of 552,556 confirmed cases and 14,405 deaths since March.

Of the 79 additional deaths reported Tuesday, 44 were identified during a vital records review, which the state health department conducts three times a week.

The state has shipped 1,477,475 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and has administered 760,066 doses — 51.4% of those shipped — as of Tuesday, when the data was last updated.

Michigan had a positivity rate of 7.09% Monday, reporting that 1,870 of 26,359 diagnostic test results returned were positive.

 


STUDIES EXTEND HOPE FOR ANTIBODY DRUGS TO TREAT COVID-19 

New results extend hopes for drugs that supply antibodies to fight COVID-19, suggesting they can help keep patients out of the hospital and possibly prevent illness in some uninfected people.

Eli Lilly said Tuesday that a two-antibody combo reduced the risk of hospitalizations or death by 70% in newly diagnosed, non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients at high risk of serious illness because of age or other health conditions. All 10 deaths that occurred in the study were among those receiving placebo rather than the antibodies.

Separately, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said partial results from an ongoing study suggest its drug combo completely prevented symptomatic infections in housemates of someone with COVID-19. Importantly, the drug was given as multiple shots rather than through an IV. The need for an infusion has greatly limited the use of antibody drugs in the pandemic because of health care shortages.

U.S. regulators have allowed emergency use of some Lilly and Regeneron antibodies for mild or moderate COVID-19 cases that do not require hospitalization while studies of them continued.

 


“let them play michigan” prepares for legal action 

Last week’ Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced a continued ban on indoor contact sports that would run through Feb. 21.    The ban prevents boys and girls basketball, ice hockey, wrestling and competitive cheer from beginning their 2021 seasons

Frustrated parents, athletes, coaches and administrators have come together to form “Let Them Play Michigan, Inc.” Their Facebook group currently has over 27,500 members and is promoting a rally at the capitol in Lansing on Saturday at noon

The group has hired lawyer Peter B. Ruddell out of Lansing and he has sent a letter to Hertel urging her to revisit the decision of the MDHHS to extend the ban past Feb. 1

 

The letter cites the pilot testing program used by the MHSAA to finish football, volleyball and girls swimming & diving that provided 99.8 percent negative test results through over 30,000 tests.

 

 

 

 

 


UM student ATHLETICS start petition to fight SHUT DOWN 

A group of University of Michigan student-athletes wants the decision to shut down all athletic activities for two weeks overturned.

 

On Saturday, Michigan announced it is pausing all practices and games “until further notice and up to 14 days” because of several positive cases of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, which transmits approximately 50% more easily, according to the MDHHS.

 

The “coalition of student-athletes” believe the measures taken to mitigate the virus are too steep. Meanwhile, Christian Hubaker, a member of the men’s track and field team, created an online petition in hopes of getting the shutdown lifted.

 

“Based on the department’s testing policies, placing healthy students in quarantine is unnecessary and excessive,” the statement continued. “Placing the entirety of student-athletes in a mandated quarantine, instead of working it on a team by team basis, is unfair to the athletes who have followed all protocols necessary to compete and have had no contact with the confirmed cases. These student-athletes have gone above and beyond in order to earn the right to have a season in the midst of a pandemic.

 

 

 

 


MICHIGAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS WANT TO SKIP FEDERAL MANDATED STANDARDIZED TESTS 

 For the second year in a row, COVID-19 may cancel the M-STEP standardized tests given to Michigan public school students.

State Superintendent Michael Rice requested a waiver Monday from the U.S. Department of Education for what is typically an annual, federally-mandated test, citing an inability to give standardized tests when nothing about this school year has been standard.

“Without uniform testing conditions, adequate participation, and appropriate test security measures, summative assessment results will misrepresent achievement,” Rice wrote to acting U.S. Secretary of Education Phil Rosenfelt.

The federal government last year granted waivers to all states for the test, which are given to students in grades three to eight and 11, because of the pandemic.

Rice’s request to skip the test again this year was denied in fall by Betsy DeVos, Rosenfelt’s Republican predecessor.

Michigan students would still take benchmark tests in the spring, but those scores are only used to measure individual student progress – not to compare schools or for teacher evaluations. Those benchmark tests can vary between schools.

 

 

 

 


UM ATHLETICS SHUT DOWN DUE TO COVID VARIANT

Michigan athletics will shut down for the 14 days beginning Sunday because of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, which transmits more easily and can lead to more positive cases.

That’s in accordance with an order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services made Saturday, the Michigan athletic department said in a release. There have been positive cases of the COVID-19 variant from “numerous individuals across different teams,” according to an athletic department spokesman.

All sports in season, including men’s and women’s basketball, will be affected, including practices, training sessions and games. The shutdown is until further notice and up to 14 days. Athletes, coaches and team staff had to isolate starting Saturday until further notice, up to 14 days, according to the Michigan release.

It is unclear how the pause will affect scheduled games beyond Feb. 7.

 

 

 


 ADDITIONAL Michigan National Guard MEMBERS DEPLOYED TO ASSIST WITH COVID-19 

 Almost 300 additional members of the Michigan National Guard will be deployed next week to expand COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts.

The additional soldiers and airmen will assist the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services administer the vaccine and test for coronavirus. Including the new addition, there are now over 600 members of the Michigan National Guard deployed in the state.

The guard members will be deployed in three additional task forces to southwest and southwest Michigan, and the Upper Peninsula, according to the Michigan National Guard.

As of Saturday the Michigan National Guard has administered almost 32,000 vaccines to residents, the release said.

Vaccination and Testing Teams comprised of one National Guard medic and two support personnel will ensure Michigan health care agencies have the personnel to deliver the vaccine and will help set up mass vaccination clinics.

 

 

 


MICHIGAN’S TOP HEALTH OFFICIAL ABRUPTLY RESIGNS 

Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and a key, but controversial figure in the state’s response to COVID-19, announced his resignation Friday from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

Gordon gained the public spotlight after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Oct. 2 that Whitmer had violated her constitutional power by continuing to issue executive orders to combat COVID-19 without the approval of state lawmakers. The governor’s administration quickly shifted to using epidemic orders issued by Gordon under the Public Health Code to require masks be worn and impose restrictions on public gatherings.

“It’s been an honor to serve alongside wonderful colleagues,” Gordon tweeted. “I look forward to the next chapter.”

Within 20 minutes of Gordon’s post, Whitmer’s administration announced that Elizabeth Hertel would become the new director of the Department of Health and Human Services. Hertel serves as the senior chief deputy director for administration for the department.

 


 OAKLAND COUNTY TO BEGIN COVID-19 VACCINATIONS AT SUBURBAN COLLECTION SHOWPLACE 

Oakland County has entered into a six-month contract agreement to utilize the 420,000 square-foot Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi for COVID-19 vaccinations.

On Saturday, the county will administer around 3,000 vaccinations to residents from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the showplace, all of which have been booked by a required appointment. There are no same-day or drive-up appointments available.

Blair Bowman, owner of the showplace, is allowing the county to utilize a large portion of his building to administer vaccines rent free through June 16. That will save the county thousands in rental fees.

To date, the county health division has administered 8,948 vaccine doses, with over 17,000 appointments set through Feb. 28. The county has received a total of 15,975 vaccine doses having received a shipment of 7,200 Moderna doses this week. The county is currently not taking any vaccine appointment due to its limited number of vaccine doses.

The county is currently vaccinating eligible residents and workers from healthcare, long-term care; law enforcement, fire and EMS; education staff, and individuals 65 years and older who live or work in Oakland County.

 

 

 


2 MORE CASES OF UK VARIANT LINKED TO UM 

Two more cases of the U.K. virus variant that is believed to be more contagious have been identified in Washtenaw County, health officials said Thursday.

Two women were in close contact with the first person in the state to be diagnosed with  B.1.1.7., and all three individuals are associated with the University of Michigan, officials said in a statement.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced the first case of the variant on Saturday.

The first person diagnosed tested positive for the variant after traveling to the United Kingdom, where it originated. Seven additional cases are linked to that case, health officials said Thursday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and county health department detected the additional cases of the variant at a UM lab

B.1.1.7. is believed to be more contagious, but there has been no indication that it affects the clinical outcomes or disease severity compared to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has been circulating for months

 

State officials advise residents to continue social distancing, wear a mask around others, wash hands often and ventilate indoor spaces.

 

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BIDEN SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER REQUIRING FACE COVERINGS ON PLANES 

Mask up or you won’t be allowed to board a plane, train or bus. President Biden signed an executive order Thursday, requiring passengers to wear face coverings during interstate travel.

It’s one of 10 executive orders signed by the president today aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

Airlines and their employees have been seeking such a federal mask mandate almost since the pandemic began, as they’ve struggled to deal with passengers who refuse to follow the airlines’ own mask-wearing rules.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has received more than 150 safety complaints over passengers violating airline mask requirements. And the airlines themselves have banned thousands of passengers from flying with them again for refusing to wear masks. Among them, Delta has prohibited more than 880 passengers, United has banned more than 600, and Alaska more than 300.

 

Airlines support the measures in hopes that it will make people feel safe enough to book a flight again, and hopefully spark something of a recovery in a business decimated by the pandemic.

 


90 PERCENT OF MICHIGAN RESIDENTS WILL NEED COVID VACCINE TO REACH HERD IMMUNITY 

With a new, faster-moving coronavirus variant now confirmed in Michigan, the state is boosting its vaccination goal.

The state’s lead epidemiologist Wednesday estimated that at least 90 percent of Michiganders 16 and older may need to be vaccinated against COVID to effectively beat back the spread of the coronavirus. That is a dramatic increase over the state’s previously stated goal of a 70 percent vaccination rate to achieve herd immunity from the virus.

The new variant has pushed back the goalposts to herd immunity, but Michigan isn’t alone in adjusting the numbers, So has the federal government’s top epidemiologist — Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Reaching 90 percent in Michigan appears unlikely, at least for now, for two reasons: COVID vaccines remain scarce in much of the state and, even when they are available, a significant portion of eligible people remain reluctant to take them.

 


MICHIGAN BARS AND RESTAURANTS CAN REOPEN FEB. 1 WITH RESTRICTIONS 

Michigan officials say bars and restaurants can resume indoor dining on Feb. 1, ending nearly two months of a “pause” that forced thousands out of work and threatened to permanently shutter thousands of businesses.

A sustained decrease in new coronavirus cases and positive rates is ending the ban on indoor dining, but the state will announce restrictions on service on Friday, said Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

 

The news was welcomed by the restaurant industry, whose owners had feared the ban would be extended beyond Feb. 1.

Restaurants employed some 447,000 in Michigan and generated $18 billion in revenue in 2018.

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MICHIGAN BOWLING ALLEYS STRUGGLE, SUE TO SURVIVE 

Bowling alley owners across Michigan are sounding the alarm over how much longer their businesses can survive on-again, off-again pandemic restrictions that ban indoor dining and limit who can bowl.

The restrictions, set by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services since March, are confusing and may result in more bowling alleys going up for sale or out of business entirely, say owners.

On Tuesday, the Michigan Independent Bowling and Entertainment Centers Association posted a news release on its Facebook page that stated it had hired the Kallman Legal Group to file a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of five of its members, alleging Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS and its director Robert Gordon had violated “both the Federal and Michigan Constitutions by taking Plaintiffs’ businesses for a public use without just compensation.”

 

BCAM filed a lawsuit against the state in early August, but the association dropped it by the end of that month in hopes that the goodwill move would open up a conversation with Gov. Whitmer

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MODERNA COVID-19 VACCINES SPOILED ENROUTE TO MICHIGAN 

Twenty-one shipments of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine were spoiled because of temperature control issues during delivery to Michigan, state health officials said Tuesday.

Those shipments, which went out Jan. 17 and contained 11,900 doses of the vaccine, were being transported by McKesson Corp., a health care distribution company contracted with the federal government to handle coronavirus vaccines.

Each vaccine shipment is equipped with a temperature-monitoring device used to track the vaccine temperature while in transport, state health officials said. It is believed the Moderna vaccines in those shipments got too cold.

Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said no one was injected with any of the spoiled doses of the vaccine.

McKesson is investigating the cause of the temperature disruption and is working to quickly repack additional doses of the vaccine to ship out as a replacement for those that may have been compromised, health officials said.

 


MICHIGAN HEALTH DIRECTOR: STRONG REASON TO BELIEVE PAUSE WORKED 

Michigan is in a “far better place” in its fight against COVID-19 than it was two months ago when the state first imposed new restrictions on businesses and schools, according to the leader of Michigan’s health department.

In a Tuesday interview, Robert Gordon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said the state remains on a path toward reopening indoor dining at restaurants on Feb. 1 and has gone from having one of the highest coronavirus case rates in the nation to one of the lowest.

In recent weeks, Michigan has reported significant drops in COVID-19 infection rates, deaths and hospitalizations linked to the virus and the rate of tests bringing positive results — metrics that have been included in decision-making on when to strengthen or lift restrictions.

No one can say with certainty what caused the decreases, Gordon said Tuesday.

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GOVERNOR UNVEILS $5.6 BILLION COVID-19 RECOVERY PLAN 

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday unveiled a $5.6 billion COVID-19 “recovery plan” to expand vaccine distribution, help schools resume in-person instruction and aid businesses and residents across Michigan.

The plan, which relies almost exclusively on federal funding, sets up a potential showdown with Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature, where House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert has threatened to block spending requests until the governor eases business restrictions and allows restaurants to reopen dining rooms.

In announcing the plan, Whitmer urged cooperation and said the state must act quickly to spend more than $5 billion in new funding from the federal government.

Only $575 million of the spending would come from state coffers, according to new Budget Director Dave Massaron, who noted officials raised tax revenue projections last week because consumer spending from the federal stimulus packages helped Michigan avoid massive losses that had been anticipated.

 

 


NEW FINANCIAL HELP FOR MICHIGAN SMALL BUSINESSES 

New financial assistance tools are coming into play this week, as the latest round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding fully opens and two Michigan-based grant programs launch application portals.

PPP’s latest funding allows for $284 billion in loans to small businesses across the United States, either up to $10 million for first-time applicants with fewer than 300 employees or up to $2 million for so-called second draws if the business can demonstrate a 25 percent or more decline in second-quarter gross receipts. The loans could turn into grants.

Applications open at 9 a.m. Tuesday for $55 million in Michigan Small Business Survival Grant Program, with an additional $3.5 million earmarked for the Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program that will open to applicants on Thursday. Those chosen for survival grants can receive up to $20,000 if they were closed, or $15,000 for partial closures, while venues could receive up to $40,000. Meanwhile, a grant program for employees affected by the recent restrictions opened on Friday. Applicants can get up to $1,650.

Small businesses – or those with fewer than 500 employees – make up 99.6 percent of Michigan businesses, according to federal data from 2019. Those businesses account for about one-half of the state’s jobs.

 

 


LIVONIA NURSE TO PERFORM AT NATIONAL COVID MEMORIAL

Livonia nurse Lori Key went viral last year after singing for her fellow health care workers during the peak of the pandemic.

And on Tuesday, Key, who works at St. Mary Mercy Hospital, will sing ahead of the inauguration at a special nationwide memorial for people who have died from COVID-19.      Key said she has been singing, playing the piano and writing music her entire life.

Key said being a nurse during COVID-19 has been challenging, but she made it through with the help of her family, church and fellow nurses.

 


 MICHIGAN SHOWS DECLINE IN CORONAVIRUS CASES AND DEATHS 

Michigan’s two-day count of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths declined over the weekend, indicating possible progress with vaccinations along with social distancing and mask-wearing.

The state reported 2,843 new cases and just 20 deaths for Sunday and Monday, bringing the total number to 538,377 cases and 13,824 deaths since the start of the pandemic in Michigan last March.

 

For Sunday and Monday there were 319 cases and two deaths in Oakland County, 307 cases and one death in Wayne County, 256 cases and no deaths in Macomb County, and 136 cases and two deaths in Detroit.

Meanwhile, the number of people vaccinated against the virus rose to 405,992,  including 54,503 in Oakland County.

Southeast Michigan has been the epicenter of the case total and deaths from the virus, although there have been hotspots elsewhere in the state over the past 10 months.

 

 

 


VACCINE ROLLOUT A NIGHTMARE FOR TEACHERS  

After months of teaching children through a computer screen, balancing time between home and the classroom, then finally getting the green light to return to a bit of normalcy, Michigan teachers are dealing with another setback — many can’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

And it’s not for lack of trying.

In the last week, many teachers across metro Detroit have been dealing with a logistical nightmare in their efforts to get vaccinated by March 1. That’s when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she wants all schools to offer some type of in-class learning, though many teachers fear they might not be vaccinated in time given the confusion and backlogs they’ve encountered since they became eligible for the vaccine on Jan. 6.

Many teachers can’t get vaccine appointments, even after trying for days.

Phone calls to county health departments are going unanswered.

Online vaccine reservations keep filling up.

And even those who have gotten their first dose are worried about getting the second shot because no new appointments are available, so they’re planning on just showing up when the second dose is due and crossing their fingers.

 


 BIRMINGHAM FIRE CHIEF WANTS TO ADMINISTER VACCINE TO RESIDENTS 

The city of Birmingham wants a shot with the shots.

It’s asking the state of Michigan and Oakland County if it can receive COVID-19 vaccine doses so paramedics can inoculate the city’s residents, particularly senior citizens and essential workers, through a pilot program.

The city is armed with enough needles and syringes to vaccinate 5,500 residents, said Paul Wells, fire chief and the city’s emergency manager.

The county welcomes its community partners offering ideas on how to help.

“We’re open to looking at other means for administering the vaccine, but we don’t have adequate supply right now to implement something directly into a community. We just have vaccine supply to operate as we have been: drive-thrus at various sites in the county,” said Bill Mullan, spokesman for County Executive Dave Coulter.

In his written request, Wells said the fire department administers more than 150 flu vaccines annually to city employees and has been doing so for 25 years. He said it is an advanced life support agency with 32 licensed paramedics, 90% of whom have already received the COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition to giving the shots, trained paramedics would be on standby for the 15-minute observation period after a shot has been given to watch for any allergic reactions.


 MICHIGAN IDENTIFIES FIRST CASE OF COVID-19 VARIANT 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the state’s first case of the new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7., on Saturday in an adult female living in Washtenaw County.

The woman recently traveled to the United Kingdom, where the variant originated, according to an announcement from the department. The person’s close contacts have been informed and are in quarantine.

B.1.1.7. is believed to be more contagious, but there has been no indication that it affects the clinical outcomes or disease severity compared to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has been circulating across the United States for months, the health department said in a press release.

On Friday, a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the variant’s higher rate of transmission would lead to “more cases, increasing the number of persons overall who need clinical care, exacerbating the burden on an already strained health care system and resulting in more deaths.”

 


NEWEST VACCINE TIMELINE PUSHES LOWEST PRIORITY GROUPS FURTHER INTO 2021  

Michigan’s new projected timeline for vaccine distribution looks much different than the estimates announced by the state health department in mid-December. According to that timeline, the final priority group, which includes the general public 16 years and older, was expected to begin receiving the vaccine in weeks 15-20, or late March/early April.  Now, the general public may not be able to get vaccinated until August.

State officials say significant reductions in the number of vaccine doses the state has received from the federal government, compared to expectations, is to blame for a slower-than-anticipated rollout of vaccines. The state planned for 300,000 doses per week, but has reportedly received 60,000 per week.


COMPANIES PUSH INCENTIVES FOR EMPLOYEES TO GET VACCINATED 

As vaccinations continue across the U.S., some companies are offering financial incentives to encourage their workers to get the shots.

Instacart Inc., the grocery delivery service, announced Thursday that it would provide a $25 stipend for workers who get the COVID-19 vaccine. It joins others, including Trader Joe’s and Dollar General, which plans to pay workers extra if they get vaccinated.

A vaccine advisory panel at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control voted late last month on recommendations for vaccine distribution. The panel said grocery workers – which would include Instacart and Dollar General’s employees – should be in the second group to receive shots after health care workers and nursing home residents.

 

Companies can mandate that workers get COVID-19 vaccines as a requirement for employment, although they must make accommodations for medical or religious reasons, according to guidance from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

 


 MICHIGAN REPORTS 2,698 NEW COVID-19 CASES, 139 DEATHS 

The Michigan health department reported 2,698 new cases of COVID-19 and 139 new deaths Thursday.

Michigan now has a total of 531,004 confirmed cases and 13,672 confirmed deaths since March.

Of the 139 additional deaths reported Thursday, 107 were identified during a vital records review, which the state health department conducts three times a week.

As of Wednesday, the state has shipped 831,150 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and has administered 368,844 — 44.3% of those shipped.

Michigan had a positivity rate of 6.26% Wednesday, reporting that 3,057 of 48,872 diagnostic test results returned were positive.

 


 OAKLAND COUNTY RESIDENTS CAN NOW RESERVE A SPOT FOR COVID-19 VACCINE  

Oakland County residents included in Phase 1C of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan cannot yet make an appointment due to limited supply, but can now reserve a spot in line when the vaccine becomes more widely available.

Beginning Monday, state health officials moved into the next phase of the vaccination, Phase 1C, to include residents 65 years of age and over, preK-12 teachers and staff, child care workers, and other frontline workers. Appointments are being limited to vaccine supply county-by-county.

County residents included in this next phase can visit www.oaklandcountyvaccine.com to reserve a spot in line for when the county receives enough vaccine doses to begin making appointments. Countywide, there are over 217,000 residents age 65 and older that would be eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1C of vaccination.

 


INDOOR DINING BAN EXTENDED, OTHER RESTRICTIONS LIFTED 

Michigan is extending the dine-in ban again, although Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said state leaders hope to reopen restaurants on Feb. 1 when the latest extension expires.

If Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers keep declining, Whitmer said indoor dining may be allowed to restart Feb. 1 with mask requirements, capacity limits and a curfew.

More restrictions have been lifted under the latest order, which goes into effect on Saturday, Jan. 16. Indoor fitness classes and non-contact sports can restart, while indoor dining, water parks and night clubs are among the sectors still closed.

Michigan residents laid off during this latest partial shutdown are eligible for $1,650 from the state, as part of a $45 million program. Impacted businesses are also eligible for up to $20,000 from the state. This is part of how Michigan is propping up the hospitality industry it has shut down, Whitmer said.

 


SENATE REPUBLICANS CONSIDER REJECTING WHITMER APPOINTEES UNTIL RESTRICTIONS LIFTED 

As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a continuation of the statewide, indoor restaurant dining ban through at least Feb. 1, frustrated Senate Republicans floated the possibility of rejecting gubernatorial appointees until COVID-19 related closures cease.

 

The indoor dining ban has been the most controversial of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, as Michigan is one of only three states with a statewide ban on indoor dining, according to the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association

 

Many of the governor’s appointments to state boards and commissions are subject to advice and consent of the Senate, meaning the Senate has the authority to reject eligible appointees within 60 days.

 

Should the Senate follow through and act unilaterally on Whitmer’s appointments over the last few months, the move could affect dozens of appointments to university boards and state commissions Whitmer has made over the last few months and could also have implications on future appointments.

 


INDOOR DINING LIKELY TO NOT RETURN UNTIL FEBRUARY 1ST 

An association that represents bars and restaurants in Michigan says it expects Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to announce Wednesday a plan to allow indoor dining to resume Feb. 1.

The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association posted on Facebook Tuesday that the Feb. 1 plan will give owners time to work with their supply chains and figure out staffing. The plan will likely include limited capacity and a curfew, the association added.

Indoor dining at bars and restaurants has been suspended in Michigan since Nov. 18 amid a surge in COVID-19 infections. The state’s most recent epidemic order closed indoor dining through Friday.

The state reported 21,955 new coronavirus cases last week. The total was up from the previous week but well below the 50,892 cases reported the week of Nov. 15-21, the week the governor initially closed indoor dining at bars and restaurants.


 MICHIGAN TO RECEIVE MORE VACCINE AFTER FEDS DECIDE TO RELEASE SECOND DOSES 

The Trump administration will release additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to states across the nation as it directs its agencies to no longer hold back the second dose of the two-shot vaccines and open vaccination to those over 65.

Michigan opened vaccination to those over 65 on Monday, but the federal government’s release of the second doses is expected to infuse the state with more vaccine availability after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged the federal government for more.

With more than 2.5 million Michigan residents now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, there isn’t enough available to vaccinate everyone who qualifies

Whitmer claimed the distribution of the vaccines was in part due to a request from her administration and eight other governors to release the additional vaccines being held back from distribution to the states.

 


NEGATIVE COVID-19 TEST REQUIRED FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS

Travelers flying into the United States from international destinations will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the new policy Tuesday and said it will go into effect Jan. 26. The agency said it hopes the new testing requirement will help slow the spread of the virus, currently surging in the United States, as the vaccine rollout continues.

The CDC said travelers must get a viral test within three days before their flight to the U.S., which will likely send some vacationers scrambling to find locations during their trip.

Passengers will have to show proof of a negative test to their airline before boarding.  If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery from COVID-19, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding, the CDC says.

 

 


GOVERNOR WANTS TO PURCHASE 100,000 VACCINE DOSES DIRECTLY 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the federal government for permission for the state to make a one-time purchase of up to 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine directly from Pfizer.

Whitmer, a Democrat, made the request in a letter to Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It comes after she urged Republican President Donald Trump’s administration last week to release millions of vaccine doses that she said had been “held back.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense have previously announced agreements with Pfizer and Moderna for the purchase of mass amounts of vaccine doses and their delivery.

The doses Whitmer is requesting to purchase will be “administered consistent” with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and the Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, her letter says.

 


SUBURBAN COLLECTION SHOWPLACE TO BE UTILIZED FOR VACCINE DISTRIBUTION SITE  

The Oakland County Health Division is planning to utilize the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to residents.

At this time, a contract agreement has not been finalized, but “it’s getting close,” according to Bill Mullan, the county’s media and communications officer.

Discussions are still underway about whether the vaccinations would occur outside or inside the 340,000-square-foot building, the regions’ third-largest convention center which was transformed into a regional field hospital last year to treat COVID-19 patients as hospitals reached patient capacity during the earlier parts of the pandemic.

Right now, the county is conducting COVID-19 testing and vaccinations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at drive-thru sites, mostly fire stations, across the county including Holly, Rochester, Pontiac, Novi, Waterford, South Lyon, and Southfield. This week, the county is utilizing sites in Waterford, Holly, Southfield, and Novi.

 

In Oakland County, the health division will not be making appointments for vaccines that are not in hand. Residents can visit https://oaklandcountyvaccine.com/ to view updated information on vaccine availability.

 

 


 AUTO SHOW RELOCATING TO PONTIAC DUE TO COVID CONCERNS 

After years spent trying to reinvent itself as an indoor-outdoor event that would fill downtown Detroit with new cars and automotive festivities, the North American International Auto Show is folding its tent for 2021, relocating from TCF Center on the city’s riverfront to M1 Concourse, a small development that includes a racetrack surrounded by luxury garages in Pontiac.

The new show, renamed Motor Bella, will be “a bridge to the future” of the auto show, according to a statement by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which runs the auto show.

Motor Bella will have an abbreviated run Sept. 21-26, considerably less than the original plan for events in downtown Detroit from Sept. 24-Oct. 9. The name “Motor Bella” was going to be used for a satellite show featuring Italian and English luxury and performance vehicles. Organizers expect the revised event to feature a wide range of brands and vehicles as well as demos of advanced technology and performance.

 


michigan ENTERS NEW VACCINE PHASE  

Michigan moves into the next phase of vaccinations Monday, which includes teachers, first responders, childcare providers and residents 65 years of age and older.

Eligible essential workers, teachers and childcare workers will be notified by their employers about vaccine clinic dates and locations, Gov. Whitmer said. Eligible residents should not go to any of the clinics without an appointment.

Residents might not be able to get an appointment right away and availability is different depending on region.

The new phase is a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are still major problems and struggles to meet demand.

As the pool of those who are able to be vaccinated grows, the supply has remained far short of expected.


BEAUMONT TRIPLES SERVER CAPACITY AFTER VACCINE DEMAND CRASHES SYSTEM 

Beaumont Health has tripled its server capacity over the weekend after its website crashed Friday due to heavy demand for COVID-19 vaccines.   Beaumont said it will begin vaccinating people 65 and older on Monday.

The surge in demand occurred after Beaumont notified patients Thursday night that vaccinations would be available to people 65 and older.   On a typical day, Beaumont processes 900 online appointments. On Friday, 25,000 people tried to register for an appointment.


GOVERNOR ENCOURAGES SCHOOL DISTRICTS RETURN TO IN-PERSON LEARNING 

 Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration set a goal Friday for all schools to offer an in-person learning option for their students by March 1, nearly a year after she first closed K-12 buildings because of the coronavirus.

Whitmer announced new guidance for schools as some districts have offered only online courses for the last 10 months

The new guidance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says schools should assign children to cohort groups and limit their interactions to those groups in a bid to reduce their number of contacts.

The department also wants schools to keep children 6 feet apart from one another to the “extent feasible,” provide “adequate hand sanitizing supplies” and improve air ventilation. Anyone who is considered a “close contact” of someone who tests positive should quarantine for 10 days, according to guidance shared Friday.


 Oakland County EXPERIENCING VACCINE SHORTAGE 

While the state of Michigan has expanded its vaccine plan to include those 65 and older and essential workers, patience is required due to a shortage of vaccine

Oakland County has placed a message on its website that there are no available vaccine appointments. They will be added based on the vaccine supply received from the state.

“Oakland County is in the early stages of administering the COVID-19 vaccine but supply is limited. Our Health Department is currently vaccinating priority 1A individuals including emergency medical personnel, healthcare workers, and residents of long-term care facilities,’’ Oakland County Executive David Coulter said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“We look forward to expanding to the next phase which will include essential workers and residents 65 and older but ask for their patience because the number of appointments available is limited to the number of doses we have received from the state,’’ Coulter said. “We urge the State of Michigan to increase Oakland County’s vaccine allotment while expanding the number of providers administering the vaccine.

Go to Oakgov.com/COVID and press the vaccine button for more information on vaccine supply and scheduling appointments. Continue to check the website for timely updates.


michigan TO ACCELERATE COVID-19 VACCINATION PROGRAM 

Michigan will start vaccinating more seniors, teachers and others in the fight against COVID-19, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday, as she and state officials outlined in specific detail who should receive the COVID-19 vaccine next and when they believe that can happen.

Whitmer acknowledged there have been struggles with getting available doses injected into people, but pledged the state would ramp up vaccinations as quickly and safely as possible.

This ramp up will start Monday. Those newly eligible for the vaccine will include:

  • Any Michigander 65 and older
  • Police officers
  • K-12 teachers
  • Prison and jail officers
  • Child care providers

Whitmer said local health departments are offering appointments through their websites, and encouraged those eligible to sign up right away. She stressed getting the appointment is crucial to avoid waiting in long lines without a scheduled time to receive a vaccine. People should go to Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine to schedule an appointment.


michigan MAY ALREADY HAVE MUTANT STRAIN OF COVID-19 VIRUS 

No cases of the mutated COVID-19 virus identified in the United Kingdom have been found in Michigan, but the state’s laboratory in Lansing is on the lookout for the strain, the state’s top epidemiologist said on Wednesday.

Called B.1.1.7 variant, the virus is much more contagious than the current strain but is not believed to cause more serious illness. The mutated virus has been identified in COVID-19 patients in California, Colorado and New York.

“We have not yet detected it in Michigan,” said Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “I don’t think we would be surprised if it was here already.”

Lyon-Callo said that knowledge about the variant SARS-CoV-2 virus may change as more data emerges.


michigan WILL HOLD OFF ON LOOSENING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS 

Coronavirus infections and hospitalization levels have been mostly positive in recent weeks. But the latest state data suggest these trends may have reached a plateau.

That prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to say the state will hold off, for now, on loosening COVID-19 restrictions.  On Wednesday, the state reported 4,326 new infections, the highest number yet in January-and the most in three weeks.  The jump in cases follows steady declines in early December through the holidays.

Whitmer, whose health director had put restrictions on some businesses like restaurants and bars through Jan. 15, has said any decision on relaxing them before that date will have to wait a few more days to see if there is a post-holiday surge in infections.


michigan covid-19 vaccination rate among worst in the nation 

Michigan has the sixth-worst COVID-19 vaccination rate in the country, according to federal data released this week, as health care officials report some people initially eligible for inoculation are holding off.

The state had 992 per 100,000 people “initiating vaccination” or getting their first dose of the available two-dose vaccines through Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate was better only than Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona and Kansas, the nation’s worst at 692 per 100,000 people.

State health officials argue the CDC’s data is lagging Michigan’s, which shows more than 140,000 doses administered through Monday compared with the CDC’s “tracker” number of more than 99,000 doses.

The state’s hospital association, meanwhile, said the rate is expected to improve as health care workers see no or minimal side effects for the first vaccinated front-line workers and efforts ramp up.


300 michigan national guard members receive covid-19 vaccine

Three hundred members of the Michigan National Guard working on COVID-19 vaccination and testing teams have received their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations, according to a news release issued by the National Guard Tuesday.

The vaccinations were administered by National Guard members who have also been supporting Michigan health care agencies at the behest of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in the initial vaccination of medical personnel in hospitals across the state, according to the news release. The first batch of vaccines was given at the Detroit Light Guard Armory on Thursday, officials said.

The National Guard is expected to receive 20 percent of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccinations, officials said. The receipt of the immunization is voluntary, however. The Michigan National Guard vaccination plan is similar to the plan for civilians; first, to frontline health care workers, like Guard members of the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Teams, followed by those members that have duties that do not allow them to work from home.


kid rock donates $100,000 to help struggling small businesses 

Dave Portnoy, a social media celebrity and founder of Barstool Sports, a sports blog and digital media company created a relief fund, fueled through donations including $500,000 of his own money, to help small businesses nationwide impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the same fund that Kid Rock is helping to support. Rock tweeted on Monday that he made a donation of $100,000 to the fund and hopes others follow.

“THIS IS THE AMERICA I LOVE!” Put me down for 100K,” Rock Tweeted. “And I only post this in hopes others as blessed as me may be moved to help out. – Kid Rock”

Champs Pub in downtown Brighton is one of the many restaurants that will be helped.  In just over two weeks, more than 18 million dollars has been raised.

One of the rules for applying is that businesses must still be paying its employees. You also have to submit what you need the money for. The fund is open to gyms, restaurants, bars and more.


MICHIGAN TO DISTRIBUTE 3.5 MILLION FREE KN95 MASKS 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is distributing 3.5 million free masks as part of the state’s Mask Up, Mask Right campaign.

Free KN95 masks provided by MDHHS will be distributed by community organizations, including local MDHSS offices, health departments and Area Agency on Aging offices.

N95 masks have the highest effectiveness rating and are meant for health-care workers in higher-risk settings. The KN95 are similar but are slightly less effective.

Health officials recommend the general public uses a KN95 mask, three-layered disposable mask or three-layered washable cloth face covering when outside the house to protect against COVID-19. They also urge people to includes wear the masks correctly, by ensuring having it secured over the nose and mouth and snugly fitting without gaps.

Residents who need masks can pick one up from partner sites across the state. Find a distribution site at Michigan.gov/MaskUpMichigan or call the COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136.

 


128,000 MICHIGANDERS HAVE RECEIVED THE covid-19 VACCINE 

In the first three weeks of availability, 128,390 Michiganders have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the state health department announced Monday, Jan. 4.

The state has administered 65,181 shots over the last week, or about 9,312 vaccines per day. With 379,325 doses distributed to the state’s various providers to-date, that means nearly 34% of on-hand vaccines have been administered as of Sunday, Jan. 3, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Monday’s update was the first in five days after a pause in reporting due to the holidays and subsequent weekend.  Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for MDHHS, said she anticipates vaccinations will move more quickly in the coming weeks now that we’re past the holiday season.

Of the vaccines administered through Sunday, 103,940 were done so in hospitals and 16,559 were done through local health departments. Another 7,094 were administered through the long-term care program, which works with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to get shots to staff and residents of nursing homes and other care facilities.

MDHHS plans to provide updated counts for vaccinations and vaccine distributions each afternoon Monday through Friday through its online vaccine dashboard. Monday’s update came after the state announced it had surpassed 500,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

 


 MICHIGAN LISTS 106 NEW CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAKS 

Health officials are tracking 1,049 known and active coronavirus outbreaks, including 106 new clusters discovered over the last week and 943 ongoing clusters. 

Long-term care facilities make up almost 47% of known and active outbreaks, thanks in-part to mandated regular testing or staff and residents. Manufacturing and construction sites moved up to No. 2 with 113 active outbreaks (11%), knocking K-12 schools (7%) down to No. 3.

Other leading settings include retail (7%), health-care (6%) and office settings (5%).

The Department of Health and Human Services’ most recent weekly outbreaks report was published online Monday, Jan. 4, with information collected for the seven days ending Wednesday, Dec. 30. The state’s online outbreak tracker is updated weekly on Mondays.

This week’s report marked a 9.5% decrease in total active outbreaks over one week, and an 18% decrease over two weeks. 

An outbreak is generally defined as an instance in which two or more cases are linked by a place and time, indicating a shared exposure outside of a household.

covid-19 vaccine distribution off to a good start in Oakland County

The distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19 in the first few weeks has gone “surprisingly well” for the Oakland County Health Division.

“Our capacity is pretty amazing at what we’re able to accomplish because what we’ve learned is basically we can deploy our staff, which has been cross-trained,’’ said Dr. Russell Faust, medical director of the OCHD which employs about 400.

In Oakland County, 43,100 vaccines had been distributed as of Tuesday, Dec. 29, per the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

So far the county has been vaccinating Emergency Medical Services workers. The hospitals take care of vaccinating their front-line staff and the federal government has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to provide vaccinations for skilled nursing residents and their caregivers.


michigan records nearly 9,000 covid-19 cases in 3 days 

Michigan reported 8,983 coronavirus cases and 265 deaths over three days, according to state health leaders.

Because of the holiday, the state did not report daily coronavirus statistics for Thursday, Dec. 31 and Friday, Jan. 1.

Over the three-day period, the state had an average of 2,994 cases per day.

Michigan now has a total of 497,127 COVID-19 cases and 12,598 deaths since the pandemic began in March

The latest data on testing shows a positive test rate of 9.33 percent on Dec. 29, based on 46,908 total tests. Heath leaders say they want the positive rate below 5 percent. Earlier this year, they set 3 percent as a benchmark to show that coronavirus spread was under control.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has been decreasing in recent weeks after experiencing a high during the second wave of the pandemic.

 


how michigan residents will find out when to get the covid-19 vaccine 

Michigan is still months away from offering COVID-19 vaccines to the general public — and it’s unclear how or if people will know when it’s their turn to get the shot.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has an initial goal of vaccinating 70% of people age 16 and older, or about 5.6 million people, by the end of 2021.

State health officials have developed a two-phase plan to prioritize who gets the vaccine first, starting with health care workers and nursing home residents. They will be followed by people in other essential jobs and groups at greatest risk of severe illness based on their age or health conditions.

While people in the United Kingdom are notified by mail when it’s time to get their COVID-19 vaccine, the best way for Michigan residents to learn when it’s their turn will be to check the state’s COVID-19 vaccination website at www.michigan.gov/covidvaccine, according to state health officials. Information on where to find the vaccine will be posted at VaccineFinder.org, a national website that lists locations where vaccinations are available.  A media ad campaign is also in the works to help inform the public of who is available for the vaccination at any given time.


confusion over testing prompts another fall sports stoppage 

The resumption of the fall postseason is back on hold just a little over 24 hours after it got started again.

On Tuesday, the Michigan High School Athletic Association and athletic administrators were informed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that practices should not have resumed Monday, as the pilot testing program had not been started.

The MHSAA then released a statement to the media Tuesday night indicating it would once again have to adjust its postseason schedule for football, volleyball and girls swimming & diving. Those dates have yet to be determined.

All conditioning, training and practice activities for fall tournament schools are paused through Sunday, Dec. 27.   Webinars will be conducted on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 28-29 to train school volunteers that will be involved in the testing process.  Fall schools should expect to receive the rapid tests with simplified instructions by Tuesday, Dec. 29.   Once the first tests have been administered on Wednesday, Dec. 30, team practices may commence. If schools are delayed in the start of testing, those schools may begin practice once individuals have been tested.

With testing not beginning until Dec. 30, tournament dates would also be delayed by one week. Confirmation of the updated tournament dates will be announced soon.  Each athlete will be required to take three tests a week on non-consecutive days while practicing and competing in their respective fall tournament.

 


 oakland county goes hollywood to help fight covid-19 fatigue 

Actress Kristen Bell, who was grew up in Huntington Woods, has joined Oakland County’s new public education campaign that encourages residents to remain vigilant and follow health and safety measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 as they wait to be vaccinated.

The 1998 graduate of Royal Oak Shrine Catholic High School has posted a new appeal on her Instagram page that reinforces the messaging of Oakland County’s “The Only Way To Beat It Is To Face It” awareness push that kicked off Dec. 7.

“Here’s the good news – things WILL get back to normal eventually. They will! But, we’re not quite there yet,” said Bell, who had her breakout film role in 2008 as the title character in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and has nearly 15 million Instagram followers.

The county campaign is funded by a federal CARES Act grant. In addition to Bell’s Instagram message, the campaign features public service announcements by other local celebrities and Oakland County influencers such as former Detroit Lions football great Lomas Brown Jr., former Red Wings hockey star Darren McCarty and Olympic gold medalist and “Dancing with the Stars” champion Meryl Davis.


 can employers require covid-19 vaccine? 

Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?

Yes, with some exceptions.

Experts say employers can require employees to take safety measures, including vaccination. That doesn’t necessarily mean you would get fired if you refuse, but you might need to sign a waiver or agree to work under specific conditions to limit any risk you might pose to yourself or others.

“Employers generally have wide scope” to make rules for the workplace, said Dorit Reiss, a law professor who specializes in vaccine policies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “It’s their business.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has allowed companies to mandate the flu and other vaccines, and has also indicated they can require COVID-19 vaccines.

There are exceptions; for example, people can request exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

And even though employers can require vaccinations, there are reasons they might not want to.

Tracking compliance with mandatory vaccination would be an administrative burden, Employers would also have to manage exemption requests and legal claims that might arise.

 


two oakland county schools report new covid-19 outbreaks 

Of the 65 total COVID-19 school outbreaks in Michigan for the week ending Dec. 18, six occurred at two schools and a school district maintenance facility in Oakland County

At Holy Family Regional in Rochester, two outbreaks were reported involving students and staff.   At Clarkston Elementary two staff outbreaks appeared on the list.   And there were two outbreaks at Farmington Hills School Maintenance on 10 Mile Road.

That totals is down from last week when 18 outbreaks were reported at four Oakland County schools.    Ongoing outbreaks continue to be listed at eight schools in Oakland County including Oakland University which has had 31 outbreaks involving both students and staff.

High school and college students across the state were banned from in-person learning starting Nov. 18 under orders of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. However that order expired and high school students can now go back to in-person learning. Colleges and universities can return to face-to-face classes on Jan. 19.

 


 michigan to receive 121,000 doses of covid-19 vaccine 

Michigan health officials expect to receive 120,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccines each of the next two weeks.

The increase in doses over last week’s allotment comes as Michigan is now scheduled to receive shipments of the Michigan-made Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as well as the newly approved Moderna vaccine, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

However, Michigan officials say the number of doses is still well below what was previously indicated by the federal government. The state received 84,825 doses in the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine last week. 

Workplaces, especially larger employers like the Detroit automakers, could soon play a critical informational and coordination role in helping the state meet its goal of inoculating at least 70% of adults before the end of 2021.   How exactly the vaccine will be distributed to essential workers and to the general public has yet to be determined.

 


mdhhs launches text message outreach 

If you get a text message this week from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), it’s not a scam. The state is reaching out via text to encourage people to sign up for the MI COVID Alert app. 

The state launched the contract tracing app this fall.  It can tell you if you’ve been within 6 feet of someone who tested positive of COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes.  The app relies on Bluetooth to determine location and users to anonymously input whether they have tested positive. The text messages sent this week has a link in it to send you to the app page. 

Downloading is free, and success of the MI COVID Alert app depends on how many participate. As of Monday, only 9.5% of Michiganders have downloaded the app.    Research shows it can be effective if as few as 15% of the population signs up.

 


michigan’s new covid-19 order in effect 

Michigan’s new COVID-19 order is officially in effect, so here is what reopened Monday, as well as what remains closed.

The updated restrictions allow many entertainment venues to reopen with limited capacity, primarily those in which people can remain masked and socially distanced. They are not allowed to serve food or drinks.

Total capacity at those indoor venues will be capped at 100. Visitors must keep masks on and practice social distancing

The venues allowed to reopen included:  arenas, amusement parks, bowling alleys, casinos, cinemas, concert halls, gun ranges, movie theaters, performance venues and stadiums.  Groups are limited to single households of up to six people.  The revised order is in effect through Jan. 15.

 


michigan senate approves $465 million bill for covid-19 relief 

The Michigan Senate Friday night approved a $465 million supplemental spending bill that will address millions of dollars in COVID-related needs throughout the state, including $220 million toward unemployment benefits, $22.5 million for testing of vulnerable populations, more than $57 million for vaccination efforts and more than $55 million in small business survival grants.

The allocations, which will head to the House for approval Monday, bring the Legislature’s COVID-related appropriations to $4 billion, said Sen. Jim Stamas, the Midland Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The allocation is less than the $734 million supplemental and $100 million in direct financial support to families and small businesses recommended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this month. But the supplemental approved 35-2 Friday comes after days of negotiations between the Democratic governor and GOP-led Legislature.

 


 michigan bishops raise moral concerns with some covid-19 VACCINEs 

Michigan’s seven Catholic bishops said COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are “morally permissible” but raised concerns about AstraZenca’s vaccine using a cell line that originated from tissue of an aborted fetus.

The Catholic bishops issued a statement on what they called the “morality of COVID-19 vaccines.”

“It is morally permissible to receive the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna,” the bishops said.

“Neither of these vaccines have used cell lines originating in tissue taken from aborted babies in their design, development, and production.

“The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca is more morally problematic, however,” the bishops wrote.

This vaccine may be received only if there are no other alternatives. If one does not have a choice of vaccine and a delay in immunization may bring about serious consequences for one’s health and the health of others, it would be permissible to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

 

 


  OAKLAND COUNTY RECEIVES FIRST ROUND OF COVID-19 VACCINE 

The first 1,950 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer arrived Thursday at Oakland County Health Division, health officials said Thursday.

Initial vaccinations will begin by appointment only on Friday in Waterford for emergency medical service personnel who have indirect or direct exposure to patients and to help keep emergency response systems open and functioning in Oakland County, the county said in a news release.

Vaccinations for EMS workers will continue in the coming days at various locations, according to county health officials. The Health Division is coordinating with EMS companies and fire departments to stagger doses among their employees. The Health Division also is offering the vaccine to its public health nurses who will be vaccinating EMS workers and eventually other members of the public at the county’s drive-thru locations when it becomes available to the general public.

 

The Health Division expects to receive its next round of doses sometime after the first of the year, officials said.

 


 PONTIAC EATERIES HOLD OUTDOOR EVENT TO BENEFIT RESTAURANT EMPLOYEES  

Four restaurants in downtown Pontiac will be holding an outdoor event this weekend to benefit the over 30 employees among the eateries.

Fillmore 13 Brewery, Alley Cat Café, Little MO and Exferimentation Brewing Co. will be serving various menu items and beverages, including beer and wine. The event takes place from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19 next to Fillmore 13 Brewery on Saginaw Street. Diners will be seated in tents with a fire pit, music and a 50-50 raffle.

All of the proceeds from the event will be distributed among the employees of the restaurants in hopes of putting a little extra money in the pockets of those who have been laid-off due to the coronavirus before the holiday season, according to Lee Roumaya, owner of Fillmore 13.

Separate monetary donations can also be made directly during the event or by calling one of the four restaurants.

 


 mICHIGAN SENATE APPROVES CREATION OF COMMITTEE TO SUSPEND PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS BETWEEN SESSIONS  

The Michigan legislature has fought executive orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her state agencies all year long, and took a step Thursday to deal another blow to the administration’s efforts to mandate coronavirus precautions.

Just before the end of the legislative session, the Michigan Senate laid the groundwork to put a measure in place to suspend any Whitmer administration order issued before the next session starts in January.

State senators approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 36, introduced by Sen. John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, by a voice vote without discussion. If also approved by the House, it would create a committee with the potential power to suspend any rule or regulation introduced by a state agency in between the end of the current lame-duck session and the start of the 2021-22 session on Jan. 13.

 


 moderna covid-19 vaccine in final fda review  

A second COVID-19 vaccine likely will receive a thumbs up Thursday from an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which authorized the first one a week ago.

This time, the committee is reviewing a vaccine made by Cambridge, Massachusetts, biotech Moderna, with similar technology and results as the one it supported last week by Pfizer and its German collaborator, BioNTech.

A clinical trial in 30,000 volunteers showed that the Moderna vaccine is more than 94% effective in preventing COVID-19, including serious disease. The vaccine causes frequent side effects like sore arms, fatigue, muscle aches and chills, but all were temporary.

If this independent group gives its OK, the vaccine will go to the FDA commissioner for his approval, likely Friday. An independent advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning this weekend to consider adding the vaccine to the national adult vaccine schedule, and if they sign off, it will go to the CDC director for his approval.

 


michigan  launches coronavirus vaccine dashboard

A total of 244 Michigan residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday, Dec. 15, according to a new COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard launched today to help Michiganders track information about the vaccine.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard includes data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry on the number of providers enrolled to provide the vaccine, the amount of vaccine received and doses administered. The dashboard will be expanded over the coming weeks to include vaccination coverage rates by age and race, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

MDHHS also has updated information in its priority groups for vaccination administration document.

Based on the updates, teens age 16 and 17 can receive the vaccine. The previous MDHHS guidance was recommending the vaccine for ages 18 and older but lowered the age based on new federal recommendations.

“While there is not currently data on the safety and efficacy of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that pregnant women may be offered the vaccine within the priority groups upon consultation with their medical provider,” the MDHHS press release said.

 


michigan bans faulty hand sanitizer 

Bamboo brand hand sanitizer is being stripped from store shelves in Michigan after a state investigation found the product didn’t have enough alcohol in it to be effective.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued a “Stop-Use and Stop-Removal Order” for the product, effective immediately.

The 3.3-ounce Bamboo hand sanitizer bottle boasts it contains 75% alcohol. Tests showed it contained less than 60%, however. Hand sanitizer must be at least 70 percent isopropyl alcohol or 60 percent ethyl alcohol to be considered effective, per the Michigan Weights and Measures Act.

With the order, the Bamboo moisturizing hand sanitizer is not allowed to be sold in Michigan anymore and must be immediately removed from store shelves, effective Tuesday, Dec. 15.


FDA ALLOWS OVER THE COUNTER HOME COVID-19 TEST

The first home test for COVID-19 that doesn’t require a prescription will soon be on U.S. store shelves.

U.S. regulators Tuesday authorized the rapid coronavirus test, which can be done entirely at home. The announcement by the Food and Drug Administration represents another important step in efforts to expand testing options.

Regulators granted emergency use for a similar home test last month, but that one needs a doctor’s prescription.

Initial supplies of the over-the-counter test will be limited. The kit includes a nasal swab, a chemical solution and a testing strip. The test connects digitally to a smart phone app that displays the results and then helps interpret the results. Users can also connect with a health professional via the app.  For people with insurance, federal law requires that plans cover the cost of COVID-19 testing.


  AG WARNS PUBLIC OF SCAMS AS COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLS OUT

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is urging residents to be wary of COVID-19 scams now that a vaccine for the virus has been approved. 

Nessel on Tuesday said residents should beware of fake vaccines, treatments, and clinical trials that scammers are going to be using as ways to potentially scam people. She said any treatment or vaccine people see online should also be flagged. 

“The bottom line really is this: Do not buy a treatment or a vaccine online,” she said, “and always consult a medical professional and do not respond to text messages, emails or calls that offer you the vaccine.”


MLCC SUSPENDS ANOTHER 8 LIQUOR LICENSES, INCLUDING ANDIAMO WARREN   

 

The state of Michigan has suspended the liquor licenses for eight more bars and restaurants in the state for violating the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services emergency order banning indoor dining.

Among the eight businesses is Andiamo Italia’s Warren restaurant. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission issued an emergency suspension of its Class C liquor license on Thursday, exactly one week after owners Joe and Rosalie Vicari hosted a Zoom meeting to discuss an initiative calling for a compromise with the state government to reopen indoor dining rooms, which have been ordered closed since Nov. 18.

The Dec. 3 virtual meeting came days after a letter from Joe Vicari to local restaurant owners leaked to the media. He called for them to “band together and fight back” as a group if the pause on indoor dining was extended. The Zoom call later that week set a softer tone and urged fellow restaurant owners not to defy the law.

The MLCC says the businesses have “multiple violations” of the MDHHS order including “allowing non-residential, in-person gatherings; providing in-person dining; failure to require face coverings for staff and patrons; and failure to prohibit patrons from congregating.”

 


 FIRST COVID-19 VACCINES ADMINISTERED IN MICHIGAN 

Two Michigan hospital systems administered the first COVID-19 vaccinations in the state on Monday, injecting the Michigan-produced Pfizer vaccine into front-line workers.

Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine and Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids were the first to begin vaccinating workers in the state — the beginning of a massive inoculation rollout in Michigan expected to expand to other hospital systems in the coming days.

Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan health system, received a morning shipment of 1,950 doses, officials said. Spectrum expects to receive nearly 5,000 by the end of the week.   Spectrum and Michigan Medicine each vaccinated five health workers on Monday, and plan to ramp up vaccinations starting on Tuesday. Each vial of vaccine must be thawed and diluted to make five doses.

The shots also come as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday that the state has now tallied 437,985 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10,752 related deaths since the virus was first detected in March.

 


 MICHIGAN LISTS 188 NEW CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAKS


Michigan is tracking 1,268 active COVID-19 outbreaks, including 188 new clusters reported over the last week.

Long-term care facilities remain the most common setting for known outbreaks — due in-part to mandated regular testing — with 53 new outbreaks and 430 ongoing outbreaks, according to data released Monday, Dec. 14 from the Department of Health and Human Services.

K-12 schools and manufacturing and construction sites remain the second and third most common settings with 25 and 21 new outbreaks, respectively. Outbreaks linked to retail settings jumped significantly over the last week, from 40 known clusters to 80.

The state health department updates its online outbreak tracker weekly on Mondays, though its data is accurate as of the previous Thursday. This week’s update included 1,268 active outbreaks — down slightly from 1,291 outbreaks as of Dec. 7.

 


 DEADLINE FOR FRONTLINE WORKERS TO APPLY FOR FREE COLLEGE ENDS SOON


For frontline workers who want to land a better job and increase their wages, it’s last call.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer plans to remind essential workers on Tuesday that the deadline is Dec. 31 to apply for Futures for Frontliners, the Michigan program offering free community college.

Workers who earn a degree or skills certificate could get on a path for one of the most in-demand careers and earn double or triple the state’s $9.65 minimum wage.

Over 100,000 people have applied since the program first was announced in September. Piggybacking off of the program, Eastern Michigan University and Henry Ford College also announced a partnership to pay for students to earn a four-year degree.

Futures for Frontliners is the nation’s first for people who went to work to provide essential services while most people were hunkered down at home at the beginning of the pandemic. It is modeled after the federal government’s support of soldiers returning from World War II by providing educational opportunities.

 



pfizer begins delivery of  covid-19 vaccine 

Three semi-trucks loaded with the nation’s first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine rolled out of the parking lot of the Pfizer manufacturing plant early Sunday morning, met with cheering crowds of local residents who said they were proud of their hometown’s contribution to science, and helping to bring the end to the coronavirus pandemic.

The caravan of FedEx, UPS and Boyle Transportation trucks — led and tailed by unmarked police cars — pulled out of the parking lot about 8:25 a.m., headed to airports and distribution centers on a historic journey.

Millions of doses of the company’s coronavirus vaccine were inside those trucks, and could be injected into the arms of the American people as early as Monday morning.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is about 95% effective, leapt the final hurdle Sunday and was approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use in people ages 16 and older.

Pfizer has said it will deliver 6.4 million doses around the country in this initial shipment. Michigan’s share of that first delivery is 84,825 doses.

The shipment early Sunday morning from its plant in Portage involved 1.95 million doses of the vaccine.

Health care workers and emergency medical personnel will be the first in Michigan to receive the vaccine, as the biggest mass vaccination effort in the nation’s history takes an important step toward trying to stop the spread of a virus that so far has infected 16 million Americans and killed 300,000.

 


Oakland county installs freezers for  covid-19 vaccine 

In anticipation of receiving the first allotments of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Oakland County Health Division on Friday installed 10 medical grade laboratory freezers capable of providing the extreme cold that the doses will require.

The freezers — which cost $400,000 and are being paid for with federal CARES Act funding —  can keep temperatures as low as -86 degrees Celsius. One of the vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer, requires that it be stored at -70 C.

Each freezer can hold 144,000 doses of the vaccine.

The freezers come as the Oakland County Health Division launched a public education campaign this week to emphasize how important it is to keep wearing masks, avoiding gatherings, and stay home when sick until the vaccine is widely available.

Health care employees who work directly with COVID-19 patients will have top priority, along with nursing home residents who are most vulnerable to the virus.

 


OU offers wearable technology to help combat spread of covid-19 


Oakland University is blazing a new trail and offering students, faculty and staff a new piece of technology as an additional screening tool in the battle against the novel coronavirus.

Known as a BioButton, the coin-sized, wearable medical device is similar to a Fitbit, worn by fitness-minded folks to track their daily steps. But the BioButton is constantly tracking an individual’s vital signs, giving wearers an early alert when changes in their body suggest an infection such as COVID-19.

Launched by a startup company headed by a University of Michigan graduate, the device is being portrayed as a movie of someone’s health versus a snapshot in time measured by a test.

The BioButton, worn on an individual’s chest, is constantly monitoring a wearer’s  temperature, heart and respiratory rates. If the device detects changes in those vital signs suggesting a potential infection, it sends a red alert, giving the wearer information to potentially quarantine themselves, monitor their symptoms and perhaps get tested to avoid spreading any infection. The device, which lasts for up to 90 days, also is capable of contract tracing.

Oakland University is among the first universities in the nation to offer the device to its campus community in an effort to control outbreaks as a second wave of COVID-19 cases is gripping the country, including Michigan.

 


michigan slated to get 84,825 doses of vaccine once given final approval

Insulated boxes filled with vials of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and dry ice will be loaded onto FedEx and UPS trucks, and shipped “within hours” of being granted regulatory emergency approval in the U.S.

The company says it will initially distribute 6.4 million doses of its vaccine across the U.S. Many of those doses will come from the company’s Kalamazoo manufacturing plant and its Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, distribution center.

Michigan is earmarked to receive 84,825 doses — or 87 packages that each contain 975 doses — of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine if it’s granted emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Lynn Sutfin, a spokesperson for the state health department.  Although an FDA committee voted 17-4 to recommend the agency should grant emergency authorization of the coronavirus vaccine created by Pfizer with its German partner BioNTech, its director, Stephen Hahn, told USA Today that it could be days before the FDA makes a final decision.


governor creates covid-19 vaccine commission 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday to create a bipartisan commission aimed at raising awareness about the soon-to-arrive COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor announced the new Protect Michigan Commission during a Thursday afternoon press briefing, nine months into the state’s fight against a virus that’s been linked to more than 10,000 deaths here. The panel’s chairs will include Detroit Pistons player Blake Griffin, former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, a Republican, and health experts, like Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, whose research helped expose the Flint water crisis.

Under the new executive order, the vaccine commission will feature “at least 50 members appointed by the governor representing various sectors and communities within this state.” The commission will help elevate the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and assist in the distribution of educational materials about it.


 meadow brook hall cancels new holiday light display 

Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester on Thursday pulled the plug on a brand-new outdoor holiday light display after struggling to find a way to comply with the state’s current limits on outdoor gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials from the National Historic Landmark, the former home of auto heiress Matilda Dodge Wilson, said they’d been working closely with regional officials to  find a way to comply with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest restrictions but were “unable to reach a solution.”

In July, Meadow Brook unveiled its plans for Winter Wonder Lights, a brand-new outdoor winter holiday display to go along with its annual Holiday Walk, which draws thousands of visitors every year to tour the mansion that’s completely decorated for the holidays.

Meadow Brook officials said all purchased tickets for Winter Wonder Lights will be refunded and memberships bought in October, November or December of this year will have benefits extended through 2021.

Winter Wonder Lights will launch in 2021 instead, along with the Holiday Walk.


arts, beats & eats raises $431,000 for local musicians 

The alternative festival staged this year by Arts, Beats & Eats generated some much-needed income for metro Detroit musicians struggling amid the pandemic shutdown.

AB&E announced Thursday that more than $431,000 was raised for nearly 450 area artists, following a series of makeshift concerts and fundraising efforts in August and September, dubbed The Beats Go On.

Half of that total — about $216,000 — comes from a matching grant arranged by Oakland County via CARES Act funding.

Fest officials said about $83,000 was raised through donations to the Arts, Beats & Eats Musicians Fund, which included a public GoFundMe campaign. That included a $25,000 contribution from Eminem’s Marshall Mathers Foundation.

That money will go to 247 local artists and bands who have shown that more than 50% of their pre-pandemic income came from music work.


COVID-19 CASES MAY BE PLATEAUING AFTER SURGE 

Michigan’s top epidemiologist said Wednesday there’s reason for “cautious optimism” because of new data emerging about the spread of coronavirus in the state.

COVID-19 case rates are starting to dip; Michigan is now averaging about 516 cases per million people, down from 610 cases per million people last week, said Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health at the state health department.

And hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 symptoms and the rate of intensive-care unit admissions appears to be plateauing or declining, too, she said, even though the state overall is now seeing hospitalizations at about 90% of the spring peak.

The three metrics health officials watch most carefully to measure the state of the pandemic are the percentage of positive coroanvirus tests, the number of cases per million people, and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by patients with COVID-19 over the last seven days, Lyon-Callo said.


HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS CAN DECLINE COVID-19 VACCINE, FOR NOW 

Millions of health care workers are slated to receive the first batch of potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this month. But not all of them want to be first in line.

Only one-third of a panel of 13,000 nurses said they would voluntarily take a vaccine, another third said they wouldn’t and the rest said they were unsure, according to a late October survey by the American Nurses Association.

If nurses and other health care professionals continue to shy away from the shots, some hospitals and clinics say they’ll require employees to get vaccinated if they want to keep their jobs.

An advisory committee to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Dec. 1 that the nation’s 21 million health care workers and 3 million long-term care residents receive the first batch of shots — two per person, three weeks apart.


MENORAH IN THE D GOES VIRTUAL  

Detroit’s 10th annual Menorah in the D, a community Hanukkah celebration at Campus Martius, will go virtual this year. As the Jewish holiday begins at sundown Thursday, families and community members are encouraged to join the festivities on Zoom and light their menorahs as the 26-foot Detroit menorah is lit.

The event typically draws thousands, but this year, as a result of COVID-19 safety protocols, Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, will lead an invite-only ceremony at Campus Martius.

 

At 5 p.m., guests can join a Zoom link on MenorahInTheD.com for greetings from community leaders and dignitaries, a 10-year recap and the torch ceremony. That will be followed by a 6 p.m. Zoom afterparty during which families watching from any location will be welcome to share their greetings.


Michigan cancels football game against Ohio State  

Michigan has been forced to cancel its long-standing rivalry game with Ohio State because of its concerning COVID-19 outbreak. This marks the first time since 1917 that The Game, considered one of the greatest rivalries in college football, will not be played.

This upcoming game against Ohio State, which had been in jeopardy after Michigan canceled its game last Saturday against Maryland, was canceled Tuesday. Michigan had returned to light practice Monday after pausing in-person football activities Nov. 30, giving some hope that The Game would be played at noon Saturday at Ohio Stadium

“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time.

“Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close contact individuals.


Michigan House cancels session after staffer tests positive for covid 

The Michigan House of Representatives will no longer meet in session this week after a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement Tuesday.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said the person who tested positive had nothing to do with the hearing last Wednesday where Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for President Donald Trump, testified. Chatfield did not identify the staff member, but said the person works with several lawmakers and committees and those who have been in contact with the staffer have already been informed and are currently isolating and getting tested.

The new announcement came the same day state health and labor officials confirmed they are investigating the House for a possible COVID-19 workplace violation.

The decision to cancel House session this week leaves lawmakers with three days of lame duck session next week.


Oakland County launches media campaign to address pandemic fatigue  

County Executive Dave Coulter said about $200,000 is being spent on the multimedia campaign called “The Only Way To Beat It Is To Face It.”

The campaign runs through the end of the month via public service announcements in print, television, radio and digital platforms, he said, and will be paid for with CARES Act money.

The campaign is to encourage residents to continue taking measures to limit transmission of the virus — such as wearing masks and social distancing — and to combat “pandemic fatigue.” Coulter said it will feature some familiar names, including former Detroit Red Wing Darren McCarty and Meryl Davis, an Olympic champion ice dancer.

Coulter said they are looking for new ways to get out the message to stop the spread of the virus, particularly as the holidays and winter approach and the availability of vaccines draw nearer.


governor extends covid-19 pause 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration extended on Monday the closure of some Michigan businesses, the halt on indoor dining at restaurants and the suspension of in-person instruction at high schools through Dec. 20 as COVID-19 surges on.

The Democratic governor announced the 12-day extension during a Monday afternoon press briefing, drawing criticism from Republican lawmakers and business groups that wanted the most intrusive of the current restrictions lifted. The initial three-week “Pause to Save Lives” order was originally set to end at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

The expiration date is now 11:59 p.m. Dec. 20, five days before Christmas. But Whitmer is already discouraging people from gathering for the holiday.

“Hope is on the horizon, but we need an additional 12 days to determine the full impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Whitmer said.


michigan high school sports to remain on hold 

High school sports will remain on hold through at least Dec. 20, as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended a statewide partial shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The partial shutdown was scheduled to expire Tuesday.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association was attempting to complete its fall sports with championships in football, volleyball and girls swimming by the end of the month.

The MHSAA said its Representative Council would meet Wednesday to decide its next course of action, adding that it still hopes to conclude the football, volleyball and girls swimming seasons with state championship events.  The MHSAA scheduled regional football games on Dec. 15-16 with state semifinals on Dec. 21-22 and title games on Dec. 28-29. Now the earliest regionals could be played is after Christmas with semifinal games pushed to January.


CATHOLIC SCHOOLS FILE LAWSUIT CHALLENGING covid-19 PAUSE EXTENSION 

Catholic families and schools in the Diocese of Lansing have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the order by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to keep high schools closed for an additional 12 days.

Two high schools within the Diocese of Lansing have joined the Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools (MANS) in filling the suit against MDHHS Director Robert Gordon.

According to a press release, the lawsuit “claims that Gordon’s Dec. 7, 2020 order — an order extending his closure order from last month — closing religious high schools violates the First Amendment right to practice religion.” The lawsuit also calls for protection for all MANS-member schools to be able to legally reopen. The Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools represents over 400 schools across the state.


covid-19 brings most massive vaccination effort in a century 

While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared last week that “hope is on the horizon” with two COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna, the state’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said she knows there will be challenges in the enormous job of vaccinating Michigan’s 10 million people.

From prioritizing who should get vaccinated first to finding enough trained health care workers to both care for sick COVID-19 patients in Michigan’s hospitals and run vaccine clinics, Khaldun called it “the most massive vaccination effort in a century.

The first doses of the vaccines, which await regulatory review, could be ready to be injected into people’s arms before Christmas.  Health officials are still waiting to find out from the CDC how many doses Michigan will receive in the first allocation.


michigan’s “pause” set to expire, businesses worry it will be extended  

Michigan’s three-week “pause” that, among other things, closed indoor service at bars and restaurants expires on Tuesday, but business owners around the state express little hope that they’ll see the end of coronavirus health and safety restrictions next week.

So far, state officials won’t say whether Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, will lengthen restrictions that closed indoor dining, movie theaters, bowling alleys and non-tribal casinos, while also closing high schools, reducing retail capacity at stores and ending high school sports.

However, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is signaling that an extension of Michigan’s latest coronavirus health orders is possible as the deadly pandemic once again escalates across the state.

Michigan is on pace to pass 3,000 deaths in December, a number that would rival the 3,500 who died in April. Recent data show nearly 16 percent of Michigan residents examined for the virus test positive, the highest rate since April and an indication of rapid community spread. The number of cases this month so far is 67 for every 100,000 people. A month earlier, it was 31.

Legislative Republicans are urging Whitmer to not extend the three-week restaurant dining room shutdown, which is to expire Tuesday.


skiing during the covid crisis  

As the days become cold and crisp, snow sports enthusiasts are getting ready for a different kind of season.

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association unveiled a new set of COVID-19 protocols for ski resorts and riders.

Some ski areas are going to contactless lift ticket sales, others are bringing in food trucks for outdoor dining, changing the rental department around to aid in social distancing and limiting class sizes for ski and snowboard lessons. According to a news release, one consistent rule across Michigan ski resorts will be the requirement of wearing a face mask, which is usually part of a skier’s uniform anyway.

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association represents resorts like Alpine Valley, Pine Knob, Mt. Holly and a few others.


Oakland County reveals $10 million plan to help restaurants 

Oakland County officials announced a $10 million program to support restaurants struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aid categories will include general operational assistance, help to adapt facilities for outside service, and assistance to reopen safely, Oakland County Executive David Coulter said.

If approved by the county board on Monday, checks might go out to about 1,000 bars and restaurants that have already applied and been approved for pandemic relief help.

The program — involving $7 million in federal Oakland County CARES Act allocation and $3 million from the county’s general fund — comes as negotiations in Congress for federal relief to individuals, businesses and state and local governments have stalled, and as a state order banning dine-in eating at restaurants remains in effect at least through Dec. 8.

 


state health leader grilled by lawmakers over shutdown orders

Michigan’s pandemic orders are grinding down weary residents, a reality that must be more heavily factored into decisions about continued shutdowns, state Republican legislators argued Thursday.

Robert Gordon, the state’s top health official and the recipient of GOP complaints, acknowledged the widespread pain and anxiety caused by the coronavirus and the state’s aggressive restrictions to stop it. But in morning testimony in Lansing, Gordon argued that the key to returning students to classrooms, opening up more businesses and restoring the economy is controlling “the deadly disease that is rampant in our state.”

Issuing statewide restrictions isn’t easy, he said; decisions are based on “multiple factors” such as case trends, positivity rates, hospital capacity, conversations with hospital leadership, measures of mobility and trends in other states.

Gordon declined to say whether the state will extend or change the order, but he made clear that virus concerns remain high.

 


michigan national guard to help with covid response thru march  

The Trump administration has approved the continued use of the Michigan National Guard through March to help with the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including vaccine distribution.

The federal cost-sharing of Guard expenses under Title 32 authority, which allows Guard members to receive federal pay and benefits, had been set to expire Dec. 31.

The Michigan National Guard has aided the state in performing testing for COVID-19; distributing personal protective equipment; food and medical supplies; disinfecting public spaces; and supporting public safety when needed.

Whitmer’s office also anticipates the Guard will help provide logistical support and transportation support to help distribute COVID vaccines when they become available.

 


michigan restaurants lose court battle 

Michigan’s restaurant dining rooms must remain closed until at least Dec. 9, as a federal judge has denied a motion that would have nullified the state’s COVID-19 order that temporarily prohibits in-person dining.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association and two restaurant groups sued the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shortly after the three-week ban began in mid-November.

The MRLA claimed restaurants are being treated unfairly since other types of industries can remain open. The judge disagreed, saying there’s a notable reason for why restaurants should be treated differently due to restaurant patrons cannot wear a mask while eating or drinking.

While the ruling is a blow to the plaintiffs, the case isn’t finished yet. The judge determined Michigan’s order likely doesn’t violate federal law, but he declined to rule on if the order infringes on the Michigan Constitution.

 


um football game canceled due to covid outbreak

Michigan’s football team will not play this weekend, as a surge in COVID-19 cases has forced the program to cancel its game against Maryland.

The program made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, saying it has paused all team activities and cannot practice until Monday, Dec. 7, “at the earliest” due to positive tests and contact tracing requirements.

Big Ten Conference protocols during the pandemic released in September stipulate that a team must stop practicing and game competition for a minimum of seven days if COVID-19 test positivity rates exceed 5 percent of the team and 7.5 percent of the population.

Additionally, any player who tests positive must sit out game competition for a minimum of 21 days, potentially jeopardizing Michigan’s game next weekend, Dec. 12, at Ohio State. The game was scheduled to take place Saturday in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines’ fourth and final home game of what has been a shortened and disappointing season.

 


stay home for the holidays or get tested twice

Health officials on Wednesday urged Americans to stay home over the upcoming holiday season and consider getting tested for coronavirus before and after if they do decide to travel.

That’s the same advice they had over Thanksgiving but many Americans traveled anyway. With COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to rise, the CDC added the testing option.

The CDC says even if few people became infected while traveling over Thanksgiving, that could still result in hundreds of thousands of new infections.

During a news briefing, the CDC said travelers should consider getting COVID-19 tests one to three days before their trips and again three to five days afterward. They also recommended reducing non-essential activities for a full week after travel or for 10 days if not tested afterward.

 


michigan expecting uptick in covid cases due to thanksgiving travel 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warned that cases in Michigan could rise over the next couple of weeks because “too many people traveled for Thanksgiving.”

Those cases will take two to three weeks to show up in state data and are expected to increase state numbers ahead of the Christmas holiday, the governor said during a press conference Tuesday.

The state reported 190 deaths related to the virus Tuesday, 30 of which were identified through delayed record reviews. With the 30 delayed reports, Tuesday’s tally is the largest since the previous record of 164 on April 16, when none of the deaths reported included those identified through delayed record reviews.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun cautioned people who had traveled to stay away from others for 14 days upon return and stay in contact with those they visited.

 


michigan facing crossroads as three-week pause nears end 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is approaching another decisive moment in its fight against COVID-19 as a three-week halt on some businesses, in-person instruction at high schools and indoor dining at restaurants is scheduled to lift Dec. 9, a week from Wednesday.

Amid fears of economic fallout, many business owners oppose an extension to the so-called “pause to save lives” that’s closed bars, movie theaters and bowling alleys. But strong concerns continue about hospitals’ ability to cope with an ongoing surge in coronavirus infections as some in Michigan remain near capacity.

On Tuesday, the governor said it was too early to announce whether the state’s three-week pause would be extended. Whitmer said it was likely the effect of the pause would be clearer early next week.

Any announcement about whether to continue the pause will be made before Dec. 8 to ensure businesses, high schools, colleges and Michigan residents have time to comply.

 


border restrictions to remain in place until covid is under control 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the ban on nonessential travel with the United States will not be lifted until COVID-19 is significantly more under control around the world.

Canada and the U.S. have limited border crossings since March, extending the restrictions each month

About 400,000 people crossed the world’s longest international border each day before the pandemic.  Essential cross-border workers like healthcare professionals, airline crews and truck drivers are still permitted to cross. Truck drivers are critical as they move food and medical goods in both directions.   About 75% of Canada’s exports go to the U.S. which has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world.

 


 MOONBEAMS FOR SWEET DREAMS GOING VIRTUAL  

Beaumont Hospital has held Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams every December since 2017 — this year the event will be different due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event was started to help fight the feeling of isolation children felt while stuck inside a hospital during the holidays. They gave the patients flashlights to wave out their windows for five minutes each night — hoping that community members would come with flashlights and wave back. The community came out in force.

The hospital said it’s not safe for people to gather outside the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak this year — so instead they’re turning the fourth annual Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams event into a virtual experience. It runs from Dec. 1 through Dec. 31.

Community members are asked to upload videos and photos to the Beaumont website. You will be asked to add a brief description and then your submission can be added to a gallery and available to share on the hospital’s social media. Beaumont will compile the videos and photos to create a video that will be shared with pediatric patients via social media.

 

 


 $10 MILLION GRANT PROGRAM TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES IN MICHIGAN  

State officials on Monday announced a new $10 million grant program to help them, with the funding targeting “small businesses that continue to be disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of the pandemic,” said Mark Burton, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative was approved Monday afternoon by the Michigan Strategic Fund.

The move will assist 700 or more small leisure and hospitality businesses or recreational facilities in Michigan affected by longer-term closures and lower capacity limitations during the pandemic and by the recent set of restrictions issued by Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The plan calls for $10 million in grants of up to $15,000 to be distributed to businesses in the troubled sectors with 2 to 50 employees and revenue of at least $25,000. Another $1 million will be allowed for administrative fees. Funding is coming through Community Development Block Grants provided to Michigan from the federal CARES Act, and it represents some of the state’s last dollars available through that $2 trillion nationwide plan.

Work on the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative starts this week. Applications for a grant administrator will begin immediately, and businesses should be able to ask for consideration by Dec. 15.

 


FEDS PREPARE FOR COVID-19 SCAMS AS VACCINE APPROACHES APPROVAL

The coronavirus vaccine inching toward approval in the U.S. is desperately anticipated by weary Americans longing for a path back to normal life. But criminals are waiting, too, ready to use that desperation to their advantage, federal investigators say.

Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other drug companies racing to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. The goal: to prepare for the scams that are coming, especially after the mess of criminal activity this year with phony personal protective equipment, false cures and extortion schemes.

Homeland Security Investigations started using its 7,000 agents in tandem with border, FDA and FBI officials to investigate scams, seize phony products and arrest hundreds of people.   The agency has already analyzed more than 70,900 websites suspected as being involved in some type of COVID-19 fraud. Millions of fake or unapproved personal protective equipment products and antiviral pharmaceuticals were seized. Homeland Security Investigations made more than 1,600 seizures of products worth more than $27 million and made more than 185 arrests.

 


governor pushing for $100 million state stimulus package  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a state-based stimulus plan of up to $100 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that’s ravaged Michigan’s economy.

The issue could become a focus of negotiation during the lame-duck session — the period between the election and the end of the year when unresolved bills officially die and term-limited legislators depart

Whitmer is seeking up to $100 million that “will provide direct financial support to the families and small businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” according to her letter dated Wednesday.

The Michigan House and Senate have nine session days scheduled for the month of December, beginning Tuesday. The final scheduled session day is currently Dec. 17.

 


oakland county relocates covid-19 testing sites 

Drive-thru COVID-19 testing locations in Oakland County are being relocated as colder weather sets in, while Wayne County has added testing sites.

In Oakland County, tests will be available on Mondays at the Old Holly fire station, Tuesdays at the Rochester fire station, Wednesdays at the Southfield City Hall employee parking deck and Thursdays at the Pontiac fire station.

The new testing locations will be open by appointment only and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tests are available for anyone age 4 years and older. Youth 17 and younger must exhibit COVID-19 symptoms and be a resident of Oakland County or attend school in the county.

There is no charge for the tests and no prescription is needed.

 


 detroit making plans on how to administer covid vaccine  

Mayor Mike Duggan told a national television audience Detroit is doing a better job fighting the novel coronavirus than its suburban neighbors and estimated it will take several months to vaccinate all Detroiters.

The mayor said America has never faced a challenge like administering vaccines to so many people. He said it would likely take several months to vaccinate Detroit’s approximately 700,000 residents.

The city established and operated a drive-through coronavirus testing site that tested more than a thousand Detroiters a day. Duggan said he hopes to establish multiple testing sites set up in large parking areas surrounding the city’s arenas.

“We intend to vaccinate 5,000 a day,” he said. “The magnitude of what we’re talking about, this county has never experienced.”

Duggan said frontline workers will likely be the first to receive the vaccine.

 

 

 


 cdc may reduce recommended quarantine period 

In an effort to encourage compliance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may reduce the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to the coronavirus from 14 days to somewhere between seven and 10,the Wall Street Journal reported. 

The newspaper said agency officials are putting the final touches on the recommendation, which would require a negative COVID test for the exposed person to exit quarantine

Henry Walke, the CDC’s incident manager for COVID-19 response, told the Journal that studies have shown effective quarantines can be done in less time than the currently recommended two weeks. Although there’s a chance some infections could be missed, he said there’s a valuable tradeoff to be gained.

“Hopefully people would be better able to adhere to quarantine if it was, for example, seven to 10 days,” he said.

 


 ford aims to offer covid-19 vaccine to employees 

In an attempt to keep the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic from again disrupting its operations, Ford Motor Co. has ordered a dozen ultra-cold freezers to store vaccines globally when they become available, the company confirmed Tuesday.

 

At this point, the company is looking to offer the vaccine to employees only. In the matters of COVID-19 protocol overall, Ford has been proactive about offering guidance and support to families of employees, however the company hasn’t yet decided if factory workers will be offered incentives to take the vaccine.

 

Ford has billions of dollars at stake with the upcoming 2021 F-150, Bronco and all-electric Mustang Mach-E and factory operations in North America.

 

 


state claims indoor dining among highest risk for spreading covid-19 

Reopening restaurants for in-person dining would “likely increase the spread of COVID-19” in Michigan, the state said in response to a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the dine-in ban.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association and a pair of restaurant businesses sued Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon last week for his order to prohibit in-person dining at restaurants and bars due to COVID-19 spread.  Plaintiffs argue the industry is being unfairly targeted and data doesn’t support the restrictions.  In court filings, the state argues otherwise, citing studies including one that shows indoor spaces can be nearly 20 times more likely for COVID transmission to open spaces.

 

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the state in round one – not allowing for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed restaurants to reopen inside immediately.  But the case isn’t over, as a Zoom hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30 to discuss the remaining motions to halt the dine-in ban. The ban ends Dec. 8, but industry leaders expect an extension.

 

 

 


 governor reminds michiganders of safety protocols for thanksgiving  

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are reminding Michiganders of the COVID-19 safety guidance set for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Gov. Whitmer released a video Tuesday encouraging Michiganders to wear a mask, practice safe physical distancing, wash hand frequently and follow the new MDHHS’ epidemic order.

The MDHHS also issued new guidance for vulnerable populations this Thanksgiving.   

“While we are advising everyone to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings beyond their own households, it’s especially critical that residents of nursing homes and other group homes remain in their homes during the holiday,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “If these individuals contract COVID while traveling, they run the risk of bringing it back to others who are especially vulnerable to illness and death. This year, please celebrate Thanksgiving by Zoom or by phone, and next year’s Thanksgiving will be better.”

 

 


holiday extravaganza cancelled this