Saturday, May 23: Latest developments on coronavirus in Michigan

 mlive.com  05/23/2020 11:01:45   Samuel Dodge | sdodge@mlive.com

Its Memorial Day Weekend, and as northern Michiganders enjoy relaxed coronavirus restrictions, the rest of the state has to wait at least three weeks longer.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has further extended the stay-home order, as well as restrictions that have shut down many Michigan businesses to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The governor signed two executive orders Friday, May 22 to continue various emergency mandates, including the stay-home order, until June 12 and Michigans state of emergency until June 19.

The orders continue the temporary closure of public accommodations such as theaters, gyms, salons and casinos. For northern counties, though, life is moving in a more normal direction.

Businesses are opening at limited capacity in northern parts of the state such as Houghton, Traverse City and Marquette among others. For the rest of the state, the plan is to slowly inch closer to normal life more slowly, as schools, sports, theaters and other industries and institutions prepare for restricted reopenings.

COVID-19 politics continue to rage on, as well, as the states Court of Claims ruled in Whitmers favor in a lawsuit filed by Republican legislators.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens ruled that the governor does have the authority to continue a state of emergency declaration without legislative approval.

Stephens also ruled that Whitmer did not overstep her authority when she signed an executive order that relaxed some of the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act during the COVID-10 pandemic.

Both rulings are likely to be appealed.

Here are more of the latest updates surrounding the coronavirus ourtbreak in Michigan.

Michigan averages fewer new coronavirus cases as Kent County overtakes Wayne County in most positive tests

Michigan announced 403 new cases of COVID-19 and 29 new deaths associated with the infectious respiratory virus on Friday, May 22.

The states confirmed case total has climbed to 53,912 since mid-March, while the death toll of the coronavirus outbreak is up to 5,158, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The most recent seven-day moving averages are statewide 525 cases and 55 deaths per day. Fridays numbers were both below those averages. A week ago, the seven-day average for cases was 623 cases and 47 deaths.

For the second straight day, Kent County reported more new cases than Wayne County, which until this week has consistently reported the highest case numbers.

Kent County reported 86 new cases, more than any other Michigan county, followed by Wayne County with 64, and Macomb and Ottawa counties with 25 each.

Oakland County, another of Michigans hardest-hit areas, reported just six new cases Friday, after only eight Thursday.

Why health officials say Kent County topped states daily list of new coronavirus cases

A major factor, Kent County health officials say, is ramped up testing and targeted testing of high-risk groups, such as those who live in nursing homes.

Kent County Health Director Adam London, during video updates posted to the departments Facebook page, said the countys test strike teams have been out this week at long-term care facilities to do testing and he believed it was partly responsible for the bump up in cases.

Earlier, he said health department staff was aggressively seeking out COVID-19 cases to try to find any clusters -- whether at industry or other places where people may congregate -- and stop further spread.

He acknowledged that Kent County has the fourth-highest number of total cases in Michigan and again cited increased testing as a major factor.

Our testing is very high, our positives are very high but our deaths are relatively low," London said. This disparity I think is another sign that were doing a good job, relatively speaking, of doing testing in the community.

The statewide fatality rate is about 10 percent while Kent Countys is less than 2 percent, he said.

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Traverse City begins to reopen after coronavirus pandemic shutdown

This is not normal: Northern Michigan shops and restaurants begin reopening during coronavirus pandemic

Spoiled plans had been the theme of the spring for Barb and Frank Kramarz.

A Bob Seger concert. Their granddaughters college graduation. The Detroit Tigers opening day baseball game.

The coronavirus pandemic ruined all of it.

But the couple took part in a different kind of opening day on Friday, May 22, enjoying the shops and restaurants in northern Michigan, as they were allowed to reopen under Gov. Gretchen Whitmers order.

After two months of being closed, Whitmers new order allows restaurants and retailers in Regions 6 and 8 to reopen, in person. The regions include much of northern lower Michigan  like Traverse City and Alpena  as well as all of the Upper Peninsula, including Marquette and Houghton.

Businesses must follow certain precautions, however, like reducing capacity by 50%, prohibiting buffets and making employees wear masks.

Service might be a bit slower with the new precautions in place, restaurant leaders warn, which is why the Kramarz couple plan to hit up their favorite Elk Rapids restaurant right when it opens at 4 p.m. on Friday.

Before dinner, the couple visited the Cherry Republic store in downtown Traverse City, with orders from their family on which types of salsa to bring back in bulk. They wore masks  as everybody in the store was required to.

Sexist attacks cast Michigan Gov. Whitmer as mothering tyrant of coronavirus dystopia

The most powerful person in Michigan is a woman.

That reality animates sexist sentiments, ranging from veiled remarks about gender to overtly misogynist attacks, that are often lobbed at women leaders, experts say.

Examples of gender-specific digs are widespread; Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been cast as an overbearing mother, a nanny, witch, queen and a menopausal teacher punishing her students with edicts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

President Donald Trump, Michigan Attorney General trade barbs after Trumps Ford plant tour

Add Attorney General Dana Nessel to the list of Michigan officials President Donald Trump isnt thrilled with.

In a tweet posted late Thursday night after his tour of a Ford plant making ventilators in Ypsilanti, Trump called Nessel a The Wacky Do Nothing Attorney General of Michigan and said she was viciously threatening Ford Motor Company because Trump was in the plant without a mask.

Not their fault, & I did put on a mask, he wrote.

He also said Nessel should not take action against Ford for allowing him not to wear a mask on public portions of the tour.

Nessel had asked Trump to don a mask during his tour of Ford Motor Companys Rawsonville plant in Ypsilanti Township to comply with state orders and Ford company policy.

He declined to do so publicly, but said he wore a face mask he put one on in an area where they preferred it," and later showed reporters present a navy blue mask decorated with the presidential seal.

Following the tour, Nessel called Trump a petulant child in a CNN interview, noting Trumps decision not to wear a mask publicly was extremely disappointing and yet totally predictable.

Karen Whitsett

State Rep. Karen Whitsett, D-Detroit, poses in this file photo.

Lawmaker from Detroit sues Whitmer, fellow Democrats over censure after she met with President Trump

State Rep. Karen Whitsett, D-Detroit, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and several fellow Democrats, claiming violations of free speech and defamation.

Specifically, Whitsett claimed Whitmer and the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization sought to deprive her of her right to engage in protected speech after she publicly thanked President Donald Trump for his suggestion of using the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat her coronavirus case.

Whitsett contracted the virus in March and has been open about her appreciation for the presidents suggestion, which she says saved her life. While it remains unproven that hydroxychloroquine can effectively treat COVID-19, it is used to prevent malaria and to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and complications of Lyme disease. Whitsett suffers from Lyme disease, and was aware hydroxychloroquine can be used to treat that disease, but didnt know until the president mentioned it that it was being testing for use against COVID-19.

As a result, Whitsett was invited to The White House to meet with Trump on April 14. During that meeting, she again thanked Trump for the suggestion and said her condition went from 0 to 100 after she began taking the drug.

Following that meeting, Whitsett began receiving criticism for her public statements and was eventually censured by the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization. The organization took exception to her comments on the drug and the outbreak, saying they painted a picture that isnt true and spreads misinformation.

AAPS announces new start date, what instruction might look like for 2020-21

Ann Arbor Public Schools has unveiled preliminary plans on how it will provide instruction for students next fall, targeting a new pre-Labor Day start date of Aug. 31.

The district provided an outline of what that instruction might look like during a school board work session Wednesday, May 20. That instruction is expected to include a combination of modified face-to-face instruction, along with blended and virtual learning settings.

In our plan, we are going to be a little more nuanced, Ann Arbor Public School Superintendent Jeanice Swift said. Well be waiting and watching the health progress and infection rates. It will be more of a dial that we turn between the face-to-face, blended and a full virtual model.

Parents will have the option of choosing what type of instruction is best for their student, based on the current circumstances, Swift said. Specific class, grade, school and district-wide decisions also will play into how instruction is delivered for situations that are beyond the districts control, she said.

Huge cuts to school programs loom if lawmakers dont provide relief funding, West Michigan educators say

West Michigan school leaders warn huge cuts will be coming to K-12 student programming, transportation and extracurricular activities if state and federal governments do not provide immediate financial assistance to mitigate predicted revenue losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendents across Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa counties urged government officials to mitigate a $1.3 billion revenue loss to the Michigan School Aid Fund projected by the states top economists at the May 15 Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference.

Cuts to schools could amount to $700 per pupil with the small balance currently remaining in the school aid fund, according to a news release issued by the West Michigan Talent Triangle, which comprises 41 area superintendents.

In the wake of this crisis, we were asked to maintain staffing levels and, later, to develop distance learning plans to continue the education of each student, said Rockford Superintendent Mike Shibler, a West Michigan Talent Triangle member and the longest-serving superintendent in West Michigan.

"Now, with less than a month remaining in our school year and just three months before the start of the next school year, there is no way we can cut our budgets by the amount indicated in state budget projections without massive staff layoffs and the elimination of essential programming in the future.

Jared Roehl, Millington

Millington's Jared Roehl pins Corunna's Luke Cortez during their 215-pound semifinal match in the 2017 MHSAA Division 3 individual wrestling championships at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, on Friday, March 3, 2017.Mac Snyder | MLive.com

MHSAA prepares Guidance for Opening School Sports plan expected next week

On Friday afternoon, the Michigan High School Athletic Association sent an email to notify its member athletic directors about a plan to begin high school sports operations within the near future.

The MHSAA is calling the plan the MHSAA Guidance for Opening School Sports and it is expected to be released at some point next week. Accoring to the email sent by MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl, this guidance document has been a collaborative effort between the MHSAA, National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the MHSAA and NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory committees which both include physicians, other medical professionals and school administrators.

The amount of restrictions in the MHSAAs expected plan is unknown.

All MHSAA sports operations have been suspended since March 12 and all remaining winter and spring sports seasons were officially canceled on April 3. Since then, the immediate and long-term future of high school sports have been in question.

Prosecutor to review police report of theater open in defiance of Gov. Whitmers order

A week after the Carpi Drive-In Theater opened despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmers stay-home order, the Branch County Prosecutors Office is in possession of a report from the Michigan State Police.

Well see what happens, co-owner Tom Magocs said on the morning of Friday, May 22. He said the theater will be open for business again this weekend and declined to comment further.

Branch County Prosecuting Attorney Valerie White said on Friday, May 22, that her office received the report and she would review it as soon as possible. White said she may not have time to review it before the theater opens again this weekend.

Builders group sues Whitmer over new workplace safety orders

A lawsuit filed against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday seeks to put an end to a pair of executive orders signed by the governor this week that require businesses to institute strict safety measures for businesses reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed by The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation along with the Miller Johnson law firm on behalf of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan and a Grand Rapids-based landscaping company. The plaintiffs claim the orders unfairly allows for state agencies to enforce the executive orders and greatly increases the possible penalties for violations.

Gov. Whitmers approach threatens the safe jobs of Michigan workers who from the start have led the way, creating the gold standard of safe worksites during the COVID-19 public health crisis, said Jeff Wiggins, state director for ABC Michigan in a press release. Michigans more than 100,000 craft trades professionals deserve safety and certainty from state government as they return to their jobsites. They also deserve to have a voice in the rules process. Instead, they are threatened by the arbitrary, unclear and unconstitutional enforcement methods set to be dispatched throughout the state to intimidate good, honest workers.

Michigan Summer Beer Festival

The Michigan Brewers Guild has canceled the 23rd annual Summer Beer Festival schedule for July 24-25 in Ypsilanti's Riverside Park out of caution for the spread of COVID-19.Jenna Kieser | The Ann Arbor News

Ypsilanti cancels all festivals, Memorial Day and 4th of July parades amid COVID-19 pandemic

The City of Ypsilanti will cancel all public special events in its boundaries for the remainder of the year, it announced Friday.

The decision came after reviewing public health standards during the coronavirus pandemic. While Michigan has experienced a decline in cases of COVID-19, public health experts still recommend large gatherings to avoid potential mass person-to-person transmission.

Read more: Michigan Brewers Guild cancels Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti

We will continue to follow the Washtenaw County Public Health Department and the State of Michigan recommendations to ensure the city is following best practices in restarting special events, according to the City of Ypsilanti Facebook post.

The cancellation includes all festivals and the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades, according to a City of Ypsilanti Facebook post on May 22. Special event permits that wont be granted for birthday parties, City Manager Frances McMullan said.

Drive-in movies planned for Flint-area as restrictions begin to ease

A Flint-area drive-in movie theater is set to open for customers Memorial Day weekend despite an executive order still prohibiting it.

Meanwhile a local speedway has pushed back its start date to show films by one week.

Auto City Speedway pushed back its first film to May 29, while US-23 Digital Drive-in will begin showtimes Friday night.

Beginning Friday, May 22, the US-23 drive-in located off Fenton Road in Mundy Township offers showtimes on its website with a double feature of Trolls World Tour and Sonic The Hedgehog.

Charleys Crab in Grand Rapids permanently closed

Charleys Crab, one of downtown Grand Rapids longest operating restaurants, has permanently closed.

The restaurants owner, Landrys, which is based in Houston, Texas, said it made the decision because of the coronavirus pandemic and the temporary suspension of in-person dining at restaurants in Michigan.

Due to COVID-19 and the citys elimination of dine-in services, we have decided to enforce our lease provisions and terminate our lease, Howard Cole, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Landrys, said in a statement. We are grateful for the support of the Grand Rapids community throughout the years."

PREVENTION TIPS

In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.

Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.

Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while inside enclosed, public spaces.

Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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