Coronavirus in Michigan: Day 72

Whitmer permits social gatherings — with precautions

Greater Lansing tracks its 40th coronavirus-related death

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THURSDAY, May 21 — Social gatherings are legal again in Michigan.

Under a newly revised executive order, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced this morning that social gatherings of 10 people or fewer can resume immediately across Michigan — just as long as people keep a six-foot distance and wear face coverings while inside enclosed spaces.

Prior restrictions had prohibited public or private gatherings of any size.

“The data has shown that all regions of Michigan are ready for us to take this small step forward,” Whitmer said today. “You can take the boat out. You can have a beer and grill some burgers, or have a water balloon fight with your children, but please remember to stay safe.”

Additionally, Whitmer is reopening some long-shuttered sections of the state’s economy. Retail operations can resume statewide on Tuesday, but customers can only shop by appointment. Those newly reopened stores will also be limited to 10 shoppers inside at any given time.

All car dealerships can reopen their sales floors — also by appointment only — on Tuesday. Nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures, including pet grooming, can resume May 29. Businesses must still adopt social distancing precautions for staff and customers.

The order greenlights limited social plans ahead of Memorial Day weekend and sets course for some employees to get back to work, but it does not provide for the reopening of barber shops, salons, gyms, libraries, theaters and other public-facing facilities, the Detroit Free Press reports.

For weeks, Whitmer has slow-rolled the economy into action, easing restrictions on manufacturing, landscaping, construction, bike repair shops, real estate and allowing much of northern Michigan to reopen its offices, retailers, bars and restaurants beginning tomorrow.

While Michigan’s coronavirus curve may be flattening, she said the rest of Michigan isn’t quite ready to enjoy some of the same freedoms as Traverse City and the Upper Peninsula. Only time will tell if an ongoing decline in COVID-19 cases will continue to trend downward, she said.

“Michigan is ready to phase in these sectors of our economy, but we must stay vigilant and ensure we’re doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer explained. “We must continue to all do our part by staying safer at home.”

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail told reporters this week that Greater Lansing could be poised to become the next region of the state able to gradually reopen sectors of its economy. The region has experienced a downward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Whitmer herself got tested for COVID-19 for the first time this afternoon at the new drive-thru Sparrow Health System testing site in Frandor, reports the Lansing State Journal.

Across Michigan…

Whitmer prevailed today in a high-stakes challenge from Republican lawmakers who sued over her authority to declare emergencies and order sweeping restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak, according to reports from the Associated Press.

Republican leaders opted to sue Whitmer earlier this month after the state Legislature declined to extend a statewide emergency declaration yet Whitmer still pressed on with executive orders. Whitmer and Republican leaders each pointed to different interpretations of two state statutes.

Today’s decision was the third time that a Court of Claims judge ruled in favor of Whitmer. Other lawsuits were brought by residents, a business owner and a conservative advocacy group. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey told MIRS News that an appeal will be filed, sending the matter to the state Court of Appeals and likely the state Supreme Court.

Whitmer also signed an executive order this week to extend and enhance protections for the health and safety of residents and employees at long-term care facilities. The order requires that COVID-19 patients only be discharged from a hospital to a facility that is capable of safely isolating them from others. The goal: stop the ongoing spread of coronavirus at nursing homes.

Additionally, the order requires that long-term care facilities take specific precautions when a resident exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 — including informing employees of the facility and using reasonable efforts to create dedicated units for residents affected by the coronavirus.

The order also protects residents from evictions and employees from disciplinary action for staying home when exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to mitigate the risk of infecting others.

***

Capital Area Transportation Authority bus routes will be canceled for Memorial Day on Monday, but it will otherwise resume suspended services on Tuesday. With few exceptions, normal weekday service will resume as usual before the pandemic.

Rides will remain free until further notice. Visit cata.org or call 517-394-1000 for details.

***

Whitmer’s administration is giving counties the option of using County Veteran Service Fund grants directly for COVID-19 emergency assistance to veterans and their families. The move allows veterans to make vehicle and home repairs, pay medical expenses, buy groceries and personal care items and meet other needs determined as “emergency” with the new funding.

More than $6.4 million in grant funding will be available. It wasn’t immediately clear if counties in Greater Lansing — like Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties — would participate in the program.

***

In a week-to-week comparison, new unemployment claims in Michigan dropped slightly to 54,460 in the week ending May 16, down from 55,166 the previous week, the Detroit Free Press reports. That follows a bleak report from the state yesterday that found Michigan’s jobless rate had topped 22% last month, an all-time high with more than a million claims filed in that month.

***

Police ticketed seven people for cutting hair at a protest outside the Michigan State Capitol, where about a dozen hairdressers defied stay-at-home orders to give haircuts yesterday, reports The Detroit News. At least about 300 people had attended the recent demonstration.

After warnings, the hairdressers were cited for disorderly conduct, though the Michigan Conservative Coalition, the group behind the rally, has offered to cover the $500 tickets. The unlikely misdemeanor conviction, under state law, is still punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

Rogue Owosso barber Karl Manke — who compared Whitmer’s orders to the Holocaust at yesterday’s rally — will resume cutting hair this week after a judge denied a state request to shutter his business. The Detroit News reports that Circuit Court Judge Matthew Steward found the decision to be a “close call” but said the shop doesn’t pose an imminent public health risk.

Stewart said the threat posed to public health and safety "must be actual and not theoretical."

***

Most Lansing Community College courses will be taught online next fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but officials hope to welcome back some students for at least some hands-on lessons, reports the Lansing State Journal. Hybrid course options are being considered for hands-on courses like welding and aviation. All summer classes will still be taught online.

***

Meat prices are rising in the Lansing area due to disrupted supply chains and warnings from one of the biggest meat producers in the U.S. that caused many to believe a widespread meat shortage was coming, according to recent reports in the Lansing State Journal. The uptick in demand led to rising prices, while some local consumers believed they were being ripped off.

In St. Johns, the construction of a $555 million dairy processing operation just north of downtown is still on track for an October start up, despite delays caused by COVID-19, the Journal reports.

In the numbers…

At least 11 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded across Greater Lansing since yesterday, in addition to a 24th virus-related death in Ingham County. The regional death toll stands at 40 with at least 982 confirmed cases reported in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.

Michigan tracked at least another 501 coronavirus statewide cases this afternoon with another 69 virus-related deaths, edging up the case count past 53,500 with more than 5,100 deaths. At least 31 of the deaths reported today were from a regular analysis of recent death certificates.

Ingham County                        

Cases — 674 (+7)

Recoveries — 335

Recovery Rate — 49.7%

Deaths — 24 (+1)

Fatality Rate — 3.6%

As of Tuesday, zip code 48911 tracks 191-201 cases. Zip code 48910 tracks 71-80 cases. Zip code 48823 tracks 61-70 cases. Zip code 48854 tracks 51-60 cases. Zip codes 48906 and 48864 each track 41-50 cases. Zip codes 48842 and 48912 each track 31-40 cases. Zip code 48915 tracks 21-30 cases. Zip codes 48917, 48840, and 48895 each track 11-20 cases. Zip codes 48285, 48819, 48827, 48892, 48933, 49251, 49264 and 49285 each track 1-10 cases.

Eaton County                 

Cases — 170 (+2)

Recoveries — 147 

Recovery Rate — 86.5%

Deaths — 6 (No change)      

Fatality Rate — 3.5%  

Clinton County                                                                                

Cases — 138 (+2)

Deaths — 10 (No change)

Fatality Rate — 7.2%                                             

The Mid-Michigan County Health Department does not report recovery statistics.                   

Michigan                        

Cases — 53,510 (+501)

Recoveries — 28,234 (as of 5/15/20)                

Recovery Rate — 52.8%

Deaths — 5,129 (+69)

Fatality Rate — 9.6%

State reports show that about 64% of cases (and 79% of deaths) are reported from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including the city of Detroit. Other hotspots include Kent County with 5.9% of cases, Genesee County with 3.6% of cases, Washtenaw County with 2.4% of cases, Saginaw County with 1.8% of cases, Kalamazoo with 1.4% of cases and Ingham County with 1.3% of cases statewide. Additionally, about 6.1% of cases, or 3,257 cases (and 60 deaths) have also been reported among state prisoners at the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Caucasians account for 36% of cases and 51% of deaths reported in Michigan. Despite accounting for a substantially smaller segment of the statewide population, African Americans account for 31% of cases and 40% of coronavirus-related deaths reported across Michigan.

U.S.                  

Cases — 1,562,714

Deaths — 93,863

Fatality Rate — 6%

Source: CNN      

Michigan reports the seventh most cases of any state in the country, behind only New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Michigan ranks fourth in the country in virus-related deaths, behind only New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

 

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