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There’s been a lot of recent discussion about a tool the state of Michigan is using to help decide where to send COVID-19 vaccines -- something called the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). It’s a formula that’s one factor the state uses in allocating vaccine doses throughout Michigan.

Some elected officials, mostly Republicans, are upset about it. They say the state has no business using a tool like SVI--which takes into account a series of demographic characteristics to determine how vulnerable a population is—in the vaccine-allocation process.


Gretchen Whitmer
Michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer made an online pitch Friday to Upper Peninsula civic leaders to support her 2021 agenda, including clean energy and workforce training plans. And she asked them to hold to account politicians who fail to condemn hate and violence in public life.

The governor met with business and education leaders online instead of her usual in-person U.P. swing following the State of the State address and budget rollout.

woman in personal protection equipment talking to woman in wheelchair
Wikimedia Commons

Michiganders aged 18-64 with disabilities are currently in group 1C in terms of priority for the COVID-19 vaccine. Disability rights activists are asking the state to move them to group 1B, along with the support staff and other people who provide them care.

In a letter to the governor and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition asked Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Elizabeth Hertel to consider moving the group.

Fred Upton's official 113th US Congress photo
US House Office of Photography/Wikimedia Commons

Though former president Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial has ended, difficult conversations and divided politics have not, particularly among conservative leaders. The Cass County Republican Party has again censured Michigan Congressman Fred Upton (R-06), this time for his vote to remove conspiracy theorist and Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments.

Pevos / MLive

Today, on Stateside, an update on the dramatic turn of events on Thursday as gymnastics coach John Geddert died by suicide rather than face charges of human trafficking. In other news, some in the state Legislature want to change the rules around which communities get more COVID-19 vaccines.

Mussel-Phosphorus puzzle: Invasive mussels are reshaping the chemistry of the Great Lakes

Feb 26, 2021
D. Jude / University of Michigan via NOAA/GLERL Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Since the late 1980s, four of the five Great Lakes have played host to an increasing number of invasive mussels. First came zebra mussels, followed shortly thereafter by quagga mussels, both members of the Dreissenid family whose native range includes the waters around Ukraine.

Today, the filter-feeders comprise more than 90% of the total animal biomass of the Great Lakes (barring Lake Superior, whose depth and water chemistry make it a less suitable habitat for the two species of mussel).

30 years later: Mussel invasion legacy reaches far beyond Great Lakes

Feb 26, 2021
Bob Nichols / USDA

The way J. Ellen Marsden remembers it, when she first suggested calling a new Great Lakes invasive species the quagga mussel, her colleague laughed, so the name stuck.

At the same time, it was no laughing matter. The arrival of a second non-native mussel, related to the already established zebra mussel, was a major complication in what was becoming one of the most significant invasive species events in American history.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

As we come up to the one-year anniversary of the initial shut down here in Michigan, there have been plenty of headlines around our education systems and the challenges the pandemic continues to bring. These three in particular served as food for thought:

The University of Michigan football stadium
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, two-thirds of Washtenaw County's COVID-19 cases are affiliated with the University of Michigan. A campus health official discusses efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Also, a look at Michigan’s possible future as a haven for those escaping the worst effects of climate change.

A photograph of the exterior of Michigan Capitol building
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Republican-controlled state Senate adopted a COVID-19 budget bill on Thursday over the objections of Democrats.

The bill includes money for schools, help for struggling businesses, and rent assistance.

But it also holds back some federal funds that could be used to bargain with Governor Gretchen Whitmer over COVID restrictions.

Michigan House approves change to lame duck sessions

Feb 25, 2021
State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan House backed a proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday that would require two-thirds majority votes for bills to pass during lame duck sessions of the Legislature, if voters ultimately approve of the change.

Michigan State Spartans
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says she might be forced to close the investigation into Michigan State University and Larry Nassar if the university does not release approximately 6,000 documents to investigators.

MSU requested that then-attorney general Bill Schuette's office investigate in 2018. The university's board of trustees says the contents of the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege, and has withheld them from investigators for over two years.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report says the state of Michigan has a lot to do to reduce the risk of future dam failures.

Last May, heavy rains contributed to the failure of two dams in Gladwin and Midland counties.  The dam failures contributed to a 500-year flood event which caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.  More than 10,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.   The area is still recovering.

Republican state lawmakers are raising questions about the Democratic governor’s policies concerning COVID-19 and Michigan’s long-term care and nursing homes.

Since the outbreak began a year ago, about a third of Michigan's 15,453 coronavirus-related deaths were people in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

empty classroom
Adobe Stock

Many Michigan students will take some type of standardized test this school year, despite the pandemic. But there’s a lot that’s still unclear.

Michigan's third-through-eighth graders usually take a statewide assessment, the M-STEP, every year. M-STEP was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this school year has been anything but typical, and Michigan and some other states again sought standardized testing waivers from the federal government.

gretchen whitmer wearing mask at podium
Michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer told a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday that the country needs a national strategy to tackle failing infrastructure and climate change.

Whitmer was part of a panel that testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. During her time, the governor referred to her promise to fix roads and to address climate-related flooding events that have bedeviled parts of the state.

ann arbor public schools district office building
Caroline Llanes / Michigan Radio

After weeks of deliberation and discussion, Ann Arbor Public Schools has set dates for a return to in-person learning, the first of which is March 25. The plan is a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning, and families still have an entirely virtual option if that is what they prefer.

During the school board meeting, which took place at noon on Wednesday, the board voted 6-0 to approve the plan. Trustee Ernesto Querijero abstained, due to concerns about the time change for the meeting being in violation of the board's bylaws.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Organizers in Grand Rapids are planning an online community conversation around defunding police, even as the city’s leaders seem to be moving on from the issue.

Commissioners in Grand Rapids got an update on reforms in the police department during a special meeting on Tuesday. GRPD Chief Eric Payne told them the department is shifting to a neighborhood-based policing model in March, and plans to shift all parking enforcement to another department in July.

Commissioners largely praised the progress, undertaken as part of a new strategic plan from the department. But GRPD leaders suggested any effort to defund the department would take away from that progress.

Today on Stateside, the state and Michigan’s counties try to get on the same page, tracking who’s getting vaccinated by race. Also, naming the violence - and the fear - Asian Americans are living with during the pandemic. Plus, a snapshot of what college life is like during this pandemic year. 

A sign of the University of Michigan Central Campus
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

During the past year, many universities have seen high rates of COVID-19 on or around their campuses. Academic institutions in Michigan and throughout the U.S. have faced challenging questions and criticism with regard to their decision-making in an unprecedented public health crisis. And often, university students and their behaviors — like attending social gatherings or even simply living in group housing — have played a role in spreading the virus at their schools.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Afrourbanism, Detroit's Black history and future

A bustling area of the country’s most chocolate city razed to make way for Highway I-375. An idyllic “Black Eden” designed as a safe haven of relaxation and entertainment in rural Yates Township. Remembering Idlewild and Detroit’s Black Bottom is an important part of contextualizing Michigan’s Black history, and they can provide the blueprint for creating  future spaces with black people in mind.

LITTLE TRAVERSE BAY BANDS OF ODAWA INDIANS

A state senate committee Wednesday approved a resolution to push state wildlife officials to authorize a wolf hunting season this year.   

The resolution by State Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) calls on the Natural Resources Commission to authorize and the Department of Natural Resources to organize wolf hunting and trapping as part of this year’s wolf management efforts.

enbridge sign in front of a gray sky
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s notice to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac by May won’t prompt some of the changes many environmental groups hoped for.

It won’t affect how the state reviews a plan to replace the pipelines and build a tunnel beneath the lakebed, according to a ruling from Judge Dennis Mack this week.

ADOBE STOCK

The Livingston County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution at its meeting Monday night, criticizing the state's use of the CDC's social vulnerability index in determining COVID-19 vaccine allocation and calling on the state to retract the plan.

The resolution claims that the state's use of the index is disproportionately hurtful to Livingston County seniors. It says that the population at biggest risk of contracting COVID-19, according to experts, is senior citizens, particularly those with underlying health conditions.

gretchen whitmer wearing mask at podium
Michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will be part of a panel testifying Wednesday before a U.S. Senate committee on infrastructure and climate change.

Jeff Cranson is with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

He says the governor will mention the failures last year of two dams in Midland and Gladwin counties.

Phil Roeder, Flickr Creative Commons

Well, we now know a bit more about the racial disparity in Michigan’s vaccination rollout so far. But not much.

And that’s frustrating, because if the CDC’s numbers are any indicator, the same communities that were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 (especially Black communities) are getting short shrift so far when it comes to receiving the vaccines. 

On Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services finally released the racial data it’s been collecting about the 1.2 million people who’ve received at least one dose of the vaccine so far. (Most states have already released at least some information about race.)

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A bipartisan coalition of state representatives is reintroducing a package of eight bills that would require state officials and candidates to disclose some personal financial information.

The lawmakers said the goal is to increase transparency by helping to screen for potential conflicts of interest.

"It's critical that we have elected officials who are willing to be transparent with their financial interests and share that information with the voters in order to restore and try to rebuild voter confidence in elected offiicials," said Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), one of the bills' sponsors.

Portrait of US Rep Deb Haaland
U.S. House Office of Photography / Wikimedia Commons

The Senate confirmation proceedings for President Joe Biden’s pick to head the U.S. Department of the Interior began Tuesday. Democratic Congresswoman Debra Haaland (NM-01), if confirmed, will make history as the first Native American member of the Cabinet. It's also particularly important that she will likely be the leader of a department with a long record of mistreatment of Native people. Many tribal leaders are watching Haaland and the new Biden administration to see if they’ll implement changes in the federal government’s relationship with Native peoples.

a nurse holds a vial of one of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Spectrum Health

Today on Stateside, Congresswoman Debra Haaland (D-NM) begins Senate confirmation hearings as President Joe Biden’s pick to head the U.S. Department of the Interior. A Michigan tribal chair discusses what Native leadership in the Cabinet could mean for tribes, going forward. Also, the new head of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services weighs in on the next pandemic battlegrounds. Plus, reimagining Idlewild, where generations of Black Michiganders went for vacation and respite.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Two men are facing charges of  making election-related threats against three Michigan officials.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens received the alleged threatening messages.

The Michigan Attorney General’s office says 62-year-old Daniel Thompson of Harrison left voicemail and email messages with Sen. Stabenow’s office. He allegedly also made calls to Rep. Slotkin’s’ office.   Prosecutors allege Thompson used vulgar and threatening language referencing the 2020 election.

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