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Looking back on one year of COVID-19 in Michigan

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Late in the evening on March 10, 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the first cases of coronavirus in Michigan. In the days that followed, the state was on alert as the disease COVID-19 took hold.

A two-week shutdown became a month, then three months, then six months. Now, one year later, all of our lives look very different. Masks are commonplace, many of us still work from home, and students continue to learn remotely. Weddings and trips were postponed or cancelled. Lives were put on hold, and worse. More than 16,000 Michiganders have died of COVID-19. Over 650,000 have tested positive.

Here is a month-by-month breakdown of Michigan Radio's coverage since that fateful March day.

March 2020

Michigan has its first state-confirmed cases of COVID-19; Whitmer declares state of emergency (March 10)

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday night that there are two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. The cases are in Wayne and Oakland counties. They have not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Whitmer also declared a state of emergency, saying, "We are taking every step that we can to mitigate the virus spread, and keep Michiganders safe."

Who’s getting tested for coronavirus in Michigan right now, and do we have enough tests? (March 17)

A healthcare worker process a COVID-19 test at Beaumont.
Credit Beaumont Health

First person in Michigan has died due to COVID-19 (March 18)

Gov. Whitmer issues "stay at home" order (March 23)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a "stay at home" order during an 11 a.m. press conference Monday as an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning, and will remain in place for at least the next three weeks.

First Michigan prisoner tests positive for COVID-19 (March 23)

What does “flatten the curve” mean? We asked the UM medical historian who helped coin the term. (March 23)

You’ve probably been hearing the term “flatten the curve” a lot these days. It's the idea that society can slow the rate of infection for contagious diseases by taking measures like canceling schools, closing businesses, or sheltering in place. The hope is to reduce the number of patients who need urgent medical care all at once.

April

Gov. Whitmer declares state of disaster in Michigan, asks to extend emergency powers (April 1)

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Credit C/O Aubree Farmer
Lisa Ewald was one of the first healthcare workers to die of COVID-19 in Michigan.

Lisa Ewald, Henry Ford nurse, dies after testing positive for COVID-19 (April 3)

Remembered as a passionate patient advocate, a matriarch who boosted early morning morale by cracking jokes and wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers, Ewald is believed to be one of the first known healthcare workers in Michigan to die from complications related to the virus.

How families stuck on the outside are advocating for their loved ones with COVID-19 (April 6)

Gov. Whitmer extends stay home order through April 30 (April 9)

Michigan has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with 21,504 cases and 1,076 deaths as of April 9. Whitmer and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun both emphasized that the continued stay home order is necessary to slow the growth of cases and deaths. She says infections in Michigan have still not peaked.

As COVID-19 deaths mount, a grim task: finding space for the dead (April 14)

Frustrated with Whitmer’s stay at home order, conservative protesters gather at the Capitol (April 15)

The protestors were there to voice their displeasure with Governor Gretchen Whitmer's stay at home order, which is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. The protest, called "Operation Gridlock," was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition.

Funeral homes adjust as COVID-19 upends the business of death (April 20)

Here's what you need to know about Michigan's "stay at home" order (April 24)

Nursing home COVID-19 cases top 2,100, state announces (April 24)

Big day, small plans: Detroit couple gets creative for wedding downsized by COVID-19 (April 24)

married couple smiling with sign
Credit Bryce Huffman
Naomi and Eric Huffman celebrated their wedding five years after the day they first met. Because of the pandemic, the couple planned a smaller – much smaller – wedding.

As COVID-19 cases in state prisons climb, one inmate shares what life is like inside (April 28)

Protesters show up at state Capitol; House passes resolution to sue Gov. Whitmer (April 30)

May

ER Nurse: "I hope I never have to play God again" (May 1)

How the smallest small businesses cope with uncertainty (May 4)

With so much uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, small business owners have to make hard decisions about how to pay the bills.

“Heck yeah, we have to figure out how to bring some revenue in here," said Alaina Campbell, owner of Cookies & Cream by Sprout Bake – a premium ice cream shop in Lake Orion.

State suspends barber's license for violating governor's COVID-19 orders (May 13)

Whitmer order allows non-essential medical procedures, retail, and auto dealerships to resume (May 21)

At domestic violence shelters, COVID-19 brings new safety concerns (May 21)

People are moving more in Michigan. Here’s what that means for the spread of COVID-19. (May 21)

An analysis of anonymous cell phone mobility data from the Cuebiq Mobility Index shows that movement dropped significantly in the state ahead of Gov. Whitmer’s stay-at-home order that went into effect March 24, and managed to maintain that low level of movement for approximately four weeks.

Mornings in Michigan: New routine provides public service by making masks for those in need (May 22)

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Credit Tami Davis
Saginaw resident Tami Davis' dining room table has become the headquarters for the Mid-Michigan Mask Makers. The group has sewn about 13,000 masks since March.

What do we know about COVID-19 in Michigan’s nursing homes? (May 22)

Goodbye high school, hello uncertainty: 3 seniors on what it’s like to graduate during a pandemic (May 29)

High school seniors have all of the concerns that younger kids have right now. They're missing their friends, their schools, and their normal schedules. On top of that, they are uncertain about what their next steps will look like or how the deep economic ripples caused by the pandemic will affect them. It's anything but a fun summer.

June

Gov. Whitmer has lifted Michigan's coronavirus stay-at-home order (June 1)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has lifted Michigan's coronavirus stay-at-home order – but not everything will re-open right away.

Salons, casinos and gyms will stay shuttered due to an inability to maintain proper social distancing.

Here's where Michigan is in terms of testing, contact tracing (June 5)

What it's like to be a retail business owner, and employee, in the age of COVID-19 (June 8)

It's been 3 months since Michigan's first COVID case. Here's where we are now. (June 10)

There are now more than 65,000 probable and confirmed cases, according to the state. Nearly 6,000 Michiganders have died. That puts Michigan eighth in the nation for deaths per capita, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins.

And the burden has fallen disproportionately on black people, who are just 14% of the state's population, but make up 40% of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths.

The marching band stood still: Monroe teacher and senior discuss making music during COVID-19 crisis (June 12)

At one Detroit salon, a heavy decision to re-open (June 26)

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Credit Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio
After consulting with her staff, Amanda Long decided to go ahead with re-opening on June 15. That’s the day many salons re-opened in Michigan.

July

As COVID outbreaks continue, Michigan's ability to contain cases is tested (July 1)

Did "underserved communities" get a fair share of forgivable COVID-19 loans? Hard to tell (July 8)

A survey, by Global Strategy Group titled “Federal Stimulus Survey Findings” surveyed 500 Black or Hispanic small business owners and 1,219 Black or Hispanic workers across the U.S. between April 30 to May 12. It found 41% of Black or Hispanic businesses owners surveyed whom had applied for federal government relief programs did not receive relief or assistance.

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Credit Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio
Since the lockdown began back in March, Jean Reinbold has been calling Ms. Gladys Acklin, who lives alone, quite a lot.

Old friends and soap operas: How one Detroiter is weathering the lockdown (July 8)

Uncomfortable and uncertain: The new normal while living through the COVID-19 pandemic (July 11)

Take precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus or risk a return to lockdown. That was the message from Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun at a Thursday press conference. On Friday, Whitmer went a step further, signing a new executive order that makes mask-wearing mandatory in crowded public spaces.

Young people are leading the rise of COVID cases in Michigan. Here's what it means. (July 15)

Growing testing delays frustrate Michigan labs, health officials: "This doesn't cut it." (July 22)

August

How the pandemic exacerbates pressures on students experiencing homelessness (August 11)

About one out of every twelve Michigan fifth graders experienced homelessness at some point during elementary school. Because of the pandemic, those kids are now cut off from their normal sources of support.

Here's how Michigan universities plan to reopen in the fall (August 24)

Faces of COVID-19 victims become memorial to Detroiters lost during the pandemic (August 31)

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Credit Eric Milikin
A college by artist Eric Millikin memorializes the lives lost to COVID-19 throughout the city of Detroit.

September

A teacher voiced concerns about safety at his school. Then he was fired. (September 2)

This was supposed to be Nathan Smith’s fourth year teaching music at Oakdale Academy. The school re-opened to students last week.

Smith said the more he learned about how the school planned to re-open, the more concerned he became. He felt the school was violating state safety mandates meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

U of M graduate student employees begin strike over COVID-19 plans (September 8)

College students make up vast majority of school outbreaks, with 1,400 cases reported statewide (September 14)

The vast majority of outbreaks (defined as two or more cases with shared exposure on school grounds) are among college students, who account for 20 of the total reported outbreaks and 1,370 of all school cases.

2-month-old baby becomes Michigan's youngest COVID-19 victim (September 17)

Diners, Drive-ins, and COVID-19: Pandemic boosts business for some Michigan greasy spoons (September 29)

October

Trump Takes 'Precautionary' Treatment After He And First Lady Test Positive For Virus (October 2)

The country was put on edge overnight as President Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that raises concerns about their health and throws the final stretch of the presidential campaign — already upended by the pandemic — even further into unknown territory.

"Day-by-day": Families talk schooling in the age of COVID (October 9)

State health chief warns of possible “second surge” as hospitalizations rise (October 13)

Michigan is seeing nearly record-high levels of COVID-19, with case rates approaching what they were in April when the pandemic first devastated the state.

Combined with rising hospitalizations and the coming cold weather, state health officials sought to raise alarm at a Tuesday press conference.

Michigan reports highest-ever number of COVID-19 cases in one day (October 16)

As more schools close, who gets left behind? (October 21)

November

Michigan took 6 months to hit 100k COVID cases. Two months later, we're at 200k. (November 3)

At the state's current trajectory, concerns are growing about overwhelming the healthcare system. And experts are looking at how we adapt our pandemic response to deal with pandemic fatigue.
Credit Brad Gowland / Michigan Radio
At the state's current trajectory, concerns are growing about overwhelming the healthcare system. And experts are looking at how we adapt our pandemic response to deal with pandemic fatigue.

Michigan sets new single day high in confirmed COVID-19 cases (November 4)

Michigan on track to hit 100 deaths per day in December, state's medical chief says (November 5)

Michigan hits another daily record for COVID-19 cases as virus surge continues (November 10)

The percentage of people testing positive for the virus statewide is now well above 10% over the past week. On Monday, it was over 14%, a positivity rate the state hasn’t seen since April.

West Michigan hospitals expect to reach capacity "in a matter of days" (November 11)

Michigan's worst week: COVID-19 continues to spread as 'normal life' disappears in our rear view (November 15)

"We are potentially looking at some of the deadliest, most grim days of this entire pandemic ahead of us," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive, pleading with Michiganders once again to wear masks and socially distance, wash their hands, avoid large gatherings, and stay at home as much as possible in the weeks ahead.

Moderna and Henry Ford Health System announce promising vaccine results (November 16)

"A lot of anger at people you don't know:" what it's like to be a COVID nurse right now (November 18)

“That's what I wish I could just, you know, scream and tell people, is like, ‘That's what could happen to you. Personally you could be alone," Eric Kumor said. "Or you could see someone you really love, and you couldn’t be with them when they’re at their most vulnerable and they’re suffering.’ Or when they’re at the end of their life. And that is something I will never forget.”

Hospital workers face burnout as public support fades and COVID-19 cases rise (November 20)

In the midst of a second COVID-19 surge, one nurse asks, "Why are we doing this again?" (November 23)

Honestie Hodges, a girl who spurred change in Grand Rapids, taken too young by COVID-19 (November 23)

Fourteen year old Honestie Hodges passed away Sunday, from complications of COVID-19. Friends and family held a vigil Monday night.

And Hodges, now departed, carried her city’s grief one more time.

COVID ICU Nurse: "It gets worse every day." (November 25)

Michigan may receive "hundreds of thousands" of vaccine doses in mid-December (November 25)

In the UP, hospitals near a breaking point as COVID surges (November 26)

November was awful, record month for COVID-19 in Michigan (November 30)

At the end of October, the state had 178,180 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 7,340 deaths. As of Monday, November 30, those numbers had shot up dramatically: to 360,449 confirmed cases, and 9,134 deaths.

December

How soon can Michiganders get a COVID-19 vaccine? Answering your biggest questions (December 1)

In the midst of another deadly coronavirus surge in a pandemic that has already taken more than 267,000 American lives, including 9,134 in Michigan, there's hope on the horizon in promising news about potential COVID-19 vaccines.

In some Michigan communities, COVID-19 deaths doubled in November (December 4)

What's it like to get the first vaccines? Health care workers share hopes, fears (December 13)

For Dr. Luda Khait-Vlisides, an ER doctor at DMC Sinai-Grace in Detroit, this moment is a big deal.

“Holy sh--, this is actually going to happen! And I am so excited about it,” Khait-Vlisides said last week, as the country stood on the brink of distributing the first, much-hoped for COVID-19 vaccine.

Spectrum Health and Michigan Medicine administer the state’s first COVID-19 vaccine doses (December 14)

woman receives COVID-19 vaccine shot in her right arm
Credit Spectrum Health
Yvette Kamana, an ICU nurse at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, was one of the first Michiganders to receive the vaccine on Monday.

A cold night. A lighted banner. And dozens of health care workers who say they need more support. (December 16)

Inmates talk about living through a pandemic inside prison walls (December 18)

January 2021

State surpasses half a million confirmed cases of COVID-19 (January 4)

The latest pandemic milestone in Michigan: The state has now confirmed more than half a million cases of coronavirus.

On Monday the state added 4,992 new confirmed cases, a two-day total covering test results from both Saturday and Sunday. That brings the total number since the start of the pandemic to 502,119.

The figure means about one in every 20 people in the state has tested positive for COVID-19, but even that number is likely an undercount of the true spread of the virus.

COVID "long haulers" ask, "What am I gaining to say that I'm still sick?" (January 5)

Who gets vaccinated next? Here's what you need to know (January 6)

Michigan now releasing data on rare condition affecting some young children with COVID-19 (January 8)

Frustration, confusion, and crashing systems as vaccine eligibility expands (January 11)

The airplane is being built as we fly it here, folks.

That’s the message from hospitals and local health officials around the state Monday, as they started (or in some cases, tried to start) vaccinating people 65 and older, as well as some essential workers.

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Credit Emma Winowiecki
If all goes according to the state’s plan, the bulk of these “1B” vaccinations should be completed in about four months, with the next phase (people 16 to 64 years old with “COVID-19 risk factors/pre-existing conditions”) beginning in May.

3,000 people are getting vaccinated at this clinic every week. It should be far more. (January 14)

MDHHS: First case of new COVID-19 variant identified in Michigan (January 16)

The new variant, B.1.1.7, was identified in an adult woman from Washtenaw County. She had recently traveled to the United Kingdom, where the variant was first identified. MDHHS says the woman’s close contacts have been notified and are in quarantine. Two of those contacts have tested positive for COVID-19, though it’s unclear if they have the B.1.1.7 variant.

Teaching in person, surrounded by outbreaks, unable to get vaccinated (January 22)

With 17 variant cases, it's a race against the clock to detect the spread (January 25)

February 2021

Michigan hits 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses — here are the highlights (February 2)

As of Monday, Michigan ranks 7th in total administered doses by state. When adjusted for population, however, the state fares differently, coming in 21st in administered doses adjusted for 100,000 people.

Why a stockpile of a promising COVID-19 treatment sits unused in Lansing (February 3)

Thoughts of getting vaccinated have some Detroiters a “bit anxious” (February 9)

Donna Allen-Brown with one of her customers, Reverend Kim Evans.
Credit Erin Allen / Michigan Radio
Donna Allen-Brown with one of her customers, Reverend Kim Evans. “I waited about a week,” before deciding, Allen-Brown says. “Talking to my clients — they didn't have to convince me, but just, you know, getting different perspectives — encouraged me to go ahead.”

State confirms 67 variant COVID cases, even as overall cases fall (February 15)

How the mistrust caused by the Flint water crisis is seeping into views of the COVID-19 vaccine (February 18)

“It's more than just medical mistrust,” Debra Furr-Holden added. “It's well-earned systemic and societal mistrust for a system that doesn't treat us fairly.”

Furr-Holden said that mistrust extends far beyond Flint.

Best case scenario? 50% of Michiganders vaccinated by June, experts project (February 19)

State releases race data for vaccinations, but nearly half of it is missing (February 23)

After nearly a year at home, learning how to do school safely in Dearborn (February 25)

March 2021

After nearly a year of grief, vaccinations bring joy to Michigan (March 1)

For much of last year, Michigan’s nurses and other frontline workers were sometimes called names, cursed at, or lied to.

They scrambled to fill staff shortages, track down masks or other supplies, and, in some cases, as the virus tore through their communities, found there was precious little they could do for thousands of the sick and dying.

Then, finally, vaccines arrived.

And nearly one year after the virus was first confirmed in Michigan, these same health workers are finding their days filled with an entirely different emotion:

Joy.

Whitmer to relax more COVID restrictions; new variant cases continue to rise in state (March 2)

Michiganders aged 50+ eligible for vaccine starting March 22 (March 3)

How Wayne State University kept its COVID numbers extremely low (March 3)

New coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa detected in child in Michigan (March 9)

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