Brett Dahlberg | Michigan Radio

Brett Dahlberg

Brett is the health reporter and a producer at WXXI News. He has a master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism and before landing at WXXI, he was an intern at WNYC and with Ian Urbina of the New York Times. He also produced freelance reporting work focused on health and science in New York City.
Brett grew up in Bremerton, Washington, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

Photo shows the inside of a culvert. It's square with concrete walls and a very shallow stream of water is running through it.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A road construction project beginning this week in Northeast Michigan hopes to improve fish habitats.

Josh Leisen, a senior manager at the nonprofit organization Huron Pines, which is overseeing the project, described the area where Gilchrist Creek passes beneath Greasy Creek Road in Montmorency County.

“These are two undersized culverts that are creating a pinch point, forcing the water to flow underneath the road at unnaturally high velocity, preventing the fish from swimming upstream to spawn,” Leisen said.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An attorney at a Detroit-area law firm is looking at options to reduce the amount of money people have to pay to rebuild dams that were damaged during flooding last year, but some local leaders fear the effort could prevent the dams from ever being restored.

PFAS foam on lakeshore
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr

A collection of Michigan environmental groups said Thursday that they had formed a coalition aimed at reducing the harmful effects of a group of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

a little girl wearing a pink shirt in front of a chainlink fence
Courtesy Jimmy Hoffmeyer

The school district where a staff member cut the curly hair of a biracial 7-year-old student this spring said Friday that an “independent, third-party investigation” found “no evidence the incident was motivated by racial bias.”

Jurnee Hoffmeyer arrived home from Ganiard Elementary in Mount Pleasant with hair missing just before spring break, her father, Jimmy, said in April.

Tony Brown

Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy plans to test the soil from an abandoned rail bed near the former Velsicol Chemical Co. plant in St. Louis for hazardous chemicals.

The old rail bed lies just outside a federal superfund site on which the Environmental Protection Agency has spent more than $100 million cleaning up after Velsicol.

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a drive-thru clinic.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Public health workers in Michigan are increasingly leaving the office and setting up small, mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics. They say it’s a good way to get more people vaccinated, but it also opens the health workers up to intimidation.

a national cherry festival sign
Pure Michigan

Grand Traverse County has the second-highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in Michigan, but in a few weeks, it’s hosting a festival that could bring in more visitors than the county has residents — with no way to know how many of the tourists are vaccinated.

That raises some thorny questions for health officials and event organizers in Grand Traverse and other tourist-heavy counties in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula: How can they prevent festivals from becoming super-spreader events? How can they make sure their tourism industry doesn’t inadvertently infect their local population, while visitors who seed outbreaks get to go home without facing any consequences?

A sign points out a Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission meeting in Midland.
Brett Dahlberg / WCMU News

Michigan’s 2-1-1 hotline, which offers support to people who need help paying bills, finding shelter and handling family crises, will now also help people contact the commission in charge of drawing new political maps.

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has been holding meetings across the state to gather suggestions about how to assign the state’s population to legislative districts.

outdoor concert
Adobe Stock

Michigan will fully lift outdoor capacity limits on June 1 and, starting July 1, end indoor gathering caps that were put in place to curb COVID-19, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday in a major loosening of economic restrictions.

a man in on a crane paints a sign
Brett Dahlberg / WCMU

A new welcome sign lit up in the Village of Sanford Monday, just less than one year after a flood washed the old one away.

“It was wiped away down to the base,” said village president Dolores Porte.

Jamie Capp helps, from left to right, Margaret Clark, Diane Chisholm and Betty Doyle keep a balloon aloft at New Hope Valley assisted living near Saginaw. They've only recently resumed activities like this after months of isolation waiting for COVID-19 va
Brett Dahlberg / WCMU

Three women in their 80s and 90s sat around a table together last month, taking swipes at a bright yellow balloon emblazoned with a smiley face.

Margaret Clark, Diane Chisholm and Betty Doyle are residents at New Hope Valley, an assisted living facility just outside Saginaw.

Their game of keep-the-balloon-off-the-floor was overseen by Jamie Capp, who said it was a bit of physical therapy to get upper-body muscles moving and practice hand-eye coordination.

But Clark, Chisholm and Doyle have only recently been able to start playing this game again.

Chris Hodges, the principal of Gaylord High School in Otsego County, Michigan, never thought he'd be a contact tracer.

"I definitely thought, you know, 'Why — why am I doing this?'" he says with a laugh. "That's not what I went to school for."

Migrant farmworkers live and work on Michigan farms during the harvest.
Craig Camp / flickr

Each year, Michigan becomes a temporary home to tens of thousands of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, and Lupita Perales with the United Farmworkers Foundation says some of them have been arriving with unfounded fears about the COVID-19 vaccines.

It’s tough to know what kind of information those workers have gotten before their arrival in Michigan, so she’s working on distributing flyers and holding Facebook live sessions to disseminate the facts.

Adobe Stock

Health departments in Michigan have begun turning down vaccine allocations from the state because they’re unable to find enough people willing to get the shots.

Normally, Dr. Jennifer Morse’s three local health districts get weekly vaccine shipments from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

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

Not all COVID-19 vaccine programs in Michigan were designed with people with disabilities in mind, says Jim Moore, the executive director of Disability Network Northern Michigan.

But his group is working with local health departments to make vaccines more easily accessible for people with disabilities. Moore says it’s a process that will help everyone.

Spectrum Health

Leelanau County has vaccinated 52% of its 16-years-and-older population, according to the latest figures from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Lisa Peacock, the health officer for the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, said she and her staff achieved the milestone with community support.

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Nurses in the Henry Ford Health System say they're feeling the strain of the latest COVID-19 surge.

When Lauren Varley saw her first COVID-19 case in the ICU last year, she told her parents she couldn't see them for a month. That month stretched into six as she worried about exposing her parents to the virus that claimed the lives of so many of the patients she risked her own life to treat.

"It made me feel extremely hopeless and very helpless as a nurse because I knew that any patient that I saw with COVID, I knew there was a very high possibility that they just were not going to survive," Varley said.

a little girl wearing a pink shirt in front of a chainlink fence
Courtesy Jimmy Hoffmeyer

A couple of weeks ago, Jurnee Hoffmeyer got her hair cut by another student on the bus home from school, her father, Jimmy, says.

It didn’t look great.

“Half of her hair was gone off the side of her head,” he said.

Jimmy was mad, he said, but he figured, she’s 7 years old. She’ll be fine.

a teen receiving a vaccine shot in her left arm
klavdiyav / Adobe Stock

The average age of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Michigan has been dropping as the total number of people hospitalized with the disease rises, health officials said Thursday.

Two-thirds of people hospitalized at Munson Healthcare, a network of hospitals and clinics across Northern Michigan, were under 65 years old, said the organization’s chief medical officer, Christine Nefcy.

people in voting booths
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Northern Michigan County is planning to count all of its votes by hand in an upcoming election, but the county’s clerk says that might be illegal.

Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy had asked the County Commissioners to authorize spending to get the county’s voting machines ready for the May election. The commissioners declined. Guy says that means votes will have to be counted manually, which she says is against state law.

COVID-19 cases are spreading so fast that they're outpacing the contact-tracing capacities of some local health departments. Faced with mounting case loads, those departments are asking people who test positive for the novel coronavirus to do their own contact tracing.

The contact tracers of Washtenaw County in Michigan have been deluged with work.

Aaron McCullough brought his 3-year-old daughter, Ariana, to a playground in a leafy, residential suburb of Rochester, New York, on a day in mid-June when temperatures topped out at 94 degrees.

The playground is one of seven spray parks in the city that offer cooling water to area residents whenever temperatures exceed 85 degrees.

Except during a pandemic.