Dustin Dwyer | Michigan Radio

Dustin Dwyer

Reporter / Producer

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom. He left the station in 2010-2011 to be a stay at home dad, and returned to be part of the Changing Gears project, a collaboration between Michigan Radio, Ideastream in Cleveland and WBEZ in Chicago. From 2012 – 2017, he was part of the team for State of Opportunity, and produced several radio documentaries on kids and families in Michigan. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and three kids.

courtesy of Spectrum Health

Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants Michigan to buy up to 100,000 of doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on its own.

The federal government already arranged to buy 200 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, and it’s been coordinating distribution to the states.

But Governor Whitmer, along with governors from eight other states, says that process is taking too long.

C/O Spectrum Health

“Extreme call volumes.” Crashing servers. Cancellations. And one county says it’s been completely wiped out of vaccine supply by Monday afternoon. 

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.

Inside the doctor's office.
Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

The health care system in Michigan could see continued financial fallout from the pandemic for a long time to come.

That’s one takeaway from a new analysis by researchers at Grand Valley State University.

Erkmen Aslim is a GVSU professor and  co-author of the study. He says health care spending in Michigan initially dropped more than 60% at the start of the pandemic, and still hasn’t recovered.

Police in Washington, D.C. arrested six people from Michigan following the insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol building.

Most of the arrests so far are for curfew violations. But one Michigan man was arrested for possessing a pistol and a “large capacity” ammunition clip, according to an arrest sheet from D.C. Metropolitan Police.

An outside group wants to hear inside stories from people in Kalamazoo who have experiences with the protests in the city.

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.

Local health leaders say they expect the pace of COVID vaccinations to speed up in the coming weeks.

As of Tuesday, 86,626 people had received the first dose of a vaccine in Michigan. But that’s out of nearly 338,000 doses that have been distributed, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard.

Some local health leaders say they’ve purposely gone slow in the first weeks, because the virus requires two shots, weeks apart.

The head of the Grand Rapids area’s economic development firm is retiring in 2021, after more than 30 years.

As the leader of The Right Place, Birgit Klohs helped spur more than $5 billion of new investment in the Grand Rapids area, according to the firm.

She say her top concern for the region’s economy going forward is education.

The economic forecast for West Michigan in 2021 isn’t all gloom and doom.

As of October, about 43,000 fewer people had jobs in the Grand Rapids area, compared to before the pandemic, according to federal statistics.

And that was before the state’s latest emergency health orders went into effect.

Grand Rapid’s first locally-owned recreational marijuana shop is holding a drive-through grand opening this weekend.

Pharmhouse Wellness, on Wealthy St. SW in Grand Rapids, has been in operation as a dispensary for medical cannibas. It’s now expanding into recreational sales.

It’s also the first store to open with help from the city’s Cannabis Social Equity policy, which offers discounts on licensing fees for applicants who meet certain requirements.

Update: Five of the six men charged in the alleged plot have pleaded not guilty to the charges in the grand jury indictment. The sixth man, Barry Croft, has not yet been arraigned on the charges.

A federal grand jury has indicted six of the men charged in the alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The men have been held in custody since October, when federal agents arrested them and a magistrate judge decided there was enough evidence against them to keep them in custody. But until now, the men had not been formally charged with a crime.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

They stood on cold concrete at dusk, in masks and heavy coats, just around the corner from the hospital where every day more patients succumb to the virus.

Immigrant rights organizers in Michigan are pushing for the incoming Biden administration to undo the policies of the Trump administration.

Organizers with Michigan United brought together a number of people from the state affected by immigration policies in the U.S.

“As an asylum recipient, I am joining other families in asking President-elect Biden and congress to undo the harms and de-humanization the Trump administration has brought to the asylum process,” said Elouise Garley, a U.S. citizen living in Michigan, who’s originally from Liberia.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A new emergency shelter will soon open in downtown Grand Rapids, with up to 100 beds.

The shelter will be in an old retail space in the Heartside neighborhood downtown. Two existing shelters – Mel Trotter Ministries and Guiding Light, are working together to open up the space, along with the building’s owner.

Dennis Van Kampen, head of Mel Trotter Ministries, says demand for shelter has increased since the start of the pandemic, even as the shelter space has declined.

The small city of Portage is playing a big role in getting out Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer is manufacturing the vaccine at its 1,300 acre factory site in Portage, and distributing throughout the U.S.

Patricia Randall is mayor of Portage. She says everyone in town knows someone who works at the plant

“They have offered hope to the world,” Randall says. “I mean we have been unified in the world with suffering. And this has gone on for nine months. And it’s definitely a miracle. It’s a gift that we’ve all been waiting for.”

Minimum wage workers in Michigan likely won’t see a pay increase in January, thanks to a provision in the state’s wage law.

In 2018, the state passed a law setting minimum wage increases each year starting January 1. But the increase can only take effect if the annual unemployment rate for the state is below 8.5%.

courtesy of The Right Place, Inc.

West Michigan economic development officials say they helped recruit or retain 953 jobs to the region in 2020. That’s even as the area lost about 40,000 jobs overall.

The Right Place, Inc. presented its annual update and forecast on Thursday. The economic development group says it secured $105.6 million in new capital investment for the region this year. It highlighted a decision by Perrigo to locate its new North American headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids, a move that's expected to bring 170 jobs downtown.

State health leaders say there's reason for “cautious optimism” that new cases of coronavirus appear to be declining.

The test positivity rate has plateaued. New cases have been dropping for two weeks. The number of deaths is still rising, but not as quickly as before.

Those are the reasons for optimism.

“The challenge here is making sure that people are wearing masks, maintaining their social distancing, so that we don’t see a second surge,” says Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the state’s Bureau of Epidemiology.

Adobe Stock

Hospital leaders are asking people to still seek medical attention, even as more hospitals reach capacity.

As of Thursday, the state listed six hospitals at 100% capacity, meaning all of their inpatient beds are occupied. More than a dozen others are above 90% capacity.

“We’re able to accommodate more than we currently have, should the need occur,” says Dr. Loren Hamel, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland, where 100% of bed are currently occupied, according to state data.

 Jerry Bishop is senior pastor at LifeQuest Urban Outreach Center in Grand Rapids. His ministry serves people in the heart of Grand Rapids, and he has a particular focus helping young Black men.

The virus has taken an immense toll on the community Jerry Bishop serves. Bishop says he’s presided over funerals for 21 people who’ve died of COVID. Click the link above to listen to his story.

courtesy of Spectrum Health


A word that’s been in short supply in Michigan hospitals recently.

But now, just maybe, there's a sign of it.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Michigan declined slightly on Thursday, dropping to 3,793 adults with confirmed cases of the disease. The number is still below the peak number last seen in Michigan in the spring. But it represents a brief, welcome respite after a steep rise in cases that started in October.

The number of people in Michigan hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to rise. Already, many hospitals are stretched to their limit.

Our reporters have been speaking to frontline health care workers, and today we want to bring you the voice of Elise Pavlige. She’s an ICU nurse at Mercy Health in Muskegon, where inpatient cases have gone from less than 50 to more than 130 just this month.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A line of candles on a concrete porch. A white teddy bear. Her face, shining through in photographs. Balloons, purple and silver, let loose into the night sky.

Her name filling the air.


“Long live Honestie, my baby!”

“I love you monster!”

“We love you!”

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

The Kent County Health Department has issued a new health warning as new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.

In recent weeks, Kent County has frequently had the most new daily confirmed cases of the virus of any county in the state. Health officer Adam London says more than 15% of COVID-19 tests in the county now come back positive.

“Our local infection rates have reached dangerous levels,” London said, in a release.

Brian Vernellis/Holland Sentinel

Eric Kumor has been a nurse for 10 years, but the last few weeks he finds himself having to gear up emotionally just to walk in the door to work.

Courtesy of SEIU Healthcare Michigan

Inside Mercy Health’s gleaming new hospital tower along US-31 in Muskegon, four full floors are now filled with COVID-19 patients. More people are in the emergency room, waiting for beds to open up. Nurses are working grueling 16-hour shifts, racing between rooms, trying to keep up with the growing onslaught of sick patients.

“It has been so stressful and chaotic and heartbreaking, to say the least,” says one worker who helps treat COVID patients at Mercy Health Muskegon.

courtesy of Spectrum Health

West Michigan’s hospitals are once again being forced to postpone surgeries and other inpatient medical procedures as the number of people infected with the coronavirus continues to skyrocket in the region.