Kate Wells | Michigan Radio
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Kate Wells

Reporter

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist and co-host of the Michigan Radio and NPR podcast Believed. The series was widely ranked among the best of the year, drawing millions of downloads and numerous awards. She and co-host Lindsey Smith received the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Judges described their work as "a haunting and multifaceted account of U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s belated arrest and an intimate look at how an army of women – a detective, a prosecutor and survivors – brought down the serial sex offender."

Wells and her family live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Image by Jason Shivers from Pixabay

Fearing staffing shortages as COVID-19 hospitalizations are on track to break the state record set this spring, several major Michigan health systems are telling employees to report to work, even if they’ve recently had a close or household contact with someone who has COVID-19.

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.

illustration of nurses and doctors wearing PPE
Kevin Kobsic / United Nations / Unsplash

We’ve been hearing a lot about the numbers of this COVID-19 surge. How many cases. How many deaths.

But healthcare workers want people to understand what it feels like to be back here, fighting this battle again, inside the hospital.

“Initially, there were a lot of feelings of anger.”

Sparrow Hospital entrance in Lansing
Allen Neighborhood Center / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Update, Monday November 16: After a weekend that was "incrementally better" than expected in terms of COVID-19 patient admissions, Sparrow leadership now believe the Lansing hospital will reach full capacity around Thanksgiving, rather than this week. As of Monday, Sparrow was at 81% capacity with 136 COVID patients, according to the state's census. 

"You never know what will happen day to day," says Sparrow spokesperson John Foren. "The latest I saw was conceivably Thanksgiving week. It'll be day to day." 

Ryan Garza for the Detroit Free Press

woman wearing mask
Wikimedia Commons

If the spread of COVID-19 continues at its current trajectory in Michigan, the state is on track to see an average of 100 deaths per day by the end of December, Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, the state’s Chief Medical Executive, said at a press briefing Thursday.

US District Court Western District of Michigan

Libertas Christian School, a small non-denominational private school in West Michigan, currently remains closed after a federal judge denied its request for an injunction against the Ottawa County Health Department on Tuesday. 

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.
Brad Gowland / Michigan Radio

Roughly six months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Michigan hit a grim threshold on August 14, 2020: 100,000 confirmed and probable cases.

But it took just 80 days after that for cases to double. By November 2nd, the state had 204,326 confirmed and probable cases, including 7,716 deaths.

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

Thursday morning, on a quiet Ann Arbor street, agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Child Exploitation Investigations Unit arrested a master violin teacher and former longtime University of Michigan music professor at his home. 

Stephen Shipps, 68, was charged with two counts of transporting a minor girl across state lines in 2002, “with the intent that such individual engage in sexual activity,” according to an indictment unsealed the same morning. 

THOMAS PARK / Unsplash

Two universities in Michigan are now each reporting more than 1,000 cases in ongoing COVD-19 outbreaks, according to weekly data released Monday by the state health department. Meanwhile, pre-K-12 schools in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula are being hit especially hard as those regions remain hot spots for the virus. 

 

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

The Ottawa County health department has temporarily shut down a Christian school in West Michigan, and the related legal battle is one of the first to challenge the state health department's recent orders.

Ottawa County issued a final "cease and desist" letter to Libertas Christian School in Hudsonville this week, alleging the school didn't report two teachers' COVID-19 infections and has refused to provide students' information to contact tracers. A judge denied Libertas Christian's request for a temporary restraining order against the county.

Mladen Borisov for Unsplash

 

For one elementary school teacher, it feels like “the wheels are coming off the bus.” 

It was around the third week of school when her coworker, a fellow teacher at Dieck Elementary in the Flint suburb of Swartz Creek, tested positive for COVID-19.

Back of a school bus
Pixabay

 

Schools in Kent County reported more new COVID-19 outbreaks this week than those in any other county, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

nurse holding stethoscope checking heartbeat of elder patient
Rawpixel.com

 

Once again, a major strike involving as many as 1,000 metro Detroit nursing home workers appears to have been averted at the last minute, and is now expected to include just 60 or so employees at a single nursing home. 

That’s because tentative agreements were reached with at least two nursing home chains over the weekend, ahead of the strike planned for Monday.

 

Olga Kononenko for Unsplash.com

 

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.

Western Michigan University's Main Campus
user TheKuLeR / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s higher education institutions are together reporting 4,921 cases associated with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks, according to the latest outbreak data published by the state health department on Monday.

That dwarfs the 346 cases reported from pre K-12 schools, indicating both the speed at which outbreaks have spread on campus, as well as the amount of testing happening at colleges and universities.  

michigan state university
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

At first, Linda Vail didn’t buy it.

As recently as last week, the Ingham County public health officer was skeptical of data that showed Michigan State University cases were rapidly declining.

Person in orange jumpsuit sitting behind prison bars
Lightfield Studios / Adobe Stock

Michigan prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as juveniles will receive resentencing hearings “as expeditiously as possible” and get rehabilitation programming that could increase their chances of parole.

That’s according to a settlement announced Wednesday between attorneys for the ACLU of Michigan and the state Attorney General over 163 “juvenile lifers” who are still awaiting resentencing.

Thomas de Luze for Unsplash

On paper, the COVID-19 outbreak at Michigan State University, the largest reported at any university in the state thus far, with 1,395 cases, appears to be getting better, fast. Very fast. 

While COVID cases have been increasing in dorms, the University says the biggest increases are coming from group housing off-campus.
Katie Raymond

Forty-six Michigan pre-K-12 schools are now reporting COVID-19 outbreaks, according to data released Monday by the state health department. That brings the count to 199 students and staff, although that’s likely a significant undercount: only cases that local health departments can confirm had “shared exposure on school grounds and are from different households” are included in the state’s weekly data updates. 

 

MSU Belmont Tower
EMMA WINOWIECKI / Michigan Radio

Update, Thursday September 23: Michigan State University has updated its online COVID-19 dashboard to reflect cases reported by the Ingham County Health Department, two days after the county's public health director revealed the health department's case count was far higher than what the university was publicly stating. 

The university notified the public of the change, says spokesman Dan Olsen, by contacting reporters Thursday morning and sending out a notice in the campus newsletter that afternoon. 

"The university’s COVID-19 dashboard now reflects the total number of positive cases of MSU students and employees reported by the Ingham County Health Department," the newsletter reads. "It does not include students and employees tested outside of the county and does not necessarily include those who self-reported a positive case to the university." 

That change means the case numbers listed on MSU's site essentially doubled overnight, from 548 cases at the start of this week, to 1,239 cases since July 27th. A spokesperson for MSU said the university is "continuing our ongoing partnership with [the health department] to report this information weekly (each Monday.)" 

Those case numbers are still slightly lower than the 1,250 MSU-related cases Ingham County Health Director Linda Vail said her department had recorded in the last 30 days. Those cases only include those the health department can verify are MSU students, faculty, or staff, Vail said Tuesdsay, and do not include secondary cases in the broader East Lansing community. 

This story will continue to be updated. 

Original post, Tuesday September 22: Michigan State University is knowingly underreporting the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among students, faculty, and staff, according to information released by the Ingham County Health Department on Tuesday.

Belmont Tower at MSU
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

More than 900 students and staff members have been added to the growing list of COVID-19 outbreaks in Michigan’s schools, according to state data released on Monday. And college students account for almost 95% of all school outbreak cases.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Update: Friday, September 18, 6:40 p.m.: The faculty Senate at the University of Michigan has voted "no confidence" in President Mark Schlissel's administration.  

That announcement, however, comes two days after the vote itself took place. That's because the "no confidence" motion was initially ruled to have failed during the September 16 meeting, when 957 faculty members voted in support of the motion, 953 voted in opposition, and 184 said they were abstaining. A majority of all votes cast is required for a motion to pass, and the Senate's interim secretary incorrectly counted those abstentions as part of the total votes. 

"Abstentions should not have been counted as votes, and Motion 6 should have passed," faculty Senate chair Colleen Conway said in an email addressed to all faculty Friday afternoon. "We ask for your patience and understanding while we not only discussed how abstentions should be handled, but we also discussed in depth our concerns about the lack of accessibility to voting experienced by some of our colleagues."

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel at podium
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The president of the University of Michigan, Mark Schlissel, held a livestreamed conversation on Tuesday to address what he described as an “erosion of trust” on a campus, both in him and the administration as a whole, regarding the school’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“If we said [before the start of this semester] ‘Let's not teach in-person at all, too many people are concerned, and people don't feel free to tell us that they're concerned, so let's just not do it,’ there are many, many, many of our students that are disadvantaged,” Schlissel said of the University’s decision to re-open dorms and teach about 22% of the school’s courses in-person, as opposed to almost entirely remote.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

At least 1,412 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed as part of new or ongoing outbreaks across 27 schools, according to data released by the state for the first time on Monday.

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. (Two of the colleges, Adrian College and Calvin University, said their outbreaks included staff as well as students, but those numbers weren’t broken down.)

Courtesty of Cate Sullivan

Cate Sullivan wasn’t expecting the Ritz - this was student housing, after all. And the on-campus apartment the University of Michigan sophomore was assigned for quarantine “was not like in bad shape or anything. It was certainly livable,” she says. “[But] I’m really lucky I got to leave after [I tested negative.]”

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

With the end of a 30-day contract negotiation period with nursing home operators nearing, a group of a few dozen nursing home workers, health care employees, and union leaders rallied in Detroit on Monday, both to call attention to ongoing labor disputes and to encourage workers to vote in November. 

Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

More than half of Michiganders hospitalized for coronavirus during the first several months of the pandemic were unnecessarily given antibiotics, in part because testing delays meant doctors didn’t know whether patients had COVID-19, or another potentially dangerous infection like strep, pneumonia, or both.

While antibiotics don’t treat COVID, they can increase the risk that a patient will develop a resistance to antibiotics later on, when the treatments may be desperately needed, says Dr. Valerie Vaughn. She’s an assistant professor and hospitalist at the University of Michigan, and one of the authors of a new study published in the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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