Kate Wells | Michigan Radio

Kate Wells


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.

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It’s looking increasingly likely that more than 500 nurses at McLaren Macomb hospital could go on strike next week. The OPEIU Local 40 has issued a 10-day strike notice to management, and the current contract ends July 27, says union Vice President Dina Carlisle. 

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Judge Sara Spencer-Noggle would have preferred to send Brian Kolodziej, a former state prosecutor who falsified a police report and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a rape victim in a case he was prosecuting, to jail. 

But at Kolodziej’s sentencing hearing Friday, the Isabella County Circuit Court judge said she could only give Kolodziej two years of probation, community service, and mandatory mental health treatment.

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Nearly ten years after the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak sickened more than 750 people and killed 64 people nationally, the two men charged with the second-degree murder of 11 Michiganders are asking the Michigan Supreme Court to intervene in their case. 

It’s a last ditch effort by Barry Cadden and Glenn Chin's legal teams to keep them from going to trial in this state, as the lower courts have ruled that they should.

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It was last fall when Dr. Alanna Otto really started noticing the change. 

Normally, the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan where she works gets one or two patients admitted a week for complications from eating disorders. But lately, those rates had been soaring. 

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More than 5,600 residents and 77 staff members of Michigan long-term care facilities have died in the COVID-19 pandemic so far, at least according to state data. But what if that’s a significant undercount? 

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Starting Tuesday, Saginaw city officials are “suspending” new water shutoffs, after drawing criticism for sending out 750 shutoff notices earlier this month.

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Michigan’s officially reopened, baby. As of June 22, it’s goodbye capacity restrictions and broad face mask requirements, regardless of your vaccination status.

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In a surprise announcement Thursday, the state says it’s lifting all broad COVID restrictions on June 22, just over a week earlier than planned. Citing some of the lowest case rates since the pandemic began and 60% of residents having had at least one dose of the vaccine, health officials say broad mask and gathering mandates are no longer needed. 


Spectrum Health; Beaumont Health System

Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health say they plan to merge into a single system with 22 hospitals and 64,000 employees. It's a massive shakeup for two of the state's largest health providers.

restaurant worker at a cash register
Photo by Mariah Solomon on Unsplash

For restaurant and retail workers, the Rare Bird in Traverse City was offering a pretty good deal last Monday: come get your COVID vaccine, and not only are you protected from the virus that’s killed some 3.8 million globally, they’ll throw in a $50 Visa gift card, plus $1 draft beers and $3 cocktails.

Macomb County Prosecutor

Brian Kolodziej, the former Assistant Michigan Attorney General, has received a plea deal. Kolodziej was charged with two counts of felony misconduct in office last year for having an inappropriate relationship with the victim in a college rape case he was prosecuting, as well as allegedly tampering with evidence in that same case.



SEIU Healthcare Michigan

Nurses at McLaren Macomb hospital say they’re at a crisis point, with dangerous levels of understaffing and poor working conditions that are impacting patients.

Not only are there far too many patients per nurse, says local union vice president Dina Carlisle, but so many support staff have left due to low pay that the food, cleaning, and support staff are down to just skeleton crews.

“I had a midnight hour RN tell me there’s one environmental services person for the whole house,” Carlisle said. “How is that possible?”

National Park Service

Yes, it’s a rare virus that people can get from animals (specifically mice, in this case.) And yes, it can be fatal, and has symptoms like fever, fatigue, and cough. 

But the Washtenaw County woman who was recently hospitalized with the state’s first confirmed case of Hantavirus isn’t the beginning of another pandemic - just a good reminder to be smart about rodent exposure. 

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All COVID restrictions on outdoor or residential gatherings will be lifted as of Tuesday, June 1. Restaurants will be allowed to be up to 50% full.

But for the next month, people who haven’t been fully vaccinated are still required to wear masks indoors. The state says it intends to lift “all broad epidemic orders” on July 1. 

So until then, businesses are being asked to make “good faith efforts” to ensure unmasked customers really are vaccinated if they’re indoors. And business owners still have the ability to ask customers, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks - although many major chains like Meijer have already dropped mask requirements for vaccinated customers. 

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It’ll be an “interesting test.” That’s how Wendy Hirschenberger, health officer for Grand Traverse County, is looking at the weeks ahead.

“For me as an epidemiologist, between now and July 1, it'll be interesting to see what happens with our [case] numbers,” Hirschenberger said Tuesday at a Munson Health press conference.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Sometimes you just need the right messenger. And sometimes that messenger is a kid in Grand Traverse County who just wants an uninterrupted baseball season. 

“(He) in particular wanted to be the first, and then he recruited the whole rest of his baseball team to get vaccinated, so that they can continue to play together," said Wendy Hirschenberger, the Grand Traverse County health officer. "And so that's how vaccinations work as a whole."


James Marvin Phelps via Flickr Creative Commons

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Allegra Blackwood is 13 years old. She’s in seventh grade, and has written about 80 pages of her fantasy/sci-fi novel so far, though she’s still editing. And even as her friends went back to school in-person this spring, she’s stayed remote. Her mom, Karla Blackwood, has health conditions that put at her at higher risk if she contracts COVID. 

“It's also been really hard, because I really want to keep up my grades, and I want to keep up my friendships and my relationships with people,” Blackwood says, sitting high up inside a sun-filled suite overlooking the University of Michigan football stadium. “But I've always tried to persevere and be the best I can.”

young Black teen receives a vaccine in his right arm
Seventyfour / Adobe Stock

Now that the FDA has expanded its emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, allowing it to be used for kids 12-15, the whole thing gets kicked over to the CDC’s advisory council on Wednesday.

The Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday to talk about best practices, or “clinical considerations and implementation” for getting this vaccine to kids.

Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Unsplash

No, there’s no evidence COVID-19 vaccines can impact a teen girl’s fertility. 

And yes, actually, your kid can get really sick from COVID.

EMR Industry / Flickr Creative Commons

Now that 35% of eligible Michiganders are fully vaccinated, health officials say efforts need to focus on groups that are borderline-hesitant. (Think your cousin who hasn’t gotten their shot yet because it’s “inconvenient,” or your pregnant friend who’s getting mixed messages from her social media feed.) 

Michigan’s seeing a small, but hopeful, drop in daily new COVID cases, and there’s optimism that hospitalizations may have peaked in this third wave as well. At Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital – where nurses like Maddie Schrauben care for COVID patients like 6
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Jeanne Bishop and Kathleen Marble are huddled together over their laptop and notes, quietly trying to figure out where they’re going to put all the kids and infants coming into Sparrow Hospital with COVID-19. It’s Tuesday, April 20, and the 8 a.m. incident command meeting has just wrapped. Now the real work begins.

Woman with IV in arm
Adobe Stock

Editor's Note: This article was originally published February 3, 2021. Some of the information regarding research and the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies has likely changed since its original publication. However, we are re-sharing this content following Governor Gretchen Whitmer's April 14, 2021, press conference where she mentioned monoclonal antibodies as a treatment for COVID-19. There is still valuable information on how the treatment works, but how difficult it may be to use it given the current number of cases in Michigan.

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Please don't travel over Spring Break this year. And no matter what, get tested before you come back to class. That's the message from school administrators and health experts across Michigan this week, amidst a statewide surge in cases.

More than 60 new school-related COVID-19 outbreaks were reported on Monday. That's on top of an additional 181 K-12 school outbreaks already being monitored,  leaving many scrambling to get out in front of a potential break-related case spike.

With many Michigan schools either coming back from, or heading into, break this week, the state health department’s rolling out a series of pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics in hopes of catching outbreaks before they start.

Linda Heard receives her COVID vaccine during a drive-thru clinic in Ypsilanti at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Spring Quiñones was getting goosebumps, watching one person after another walk into the middle of this large classroom-turned-COVID-19 vaccine clinic, at St. Francis of Assisi church in Ann Arbor.

“Oh my god, it’s hitting me!” she laughed. Some 200 people had appointments at this March 16 pop-up clinic for Spanish-speakers. And getting it off the ground hadn’t been easy.

Over the course of two weeks in March, Washtenaw County health officials say they leaned heavily on community leaders and activists to organize a series of specialized vaccine clinics aimed at minorities.

And based on preliminary data from the county, it may have actually worked.

Hospital Clínic Barcelona @franciscoavia

The rapid rise in COVID hospitalizations over the last few weeks has health officials worried, but still hoping vaccinations can help curb the fallout of climbing case counts.

As of Tuesday, more than 1,500 adults and 21 children are currently in the hospital with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the state’s dashboard.

That’s still far lower than the peaks in November and last spring, when some 4,000 Michiganders were hospitalized. And it’s “too soon to tell” whether this is the start of yet another spike, said Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.