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.

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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.

Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

Michigan's one of just 11 states where COVID cases are trending up this week, with an average of just over 2,000 new cases confirmed every day. Although, bear in mind that several states that are declining, are just coming off big outbreaks. That comes as the more easily-transmissible B.1.1.7 variant continues to spread, and people have returned to pre-pandemic levels of daily travel and non-essential trips.

an african american woman holds up her sleeve in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine
Zoran Zeremski / Adobe Stock

On a cold, sunny Saturday in March, Reverend Dr. Wendell Anthony wants to keep the mood light. Relaxed.

“Did you see my lollipops over there?” he asks, pointing down the hall with a laugh. “We’ve got lollipops! So, from the bitter to the sweet,” he says, moving through the socially-distanced crowd at Fellowship Chapel in northwest Detroit.

Every Saturday for the last several weeks, the parking lot, halls, and event space at this historically Black church - one of the largest in the city - has been turned into a vaccination clinic for those 60 and older.

governor gretchen whitmer standing at a podium
michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that more COVID-19 restrictions can be relaxed.

Restaurants will be allowed to accept twice as many indoor diners, retail shops may allow more customers, and more people will be allowed to attend private indoor gatherings starting Friday.

Whitmer said restaurants will also be allowed to stay open an hour later – until 11 p.m.

Phil Roeder, Flickr Creative Commons

As of March 1, here’s the official state list of who’s eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine: 

  • People over 65
  • Healthcare workers
  • Long term care residents and workers
  • Mortuary service workers
  • Frontline workers, including child care and pre-K through high school staff, and workers at congregate care facilities
  • Food processing and agricultural workers

Phil Roeder, Flickr Creative Commons

Well, we now know a bit more about the racial disparity in Michigan’s vaccination rollout so far. But not much.

And that’s frustrating, because if the CDC’s numbers are any indicator, the same communities that were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 (especially Black communities) are getting short shrift so far when it comes to receiving the vaccines. 

On Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services finally released the racial data it’s been collecting about the 1.2 million people who’ve received at least one dose of the vaccine so far. (Most states have already released at least some information about race.)

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There’s the achievement gap. And now we may be seeing the rise of the “in-person learning” gap, too.

As of this month, 83% of Michigan’s school districts say they’re already offering or planning to offer at least some form of in-person instruction, according to a new statewide survey. That’s a big jump from the  64% who were planning to do so in January, according to a release from Michigan State University.

Steven Cornfield via Unsplash

If COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up as promised in the next few months, half of all adults in Michigan could be fully vaccinated by the end of May, the state epidemiologist said this week.

 

Currently, more than 1.6 million administered doses have been reported to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, with 13.7% of eligible residents having received at least their first dose. That’s up from 11.6% last week, state epidemiologist Sarah Lyon-Callo said at a press conference earlier this week.

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Henry Ford Health System is recruiting people 60 and older to be part of a new clinical trial looking at whether Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, which requires just a single dose, is even more effective when two doses are given. 

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are already in use, require two doses to be fully effective.

a person holds a vaccine vial
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On March 1, tens of thousands of Michiganders will be added to the growing pool of those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the state health department announced Monday. An estimated 79,000 workers in the food processing and agricultural industries will be eligible as part of the “1B” category, making them the latest group to become eligible.

Healthcare workers, teachers and childcare workers, corrections workers, and those who work in group living settings (like homeless shelters and foster homes) are already eligible, as well as anyone over the age of 65.

At least 67 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 (also known as the “U.K.” variant) have been confirmed in Michigan, as health experts wait to see whether the more contagious variant will become the dominant strain in the state and potentially reverse weeks of declining case numbers.

“It's very early in the game, and it can take a while for these variants to kind of work their way from just arriving to taking over a community,” said Dr. Adam Lauring, a University of Michigan professor and virologist whose lab sequences COVID samples to detect which variant is present.

Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

It’s going to take about a week for the state’s lab to answer an urgent question.

“Can we take some more proactive and aggressive action [against the more contagious COVID-19 variant] and really control these clusters that we're currently seeing?” Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, a Washtenaw County Health Department spokesperson, said Monday. “Or is, in fact, the variant already circulating more than we've detected?”

MDHHS

Michigan Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon announced his resignation on Friday via Twitter, without offering explanation. 

“Today, I am resigning from the Whitmer Administration,” Gordon said in a tweet Friday around 3 p.m. “It's been an honor to serve alongside wonderful colleagues. I look forward to the next chapter.”

Gordon’s resignation came just hours after signing a revised public health order allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining on February 1. Then Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office released a lengthy press release announcing Gordon’s appointed successor: Elizabeth Hertel, who until now was the Senior Chief Deputy Director for Administration for MDHHS.

Phil Roeder, Flickr Creative Commons

For so many teachers right now, trying to get the COVID-19 vaccine can feel like a distilled version of everything that’s been so stressful and challenging about the last 10 months: Nothing’s working the way it’s supposed to.

a man wearing a mask receives a covid-19 vaccine
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.

C/O Beaumont Health

Technically, Michiganders 65 and older, as well as some frontline essential workers, are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, January 11th. 

But that’s not going to get them an appointment any time soon at the Kent County public health clinic.


Anyone over age 65 can start getting vaccinated starting January 11.
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Starting January 11, some frontline essential workers and anyone over the age of 65 will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Wednesday. That’s a pivot from the CDC’s guidance, which recommends only allowing those over the age of 75 to be part of the next phase of vaccinations, along with frontline workers.

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First, it was gyms. Now, it’s bars, restaurants, and even a donut shop. For Lansing attorney Dave Kallman, representing the small businesses that have had their liquor licenses suspended, been cited by the health department, or in the donut shop owner’s case, been criminally charged for allegedly violating the state’s COVID-19 orders, has become a bit of a cottage industry.

“They're really attacking these people big time, and going right for their ability to operate and be a business,” Kallman said by phone last week.

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Michigan will likely update its vaccination distribution plan by putting people 75 and older higher on the list, making them part of “Phase 1B.” Previously, that category included just “frontline essential workers,” a large group including  teachers, corrections staff, first responders and others. 


Dr. Robert E. Anderson in 1973.
UM Bentley Historical Library

Two bills seeking to help hundreds of people who say they were sexually assaulted by a University of Michigan sports doctor will be reintroduced in January, the bills’ sponsors announced Friday.

The proposed legislation would make it easier for victims of the now-deceased Dr. Robert Anderson to successfully sue the University of Michigan, which employed him from the mid-1960’s through 2003. Allegations that Anderson sexually assaulted scores of students (most of them male) and community members, under the guise of medical treatment, date back decades.

Macomb County

Former state sex crimes prosecutor Brian Kolodziej has been charged with two counts of felony misconduct in office, the Kent County prosecutor announced Thursday, in connection with his handling of a college rape case at Central Michigan University.

Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker was appointed special prosecutor in the Kolodziej investigation in September 2019. Kolodziej had resigned his role as an Assistant Attorney General hired to prosecute sexual assault cases, after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with one of the victims in the CMU case where he was the lead prosecutor.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially brutal for Michigan’s corrections system, with nearly 20,000 inmates testing positive since the pandemic began - a staggering figure, given the state’s entire prison population stood around 39,000 in March.

“We are still auditing the numbers to ensure we weed out any double counts or additional reinfections, but yes, it’s about 50% in total,” says Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz.


The call came one warm night in June 2019. A young Polish priest referred to as “John Doe 1” in a federal lawsuit filed Monday knew it was his boss, Rev. Miroslaw Krol, and he knew that Krol was drunk. But he didn’t know the night would end with him driving an intoxicated Krol and another visiting priest to a motel to meet a male sex worker, and then, according to the suit, withdrawing cash from an ATM so Krol could pay him.


a person holds a vaccine vial
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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.

Hospital workers on general medical floors, emergency departments, and ICU units are the first in line.

Michigan Executive Office of the Governor

Citing continuing concerns about hospital capacity and “alarmingly high” death rates, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a 12-day extension of the COVID-19 restrictions initially put in place three weeks ago. 

That means high schools, colleges and universities must continue online learning only. Theaters and casinos must remain closed, and bars and restaurants can’t resume indoor dining, an especially tough blow during the crucial holiday season.

Dr. Arnold Monto thinks he and his colleagues will be back at their offices at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and otherwise resuming relatively normal lives by the spring, maybe early summer at the latest.

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