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.

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.

University of Michigan

There were 12 graduate students living in the co-op house this spring, all sharing two-and-a-half bathrooms, when one student’s boyfriend (a doctor in Detroit) tested positive for COVID. That meant everyone in the house could have been exposed to the virus. 

They all needed to self-isolate. But in a house with so many people, the question was: how?  

“It was pretty hard trying to kind of organize any kind of quarantine in the house,” says Steven Mace, one of the residents. “The University [of Michigan] stepped in and gave housing to, I think, four or five of us. So they put us up in Northwood housing, because they had empty units. So they did two weeks of quarantine up there for a bit, and provided food.”

Vince Fleming / Unsplash

In a move sure to frustrate high school athletes, their coaches, and parents, the Michigan High School Athletic Association said Thursday, in what was already a one-day-delayed announcement, that it still needs another week or so to figure out if most of the state can play girls volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming & diving indoor this year. 

 

ANDREW PARSONS / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Michigan hospitals will keep using convalescent plasma to treat certain COVID-19 patients — they’ll just have to keep jumping through certain hoops to do it. That's after the FDA has reportedly delayed authorizing the experimental treatment for “emergency use.” 

 

Michigan State University sign
Michigan State University

Having a big house party near Michigan State University just got harder. 

On Tuesday, the Ingham County Health Department announced a new emergency order banning outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people in certain parts of East Lansing near campus - including the downtown area. 

Kate Trifo for Unsplash

Linda Vail does not want to take anybody to court.

But the Ingham County Health Officer has had to send out some warning letters to young people who refuse to cooperate with contact tracers.

“We still run into the occasions where people just flat out refuse to talk to us, refuse to give us information on their contacts,” says Vail. “And honestly, at that point, I just send them a warning letter that basically tells them that they have to. And then we can take them to court if that becomes a problem.”

SEIU Healthcare Michigan

More than a thousand nursing home workers from more than a dozen facilities in the Detroit area will not go on strike today as planned, their union announced suddenly this morning, after Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked nursing home operators and union leaders to engage in “good faith” negotiations over the next 30 days. 

 

Bentley Historical Library

With plaintiff attorneys calling this perhaps the “most appalling sexual assault against a group of African-Americans in this country's history,” two Black former student athletes - including former San Francisco 49rs Super Bowl champion Dwight Hicks - described the agonizing process of coming to terms with their sexual abuse by Dr. Robert Anderson during their time at the University of Michigan.

Eddie Griffith / Flickr

 

Some 1,600 workers from 18 Detroit-area nursing homes will go on an all-day, all-shifts, indefinite strike on August 17 to demand an end to what they say are “poverty wages,” inadequate personal protective equipment, and dangerously low levels of staffing, according to the union SEIU Healthcare Michigan.

More than 2,000 nursing home residents and 22 staff members have been killed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to state data.

Robert E. Anderson pictured in 1967.
University of Michigan / Bentley Historical Library

A federal judge says the University of Michigan must alert the roughly 300,000 alumni it previously asked for information about a former sports doctor accused of sexual abuse, that there are several lawsuits pending against the University and they could be potential plaintiffs. 

Dr. Martin Philbert speaking at a 2016 University of Michigan graduation ceremony.
University of Michigan School of Dentistry

Several University of Michigan top officials, including former President Mary Sue Coleman, were alerted to sexual misconduct allegations against former Provost Martin Philbert, but ultimately failed to prevent him from sexually harassing and intimidating subordinates and student-employees for more than a decade.

That’s the damning conclusion of a report released Friday by WilmerHale, the firm hired by the U of M in January to conduct an investigation into complaints against Philbert.

Bo Schembechler in 1981.
UM Bentley Historical Library

Bo Schembechler, one of the most famous and beloved coaches in college football history, was told of Dr. Robert Anderson’s sexual abuse of students in 1982, a former student alleges.

Anderson, who served as Michigan’s Director of Student Health Services 1968-1980 and was an Athletic Department Team Physician, stayed at Michigan in a faculty position through 1998. According to a spokesperson, the University (which holds Michigan Radio's license) has received “394 unique complaints” regarding Anderson’s abuse under the guise of medical treatments. Multiple lawsuits against the school are ongoing.

tvol / www.flickr.com

The Board of Directors of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) announced Wednesday it had “terminated its relationship” with Executive Director Elysia Borowy-Reeder, following staff allegations of mistreatment and racial bias. Borowry-Reeder had been put on leave earlier this month.   

 

black business owner giving bag to shopper
Rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock

In a move TCF Bank says delivers on its recent pledge to “take action for racial equality and social justice,” the Detroit-based company said it would loan $1 billion over the next 5 years to women and minority-led businesses in several cities the bank serves, including Detroit.

At a Thursday morning press conference, TCF Executive Chairman Gary Torgow called the program “audacious in its size and ambition.”

Flickr Creative Commons

Dr. James Richard has some tough calls to make. As lab director for the Sparrow health system, his team has been “burning and churning” through more than 85,000 COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began.

 

The lab is a lynchpin for the region, serving as the central test processing hub for multiple hospitals, clinics, and community testing sites, all sending their samples to Sparrow and depending on their speedy results to track and contain the virus. 

 

a sign that says "stop abortion now" and another that says "keep abortion legal"
Unsplash/Adobe Stock

An anti-abortion group says it’s dropping its effort to ask voters whether to ban an abortion procedure. Right to Life of Michigan said Tuesday that it won’t challenge the state Bureau of Elections, which concluded too many of the signatures the group submitted were duplicates or had other problems.

A closed sign on a window
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

A newly released survey finds Michiganders are getting most of their COVID-19 information from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and the CDC. But trust levels in those sources aren’t that high, with about half of respondents saying they trust Fauci and the CDC “a great deal or quite a bit,” and only about 42% saying the same for Whitmer. (Trust in President Donald Trump, traditional news media, and social media were even lower.) 

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

  They wanted Grace to be able to hear them. That’s what organizers of Sunday’s protest outside the Children’s Village juvenile detention center in Oakland County, as they called for the release of a 15-year-old girl who was detained in May after a judge ruled her failure to do her online schoolwork violated her probation.  

Hillsdale College

  Dr. Harle Vogel says he found out on Tuesday that Hillsdale College was planning to hold an in-person, outdoor commencement ceremony this Saturday. As medical director for the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency, Vogel says college officials told them as many as 2,600-plus people could be in attendance. That’s despite an executive order banning events of more than 100 people in that area. 

Courtesy of the State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay in Traverse City

Grand Traverse County health officer Wendy Hirschenberger hit a milestone this week she was hoping to never reach: 100 cases of COVID-19 in the county since the pandemic began. While that’s a fraction of what some Michigan counties have seen (Oakland County, for instance, is close to 10,000) what worries Hirschenberger is that 55 of those cases are just since July 1.

Erick McLean/Unsplash

Washtenaw County health officials say a large house party in the Saline area over the Fourth of July weekend has led to a spike in COVID-19 cases that is rapidly spreading as infectious people exposed others at “retail stores, restaurants, businesses, canoe liveries, clubs, camps, athletic teams and a retirement community.”

Martin Philbert
University of the Western Cape

Emily Renda’s ex-boyfriend was stalking her. It was 2012, and as a 28-year-old with a master’s degree in public health, she’d recently started a job she loved: working as a global health and student life coordinator at her alma mater, the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

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