Tracy Samilton | Michigan Radio

Tracy Samilton

Energy and Transportation Reporter / Producer

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.

She took over the auto beat in January, 2009, just a few months before Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.

Tracy’s reports can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio.

Her coverage of Michigan’s Detroit Three automakers has taken her as far as Germany, and China. Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature.

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

State utility regulators say they are putting Enbridge Energy's application for a permit for Line 5 "in abeyance," while they consider Enbridge's assertion that it may not need that permit in the first place.

The company wants to encase a replacement section of Line 5 in a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says the permit application will be on hold as it decides if the state's 1953 order granting the pipeline also grants replacement rights.

Prison bars
flickr user Thomas Hawk /

A federal district judge has ordered Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard to take steps to protect inmates housed at the jail from the coronavirus.

American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Phil Mayor says the lawsuit was filed because the jail has been exposing inmates to unsafe, inhumane, and degrading conditions.

inmates outside on basketball court
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

Attorneys, advocates, family members and inmates are calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to use her executive authority to reduce prison populations.

As of April 7, ten Michigan prisons had at least one confirmed COVID-19 case among inmates, and fifteen state prison departments or prisons had confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff.

Lakeland Correctional Facility sign
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A second inmate in a Michigan prison has died of COVID-19

This death is an urgent concern, say advocates.  That's because it happened in a prison that houses many elderly inmates with chronic health conditions.  

The Michigan Department of Corrections says the inmate at Lakeland Correctional in Coldwater was taken to the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, where he died on April 7. 

Shayan Sanyal /

Updated 2:28 on 4/7/20 to reflect increase in cases 

COVID-19 cases continue to increase rapidly in some Michigan prisons.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 10 prisons now have at least one confirmed COVID-19 case, and at the two most affected prisons, Parnall Correctional Facility and Macomb Correctional Facility, the number of cases is spiking, with a high percentage of positive test results out of those tested.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Former Thetford Township police chief Robert Kenny has been charged with embezzlement and obstruction of justice — again.

That's after a circuit court judge reversed a district court judge's dismissal of the charges.

DTE Energy

DTE Energy is asking state regulators for a $205 million increase for natural gas. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says that's the equivalent of an 8% increase on customers' bills and calls it "excessive and unreasonable."  

Nessel says she appreciates that utilities need money to maintain and improve natural gas infrastructure.  But she says DTE can do that with a $65.5 million dollar annual increase. 

teacher at Lakeland COrrectional facility
Isabella Isaacs-Thomas / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections banned nearly all visitors to state prisons in mid-March, to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus among inmates.

But teachers at most prisons are still being told to report to work. The decision is not sitting well with some of them.

Exterior of fence and prison grounds
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Corrections has placed inmates at four prisons on partial lockdown as the number of inmates testing positive for COVID-19 rose over the weekend.

As of 6:00 p.m. Monday, 27 inmates at Macomb Correctional Facility tested positive for COVID-19, and 29 at Parnell Correctional Facility, a minimum security men's prison in Jackson County.

Professor Kevin Corconan teaches philosophy to student inmates
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Temujin Kensu is an inmate at Macomb Correctional Facility, which on Friday reported three confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates.

He says many of the things that people outside the prison system can do to try to ward off infection are difficult or simply not possible for him and fellow inmates.

In a video titled "DIY Mask for Coronavirus," two Henry Ford Allegience employees explain the "thoughtful design" behind the masks.
Henry Ford Allegience Health

Oakland County Executive David Coulter says many hospitals in his county are nearing full capacity already.

a ventilator with tubes coming out of it
Adobe Stock Images

General Motors is working with Ventec, a ventilator company based in Washington, to boost supplies of the desperately needed equipment.

Hospitals say they do not have enough ventilators to care for the expected surge of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer's latest executive order is creating some confusion.

The order suspends "activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life."  It goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. March 24th, 2020, and is in place through April 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

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Last week, Michigan received a shipment of personal protective equipment from the national emergency stockpile.

The materials were shipped to all 45 local health departments in the state as well as the state's eight healthcare coalitions, divvied up by population.

But the total was a tiny fraction of what health care workers will need as they face an expected surge in COVID-19 patients. Hospitals across Michigan began accepting and soliciting donations over the weekend.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Right now, in a number of Michigan hospitals, it's the calm before the storm.  Many hospitals in the state are caring for only a handful of COVID-19 patients. But that's expected to change swiftly in the next two to three weeks.

Gearing up for the expected surge is proving to be very difficult. Hospitals are having trouble locating enough personal protective gear via their normal supply channels, including disposable masks, gloves, caps, foot covers, and gowns, as well as face masks, N95 respirator masks, face shields and safety goggles.


Wednesday afternoon, walk-in business at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea is slow. Only a handful of customers trickle in to get a to-go coffee, while customers wait in a small lineup of cars outside in the drive-through.

Franchise owner Kristin Jackson says she's keeping the store open as long as she can following the Governor's order to stop service to sit-down customers as part of the effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.


Update: 10:40 p.m.  

GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler have agreed to new measures to protect UAW plant workers from the coronavirus. The measures include deep cleaning of facilities and equipment between shifts, increasing time periods in between shifts, and plans to increase social distancing between workers as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Currently, many of the companies' white collar workers are working remotely.

Natalie Kolb / Comonwealth Media Services/Flkr/creative commons

Michigan Medicine, which includes the University of Michigan Hospitals, says it is working to be "optimally prepared" for COVID-19 patients.  

As part of that effort, the hospital system has just opened a 32-bed regional infectious containment unit (RICU) that will be able to care for COVID-19 patients.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer standing at a podium in front of a blue screen

Updated: Thursday, March 12, at 11:05 p.m.:

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday evening that the state is closing all K-12 buildings to students beginning Monday, March 16. 

makzhou / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The Detroit Pistons says its players and staff are self-quarantining out of an abundance of caution. That's after the Pistons played the Utah Jazz on Saturday, March 7.

Two members of the Utah Jazz were diagnosed several days later with COVID-19.


Michigan nursing homes have been told to screen visitors for  illness and possible exposure to COVID-19.

Greg Tracy is the Administrator of Rest Haven Homes in Grand Rapids.

He says visits from people showing symptoms of illness are being restricted, including people who may have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 or who have traveled to areas with outbreaks.

Adobe Stock

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has confirmed there are three presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. COVID-19 is the disease cause by the novel coronavirus.

Now that the outbreak has reached Michigan, it is likely there will be more cases and community spread. The state is taking numerous steps to slow the spread of the virus, but many things remain unclear about how individuals should react.

woman in lab testing vials
dusanpetkovic1 / Adobe Stock

hands under pouring water
mrjn Photography / Unsplash

The City of Detroit has announced what it's calling a Coronavirus Water Restart Plan to try to ensure that people have access to water during the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Michigan does not yet have a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The program comes after pressure from community activists, following Detroit's decision to pursue aggressive water shutoffs in 2014. More than 30,000 households experienced a water shutoff that year. 

The city often demanded large lump sum payments from people to re-connect them.

Gary Jones stands at a UAW podium
United Auto Workers

Federal prosecutors have charged Gary Jones, the former President of the United Auto Workers, with three felonies, including embezzlement.

Jones is the highest-ranking official charged so far in an FBI investigation of corruption in the union. 

General Motors

General Motors says significant economies of scale will drive down the cost of its next generation of electric vehicles. 

On Wednesday, the automaker revealed a highly flexible platform that can be used for many different vehicles, along with its new "Ultium" batteries, developed in conjunction with business partner LG Chem.

The company says its future EVs will be profitable from the get-go, something its previous EV program could not boast.

The automaker also revealed some of its latest EV prototypes.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared before a crowd of at least 2,000 in Detroit's Eastern Market on Tuesday, giving no indication she has any intention of dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

That's despite being far behind front runners Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in picking up delegates.

Delta airplane
Delta Airlines

Ford Motor Company is restricting all air travel, domestic and foreign, to reduce employees' risk of contracting COVID-19.  GM and Fiat Chrysler aren't going quite as far - yet. 

Ford says it will allow only rare exceptions to its near-complete travel restriction, which ends on March 27th - although that date could be extended.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

This Saturday is the first work requirement deadline for people with Healthy Michigan Plan insurance, which is provided under the state's Medicaid expansion program. 

A new law requires people to work, volunteer or job search 80 hours a month to keep their Healthy Michigan Plan insurance.

State and county officials say they've been telling people about the Healthy Michigan Plan work requirement for months, with letters, pop-up notices on their insurance accounts online, and the like. 

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Michigan is ramping up its preparations for a possible coronavirus outbreak in the state, although right now, no one in Michigan has tested positive for the virus.

Lynn Sutfin is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

She says the state currently has the capacity to test between 100 and 150 people for coronavirus, should that be necessary.