COVID-19 | Michigan Radio
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COVID-19

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 surge in Michigan, Michigan Radio will be tracking stories about the people impacted, how our healthcare system is faring, what it means for our economy, and more. You can find all of our latest coverage below, or click here to see the latest update of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The feed below also includes national coverage of COVID-19 from NPR.

This is ongoing coverage. 

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Vaccine distribution in Michigan has been geographically uneven. But there’s a reason for that, says a public health official in the Upper Peninsula. The hard part, she says, can be explaining that to residents anxious to get vaccinated.

Today on Stateside, how the new COVID variant, present on the University of Michigan campus, is affecting the school and what it could mean for the rest of the state And, shelters in Grand Rapids are seeing an increase in the demand for services as the economic fallout from COVID pushes people out of housing. Plus, how new guidelines for vaccine priority have cut off much of the supply of doses for the Upper Peninsula.

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A report to the Legislature from the Michigan Auditor General says there should have been more controls over how millions of dollars in COVID-19 response funds were spent. But the same report also says the spending overall has been “appropriate.”

The report focused largely on government credit cards that were shared between state employees to buy emergency supplies. That made it harder to track who was buying what, and there was one case of purchased personal protective equipment that was never delivered.

closed sign on a storefront door
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

More than 34,000 small businesses are waiting to see if they’ll get a share of $55 million in state grants.

The Michigan Small Business Survival Grant program is meant to aid businesses impacted by restrictions on gatherings and indoor businesses for the sake of public health during the pandemic. A business could get a maximum grant of $15,000 if it has been partially closed or $20,000 if it is fully closed in accordance with state coronavirus restrictions.

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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?”

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials say they are very concerned about a new variant of COVID-19 that’s been found in Michigan. And that could affect the course of the state’s response and the pace of re-opening more schools, sports, and businesses.

Jeff Daniels
Luc Daniels

Michigan’s favorite son is back, and is biding his time at home like the rest of us. Jeff Daniels, esteemed actor, playwright, and musician, released his new album late last year. It’s aptly titled “Alive and Well Enough,” which pretty much sums up how many of us are doing these days. He joined Stateside to talk about the album, politics, and his virtual concert at the Midland Center for the Arts on Friday, January 29.

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Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Many Michigan counties are looking for volunteers to help vaccinate people against COVID-19. And in some counties, those volunteers are able to get their shots as well.

Washtenaw County is offering that option, said county health department spokeswoman Susan Cerniglia. The county is currently operating one mass vaccination site, with plans to open another when vaccine supplies increase. They also use volunteers on mobile teams that go out to vaccinate vulnerable populations.

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The University of Michigan has put its athletic activities on hold. Athletic facilities are closed, and practices, training sessions, and competitions are all shut down.

This comes after several people associated with the athletic department tested positive for the new COVID B.1.1.7. variant.

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More than half a million Michiganders have received a first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, according to the state's health department. But a smaller cohort, as participants in clinical trials, have received vaccines made by other companies.

The University of Michigan football stadium
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has told the University of Michigan to stop all athletic activities in all sports for possibly up to two weeks.

That includes all games, team and individual training sessions, and closing U-of-M athletic facilities.
The mandate follows positive test results for the new COVID B.1.1.7 variant from several people associated with the Athletic Department.

Groceries, including milk, eggs and produce, sitting on a counter.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

COVID-19 tests, rent payment and food were the top three pandemic-related issues for state residents who reached out to Michigan 211, a subsidiary of the Michigan Association of United Ways that connects people to resources for free through text, chat or calling 211.

 

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.

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Health organizations in Grand Rapids are setting up a vaccine clinic that they hope will eventually be able to vaccinate 20,000 people per day. The clinic will be at the DeVos Place convention center in downtown Grand Rapids.

The Kent County Health Department, Spectrum Health and Mercy Health are working together to create the clinic.

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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.

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Beginning February 1, indoor dining can resume in Michigan, but can only reopen at 25% capacity with up to 100 people, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced in a press conference Friday. Concessions at casinos, movie theaters and stadiums, as well as personal services requiring mask removal will be able to resume as well.

In addition to capacity restrictions, restaurants and bars must close by 10 p.m. Restaurants must also collect contact information from diners for contact tracing purposes.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Two more people in Michigan are confirmed to be infected with a more contagious variant of COVID-19.

The state health department says the two women who tested positive are close contacts of the first Michigan resident to be diagnosed with the variant on Saturday. The first person known to have contracted the variant, B.1.1.7, had traveled to the U.K. All three women live in Washtenaw County and are associated with the University of Michigan.

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Michigan’s COVID-19 cases continue to plateau, hospitalizations continue to decline, and the seven-day average percentage of tests coming back positive fell to 7.6% over the week ending January 16.

Those are three takeaways from an epidemiology update hosted Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

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Five bowling alley owners are suing the state of Michigan over money lost from being closed by state orders concerning COVID-19.

Michigan bowling alleys were closed for most of the past year. Because of that, attorney David Kallman says his clients deserve to be compensated.

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COVID-19 vaccinations are moving slowly for the thousands of corrections officers and other staff in state prisons.

Health care workers in prisons have first priority, but in some counties, those vaccinations have just started. The rest of prison staff, including corrections officers, are next in line for scarce vaccines.

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Michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is urging the state’s Republican-led Legislature to pass her $5.6 billion COVID-19 relief plan. The bills include tax breaks for businesses and money for food and rent assistance.

Whitmer says she plans to dedicate $575 million in federal money for the state’s pandemic response and vaccination rollout.

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Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says that there are over 12,000 appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations scheduled at the TCF Center in Detroit in the coming weeks. The city wants to do even more, but doesn't know if it can count on a consistent number of doses.

"Everybody is having a tough week. In Detroit, we expected to get 9 to 10 thousand this week. We got 6000. We can work with 6000, but it is not what we had hoped to try to keep expanding eligibility," Duggan said in a press conference Tuesday.

From southwest Michigan to the Upper Peninsula, rural health departments are warning residents of a “severely limited” vaccine supply, “a high volume of calls,” and “full capacity for our clinics.”

What that's meant for Steve Hall, health officer at the Central Michigan District Health Department, is having to continually “shift on the fly.”

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COVID-19 vaccinations will begin at a handful of Meijer pharmacies in Wayne County this week.

Prioritizing patients who are 65 or older, Meijer expects to give shots to 1,950 people — two shipments' worth of Pfizer doses — within a few days of receiving the doses.

Meijer’s director of corporate communications Frank Guglielmi says those shipments should arrive early this week.

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A new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced on Saturday.

The new variant, B.1.1.7, was identified in an adult woman from Washtenaw County. She had recently traveled to the United Kingdom, where the variant was first identified. MDHHS says the woman’s close contacts have been notified and are in quarantine. Two of those contacts have tested positive for COVID-19, though it’s unclear if they have the B.1.1.7 variant.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Michigan — so far — has not seen a large spike in COVID-19 cases since the winter holidays.

 

“While I am concerned about the slight uptick in cases after the holidays, we are not seeing the surge of hospitalization that we saw in the beginning of November,” Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said at a press conference Jan. 13.

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Kent County shelters are seeing more families experiencing homelessness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family Promise in Grand Rapids usually houses 30 to 40 families a night during the winter. This year, they're providing shelter to twice that amount. The families are staying in hotels, with many people working and going to school remotely.

Updated 5:06 p.m. ET

On Friday afternoon, President-Elect Joe Biden shared a detailed plan to tackle the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, promising to fight the pandemic with "the full strength of the federal government."

In a speech in Delaware, Biden laid out his five-part plan for how to speed up the vaccination campaign: Open up vaccine eligibility to more people; create more vaccination sites; increase vaccine supply; hire a vaccination workforce; and launch a large-scale public education campaign.

a woman in scrubs puts on gloves in front of a car
Beenish Ahmed / Michigan Radio

Detroit launched its first major COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Wednesday at a drive-thru clinic set up in the garage of the TCF Center. City health officials made 400 appointments for Detroit seniors, teachers, and childcare providers.

“I'm an active person,” said Francena Dudely, an 87-year-old lifelong Detroiter, who was among those vaccinated. “I want to be able to get out a little bit and even if I still have to wear a mask, I will feel more comfortable.”

vaccinator giving someone a covid vaccine through the window their car
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

It'll be May, the state estimates, before Michigan can open up COVID-19 vaccines to the next wave of people. But if Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail could somehow get her hands on 83,000 doses of the vaccine – one for each of the county's currently eligible frontline workers, as well people older than 65 – she’s pretty sure she could get all those shots in arms in, say, three weeks.

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