An unprecedented ballot certification vote, Michigan's new Covid rules, Pfizer's vaccine progress improves

In the about-face of the year, pivotal Wayne County saw its election results left uncertified by the county canvassing board after a 2-2 tie along party lines. Hours later, the deadlock loosened to a 4-0 unanimous vote, officially certifying the results.

In what will likely be one of the most talked-about county canvassing board decisions for years, the unprecedented move ushered in ire from residents, election experts, and Democrats from around the country. 

The certification came with a caveat, however. The board also passed a resolution for the Secretary of State's office to conduct an independent audit of the precincts in the county with unexplained discrepancies between votes counted and votes cast.

Even as election day ends, several formal steps must be taken before a vote can be approved. These extra steps are often invisible and bring about little news coverage. While the wheels of democracy continued to spin on Tuesday, the initial decision not to approve the county's ballots was a rare one. 

The deadlock fell on party lines, with Democrats Jonathan Kinloch of Detroit and Allen Wilson of Romulus approving the ballots, while Republicans Monica Palmer of Grosse Pointe Woods and William Hartman of Wyandotte voted against it.

After Palmer's initial vote against certifying the election results, she said she would be open to certifying results from all other jurisdictions in Wayne County, besides Detroit. The decision sparked outrage among members of the public listening in on the zoom call when the vote was being held. 

Among those whose words hold more weight than most in Michigan came from Chris Thomas, the former director of elections at the state who was brought on by the secretary of state to help Detroit's election processes. He called the process "absurd" and argued certifying the results of some precincts and not others would be a disservice. 

It's worth noting that ballot discrepancies in Wayne County and Detroit are common. Following the August primary election, 72% of Detroit's precincts found unexplained differences between the number of votes counted and the number cast. The Wayne County canvassing board certified the results without an issue. 

The Board of State Canvassers will now have until Nov. 23 to certify Michigan's statewide election results. 

Michigan's three-week COVID-19 restrictions kick in

Michigan's three-week pause on business and school operations, tighter gathering limits, and suspension of organized sports are now in effect.

The proverbial switch to the state's COVID-19 lockdown flipped at 12:01 a.m.

Under the new orders, in-person learning in high schools, indoor service at bars and restaurants, movie theaters, casinos, organized sports, and arcades will all be closed.

The decision to do so was announced Sunday evening and brought about a similar chorus of criticism from business leaders and lawmakers in the state legislature. Many worry any variation of a second shutdown will freeze up any progress the state's economy had made after the first series of lockdowns.

On Tuesday, the restaurant and lodging association filed a lawsuit against the health department over restrictions to restaurants, arguing data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows very few outbreaks of the coronavirus have occurred in restaurants, where capacity limits have already been greatly reduced. 

Plaintiffs are urging a judge to order an emergency injunction to halt the order.

Among the most important changes is a reduction in gathering sizes. Health experts and hospital CEOs say one of the likeliest sources of transmission is in small-to-medium group settings. COVID-19 is now being contracted by members of the same family over dinner tables, rather than in crowded bars and parties.

This presents a particular problem with the holiday Thanksgiving coming just around the corner. Among the most popular events for families to gather during, it could supercharge an already spiking caseload of new coronavirus cases. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Sunday that gatherings between members of two households of up to 10 people were allowed for the holiday.

Flint Water Crisis settlement raised to $641 million

Additional parties have contributed to a growing settlement destined for Flint residents who were victims of the city's water crisis years ago.

The city of Flint put in $20 million as did the McLaren Regional Medical Center, while Rowe Professional Services Co. put up $1.25 million, according to a release from Whitmer's office.

The massive transfer of money must first receive a judge's approval before residents can lay claim to some of the money.

“This settlement agreement is just one of the many ways we will continue showing our support for the city and residents of Flint,” said Whitmer in a release. “The details of the proposal that have been presented to the judge are an important step forward and we are committed to helping the residents of Flint participate in this process as we all work together towards the brighter future that Flint deserves.” 

The detailed terms of the settlement agreement filed in Court today are contained in a lengthy agreement, with many exhibits, and can be viewed at

Beaumont tighten visitation rules at more hospitals

Beaumont hospitals in Dearborn, Farmington Hills, and Trenton are all tightening the visitation limits at respective facilities to reduce the potential for exposure to patients and staff.

With Michigan embroiled in its second surge of COVID-19, hospitals around Metro Detroit and elsewhere are increasingly concerned about reaching capacity.

Dearborn and Farmington Hills will limit visitation of family and friends Wednesday at 8 a.m. while Trenton's site will institute its new rules on Thursday.

"We've had a notable rise in COVID-19 cases in Metro Detroit," said Dr. Nick Gilpin, medical director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology for Beaumont Health. "Last spring, we took care of the most COVID-19 patients in the state and we know that taking difficult steps like restricting visitors will help us keep our patients and our staff safe."

While hospitals haven't canceled elective surgeries for residents, they have considered limiting them as another policy shift that was used in April and May amid climbing caseloads.

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3. A fire destroyed a two-story home in Rochester Hills on Sunday, causing nearly $300,000 in damages.

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Daily Forecast

Wednesday will be a bit warmer than Tuesday, with a high of 45 degrees expected. Clouds are also expected to cover the sky for a good chunk of the day. Plan on a pair of 60-degree days to close out the week.

Pfizer to seek clearance soon; new data shows its COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective

Pfizer says that more interim results from its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study suggest the shots are 95% effective and that the vaccine protects older people most at risk of dying from COVID-19.

The announcement, just a week after Pfizer first revealed promising preliminary results, comes as the company is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

Pfizer initially had estimated its vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, was more than 90% effective after 94 infections had been counted. With Wednesday’s announcement, the company now has accumulated 170 infections in the study -- and said only eight of them occurred in volunteers who got the actual vaccine rather than a dummy shot. One of those eight developed severe disease, the company said.

The company has not yet released detailed data on its study, and results have not been analyzed by independent experts.

Pfizer said its vaccine was more than 94% effective in adults over age 65, though it is not clear how the company determined effectiveness in older adults, with only eight infections in the vaccinated group to analyze and no breakdown provided of those people’s ages.