Ann Arbor keeping school mask policy, Oxford student joins gun safety campaign, the ex-MSU president's case

As Covid cases fall, many local health departments are planning to lift mask mandates in schools by the end of the month. But in some districts like Ann Arbor -- school leaders say the mandate and masks - will remain.

"Our stakes are high we have children in our charge – so we take that responsibility very seriously," said Dr. Jeanice Shift.

That's why Dr. Shift, the superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools, says despite Washtenaw County dropping the mask mandate, she isn't ready to do the same for students in her district.

A letter went out to parents Friday saying they will continue to follow federal and state health recommendations of universal masking, until numbers improve.

"We are looking for our own cases in our schools, in particular in those situations where we are seeing clusters of cases in schools - we are looking for those numbers to come down," she said. "We report those numbers every Friday, so we are keeping a close eye every day on those numbers. And we're also looking at those county numbers."

Shift appreciates the opportunity to require masks depending on their own infection and vaccination rates, but Kathleen Lucas one of the leaders of the Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools, believes the decision should be left to public health officials.

"I know no one asked for the situation, nobody is happy about it, nobody likes it," she said. "But we can’t return to a normal that isn’t here anymore."

Lucas' two vaccinated young children still wear masks to Hudsonville Public Schools near Grand Rapids, although they haven't been required since January. Shortly after, her kids became infected with Covid.

Right now MiPASS - the bi-partisan parent group, feels there is not enough data about re-infection rates. It is still asking districts to follow CDC and MDHHS recommendations to mask up indoors, despite research that has shown masks are impacting the education of young children.

"Children who are immunocompromised or live with someone who is immunocompromised, their right to be in school at all, should trump everyone else’s ability to see faces for six hours," Lucas said.

On February 28th, when the health order is lifted, some districts are giving students a choice whether to mask up.

Because the number one priority is to keep kids in the classroom, Shift says they plan to take this step-by-step and consider the next step as soon as the infection rates in her district are no longer in the high range.

"I know we are all looking forward to the day when maybe we will be able to remove masks at school," she said. "We're not quite there yet."

Although virus numbers have dropped, she said that they show that it continues to spread across all counties, especially Washtenaw.

Elderly woman lives without heat for a week

An elderly woman resorted to using a space heater and her stove to keep warm after the heat at her Detroit apartment stopped working for a week. "I’m mad as hell because me and my brother are in our warm, cozy apartments and my mom is over here in the cold," Menyet Jackson said. "She told me she slept in a hoodie, and she put something on her head. In your own home."

Jackson's mother, who doesn't want her face shown, lives at Granada Gardens Apartments on the city's west side. She has kept a log of every time her heat has stopped working. "Probably be warmer outside than it does inside sometimes," the woman said.

Management company COH Greenfield said two broilers went down a week ago, and there's been issues getting parts due to supply chain issues. The heat is back on now and it's warmer, but the woman said it's not 100 percent. "I’m always putting my hand over the vent to see if there is heat coming out," she said.

The management company said it is offering space heaters until the problem can be fully resolved. FOX 2 has also reached out to the city to ensure the issue is fixed. "They better get it together because they’re messing with the right one. Menyet Jackson don’t play when it come to her mom," Jackson said. If you have an issue with your Detroit rental, you can contact the city here.

Michigan AG won't appeal ruling in Lou Anna Simon case

The Michigan attorney general says she will not appeal a case against the former Michigan State University president a second time, following court losses where prosecutors failed to prove charges against her.

Dana Nessel said she's confident in the case that Lou Anna Simon lied to investigators about sexual assault complaints against Larry Nasser. But instead of asking the Michigan Supreme Court to take a look, she'll pass. "As the voice for survivors across the state, we always prioritize a victim-centered approach," Nessel said in an evening statement. "To that end, we understand a long appellate process is not always the best way we can support survivors."

The charges against Simon revolve around a 2018 interview she had with federal investigators who wanted to know who at the school were aware of the accusations against Nassar. They claimed she knew about the sports doctor in 2014. Simon denied that charge.

A District Court judge in Eaton County said the case could go to trial. But the trial judge overturned that decision, saying there was insufficient evidence, and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed, 3-0, in December.

Oxford student joins campaign to reduce gun violence

A student at Oxford High School is among a group of activists interested in pursing legal changes to Michigan gun laws in an effort to reduce violence linked to firearms in the state. The group has several events planned as it explores a potential ballot initiative for a future election.

"His precious life and others were taken decades too soon and it breaks my heart to think about," Kiley Myrand said of her friend Tate Myre. "No one my age should experience losing a friend, especially losing a friend in this way," she said.  

Myrand, Bishop Bonnie Perry, and Sherri Scott, a mother whose daughter died from gun violence, were on the town hall meeting Monday where the activists laid out a plan to promote safer fun laws in the state.

End Gun Violence Michigan has several events planed this month – and into the spring. For more information:

MotorCity Casino lifting mask requirements

Motor City Casino is lifting its mask mandate for guests fully vaccinated from COVID-19.

According to the Detroit casino's website, beginning at 8 a.m. on Feb. 17, anyone who has completed their full series of vaccine shots, whether that's two from Moderna and Pfizer or one from Johnson & Johnson, will no longer need to where face coverings.  Masks are still required for those not fully vaccinated.

It's the first policy update the casino has put in place since November 2021. Neither Greektown nor MGM Grand Detroit have updated their mask policy, according to their websites. 

Most county health departments in Michigan that had previously ordered mask rules for schools are now lifting the requirement. The fast falling rate of new COVID-19 cases in Michigan and the U.S. have enabled states to ease some of their strictest health rules. Washtenaw, Wayne, and Oakland counties all relaxed their rules last week. 

What else we're watching

  1. The Detroit School District is the first in the state to offer COVID-19 vaccine administrations at educational facilities. School nurses can administer the shots to students, who have some of the lowest vaccine rates in the state.
  2. The deputy fire commissioner for Detroit confirmed that two firefighters have been suspended following reports that one crew member who was driving a rig was suspected of operating under the influence.
  3. The Skills for Life Hiring Fair in Detroit will make a big push to employ more residents, with roles open for people returning to the city or others who want to take advantage of opportunities to get their GED or other certifications.
  4. Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido has a request for his constituents: "I would ask you to please give us the opportunity to catch up," he wrote on Facebook. "We need a few months with NO criminal activity or emergencies to respond to.
  5. Another phase of the Flint water scandal is about to commence as jury selection for a trial starts Tuesday to determine if engineering contractors bear responsibility for the lead contamination throughout the city.

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

Tuesday will be a relatively calm weather day. Temperatures will rise a bit while clouds dominate the skies most of the day. Wednesday and Thursday will be more eventful as a warm-up period will cause rain instead of snow to fall, creating slushy conditions. 

Megadrought: American West's dry spell worsens to levels not seen in over a millennia

The American West’s megadrought deepened so much last year that it is now the driest in at least 1,200 years and is a worst-case climate change scenario playing out live, a new study finds.

A dramatic drying in 2021 — about as dry as 2002 and one of the driest years ever recorded for the region — pushed the 22-year drought past the previous record-holder for megadroughts in the late 1500s and shows no signs of easing in the near future, according to a study Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The study calculated that 42% of this megadrought can be attributed to human-caused climate change.

"Climate change is changing the baseline conditions toward a drier, gradually drier state in the West and that means the worst-case scenario keeps getting worse," said study lead author Park Williams, a climate hydrologist at UCLA. "This is right in line with what people were thinking of in the 1900s as a worst-case scenario. But today I think we need to be even preparing for conditions in the future that are far worse than this."

Williams studied soil moisture levels in the West — a box that includes California, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, most of Oregon and Idaho, much of New Mexico, western Colorado, northern Mexico, and the southwest corners of Montana and Texas — using modern measurements and tree rings for estimates that go back to the year 800. That's about as far back as estimates can reliably go with tree rings.