COVID-19 hospitalizations climb as Thanksgiving nears, 90-year-old vet evicted, Warren rejects pot settlement

There are currently 600 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at Beaumont facilities. It's not as high as it was in the spring, but it's a significant jump from the 200 cases checked in just a couple of weeks ago.

In Henry Ford Health Systems, there are 345 patients reported in just this week. A similar story is playing out in hospitals all around the state, especially in ones with less flexibility for mitigating the pandemic.

Currently, Michigan's hospitalization rate is fifth-highest in the nation. With rampant community spread, a family holiday a day away, and some of the highest rates of new cases ever recorded, doctors are increasingly concerned about what the last months of 2020 could bring to Michigan.

"Community spread is tremendous right now, and I think it's going to get worse with the holiday," said Director of Infectious Disease Research at Beaumont, Dr. Matthew Sims.

While it was large gatherings and non-mask wearing in large crowds that forced the rate up in the early phases of the pandemic, the distribution of the virus has spread throughout the state. The vectors pushing that virus up are smaller gatherings between family and friends.

With Thanksgiving this week and more holiday revelry on the way, hospitals could be pushed past their spring-time surge.

"I've been telling everybody to stay away from their families," Dr. Sims said. 

So will people stay at home? A survey conducted by the New York Times found that only 27% of Americans plan to dine with people outside their household. A map showing the regional variation of who plans to stay home and who plans to travel showed very few spots in Michigan that exceeded that figure.

Both politicians and disease experts in Michigan have begged residents to remain at home. State law mandates households can only celebrate with one other household for Thanksgiving.

90-year-old veteran evicted during pandemic

Clarence Washington has been through a lot, including his tour during the Korean War. But it's his recent eviction from his 1-bedroom-apartment in Warren that's made him homeless.

On Tuesday, he watched helplessly as his belongings were removed from the housing unit and set outside. The rain that had started coming down earlier in the day was pouring at that point.

"Two years ago, when I first moved into this place, I was making twice as much as I do now," Washington said. "So with the loss of income, I was having a problem."

A combination of poor health, missed court dates, and less money hit Washington late last year. 

"It would be December, or the later part of December before I was facing eviction," he said. 

When the pandemic hit, the 90-year-old thought he was protected from eviction due to federal guidelines. He was right, in a way. The CDC did implement pandemic protections for evictions - but that's something one has to opt into by signing a form that indicates one will meet the requirements at a later date.

Attorney Anthony Lubkin is familiar with Washington's situation. It's happening to other tenants as well who need to be available of their options before it's too late.

“You can apply for Cares Act Aid,” Lubkin said. “The landlord would just assume to get their money from the government than kick you out anyway.”

Warren rejects marijuana dispensary settlement

A 5-2 vote by Warren's City Council rejected a potential agreement to approve more than two dozen cannabis dispensaries in the city. It wasn't a question about marijuana though. This was based on economics.

"This is an economic time bomb," said Warren City Council Member Jonathan Lafferty. 

Lafferty said the license distribution of so many marijuana retailers would have saturated the market, making it difficult for any business to survive.

The city originally approved 15 marijuana licenses, out of the 60 that had applied. However, some businesses that missed out filed a lawsuit because the approval was a violation of the Open Meetings Act due to the decision coming behind closed doors.

A Macomb Circuit Court judge agreed.

The city negotiated the number of licenses up to 28.

"It's not as though the city would be getting 28 new 7 elevens," said attorney Rich Sulaka. "It's akin to the city having 28 apple stores opened in the city of Warren. So it's a real coup for the city to take something that could have potentially cost residents tens of millions and turn it into a significant investment, especially in these economic times."

The proposed settlement would create 300 jobs with Warren residents getting first priority. The jobs would also pay $15.00 an hour while shielding the city from tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits.

However, the settlement was denied. The city will have to renegotiate the deal or they will be on the hook for a lot of money.

John James concedes Senate race

Republican John James has conceded the senate race to Democrat Gary Peters, three weeks after the election was over.

In a video posted on Twitter Tuesday night, the challenger said it was the right thing to do. 

"In the spirit of the holidays, there's a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label coming your way soon," said James. 

The announcement came 24 hours after the State Board of Canvassers certified the election. Many Republicans including James had requested the certification be delayed so an audit of the vote could commence.

State law dictates that no audit can be completed until after the vote has been certified. 

This was James' second time running for Senate.

Other Stories

1. A downriver community is pushing on with its Winterfest tradition despite the obstacles a pandemic presents. But for the City of Taylor, that just made the planning more fun. The event will benefit several groups in and around the city. 
2. After a multi-car heist robbed a dealership of several of its vehicles, Michigan State Police have managed to recover some of the stolen goods. That includes Garret Pawley's pickup truck that he had left at the Detroit dealership to be repaired. He's overwhelmed that it's been returned.
3. A brother-in-law became a little closer to the family after an act of kindness that would cost him his liver would save a man's life. Mark Dybis and Dave Galbenski won't get to celebrate Thanksgiving together, but the two have an even closer bond they can celebrate.
4. A state representative from Southfield has tested positive for COVID-19. Kyra Harris Bolden confirmed the positive screen from earlier this month on her Facebook page. Several Michigan lawmakers have contracted the virus so far.
5. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, pleaded guilty in a criminal case regarding its practices with prescription painkillers on Tuesday. They also admitted their role in the opioid crisis.

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Daily Forecast

Remember the rain that fell Tuesday? That was only a taste of the showers expected Wednesday. It's going to be a chilly 47 degrees for Nov. 25. 

US medical associations urge 'scaled-back' Thanksgiving in open letter to Americans

U.S. doctors, nurses and hospital officials have collectively penned an open letter to the American people, urging that any holiday gatherings be “scaled-back” in order to keep people safe and overburdened hospitals freed up during the worsening coronavirus crisis.

“In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly,” the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association said in the letter to the U.S. public, dated Nov. 19.

New cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have skyrocketed to all-time highs, averaging more than 170,000 per day, and deaths have soared to over 1,500 a day, the highest level since the spring.