Detroit schools reopen, vaccine eligibility expands again, Larry Smith celebrates exoneration after 26 years

After several months of remote learning only, the Detroit public school district is reopening its classrooms for in-person learning. 

The district used several benchmarks before it gave the green light for students and teachers to return to learning centers.

"When pandemic infection rates in the City climbed beyond the five percent mark in November, we made the proactive decision to suspend in-person learning until rates declined in order to keep our students and employees as safe as possible," said DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. 

With positive test rates in the city around 3.5% and the availability of vaccine supplies increasing in the coming weeks, the district is allowing kids to come back for in-class learning.

"A lot of our babies don't learn well virtually, right? Some of them aren't motivated the same, they don't grasp the same information and so hearing their cry out of just needing to be in school and to be educated, we're now able to provide that again," said Sakina Bolden, the principal of Detroit International Academy for Young Women.

The decision to return to class has the support the teachers union, which was among the biggest opponents to opening learning centers over the previous summer. Teachers who work in-person will receive $750 in hazard pay for each quarter they work. 

While there isn't a current mandate for getting vaccinated, all faculty must test negative for COVID-19 before entering the building.

Anyone inside must wear face masks. Virtual learning is also still available. 

New vaccine eligibilities Monday

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services increased vaccine eligibility on March 8 to include anyone age 50 and older with pre-existing conditions and caregivers who assist children with special health needs. Encouraging news about vaccine supplies mixed with progress inoculating elderly residents prompted the expansion.

Residents who are homeless are also now eligible for a vaccine. And it won't take long before the goalposts get moved again when residents without comorbidities are also included in two more weeks.

So far about 900,000 residents or 11% of the state is fully protected from COVID-19.

The state wants to vaccinate 70% of its residents over the age of 16 by the end of the year. 

How we coped with 2020

The constant fear of getting infected, the forced isolation, the effort to avoid face-to-face contact - doctors say we all managed the trauma at the time pretty well. But it's the months afterward that took their toll on people.

The first full year of pot sales went through the roof. Comfort food became a pantry norm. And alcohol consumption climbed above average. All these vices and more weighed heavily on public health as the population found ways to mitigate the coronavirus.

They're also likely to have far-reaching consequences for our bodies as the number of liver problems identified in people ballooned in younger populations. Drinking and driving numbers also went up. The rate of addictions to drugs and sex also escalated.

"During the trauma, we manage pretty well. What is going to happen is 6 months after everything has settled. That is when we will see the problem. That will be the post-traumatic stress," said Dan O'Neil, a psychologist.

Larry Smith exonerated after 26 years

The community welcomed an ex-convict back into society on Sunday after he spent more than two-and-a-half decades for a crime he never should have been convicted of.

Larry Smith was released from prison last month after serving 26 years for a murder he was convicted of at age 18. He said the hopelessness he felt behind bars made him want to die due to the pressure. 

But his family never gave up on his fight for freedom. They used a private investigator to help showcase evidence exonerated Smith. Pastor Terrence Devizen of the United Kingdom Church put on a ceremony for Smith and 30 other exonerees. 

"I am saddened to some degree that they lost so much of their lives based on a bunch of lies that were told and wrongfully convicted and then the other reaction is I’m excited all over again because they have a new start," says Devezin. 

New MDOT closures on I-75

Another round of road closures that will persist for much of the year went into effect Monday on I-75.

Northbound I-75 will be limited to a single left lane from Big Beaver to Wattles roads at 7 a.m. while all ramps at the Big Beaver interchange will be closed.

Several other exit and entrance ramps further south near 9 and 8 Mile are also closed for phase 2 of the I-75 improvement project.

What else we're watching

  1. Where can pot shops set up in Detroit? Residents can join a zoom call tonight at 6 p.m. where Councilman James Tate and George Etheridge of the city planning commission will discuss zoning laws for the recreational cannabis industry.
  2. A 16-year-old who was reported missing was found dead in Kenockee Township Sunday. She was from Avoca. 
  3. Former Gov. Rick Snyder has his pre-trial for a misdemeanor charge in the Flint Water Crisis scheduled today at 3 p.m.
  4. The Michigan Pet Alliance is searching for a new CEO as part of its transition strategy. The nonprofit is working to end the killing of homeless healthy and treatable pets
  5. A new COVID-19 pill that experts have called the "holy grail" of treatments has passed its first two phases with flying colors when up against COVID-19. Learn more here

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

It's going to be 58 degrees today - yes, the warmest day of the year. And more of that is on the way with some expected rain later in the week.

Meghan and Harry announce daughter in wide-ranging interview with Oprah

In a wide-ranging interview aired Sunday, Harry and Meghan described painful discussions about the color of their son’s skin, losing royal protection and the intense pressures that led the Duchess of Sussex to contemplate suicide.

The interview with Oprah Winfrey was the couple’s first since they stepped down from royal duties and the two-hour special included numerous revelations.

Harry told Winfrey that he felt trapped by royal life and was surprised that he was cut off financially and lost his security last year. He also said he felt his family did not support Meghan, who acknowledged her naivete about royal life before marrying Harry, as she endured media attacks and false stories.

Meghan, who is biracial, described that when she was first pregnant with son Archie, there were "concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born." The statement led Winfrey to ask "What," incredulously and sit in silence for a moment.