Friday News Hit: Small gatherings allowed, Memorial Day at the Metroparks, and video of nursing home beating

The last five days brought a regime change of new rules relating to COVID-19 as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer twice announced she was lifting restrictions on businesses and socializing this week. On Friday at 12:01 a.m., the executive orders mandating bars, restaurants, and retail outlets remain closed was repealed for establishments in northern Michigan. The pairing of COVID-19's presence reportedly declining matched with a bucolic Memorial Day weekend scheduled were reasons enough for Whitmer to loosen red tape on parts of the state. 

It wasn't just residents in the upper peninsulas and the Greater Traverse City area that were gifted for their good behavior in keeping the virus from spreading - Whitmer also eased restraints on auto showrooms and medical, dental, and veterinarian practices around the state. Those businesses will be allowed to resume working by appointment only next week. “The data shows that Michigan is ready to phase in these sectors of our economy, but we must stay vigilant and ensure we’re doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19,” she said.

And finally, for the first time since Michigan's pandemic 2020 began, the governor also allowed small gatherings of 10 people or more to resume. It's the first rule change relating to socializing and congregations among residents since Whitmer started actively restricting how many people could congregate in one place. 

Even with new cases and deaths being reported after the fact, COVID-19's fast rise has followed a slightly slower but continual decline, painting a bell curve of daily deaths in Michigan. On Thursday, the state reported 31 new deaths and 38 deaths after review. Signs of the coronavirus's mortality rate have remained at encouraging levels for almost a week relative to what the state was experiencing during a gruesome April when hundreds of deaths were being confirmed every day.

In a scheduled visit to Michigan on Thursday, President Donald Trump paid a visit to an auto factory building ventilators. While most manufacturing plants remained closed until this Monday, Ford's Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti has been up and running, constructing the life-saving breathing apparatuses that will help boost ventilator capacity across the country.

He also spoke 1-on-1 with FOX 2, discussing an array of subjects regarding flooding in Midland, his eventual presidential election opponent Joe Biden, and COVID-19's future in the U.S.

"I am very proud of what happened here because they are making ventilators here and done a really great job of it. We have 11 plants now throughout the country building ventilators," he told Roop Raj.

For all the residents who plan on celebrating the holiday but won't be traveling north to enjoy it, there are lots of opportunities to have fun in the area - namely the Metroparks in and around Metro Detroit. Near-perfect weather will mean an increasingly-antsy feeling from residents to escape the confines of their home for some fresh air. 

The offer to stretch one's legs is available in the parks. Here's what is allowed:

  • Play a round of disc golf or regular golf
  • Walk, hike, bike, or run the trails 
  • Paddle the lakes and rivers
  • Fishing
  • Swim along beaches at Kensington, Lake St. Clair, and Stony Creek Metroparks. Baypoint Beach in Stoney Creek Metropark and Maple Beach at Kensington Metropark are closed
  • A picnic with family

Here's what's restricted:

  • Boat and canoe rental facilities remain closed
  • Programming throughout the parks system is closed until June 15
  • Nature Centers are closed
  • Playgrounds are closed
  • Parking lot capacity will be limited to 60% and temporary closures may go in effect if its exceeded

Also on Thursday, video on social media was making the rounds after surveillance footage from the Westwood Nursing Center in Detroit showed a 20-year-old patient relentlessly punching an elderly patient

Following multiple tips, Detroit Police arrested the man while the victim was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

"Why has this been covered up because they are responsible for the care of these patients whether it be this young man if he has a mental issue or these elderly patients who can't defend themselves," said Joann Uhler, who spotted the video online and reported it to police.

Police believe the video was taken on May 15 while nursing homes were under lockdown due to COVID-19. We do want to warn you the video is graphic.

Daily Forecast

Even with a chance of showers on Sunday and expected precipitation on Monday, warm temperatures in the high 60s and 70s are on the way Friday and Saturday.

Meat plants still COVID hotspots as outbreak ravages another Tyson facility

Meat plants are still coronavirus hotspots, even as state lockdown restrictions ease and overall national case numbers begin to fall.

Tyson Foods Inc revealed on Wednesday that a quarter of its Wilkesboro, North Carolina, poultry facility tested positive for COVID-19 after facility-wide testing from May 6-9, according to a press release.

Out of 2,244 workers at the facility, 570 have tested positive for the virus — the majority of whom were asymptomatic, according to the company.