Monday News Hit: 3 months of COVID-19, restaurants reopen today, Southfield Police chief alters policy

It's been nearly three months since COVID-19 was first confirmed in Michigan. The whirlwind of the last 12 weeks have left thousands dead, millions unemployed, halted the economy, and closed schools. It's also featured a recalibration of livelihoods as jobs were deemed "essential" or "non-essential," many discovered what it would take to work from home, others acquired their most stylish face mask, and everyone found themselves confined within the walls of their living space. Since March 10, the last 95 days have registered as strange.

What started as two confirmed cases of a virus not fully understood in early March grew to almost 60,000 total people infected by a pandemic that made quick work of hospital supplies and proved elusive to public health experts and threatening to the elderly and immunocompromised. More than 5,600 residents have succumbed to the virus in Michigan, which at one point registered one of the highest COVID-19 case and death counts in the country. Its largest city became the face of racial inequality as minority populations in Detroit reported one of the highest rates of new cases in the country. 

Then on Sunday, 121 new cases were confirmed and four more people died. Those aren't numbers seen since before the state's stay-home order was first announced on March 24. A bell curve of new cases and deaths has formed in Michigan, featuring spikes and valleys following a peak in early April. Restrictive social distancing rules and shuttered businesses have been among the primary factors attributed to lower the rate, or flattening the curve in the state. 

But not everyone found consensus with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the public health officials she said she was listening to when deploying new restrictions, or lifting old ones. From defiant barbers to traffic jam protests, those displeased with their world now turned upside down found themselves voicing concerns online and at the state capitol, sometimes inside it too. 

A barrage of lawsuits has flown amid tensions between lawmakers striking partisan lines in the sand. Public health advice has clashed with the woes of small and large businesses and a rising unemployment rate that hasn't ever been reported. Last week, the national unemployment rate dropped for the first time since the outbreak began chipping away at what was considered a rock-solid economy.

Michigan now stands on the border between its "improving" phase of reopening and its "containing" phase, with parts of the state allowed to reopen movie theaters and gyms, while others are only just allowing restaurants to reopen indoor service. While the governor said she plans to continue making decisions rooted in the data and statistics, Michigan's declining presence of COVID-19 surely won't be the final chapter in its pandemic playbook.

Beginning Monday, one of Michigan's hardest-hit industries will be allowed to reopen their doors to indoor service as restaurants and bars were given the OK to start patronizing customers with indoor seating offered. Closed since mid-March, the service industry has been had to deploy a patchwork of solutions to continue staying open. Carry-out options and contactless delivery methods have helped buoy many of the eateries around the state as managers and cooks waited for the day they could start serving food and drinks indoors.

While many businesses won't be reopening due to a lack of personal protective equipment or an uninterest in further risking staff and customers to exposure, those that are will have lots of new best practices in place. Patrons will have to ask for salt and pepper instead of having options at the table. Menus will be paper. Doors will be opened by one's foot. 

State mandates like capacity limits still hover over some of the rules that food businesses will have to follow, which will likely continue for many months as the state enters another foreign phase of its dealings with the pandemic.

Southfield Police Chief changes accountability policy

Stirring up even more news amid a busy 2020 year are the mass protests that have taken to America's urban centers, following the death of George Floyd who had a white police officer's knee pressed into his neck for almost nine minutes before he died. 

An outcry over police brutality and treatment of minorities has given rise to a new slogan for protesters: defund the police. While departments may not embrace such a broad view of a solution to the U.S.'s policing relationship with its community, Southfield's Police Chief, a former deputy from Detroit's Police Department, said he would be changing policy in response to the outcry and Floyd's death.

"The policy revision was made looking at best practices," said Chief Elvin Barren. "The duty to intervene has been applied to the Southfield Police Department where if you're there, if you witness police misconduct and you fail to intervene, you will be held accountable just as if you're the one actually applying the abusive force."

Accountability within departments is one of the targets of high brass at police departments, due to the role it didn't play in the death of Floyd. Three other officers were also at the scene when Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck. They have all been charged in the murder of Floyd. 

"When you look at the images of Mr. George Floyd, the way he was senselessly murdered by members of the Minneapolis police department, we have to show the community that we do not stand for that type of police misconduct and that type of police criminality," Barren told Fox 2.

Daily Forecast

Remnants from a tropical storm will slip into Southeast Michigan by midweek as temperatures are expected to rise Tuesday. A warm and sunny Monday is also forecasted.

Defunding the Minneapolis Police Department would likely require public vote to change charter

Sunday, nine Minneapolis City Councilmembers joined a call for the city to defund and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.

Speaking during a rally, which was hosted by two groups that promote community-led policing, nine councilmembers put their backing behind the major change that has been pushed in the days following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. 

With nine of the council's 13 members putting their support behind the measure, it gives the group the power to override a veto from Mayor Frey -- who has come out against disbanding the department.

However, it likely won't be that easy for the council to make a drastic change.