Monday News Hit: Detroit automakers prep reopening, Whitmer's new face mask rule and cousins die after car crash

Two of Detroit's big three automakers indicated over the weekend they would begin recalling some factory workers back to their respective plants as Michigan businesses seek to start reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Following a newly revised stay-home order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday, both Ford and General Motors are readying production lines for a hopeful return to work by mid-May.

But not everyone is on board with the initiative - namely the United Auto Workers Union which issued a press release last week arguing it did "not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace." Since the outbreak began spreading through Michigan, the UAW and Ford, GM, and Fiat-Chrysler have been at odds over if and when workers should be at the plants. 

Apart from the volunteer crews that were called in to help the companies produce masks, ventilators, and respirators, the plants have been most shuttered since mid-March after multiple workers contracted the virus and died. Since then, almost 40,000 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 3,315 people have died. However, in a spot of good news reported Sunday, the state counted 41 new deaths from the day before - the smalled daily total reported since March 29.

Under Whitmer's revised executive order, several nonessential businesses were allowed to reopen Monday, including landscapers, nurseries, bike repair shops, and lawn-service companies. Additionally, many big-box retailers that sell nonessential supplies could reopen with curbside pickup and delivery options. Golfing and motor boating were also allowed under the new order.

Composite Getty Photos.

The executive actions restricting businesses and social gatherings have decimated the state's economy and forcing its workers into the highest unemployment rate in the country. Partly due to Michigan's close ties with manufacturing, workers are beginning to get antsy about returning to work. The governor is expected to release an economic reopening plan this week. Both the House and Senate have already released roadmaps for how the state should approach reopening its economy.

There was one new rule that announced under Whitmer's new order, however. Residents are required to wear a face mask whenever entering an enclosed public space, as well as maintain a safe social distance from others when outside of one's home.

"What we're asking is that people keep a level head, read the orders, make sure they understand them, and ask questions if you don't," Whitmer said Sunday. "And recognize that a mask is not in lieu of the six-foot perimeter, it is in addition to."

Employers that are allowed to remain open must also provide their workers with face coverings when on the clock. However, recognizing the demand for face coverings is high these days, Attorney General Dana Nessel has asked law enforcement to take it easy on anyone not following the order before deciding to hand out citations.

While a response to the plateauing of new cases and deaths in the state, both Whitmer and Chief Medical Official Dr. Joneigh Khaldun warned if the numbers begin to trend upwards again that residents should expect more rules to put back into place. While state officials are expecting a second outbreak to hit over the summer, many want to ensure it doesn't mimic the severity of the first outbreak that overloaded health care systems and strained resources at hospitals.

Tragedy beyond COVID-19 struck another family Sunday when two cousins were killed in a crash while driving through their neighborhood on Detroit's west side. Ton Williams and Leon Freeman, inseparable and best friends were driving near Linwood and the Lodge when the driver of a gray Charger was speeding and smashed into them. 

Before the police could be on the scene, the driver fled the crash. Both men were fathers.

“It’s heartbreaking that he was able to do this and take two lives and get up and leave and run away,” said Shaniquia Williams, Teon's younger sister.

Detroit Police described the suspect driver as a black man with light complexion, between the ages of 18 and 22. He was wearing green sweatpants during the time of the crash.

Daily Forecast

The week is going to start sunny and temperatures will rise into the 60s Monday afternoon without the wind that covered Southeast Michigan on Sunday.

South Korea maintains North Korea's Kim Jong Un health rumors are untrue

After reports that North Korea Dictator Kim John Un was in a vegetative state after heart surgery, intelligence officials in South Korea said the country is confident the rumors were untrue.

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul told a closed-door forum in Seoul on Sunday that South Korea has “enough intelligence to confidently say that there are no unusual developments” in rival North Korea that would back up speculation about Kim Jong Un's health, according to his ministry.