Protests at Detroit post office, thieves target airbag black market, judge scolds defendant's attire on Zoom

The state announced Tuesday night it was rolling back some of its mask rules, saying in a statement that masks will "generally" not be required outdoors if a gathering has less than 100 people. 

High-school athletes who have gotten the vaccine and are not experiencing symptoms will no longer need to be tested for COVID-19.

CDC guidance on wearing masks still promotes their use among indoor activities in the event that not everyone has gotten their shot. The state wants its residents to continue following that advice even as it starts to get a handle on spreading infections and eclipses the halfway mark in getting vaccines out.

"The vaccines work. That means once Michiganders are fully vaccinated, they do not have to abide by as many health guidelines because of the protection the vaccine provides from the spread of the virus," said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel.

So far, 50.6% of the state has gotten at least one shot. While experts were anticipating a natural drop-off of interest as those that wanted vaccines would have secured their one or two shots, the decline of new shots has been noticeable stark in some states, including Michigan.

The state still needs well over 1.5 million more people to get their shot before the health department completely lifts its mask mandate and epidemic rules. But last week, only 142,305 people initiated their vaccine series, compared to the almost 400,000 three weeks prior. 

Once the state reaches 55% coverage, some rules will be lifted.

Here are some other Michigan mask rules:

  • Residential outdoor gatherings are allowed for up to 50 people. Up to 300 people can gather when density is low enough
  • Large outdoor events like festivals, fairs, and golf tournaments can exceed the 1,000-person limit as long as there is a safety plan
  • Stadiums complying with enhanced protocols can operate at 20% of their seating capacity

So where does Michigan stand as far as infections go? Yesterday, it reported 2,527 new cases. You'd have to go back to the beginning of its third surge to find a daily case report that low. The seven-day average for new infections is 3,204. 

Yet, Michigan still has the highest rate of cases in the country - more than double the national average. That's with a 48% drop over the last two weeks.

Protesters converge on Detroit mailing struggles

Even as more acknowledge the growing delays behind Metro Detroit's mailing woes, little has changed in the months since the pandemic began. Already backlogged and struggling to keep up, the United States Postal Service is also short-staffed, underpaid, and dealing with an increased flow of mail.

On Tuesday, a vocal group of Detroiters made their frustrations known outside the post office at Joy Road near Memorial Avenue. The organizers say that some of them haven't gotten mail from the USPS for months.

"I think we’ve been out of the pandemic long enough now to do better than what we are doing," said Patricia Daniel. "From my understanding, they were saying they were short on mail carriers. Well, if you are short on mail carriers, then hire some people."

The demonstrators were joined by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who argued it wasn't just letters that people weren't getting, but their medication. "For many, this is (about) the way of life for them, to be able to take care of themselves."

Thieves targeting car steering wheels

Eastpointe police say they received 11 reports of stolen steering wheels on May 2 and 3 as thieves look to capitalize on parts shortages for airbags in cars. Officers say the thieves are targeting models like the Chevrolet Equinox or the Malibu.

The trend started as factories slowed down during the pandemic. "That's when we noticed a lot more of them coming in and with the shutdown, it's hard to get parts," said John Channell, a mechanic at Stan Yee Auto Repair.

The shortage of supply has created a black market for airbags. Mechanics say the thieves sell the stolen goods for a few hundred dollars to shops that don't ask questions. But the cost of replacing a steering wheel can add up to thousands of dollars.

But replacing the parts takes time since there's a backlog on everything. " will sit in the back lot until we can get an airbag," Channell said. "Sometimes, it will be two to three weeks, up to months."

Virtual justice; judge scolds construction worker for hearing attire

Attending court by Zoom will likely be a remnant of the pandemic era that will stick around long after COVID-19 stops being a factor in decision making. It's easier for people to attend and doesn't require altering one's schedules if they can just log on through their phone. 

But even amid the modernizing of courtroom practices, one judge was hoping for a little more tradition when a defendant logged on for his hearing during work at a construction site.

"I don't do sweats and I don't do T-shirts in my courtroom," Judge Ronald Giles said. "If you come to court, you dress for court because in my court, if you don't dress for court, I'm gonna dress you."

The chief judge wasn't super pleased with Giles' request. William McConic said he didn't break any rules but would be meeting with him to discuss the incident. 

The Brood X cicada is coming

Every 17 years, flying insects emerge from their burrows in northeast and midwest America by the billions to mate, blanket the skies, then fall back to the ground dead. 

The Brood X cicada, known for making, literally, the loudest noise in the insect kingdom, will be coming out this summer. The periodical emergence of these bugs represents one of the more fascinating conclusions of the animal kingdom life cycle.

The inch-long bug has big orange eyes and is harmless to you and your pets. They'll cause some harm to young trees because females lay their eggs in the branches, but beyond that, they won't be any danger.

In fact, they offer a big source of protein for predators.

What else we're watching

  1. Mother's day is this weekend. If you're looking for celebrating with some brunch, look no further: here are five places you can go for food on May 9.
  2. White Lake police are teaming up with a local mental health crisis agency to help reduce traumatic and dangerous outcomes for those struggling with a mental disorder.
  3. It's teacher appreciation week this week. The governor made the proclamation this morning. According to a release, there were 86,300 teachers working during the pandemic.
  4. You'll soon see the Crime Stoppers tip line on Detroit Department of Transportation buses. DDOT is partnering with the group to curb crime
  5. The state's environmental department released its State of the Great Lakes report yesterday, showcasing some of the top issues facing the system.

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Daily Forecast

It's going to be about as mild as temperatures can get for mid-spring, with the mid-50s dominating the rest of the week and weekend. Today will be a high of 56 and a low of 40. There will be no rain today but expect more later tomorrow.

Mass shootings on the rise again as progress is made on ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Brianne Smith was overjoyed to get an e-mail telling her to schedule a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Hours later, her relief was replaced by dread: a phone alert — another mass public shooting.

Before the pandemic, she would scan for the nearest exit in public places and routinely practiced active shooter drills at the company where she works. But after a year at home in the pandemic, those anxieties had faded. Until now.

After a year of pandemic lockdowns, public mass shootings are back. For many, the fear of contracting an invisible virus is suddenly compounded by the forgotten yet more familiar fear of getting caught in a random act of violence.

A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks mass killings — defined as four or more dead, not including the shooter — showed just two public mass shootings in 2020. Since Jan. 1, there have been at least 11.