What will remain open and what will have to be closed down? Coming off of Michigan's highest daily COVID-19 count in almost two months, many residents might suspect more restrictions are on the way. But does that mean a reversion to phase 3, which would be Michigan's biggest step back after months of progress? "It depends on you, the viewers."
That's what Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told FOX 2's Roop Raj and the thousands watching a virtual town hall hosted alongside Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. The hourlong discussion gave residents a peek into the world of considerations that state officials observe as they shift the state's rules, reopening businesses, adapting nursing home policies, and mandating face masks - decisions that impact nearly 10 million people.
"We always have a mindset we are going to be conservative and follow the science," said Whitmer. Following the science, utilizing the data, and understanding the context are all factors that have been used in choosing where and how to reopen the state. Some decisions based on the science and advice from the CDC haven't always been warmly received, and some drawing intense scrutiny. But the governor argues they've saved thousands of lives by staying true to their mission.
Stepping back from phase 4
Top of mind for many is what comes next after the state's growing uptick in new cases. Death rates remain low, but caseloads continue to climb. Would the six regions in phase 4 of Michigan's reopening strategy see more restrictions fall into place in response? Sorta.
"Other states are starting to require masks outside as well. We are seriously looking at other actions we can take - not going back to Phase 3 but tightening up here in Phase 4 so we don't have to," Whitmer said.
Similar to closing indoor-service to bars last week but keeping outdoor and takeout service available, Whitmer said she would modify existing rules like enhancing face mask rules in public.
Many of the rule adaptions are meant to prepare the state for when school starts up again. Districts are preparing for several scenarios that include in-person learning, remote learning, and a combination of the two. Students could remain in one classroom the whole day or only attend school three days a week. Face mask rules will likely make an appearance as will reduced class sizes.
Last week, officials released the Return to School Roadmap, which asks districts to prepare the first day of school to start in each phase. That way, after the next eight weeks pass, administrators will know how to reopen their doors to students. Whitmer said the safety measures each district determines are necessary will be based at the local level. Districts in the upper peninsula will approach the fall semester or trimester differently than those in Detroit and Grand Rapids.
Nursing home rules
Even while cases have climbed, death rates haven't. The state was reporting close to 200 deaths a day at its peak before seeing a steady decline. Among the populations hit hardest when death rates were high were in nursing homes. The state's policy of quarantining COVID-19 positive patients in nursing facilities drew a swift rebuke from many for the proximity it placed sick people with immunocompromised people.
Whitmer said the policy was rooted in best practices offered by the CDC guidance.
"In every step of the way we've followed the CDC best guidance and our policies reflected that...we never once required that nursing homes took COVID-19 patients. Many chose to and when they did they took the CDC guidelines."
But with the experience and knowledge the administration has now, she admitted she'd have changed the decision sooner.
"At the time the CDC was the gold standard," Whitmer said. "Our nursing home death numbers are far too many but are better than in many other states. At the time we followed the protocols the cdc has prescribed. We always have a mindest we are going to be conservative and follow the science."
Another population hit hard by the pandemic were minority communities dotted around the state. The lieutenant governor who has led the charge on better understanding the 'why' of the virus's over-representation in African American communities and its subsequently unequal fatality rate.
"I have lost 23 people to me from covid19. They were from all walks of life but the one thing in common was they were all black," Gilchrist said. "There were a number of factors for African Americans being disproportionately affected. Jobs were one factor … (But) dealing with some of those has (made) Michigan a real leader in delivering testing to the most vulnerable communities."
Gilchrist made the point, however, the disproportionate rate forced Michigan and Detroit to innovate ways to safely test residents with drive-thru testing.
Latest research finds Michigan's growing number of cases, combined with lessened restrictions has shifted the state away from being one of two states "on track to contain COVID" as a database defines it. Now, residents are in the "at risk" category of experiencing another outbreak. Much of the country now finds itself in a similar situation with other states mirroring the same increases.
Layoffs coming for Detroit Wayne Airport
A second grim reality is coming for the airline industry. As air travel dried up almost 95% when the pandemic hit, airlines experienced some of the harshest impacts of any business. United Airlines recently warned it could soon furlough 36,000 employees - almost half its workforce.
Air travel is returning slowly, but most travelers will find they still have both the aisle seat and window seat to themselves when flying. With no return to normal anytime soon, the shockwaves from a shrinkage in business will soon be hitting county airports. Many at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne Airport are fearing the same.
How exactly that looks is to be determined, however.
"The number of layoffs and separations has not been determined. Most of Wayne County Airport Authority's workforce is comprised of union employees, and negotiations have not begun, yet," said Lisa Gass, Wayne County Airport Authority.
Not every article from clothing donation bin goes to charity
Khaled Haymour runs a business that collects clothes donated to bins around Metro Detroit. But as Rob Wolchek found out this week, those donated clothes don't always make it to the charities they're intended to go to.
And while Haymour's company, which is also run by his wife Mysa, has seen the hammer drop on them before for other fraudulent activities, the Hall of Shame-worthy activities have continued.
But before the clothes were being sold around the world to the tune of hundreds of thousands in profits, they were part of a 2017 contract signed by the American Association for Lost Children.
It was a contract that became a nightmare for the association. Even after its non-renewal, the fraudulent activities continued.
You might have guessed more of the same high temperatures are on the way for Southeast Michigan on Thursday. And you'd be right, with the region's eighth straight day of 90-degree temperatures forecasted. A heat advisory remains in effect until Friday at 12 a.m.
Supreme Court expected to rule on Trump’s tax records
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether Congress and the Manhattan district attorney can see President Donald Trump’s taxes and other financial records that the president has fought hard to keep private.
The high-stakes dispute, which could be resolved Thursday, tests the balance of power between the White House and Congress, as well as Trump’s claim that he can’t be investigated while he holds office.
It’s unclear, even if Trump loses, how much of the material would become public, since some records would go to a confidential grand-jury investigation in New York and the rest, sought by committees of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, could contain highly sensitive information not just about Trump, but also about other members of his family and businesses.