Thursday News Hit: Michigan malls reopen, a different Lansing protest, efforts to overturn nursing hub order

Another big test for Michigan's resiliency against COVID-19 is coming today when some of its largest shopping malls start to reopen. On Thursday, Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi and Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills will reopen. On Friday, Somerset Collection out of Troy will do the same. All reopenings will come with modified hours and enhanced safety procedures.

"Our retailers are looking forward to re-engaging with our guests and delivering a customized experience that adheres to Governor Whitmer's executive orders," said Nathan Forbes, managing partner of The Forbes Company which owns and manages the Somerset Collection.

While retailers are eager to go back to work, it's unclear how many customers share the same enthusiasm. As other states have reopened their economies, residents have been slow to embrace the return of businesses. COVID-19's presence in Michigan has fallen, as shown in daily statewide reports of declining death and case rates - but there's little reason to believe it wouldn't surge back up without proper protections. 

The last time an industry in Michigan returned on such a large scale was when General Motors, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler reopened their assembly plants. There, employees came to a new kind of normal, where staggered shifts, longer breaks, periodic cleaning, and enhanced personal protective equipment are now mandatory. It still wasn't enough for the Ford Dearborn truck plant, which stopped production just days after restarting due to an employee testing positive for the virus.

Now that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has given retailers around the state the green light, the ball is now in the hands of Michigan's retail giants to ensure low exposure and transmission of the pandemic. Under Whitmer's relaxed rules, customers must make an appointment with retailers ahead of time as to reduce capacity within each outlet.

Twelve Oaks will reopen at 11 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Great Lakes Crossings, which is owned by the same company that owns Twelve Oaks will follow the same schedule. Cleaning crews will disinfect each establishment throughout the day and after-hours, with a focus on high-touch, high-traffic surfaces, and using strong disinfectant when available.

Signs and decals will line the walls and floors to help customers with social distancing. Those visiting are also encouraged to wear a face mask when entering.

Somerset Collection will reopen from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. as well daily. In addition to mandated health and safety protocols, the mall will also employ greeters to open doors and hand out masks. Furniture will be reset to allow for distancing and surfaces will be sanitized periodically.

About an hour and a half west from the malls, another protest is being planned in Lansing. This one will look a little different from past protests that took place on the Capitol lawn as those attending won't be protesting an executive order or emergency declaration. 

Matching some of the tensions linked to public health are racial ones as well. Several high-profile incidents reported around the country and in Michigan that have led to the deaths of African Americans have sparked outrage among activists and community leaders. Earlier this year, Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by a father and son in Georgia while he was on a jog. Breonna Taylor was shot by a police officer in Louisville, Kentucky after serving a warrant at her home for a man already in custody.

More recently, four officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department after a video surfaced showing one of them with his knee on a handcuffed man who was being arrested for forgery. George Floyd can be heard saying he can't breathe before dying. He was pronounced deceased shortly after.

"The thing that I want to accomplish most is awareness and let people know," said Rick Ector, a Detroit firearms instructor and gun rights advocate.

Ector is hosting The Black and Latinos Against Racist Empowerment Rally in Lansing on Thursday. He's enlisted the help of Detroit lawmaker Karen Whitsett and several African American gun owners 

Michigan is dealing with some of its own racial strife as well, following published video showing a Washtenaw County Sheriff's deputy punching a black woman outside in an Ypsilanti neighborhood on Tuesday. Police were searching for attempting to gain access to the woman's home, believing a suspect from a reported shooting was inside. 

When the woman's husband attempted to intervene, another deputy tased him.

"I'm not gonna just let somebody just sit there and beat on my wife," Damoyal Karhi Grady El said. "They knew that what they did was wrong. Somebody's going to have to be held accountable for it."

Protests broke out on Wednesday over that incident as well. 

There is also a growing movement to overturn a controversial order signed by Whitmer, which mandates placing people who tested positive for COVID-19 in nursing homes. While the order says those who test positive must be separated from seniors residing there, that hasn't been shown to be an effective tool in preventing exposure. Michigan Rep. Leslie Love's mom has tested positive for the virus following the admittance of sick patients to the home.

After already criticizing the rule, Love has co-authored legislation with Sen. Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) that would overturn the rule.

"I would never imagine that me and Senator Pete Lucido who used to be my colleague over in the House would be on the same side fighting for something but on this one, we are playing the same song," Love said.

It's not just COVID-19 that's threatening residents in nursing homes, however. Both lawmakers cited the elder abuse filmed by a 20-year-old who was placed in one of the nursing hubs in Detroit. 

Daily Forecast

Showers and storms on their way Thursday. A high of 78 is expected.

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