Thursday News Hit: Order restricts Michigan bars, Detroit ramps up Census push, Van Buren couple dies in fire

Only a day after raising the risk levels of COVID-19 in some regions of Michigan, the governor took a more heavy-handed approach on Wednesday when she ordered dine-in service at bars throughout lower Michigan to close. The decision comes after health officials reported individuals infected with the virus were present during crowded times at bars in both East Lansing and Royal Oak - the latter of which has been linked to more than 100 cases.

Under the order, any food service establishments that earn more than 70% of their revenue from alcoholic beverages may only serve drinks to outside settings. Restaurants may also take advantage of the cocktails-to-go bill that Gov. Whitmer signed into law, which allows consumers to purchase drinks-to-go for the next five years. 

The bar industry's respite after finally reopening was short-lived. Returning to in-door service on June 8, many establishments like Harper's Restaurant & Brew Pub were swarmed with people the day after reopening. Many of those now infected are young people - which make up around 25% of new cases. Before the increase, the new case rate of people ages 20-29 was closer to 10%.

Bars weren't given a lot of notice to shut down, with the order coming hours before it went into effect. Many owners aren't pleased with not having a heads-up.

"It's the short notice that just keeps stabbing people," said Scott Atchinson, who owns Abbibo in Mount Clemons.

Atchinson said it left owners like him with mere hours to prepare. The order states bars cannot serve alcohol in here, but will still be able to serve alcohol on their small patio.

"To be very honest with you for the last few months we have been scraping by and barely making it," he said.

Despite video showing a lack of social distancing inside the Royal Oak establishment where three people infected with the virus were present, its owner says the bar was in compliance. Staff at Fifth Avenue monitored for occupancy during the brief few weeks they were serving drinks indoors.

"Unfortunately with this, more businesses are going to go dark," he said. "And when they cure Covid there aren't going to be many places to go."

Detroit ramps up 2020 Census rate

Here's an alarming statistic for Detroiters: Michigan has the third-highest response rate of any state in the country for the 2020 U.S. Census. But Detroit has the third-lowest response rate for any city in the country. It stands at 47% - far below most other major cities in the U.S.

And without an accurate count, the city misses out on potentially tens of millions of dollars of federal funding. That concern has prompted Mayor Mike Duggan and other city officials to commence a massive canvassing operation, which will feature people knocking on the doors of 200,000 residents. 

"I guess most people in urban cities got a don't ask, don't tell mentality; don't snitch. Don't let people in your business, some of it's shady, I don't know. But you should do it though," said Adrian Thomas, who grew up in Detroit.

Detroit's poor response rate was a factor during the 2010 census when 64% of the city's residents sent their census back in - which was the largest decrease from the previous country-wide survey among any other major city. Despite a concerted effort going back to early 2019 to get the word out about the census, it hasn't been enough after the pandemic disrupted livelihoods around the state.

"It's really just about getting the counts so we know how many people are in the city of Detroit and get the money we need," said Minou Jones with the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan. 

Elderly couple dies after Van Buren home burns down

An elderly couple died in their home early Thursday morning after a fire tore through the house. 

Firefighters were called to the 45000 Block of Lilac Lane in Van Buren Township after reports of a fire around 1:30 a.m.

The blaze had already burned through much of the house by the time first responders were on the scene. Video from a neighbor shows flames spilling out of windows and onto the tree in the yard.

The couple, who were determined to be in their 70s when they died, were found in the garage, leading the Fire Marshal to think they were trying to escape the fire before they were overcome with smoke inhalation.

Scenes from the home after day broke show a shell of the structure's former self. Much of the roof was gone and holes in the garage door had burned through.

Investigators believe the fire started at the back of the house and no foul play is believed to have occurred.

Daily forecast

Temperatures should reach 90 today with more of the same expected for the holiday weekend.

US sets new record for coronavirus cases in single day, according to Johns Hopkins Tally

The U.S. has set a new record for confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in a single day as new coronavirus infections surge across the country amid hasty reopenings in many states. 44,766 new cases were logged by Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center on July 1, surpassing previous record days in June and April.

On June 25, the country had set a daily record of 39,972 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

By July 1, in response to the rise in cases, California closed bars, theaters and indoor restaurant dining all over again across most of the state Wednesday, and Arizona's outbreak grew more severe by nearly every measure as the surging coronavirus crisis across the South and West sent a shudder through the country.