Wednesday News Hit: Operation Gridlock, Detroit's $348M budget shortfall and air pollution worsening effects

Even as it feels like COVID-19's outbreak has reached its peak in Michigan, a different kind of fever-pitch is brewing in the state. Backlash against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has grown in recent days over her shelter-in-place extension that further restricted travel and prohibited citizens from traveling to other residences.

The criticism has come from several directions. Michigan CEOs sent a letter to the governor on Tuesday asking her to allow workers to return to work as soon as possible in an effort to jumpstart the economy. A Facebook group titled Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine that was created late last week has exploded in popularity in recent days, adding hundreds of thousands of new members. Then there are the four residents who have filed a federal lawsuit against Whitmer and her order, alleging the quarantine is too restrictive and infringes one's right to associate with their friends and family.

While Whitmer's team declined to respond to the pending lawsuit, the governor has said she understands the criticisms directed at her. However, she also asserted she needs to listen to what her medical professionals are telling her, and that is the outbreak could come back if social distancing cut short. 

Rebuking the explanation from the governor, a protest titled Operation Gridlock is scheduled for Wednesday in Lansing. Organizers say they want to create a traffic jam in the state's capital in a symbolic show of disagreement with Whitmer. 

Whitmer's shelter-in-place order was extended through the end of April. Under the order, what is considered "essential" was further defined and restricted. As grocery stores must limit how many people can be in the building at any one time while other sections of the store were closed. Citizens could no longer travel to other residences unless it's an essential visit. 

On Tuesday, the state announced 1,366 new COVID-19 cases. While nowhere near the two-week low reported on Sunday, it's still not close to the almost-2,000 new cases confirmed on April 3. 

As the state's executive faces off with disgruntled citizens, the city of Detroit is struggling with a different concern brought on by COVID-19: it's running a deficit. Following the city's first positive years of fiscal policy, Detroit is now facing a $348 million budget shortfall. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Tuesday that while the city can cover almost $300 million of the gap, it's going to need to cut $50 million in salary to city employees.

While the city's 200 part-time and temporary employees will be laid off, full-time workers will either see their pay reduced or their workdays cut. For certain services like police, fire or EMTs will keep the same hours and pay. 

As for the almost $300 million the city says it can pay for, it will make use of the $101 million in saved surplus and $50 million from the rainy day fund, as well as shed $72 million from the city's blight funds that would have been utilized in its demolition program.

Detroit has felt been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Along with Wayne County, the two municipalities make up almost half of the state's total coronavirus cases. 

One of the reasons for the city's worsening outbreak could be tied to its air quality. For residents living in Detroit, many neighborhoods sit in the shadow of heavy manufacturing facilities that spew out dangerous chemicals or near highways where a constant stream of vehicles push out toxic fumes from their exhausts. Breathing in these fumes over a lifetime has led to an increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. There are higher rates of asthma in the area and people spend more days at home.

While Detroit's air quality may not be making new COVID-19 cases, it could be exacerbating the cases that have already confirmed. A new national study found a small increase in particulate matter in the air can lead to a large increase in COVID-19 mortality. At the same time, many residents in the city already struggle with staying healthy due to a lack of income or health care.

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Fauci: 'We're not there yet' on key steps to reopen economy

As pressure continues to mount to restart the country's economy, the United State's chief infectious disease expert said officials don't have the critical testing and tracing procedures needed to reopen industry. 

“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci said in an interview with The Associated Press.