Wednesday News Hit: When can Michigan enter Phase 5 and tensions grow between cops, protesters Tuesday

After reporting fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases for two straight days and fewer than 30 deaths a day linked to the virus since last week, Michigan's governor and her chief medical executive concluded it was okay to lift the state's stay home order. A swath of businesses like restaurants and libraries and museums can reopen. Limits on the number of people that could congregate in an outdoor setting rose to 100. Welcome to Phase 4.

That was on Monday. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already indicated a shift to Phase 5, the 'containing' portion of the state's economic re-engagement plan, could come in the next couple of weeks. Movie theaters, indoor gyms, personal services like salons and barbershops, and overnight camps would be the next establishments to open. So what might it take to get there?

It's a combination of robust testing, strong hospital capacity, and low rates of newly reported cases and deaths per capita of COVID-19. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun says the state is reporting 12 new cases per 1 million people a day - the lowest rate in two-and-a-half months. Meanwhile, testing capacity has neared Whitmer's goal of 15,000 a day. While some experts believe that number should be much higher, state health officials stress how hard it's been just to raise that number as high as its been, claiming a lack of coordination with the federal government made it much more difficult to acquire tests.

Michigan's hospitals have stayed clear of their full capacity benchmarks for some time. The TCF Center and Suburban Collection Showplace makeshift hospitals are currently on pause due to a lack of need. 

All of these thresholds add up to Whitmer's goal of reaching the 'containing' phase of the safe start plan by July 4. Like she did two weeks ago, Whitmer also said she plans on handing off the reigns of fewer restrictions to northern Michigan regions later this week. 

Both Whitmer and Khaldun have continued to remind residents about the potential for a rollback of rule relaxations if or when the second surge of new COVID-19 cases arrive. Most public health officials believe an increase in new cases and deaths is highly likely, however, it's unclear when that will come. While questions remain over how quickly the virus spreads, the general public may be apprehensive to rejoin society in the way it had before.

Some Detroit restaurant owners are holding off on the June 8 reopening date, knowing slow business might not justify the potential for exposure.

"I don't think they need to be back at 100% but what sold us in this location, we are in a Bedrock location, what sold us in this location was the fact, number one in the First National Building alone there were 4,000 folks that came to work on a daily basis and 4,800 visitors," said Dennis Archer Jr. who owns Central Kitchen and Bar in Downtown Detroit.

Those that work in an office and can't do their job from home were only given the green light to return to work on Monday. Several other office-based employers may not bring their workers back if they don't have to. With capabilities in remote working, employers have little incentive to risk potential exposure within their places of work.

On the protest front, Detroit's fifth night of demonstrations was a little more contentious than it was on Monday. A 200-protester group split off from the main pack of demonstrators on Tuesday and stood off against police on Gratiot around 8:45 p.m. Already past curfew, police deployed sonic noise, gas agents, and eventually zip ties to restrain the demonstrators. 

Police Chief James Craig said it was not the goal for police to make arrests, but due to blocking the street and ignoring curfew, his officers moved in on both sides and took action.

"We don't want to arrest, but if we have to, we will," Craig said, adding that they will be processed at the Detroit Detention Center. "I would have preferred that this not happen. Clearly I wanted to report to you that it was a peaceful protest and there was compliance."

One activist said the peaceful protest was derailed by a "girl who didn't even look like us" and was using a megaphone to chant "Hell no, we won't go."

"People are coming across Eight Mile to protest, but we need people outside the city to protest as well," one man said. "These things are happening outside the city (like) Ypsilanti, other cities. Outside of Detroit."

The larger group of protesters, led by 16-year-old Stefan Perez, dispersed in front of the police headquarters shortly before 8 p.m.

Daily Forecast

A mostly dry Wednesday with temperatures sticking around in the low 80's throughout the day.

Lawyers can interview Former Gov. Snyder over Flint water crisis, court rules

Former Gov. Rick Snyder can’t dodge an interview with lawyers in civil lawsuits related to the Flint water scandal, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The decision also covers Andy Dillon, who was state treasurer during Snyder’s first term.

Snyder and Dillon argued that they can’t be forced to sit through depositions while they’re still trying to get dismissed from lawsuits based on immunity. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in a 3-0 opinion.