FRIDAY NEWS HIT - After a tumultuous and uncertain summer, Michigan's 2020-21 school year is coming into focus with less than a month before the start of fall classes. For school districts around the state, board members were limited to two options: either holding class in person or committing to teach lessons online. Both options have their benefits, but with the ever-looming and uncertain status of the pandemic, most districts have opted for option two in some capacity.
Throughout the summer, it became clear that in order to hold class indoors, it would require conforming to the rules that businesses and governments have had to deploy for months now. That's mandatory face masks in socially distanced settings located in classrooms where students aren't able to be near other classes. All of these measures are designed to reduce the transmission of the disease, thereby preventing it from spreading to parents, teachers, and other guardians who may be more at risk for threatening symptoms.
While most larger school districts in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Lansing have all opted for online learning only, Michigan's biggest school district in Detroit has remained a stalwart defender of the in-person option. Arguing many of its pupils are unable to learn effectively from a virtual setting, District Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti has already advocated for the school's in-person option. The decision has caused much consternation among parents and teachers.
While the district managed to muscle through an abridged summer program that featured protests, lawsuits, and plenty of arrests. And through it all, only three students tested positive for the virus. School boards are considering what that might mean for their future, that even in the least-crowded, most cautious examples, the transmission of COVID-19 in classrooms is still possible.
Of course, all of this ambiguity and option for choice could be a moot conversation in a few weeks. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already warned that if the positive test rate for the coronavirus remains too high, schools will not be permitted to start in-person teaching. For the first time in more than a month, Whitmer used to word "plateau" when referring to the state's second surge of new cases.
That's good news. But it may not be enough. The governor has said it's not enough and any decision may not come until right before the new school year.
FOX 2 has compiled a list of Metro Detroit school districts pondering the same things parents and students and teachers and everyone in between have been wondering. Click here to see what your district has decided on.
Whitmer bolsters face mask rules again
While the costs and benefits of teaching virtually or in-person remain uncertain, the costs and benefits of a face mask have only become more certain. The coronavirus is an airborne disease that doesn't need water droplets from coughing or sneezing to travel. Merely breathing can be enough to expose those around you. The consensus in the face-covering department is likely why their wearing has not only become normalized but mandated in most appropriate settings.
On Thursday, another add-on to that mandate was announced when the governor signed a new executive order requiring face masks at child-care centers and camps.
“Masks continue to be one of the best ways to contain the spread of COVID-19, and they can be safely worn by most of us over the age of two,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and MDHHS chief deputy for health.
The new order requires all staff and children ages 2 and up to wear a face covering a school bus or other transportation. Additionally, all staff and children ages 4 and up must wear a mask covering in all indoor common spaces. All Staff and children 12 and up must wear a mask when in classrooms, homes, cabins, or similar indoor small-group settings.
“Child-care workers have been on the front lines of this crisis and have worked tirelessly to provide a safe place for our children and families during this time. COVID-19 is still a very real threat to Michiganders of all ages, and we must continue to stay vigilant and use every tool at our disposal to protect ourselves and each other,” said Governor Whitmer.
US Marshals catch fugitive James Meece after 20 years on Michigan's Most Wanted List
On July 29, US Marshals working with local police in California showed up at a home that may have had clues to the whereabouts of a serial sexual predator convicted of rape. When they entered the home, there 71-year-old James Meece was, sitting on the couch.
"I'm sure after years of being on the run he was quite shocked," said US Marshal Owen Cypher.
For more than 20 years, Meece has been on the run. Living a life of "deception, deceit, fraud" as Cypher put it, Meece already had a history of rape and weapons charges by the time he moved to Michigan. While living in Escanaba, way up in the upper peninsula, he moved in with a woman her young girls in the 1980s.
He brutally sexually assaulted them for two years, of which he'd be convicted of criminal sexual conduct for in 1991. The tier-three sex offender was paroled in 1999 and failed to register. Instead, the convict took off.
"Mr. Meece tried to lay as low as possible using different identities, trying to conceal his whereabouts," Cypher said.
Meece then mooched off women across the country, telling tall tales to gain their trust before sexually assaulting them or their children. Stories of being a prisoner of war, of being tortured by the Vietnamese, or that he worked for the CIA or FBI.
"I think he even told people he was a US Marshal at one point," Cypher said.
By 2001, Meece had gotten married and was using a fake name. It would be almost two decades before law enforcement caught up with him.
$5K reward offered for murder suspect believed to be hiding in Metro Detroit
US Marshals are looking for 17-year-old Adarus Black who is suspected of shooting and killing a recent high school graduate out of Ohio.
On June 15, Black and two other suspects open-fired on the Chevy Camaro that Na'Kia Crawford and her grandmother were in. Crawford was helping run errands for her grandmother at the time. She ended up being shot six times in what police believe may be a case of mistaken identity.
Since then, two have turned themselves in, but Black is still on the run.
"Our life has not been the same since. And I don't think it's fair to us to have to live with this and that man can live his life like nothing ever happened," said Na'Kia's mom Lisette Williams.
US Marshals are now offering a $5,000 reward to anyone that leads them to Black's location and his arrest.
Expect low 80s for the Friday high, before temperatures climb up to 85 on Saturday and 89 on Sunday.
President Trump signs executive order banning TikTok and WeChat 'transactions' in 45 days
President Donald Trump broadly prohibited unspecified “transactions” with the Chinese owners of TikTok and WeChat via executive order Thursday.
The order prohibits “any transaction by a US person or within the US that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate the prohibition set forth in this order.”
“The following actions shall be prohibited beginning 45 days after the date of this order,” according to Trump.
Trump had threatened a deadline of Sept. 15 to "close down" TikTok unless Microsoft or "somebody else" bought it. TikTok, Microsoft and WeChat owner Tencent had no immediate replies to queries.
The twin executive orders, one for each app, take effect in 45 days. They call on the Secretary of Commerce to define the banned transactions by that time. The orders' wording is vague, but leaves open the possibility that hosting the apps in the Apple and Google app stores could be covered by the ban.