Whitmer holding Covid update, proposed grant would pay people to find job, judge won't halt hs sport rules

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will provide an update on COVID-19 in Michigan today during a Thursday morning press conference.

The governor will be joined alongside her lieutenant governor, her chief medical officer, and her health director. She'll be speaking at 9:30 a.m. FOX 2 will stream the press conference live onsite and on Facebook.

Whitmer hinted at looser restrictions in the near future at a worker safety event earlier this week. If more epidemic rules are relaxed, it would coincide with the now 50% of adults with one vaccine dose and falling case count.

"We are continuing to monitor what the CDC is recommending and our data here in Michigan," Whitmer said while in Clinton Township, "and I am anticipating forthcoming policy changes potentially that will feel a little bit more normal for all of us."

The state reported another 4,371 cases on Wednesday, part of a gradual decline after an unexpected surge pushed hospitals near capacity around the state. The number of people hospitalized in Michigan with coronavirus symptoms is 3,392 - which is still much higher than health officials are comfortable with.

But it's also an improvement from more than 4,100 occupied inpatient beds tallied earlier in the month.

Even with the record number of people in hospitals, the number of subsequent deaths linked to the pandemic did not climb as high as the state's previous two surges, an indication of the better outcomes that many experienced. Part of that is due to the makeup of patients in hospitals in March and April, which tended to be younger and healthier.

These numbers are still part of a pandemic spread that is among the highest in the nation. Test positivity rate is at 11.68%, according to data from the state health department website - more than double the benchmark of what local health departments say is a safe amount of spread.

Health director Elizabeth Hertel said Wednesday that she was "cautiously optimistic" as case rates have halved from the recent peak.

That follows the 48.8% of the state that has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

While the state hasn't implemented new business restrictions in weeks, it did begin enforcing a new mask mandate for young kids last Monday. It also just won in court against a group that pushed to halt coronavirus rules in high school sports.

Grosse Pointe teacher resigns in protest of new Covid policy

Sean McCarroll, a well-liked teacher at Grosse Pointe North resigned from the district after a contentious school board meeting when members approved a new coronavirus policy that reduced safety measures and contact tracing rules. "We're not angry at the situation - we can't control COVID - we're angry at you," he said Monday.

The ensuing firestorm has led to a sick-out led by many teachers at the high school, forcing a shortage of educators in classrooms and even the superintendent to cover classes. Many students at GPN just left the school on Wednesday. "What affects teachers also affects us - we love our teachers, we know they'll do the right thing," said one student.

The district originally approved a resolution that reduced the quarantine time for students being exposed from 14 to 10 days and limiting contact tracing to those within three feet of a positive case, instead of six.

The rule change arrives after the administration had promised teachers it would adhere to Wayne County Health Department guidelines. However, the superintendent said the resolution went against those standards.

'Return to work' grant would pay unemployed people to find a job

A new $12.7 billion proposed COVID-19 relief spending plan would pay unemployed people $1,000 as an incentive to find a job. About 839,000 residents are currently receiving jobless benefits, which can include both state unemployment aid and a supplemental $300 a week.

That amounts to $34,000 a year - which is more than what many businesses can afford to pay new employees entering the workforce. The economic tension of generous job benefits is one of several reasons that despite ample available job openings, businesses are still struggling to hire.

"The federal government has created a situation where it is in someone's better financial interest to stay on unemployment than it is to take that next job," said Wendy Block, vice president of Business Advocacy and Member Engagement. "And that's unfortunate."

The amount of money offered would be enough for 400,000 workers, but Rep. Thomas Albert who chairs the House Appropriations Committee said if even 10 or 20% of the unemployed workforce goes back to work, "that'd be a material difference in the state."

Moped driver dies in crash with school bus

A man riding a moped was killed when they were run over by a school bus at an intersection on the Detroit-Dearborn border Wednesday afternoon. 

Footage caught the moped failing to fully stop at a stop sign on Oakman when the bus traveling on Tireman crashed in it. "It was too late for him to try and move or stop himself. he got rammed it happened so fast," said Zeinab Elhadi, a witness.

Elhadi, a nursing student rushed to help after seeing the crash. He said he checked the victim's pulse, called 911, and began lifesaving CPR.

When EMS and the fire department arrived, they tried to resuscitate the man, but he was already dead. Officials pronounced him deceased at the scene.

Judge declines to halt covid protocol for student-athletes

Michigan judge has rejected a request to stop regular coronavirus testing of high school athletes and other steps ordered by the state health department. 

Judge Michael Kelly said Wednesday an injunction isn't appropriate at this stage because a group called Let Them Play Michigan is unlikely to win the case. He made his ruling just one day after hearing arguments from the state and the group.

The group argued that health department orders, especially weekly virus testing, should have gone through a formal rule-making process. But the judge says state law "plainly gives" authority to the health director to issue emergency orders in response to a pandemic.

Let Them Play said it would meet with lawyers to discuss the best path forward and could either appeal the ruling or change the case, based on the judge's comments.

What else we're watching

  1. Robert Gordon, the state's former health director, is expected to testify in front of the House Oversight Committee today at 10:30 a.m. He was paid $155,000 in severance after leaving his position.
  2. Cedar Point has unveiled its Covid protocol for the upcoming season at the amusement park. They won't require masks outside and won't enforce capacity limits on rides. 
  3. There are now five Republicans considering a run for governor. The latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring is a chiropractor out of Kalamazoo who has been a vocal opponent of Whitmer's mask rules

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Daily Forecast

A cooler Thursday has arrived with temperatures hitting the mid-50s as showers could continue through the afternoon. This weekend is shaping up for perfect weather Saturday and Sunday.

FAA aims to fine disruptive air passengers up to $31,750 under its zero-tolerance policy

The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that it is seeking fines of up to $31,750 for three more passengers who allegedly disrupted flights by disobeying or interfering with flight attendants.

They mark the latest in a series of civil penalties sought by FAA since the agency announced a "zero-tolerance" policy against disruptive air travelers.

Each of the latest incidents involved alcohol.

On a Jan. 4 JetBlue Airways flights from Haiti to Boston, a man drank alcohol that he had brought on board, then began yelling and grabbed the arms of two flight attendants. The crew moved nearby passengers to other seats and called police to meet the plane when it landed. The FAA proposed a $31,750 fine against the man.