FRIDAY NEWS HIT - On a day when the Michigan governor warned the state was in the worst part of the pandemic, state health officials followed up with another record-breaking total for daily COVID-19 cases.
On Thursday, almost 7,000 more tests came back positive, along with 45 newly recorded deaths. Michigan's total caseload sits at 236,225. After reporting steadily growing numbers of new cases, the positivity rate in Michigan has exploded, almost doubling in just over 40 days.
All the while, hospital CEOs from around the state warned health care systems will soon exceed a patient load higher than what the late spring surge brought Michigan. While doctors better understand how to treat the disease, fatigue, and burnout from health care staff is pushing nurses and doctors to the brink.
While the state was caught off-guard when the virus first arrived, tearing through Southeast Michigan and disproportionately hitting Black residents, health officials face a different kind of challenge during this second wave. Therapeutics and available personal protective equipment have improved the situation, but with COVID-19 now slamming the state equally, it's worrying some hospitals with fewer resources that they won't be able to keep up.
"Our situation in Michigan is once again heading to a place that is going to be very painful for our state unless we take personal responsibility - all of us across the state to slow the spread," said Gerry Anderson, executive chairman of DTE, who hosted the virtual press conference.
Currently, the state is running 45,000 tests a day. Overall, 10.8% of those tests are coming back positive. Chief Health Advisor Dr. Joneigh Khaldun says that number should be closer to 2%. Anything higher represents a form of community spread that can amplify the infection rate.
The infection rate is highest in the upper peninsula, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Saginaw. In Jackson, Detroit, and Lansing, the rate hovers between 6.3% and 10.9%. In Traverse City, it's 8.7%.
To put it in relative terms, only one month ago the state was reporting 3,000 fewer cases a day. Meanwhile, deaths have risen to an average of 35 per day, seven times higher than what was reported in June.
During the virtual press conference Thursday morning where CEOs from Michigan's largest hospital chains, all of them re-emphasized the importance of individuals doing their part. As it turns out, wearing a mask and social distancing still reign supreme as the two most effective ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Feds say metro Detroit pizza CEO committed fraud with Paycheck Protection Program
The CEO of Passport Pizza is accused of siphoning off almost $1 million from the federal relief program designed to help businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.
The Department of Justice alleges Michael Bischoff lied about his businesses, that he used false paperwork supposedly from the IRS, as well as someone else’s personal identifying information to obtain nearly a million dollars from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program.
"In this case, the allegations are that the number of employees was false," said US Attorney Matthew Schneider. "The number of people on the payroll was false."
Schneider says Bischoff was issued more than half-a-million dollars from the PPP fund before investigators noticed something was off.
FOX 2 reached out to both Bischoff and his attorney but has received no response yet from either of them.
The feds are looking into what happened with that half-million dollar the Passport Pizza CEO received. The investigation is ongoing. There has been no date yet for his arraignment.
Michigan GOP request audit of election results
Two Michigan Republicans are requesting a complete audit of the state's election systems and results, citing anomalies in vote tabulating processes.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Thursday, Senators Lana Theis and Tom Barrett referenced several allegations backed up by affidavits that poll watchers were harassed, unsecured ballots were counted at the TCF Center in Detroit, ballots were backdated to ensure they could be counted, and a glitch in one county's voting caused "thousands of Michigan ballots that were meant for some candidates to be wrongly counted for their opposing candidates."
"As such, and due directly to these issues, we are requesting a full audit be conducted of the 2020 General Election prior to the certification of any results," read the letter.
Many of the claims outlined in the letter have been addressed by the secretary of state in the days following the election. Ballots weren't backdated, there was "a clerical error" that required employees stamping a receipt on the ballot. The technical glitch from Antrim County was due to a clerk accidentally not updating the software in the voting machine.
"Michigan’s elections were conducted fairly, effectively, and transparently and are an accurate reflection of the will of Michigan voters," Benson said last week. "As Detroit officials have stated, hundreds of challengers from both parties were inside their absent voter counting board all afternoon and evening. And even after some left, there were always challengers from both parties in the room. Dozens of reporters were in the room as well. "
Michigan is among the handful of states where GOP leaders have sued to postpone the certification of votes and order recounts of ballots. So far, litigation on behalf of the Trump campaign has been unsuccessful.
UAW throws weight behind Rep. Andy Levin for labor secretary
Rumors of a Michigan Congressman being considered for a position in the Biden administration picked up steam this week after a key endorsement.
The United Auto Workers Union said it was throwing its support behind Michigan Rep. Andy Levin to take over as Labor secretary.
"After a survey of the board, the UAW International Union sent a letter to the Biden Transition Team recommending Rep Andy Levin for Labor Secretary," confirmed a spokesperson for the union.
Levin, a congressman from Michigan's 9th District, handily won his reelection campaign this year. He's also been endorsed by the Communication Workers of America.
Levin has previously worked in the UAW's health and safety department and been affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
A spokesperson from Levin declined to comment on the rumors.
Study: 2 in 5 will attend Thanksgiving gatherings with more than 10 people
The holiday season in November represents a tricky issue for health leaders in Michigan and elsewhere. With people wanting to return home to see family, the transmission of COVID-19 could be magnified.
Validating those fears is a new national survey from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which found a third won't ask guests to wear masks and nearly two in five expect to attend gatherings of more than 10 people.
These are the exact gatherings that are driving the infection rate up, health officials say.
“When you're gathered together even in a small group around a table at maybe less than the six feet that we'd like to see with those masks down engaged in conversation, that's when the spread of this virus can really happen," said Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser.
During a press conference on Thursday, Whitmer pleaded with residents to stay home and make plans to enjoy Thanksgiving safely.
Public safety emergency in effect on Saginaw Valley State campus
Saginaw Valley State University has closed its campus for the remainder of the week after issuing a public safety emergency.
Campus police issued the alert Thursday evening, requesting students stay away from the school.
A tweet from the school said the situation dealt with "an individual in distress" who was located in Science West, a campus building where classes are held.
In a follow-up tweet, SVSU requested students avoid Science West, Science East, Ryder Center, Pioneer Hall, and Zahnow Library.
News reports say the university has been quiet but SWAT teams have remained at the active scene.
The university also said remote classes could continue as scheduled.
1. A film crew with a specialized camera has asked Troy police to look into the theft of equipment worth more than a million dollars
2. William Norman's story started out sad, due to a tree falling on his home and insurance refusing to help more. So the Disability Network Wayne County stepped in to help.
3. SHED, helping teens' mental health, faces uncertain financial future during COVID-19.
4. Bedrock hosting Shop, Eat & Be holiday event in downtown Detroit, where more than 50 local brands will be represented.
Live on FOX 2
A wet start to Friday will give way to dry cloudy conditions and a high of 47 degrees. Temperatures will reach 46 on Saturday and 51 on Sunday.
2020 election was ‘most secure in American history,' according to CISA committees
The members of Election Infrastructure Government Council Executive Committee and other committees within the Department of Homeland Security released a statement on Thursday saying that the 2020 presidential election was “the most secure in American history.”
According to the joint statement released Friday by the committees, which are part of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency under DHS, election officials are reviewing and double-checking the entire election process, and have not found evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities.
“When states have close elections, many will recount ballots. All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary. This is an added benefit for security and resilience,” the statement read, in part.
The statement noted that the process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors.
“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” the statement read.