Why infant mortality plunged in Detroit, a school bus donation, standoff in Rochester

Detroit and Michigan celebrated a major milestone Wednesday when they announced the infant mortality rate in the city had fallen to a 20-year-low.

According to the state health department, the number of babies dying before they turn 1 year old is the lowest its been in a century.

"I am an ER doctor and I have pronounced infant deaths before," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun during a Wednesday press conference alongside the city's mayor. "So these are not just trends, this is not just data - these are people's lives."

There were 28 fewer deaths in 2019 from 2018 in Michigan. That reduction, Mike Duggan said, "came from the city of Detroit."

"That is the lowest number of infant deaths in this city as far back as we have records."

Detroit recorded 16.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018. That number dropped to 11 per 1,000 live births in 2019. The disparity between the number of white babies who are dying and Black babies who are dying is also closing. 

In 2018, the rate was 18.9 for Black babies and 6.4 for white babies. Those numbers fell in 2019 to 12.3 and 9.7, respectively.

Both Duggan and Khaldun credited key initiatives like Wayne State's Make Your Date program and the Black Mothers Breast Feeding Association. 

But there was also work done by the current state chief medical executive when she was Detroit's medical director after she noticed an unnerving trend in minority women got pregnant.

A quarter of all pregnant African American women who didn't make it into the doctor during the first trimester of carrying a child to term was because they lacked transportation. "This is a huge part of the Black-white health care disparity is getting a ride," Duggan said.

That disparity would become fatal for 142 children in 2015 - 125 of them being Black infants. Khaldun started her program in 2017 that connected prenatal moms with a ride.

That program turned into 723 free Lyft rides for expecting mothers the first year it started. By 2019, more than 6,000 rides were being offered.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the progress made by the city, which delivered the news with much fanfare. Khaldun was clear when she said that hospitals are safe and effective and that the pandemic shouldn't deter pregnant mothers from getting checkups on their babies.

Monroe Papa Jones closes due to employee shortage

Current employees got a bonus and raises were offered to encourage people to keep working, said Jaclyn Childers, owner of a Papa John's in Monroe. But it still wasn't enough. On Sunday, a note to customers cited the pandemic and staffing shortage for why they had closed.

"Because of some of the other, I think, incentives maybe not to work at times, that drew a lot of our employees out and we weren’t able to fully this staff this store for over a year now," Childers.

Other businesses in Monroe are seeing the same issue, struggling to find enough employees and staying open. At Hopscotch and Bourbon in Roseville, it was a similar story. Childers says the extra money people are receiving while on unemployment was too difficult to compete with.

Studies have shown that generous unemployment benefits may be partly contributing to the issue of high unemployment and a high number of unfilled job openings. Fear of getting sick from the pandemic and other needs at home are among separate factors.

A new bus helps woman continue rescue mission of helping the needy

A Belleville woman had her prayers answered this week when a man won a bus in an auction that he then donated to her after hers broke down in April. Louise Fincher who works as a hairdresser had spent the third Monday of every month delivering clothes, food, and blankets to those in need in her old Detroit neighborhood.

But her ministry's mission faltered when Fincher's bus broke down for good. Donations came in to offset some of the cost, but it was a former dye engineer from Clinton Township that took it a step further.

Ed and Thelma Morawski found their way to a local auction for school buses where he kept bidding until he won a bus for $5,500. Last week, Fincher got her new bus - bigger and better than ever.

"When I saw the bus I was in shock," Fincher said. "I did not believe someone would do something so wonderful like this."

Standoff with police in Rochester ends

Law enforcement from several agencies responded to a barricaded gunman situation near the city of Rochester in Oakland County early Thursday morning. A man was allegedly threatening to hurt himself when his wife and kids left and called the police.

The call first came to the police around 10 p.m. SWAT members and Oakland County Sheriff Office deputies were at the scene, north of Rochester off of Mead Road and Waverly Drive.

Police referred to the scene as a domestic situation. It concluded around 7:30 a.m., however, it's unclear how it was resolved. FOX 2 was informed the scene was secure.

While SWAT officers had dispersed, other officers remained at the scene after crews cleared out. It's unclear if anyone was hurt.

Macomb woman who abused puppy takes plea deal

Amber Sunde, 26, has taken a plea deal after she was accused of breaking a puppy's bones and throwing him in the Clinton River earlier this year.

The dog, named Finn who was eventually adopted by an officer will eventually need to have his leg amputated because of the injuries he endured. The executive director of the Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue said witnesses observed the animal continuing to crawl back to Sunde even after she threw him in the river.

"...even though he suffered horrific abuse at her hands, he still crawled to her," said Theresa Sumpter. "He still wanted to be with her." The dog will still urinate if someone raises their voice or makes fast movements, she said. 

Sunde is expected to be sentenced next week. She was also diagnosed with a mental illness during court proceedings. She'll be required to do counseling, take medication, and report to a mental health court weekly. She will also need to pay $6,000 in restitution.

What else we're watching

  1. The Detroit Zoo has welcomed a baby wallaby to his new two-acre enclosure after he was born last October. Eloise, the joey's mother, gave birth to the zoo's first baby kangaroo since 2010.
  2. The Department of Natural Resources has ruled the deaths of several swans in Waterford Township were not due to poison. Instead, it was a parasitic worm that gets passed from freshwater snails.
  3. Ford announced more disruptions to production because of a shortage in semiconductors. Both them and GM are struggling with auto manufacturing output due to the parts shortage and expect disruption to hit next quarter.
  4. Senate Republicans in the Michigan legislature have amended one of their voting bills that would have closed drop boxes the day before election day. The new rule would close them at 5 p.m. - three hours before polls closed.
  5. Anyone not part of the state's new redistricting commission but would like to offer their input can do so by reaching into the public comment portal. The new function would allow people to draw and submit their own district map.

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Daily Forecast

Another mid-50s day will be accompanied by some rain this afternoon. No big warm-up is in sight this week or next.

EU proposal could allow vaccinated Americans to travel to Europe by end of June

The European Union’s executive branch announced a proposal to allow vaccinated people to travel to Europe by the end of June, foretelling the possibility more connected world after a full year of travel lockdowns and restrictions. 

Travel to the European Union is currently extremely limited except for a handful of countries with low infection rates. But with the summer tourist season looming, the bloc's European Commission hopes the new recommendations will dramatically expand that list.

"Today, the Commission is proposing that Member States ease the current restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU to take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide," the commission said in a press release Monday.

The commission proposes to allow entry into the EU for non-essential reasons for all people coming from countries, including the United States, with a good epidemiological situation and for all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorized vaccine.