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VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN

Michigan hits 55% vaccine rate, will end remote work rule

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has surpassed a 55% COVID-19 vaccination rate, reaching a milestone that will lead to the automatic easing of in-person work restrictions in two weeks. Employers currently must prohibit onsite work if employees’ jobs can feasibly be done remotely. The state anticipates lifting the rule on May 24. The 55% benchmark is the first of four under a plan outlined by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer less than two weeks ago. More than 4.4 million Michiganders ages 16 and older have received one dose. 

GREAT LAKES-WATER LEVELS

Great Lakes water surge eases after 2 record-setting years

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — After two years of record high water, the Great Lakes are getting a break. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the lakes have dropped steadily since last fall and should remain below 2020 levels for at least the next six months. That’s because of unusually dry weather. Winter’s snowfall was well below normal and the lakes had relatively little ice cover. Low humidity and sunny skies have boosted evaporation. But John Allis of the Army Corps says it’s too early to declare an end to the high-water period that has done heavy damage to homes and infrastructure along shorelines.

DETROIT POLICE CHIEF

Detroit police chief announces retirement effective June 1

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit police Chief James Craig has announced his retirement as head of the city’s police force. He did not immediately reveal his future plans, which could include a run for political office. Craig said Monday at a news conference that his retirement is effective June 1 and is voluntary. The Detroit native was hired in 2013 by an emergency manager after the state assumed control of the financially broken city. Craig, who is Black, immediately set out to restore residents’ confidence in the department that had a history of civil rights abuses by officers against Detroit’s mostly Black population. Detroit five police chiefs in the five years before Craig was hired.

JAIL DEATH

Deal reached by county in jail death in western Michigan

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — The family of a man who died in a western Michigan jail has reached a lawsuit settlement with Muskegon County. A mediator made the disclosure Friday in a document filed in federal court in Kalamazoo. No financial details were revealed. Paul Bulthouse died in the Muskegon County jail in 2019 after having at least 22 seizures over 5 1/2 hours. Bulthouse was arrested on a probation violation and was in custody for about two weeks. The attorney general’s office has filed involuntary manslaughter charges against four jail officers and a nurse. They’re accused of willfully neglecting their duty. 

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FEDERAL AID

Biz group floats work grant; federal aid higher than thought

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s biggest local chamber of commerce backs spending $400 million in federal COVID-19 relief to incentivize people to return to work and to get vaccinated. The Detroit Regional Chamber’s proposal would cost the same as legislation in the Michigan House, but would be structured differently. Rather than pay unemployed workers $1,000 to get a job, Michigan would give $2,000. Employers would get $1,000 for each returning or new employee, to use as a signing bonus or for training. They’d receive $100 for each employee vaccinated in the future. State government’s overall federal aid is nearly $900 million larger than expected. 

MICHIGAN REDISTRICTING

Michigan set to begin public hearings on redistricting

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s new redistricting commission is set to begin taking public comment as it weighs how to draw the boundaries for 13 congressional and 148 legislative districts that will last for a decade. The series of 16 hearings will start Tuesday in Jackson and end July 1 in Grand Rapids. The panel will create maps instead of the Legislature after voters’ approval of an anti-political gerrymandering constitutional amendment. Commissioners, voting advocates and other groups are encouraging residents to participate in the process, contending that the public had no meaningful opportunity to do so when lawmakers led efforts in recent decades.

HOUSE EXPLOSION

Family: Man who saved girl dies weeks after explosion

MARSHALL, Mich. (AP) — A man has died, weeks after he was among eight people who were injured in an explosion and fire at a southern Michigan home. Family members say Dustin Boggess rushed back into the Marshall home to rescue a 2-year-old child during the April 12 incident. Boggess died Friday. A 27-year-old woman remains at University of Michigan hospital, and the girl is at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. A cousin, Ashley Johnson, says Boggess would rush in again “in a heartbeat,” even if he knew he would lose his life. The explosion has been linked to natural gas. 

REACHING VETS

Traverse City-area county buying vehicle to reach veterans

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — An agency that serves veterans in the Traverse City area plans to hit the road to reach people where they live. Grand Traverse County commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of a $150,000 vehicle that will be used to reach out to veterans in rural areas as well as in Leelanau County. Michael Roof, director of the county veterans affairs, office says “it’s time to take it up a notch” to serve veterans. Veterans are eligible for certain payments depending on the years and circumstances of their service. Approximately 8,000 veterans in two counties are served by the county office.

CHURCH CLOSES

Presbyterian church closes after 115 years in Ironwood

IRONWOOD, Mich. (AP) — After more than 100 years, a Presbyterian church in an Upper Peninsula community is changing hands, the result of a shrinking congregation. First Presbyterian Church in Ironwood was down to seven members, including two people in nursing homes and two more who go to Florida in the winter. Pastor Jack Fashbaugh says there once were more than 300 people. The first service was in 1906 while the last inside the church was in 2018. Services were suspended for a time because of Fashbaugh’s health and then the pandemic struck. Faith Lighthouse, an evangelical church, will take over on June 1.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BELATED COMMENCEMENTS

‘Last hurrah’: 2020 college grads finally get ceremonies

WESTERVILLE, Ohio (AP) — Scores of college campuses around the U.S. are offering their 2020 graduates a chance to experience the in-person commencements they missed out on because of the pandemic. Some of the students participating say it means a lot to them to get the traditional pomp and circumstance, even a year late and amid health precautions. Organizers say it’s important to honor those students and their experience. Some campuses are inviting 2020 graduates to join commencements for the Class of 2021. Others are hosting separate events for them this spring or later this year. Many are limiting guests and requiring masks and social distancing.