Latest Michigan news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. EST

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN

COVID-19 hospitalizations reach new high in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan hospitals are reporting a record number of COVID-19 patients, surpassing the peak from nearly a month ago before already-high infection counts surged to new heights due to the more contagious omicron variant. Roughly 4,900 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus Monday, including 4,580 adults with a positive test. The previous high for adults with a confirmed infection was 4,518 on Dec. 13, before a two-week decline and then an increase that started after Christmas. Michigan had six COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 residents in the past week, the seventh-highest among all states.

STATE OF STATE

Whitmer plans virtual State of the State speech on Jan. 26

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — For the second straight year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver her annual State of the State address to lawmakers and the public virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The speech is set for Jan. 26. The Democratic governor and Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth announced the format and date Monday, saying they agreed the address should be held remotely “to ensure everyone can safely partake in this time-honored event.” Additional details will be announced soon. The governor typically addresses legislators inside the Michigan House chamber, summing up the prior year and outlining a policy agenda in remarks that are broadcast.

FLINT WATER

Judge: Lawsuit can proceed against Flint water contractor

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit against an engineering company in Flint. Veolia North America is accused of not doing enough to stop the flow of lead-contaminated water in 2015. Four families are suing Veolia. The company did not participate in the recent $626 million settlement with Flint residents, mostly paid by the state. Federal Judge Judith Levy says Veolia owed residents a “legal duty of care” when Flint hired it to analyze the city’s water quality. Veolia argued that it included corrosion control in recommendations to the city. It says it had a short-term assignment that focused on problems created by a cancer-causing contaminant.

OBIT-CHRISTENSON

Longtime Battle Creek reporter Trace Christenson dies at 72

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — Trace Christenson, an award-winning reporter for nearly 40 years at the Battle Creek Enquirer, has died after a fall at his home. He was 72. Christenson fell down stairs Saturday and suffered a traumatic head injury. He was pronounced dead Sunday. Christenson covered justice and public safety issues in Battle Creek and area communities. His stories last week included a barn fire, a school threat investigation and arrests in a 2020 homicide. Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker described Christenson as an “old-school, venerable newsman.” Enquirer reporter Nick Buckley says Christenson was “one of a kind.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GILCHRIST

Michigan lieutenant governor tests positive for COVID-19

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II says he’s tested positive for COVID-19 but is showing no symptoms while he quarantines with his family. Gilchrist said on Twitter that he tested positive Sunday morning after his 2-year-old daughter, Ruby, began experiencing a runny nose and a mild fever — symptoms that are consistent with the coronavirus. He says his daughter and everyone else in his family was then tested for COVID-19. Gilchrist says he and his family are quarantining. Gilchrist, a Democrat who’s second in command to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, says he and his wife are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have also each received a booster shot.

WOMEN’S PRISON-BIAS

Millions at stake in trial over job policy at women’s prison

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Trial is underway in a long-running lawsuit that accuses the Michigan prison system of illegally discriminating against male officers at the state’s only prison for women. Millions of dollars in overtime and other compensation could be at stake in the class-action case in Washtenaw County. Tom Nowacki sued in 2011. He says he was denied certain jobs at the Huron Valley prison in response to sexual assaults by others many years earlier. The jobs were not in the prison’s housing units but in food service, the yard, school, infirmary, gym and other areas. The state has defended the employment policy.

OBIT-MARIA EWING

Opera singer Maria Ewing, wife of Peter Hall, dead at 71

DETROIT (AP) — Maria Ewing, a soprano and mezzo-soprano noted for intense performances who was the wife of director Peter Hall and the mother of actor-director Rebecca Hall, has died at age 71. Spokeswoman Bryna Rifkin says Ewing died Sunday at her home in Detroit. Ewing married Peter Hall in 1982 and they divorced in 1990. Her family noted in a statement that she was “an extraordinarily gifted artist” who reached “the most rarefied heights of the international opera world.” She was noted for her performances as Salome in which she stripped nude and for Carmen, which caused a stir when Metropolitan Opera music director dropped a televised performance with Ewing and instead broadcast one with Agnes Baltsa.

DETROIT FIRE COMMISSIONER

Detroit to start national search for new fire commissioner

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit is set to conduct a national search for a new executive fire commissioner with the pending departure of current commissioner Eric Jones. The city says Jones’ final day on the job is Friday and an interim commissioner is expected to be named in the coming days. Mayor Mike Duggan named Jones fire commissioner in 2015. Prior to that, he had been director of Detroit’s Building Safety, Engineering & Environmental Department. Jones retired in 2013 as assistant Detroit police chief. The fire department’s aging fleet of vehicles was overhauled during Jones’ time as commissioner.

GENEROUS LIBRARIANS

Librarians step up to help people with water bills

KINGSLEY, Mich. (AP) — Librarians in a small northern Michigan town are helping people with more than books. More than $500 in overdue water bills in Kingsley were paid off by librarians. The Traverse City Record-Eagle reported the generosity in a year-end story about local good Samaritans. Kingsley village Manager Dan Hawkins says he matched librarians with people who needed help while keeping all identities private. Some water bills were suspended during the pandemic but the debt wasn’t erased. Library manager Amy Barritt said staff will accept donations from the public for water bills or the library.

LAWSUIT DISMISSED

US judge in Michigan tosses gay corrections officers’ suit

DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge in Michigan has tossed a lawsuit brought by two gay corrections officers, ruling some of their discrimination claims weren’t sufficiently proven and that statutes of limitation barred others. The Detroit Free Press Friday cited a lawyer for the plaintiffs as saying his clients were “devastated” by the ruling. Michelle Wood alleged in the suit she was regularly singled out for taunts and slurs, then was retaliated against after she complained. Her partner, Loretta Smith, alleged she was demoted to a midnight shift and faced a hostile work environment after Wood complained. Wood retired in 2019 after more than 25 years in the job, saying she was under so much pressure in a hostile environment that her departure felt like she’d been fired.