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VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN

Michigan projects COVID-19 surge won’t peak for some weeks

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s record high  COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations could peak in late January or early February before beginning to drop. State health officials gave the outlook Tuesday while urging residents to help control the height of the crest. Health leaders, who are reluctant to reinstate restrictions, have implored people to voluntarily be vaccinated, get a booster shot if eligible, wear a well-fitting mask in public and avoid large gatherings. The director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommends that residents upgrade to an N95 mask or wear two masks that fit well.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-DETROIT SCHOOLS

Detroit expects return to classrooms by end of January

DETROIT (AP) — Students in Detroit’s public schools could return to their classrooms in about two weeks. The district says in-person classes are expected to resume by Jan. 24 or Jan. 31 at the latest. The district switched all schools to virtual learning last week due to increasing COVID 19 cases and the city’s poor vaccination rate, and about 2,000 laptops were given out by schools in Detroit. The district says most students have a learning device at home that was provided last year or this year. About 58% of the district’s 50,000 students attended class virtually last Thursday. On Friday, attendance rose slightly to 61%.

HARASSING CALL-GOP

Flint-area Republican leader gets probation for harassment

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — The leader of the Flint-area Republican Party has been placed on probation and ordered to write an essay about the effects of bullying. Matthew Smith admits making a harassing phone call to a Democratic official in the Upper Peninsula who was being challenged by his buddy in the 2020 election. But Smith denied that he threatened to poison Jennifer Kelly’s dogs. Kelly is the elected clerk in Houghton County. Besides leading Genesee County Republicans, Smith is a school board member in Davison. The controversy has led to a recall effort against him. Smith must perform 240 hours of community service and pay $650. His record eventually will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble.

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.

AP-PET-RESCUES-LEFT-BEHIND

Special rescues help ailing owners find pets’ next home

NEW YORK (AP) — Who will take your pet when you die? The question often doesn’t have an easy answer. That’s especially true for ill or older people headed to residential nursing care or assisted living. Specialized rescue, advocacy and adoption services run by volunteers are trying to fill the void. Leaders in the small movement say the pandemic has opened many people’s eyes to the need for making a plan for pets. The number of pets surrendered to shelters due to caretaker health or death is up from 7.3% in 2009 to 10.2% during the pandemic. That’s according to the Best Friends Network of thousands of public and private shelters, rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations. 

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.”

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.