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VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN

COVID-19 case counts explode to new highs in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has recorded all-time high COVID-19 case counts, reporting nearly 13,000 a day — nearly a third more than the peak set more than a year ago. The two-day average is 12,929, some 3,100 infections above the nearly 9,800 from a single day in November 2020. The explosive growth comes as Michigan already grapples with a fourth, months-long surge in which coronavirus hospitalizations, while lower from recent record peaks, remain high. New cases of COVID-19 also have soared nationally to their highest level on record, at more than 265,000 a day amid the arrival of the highly contagious omicron variant.

UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD

Michigan paid $8.5B in fraudulent pandemic jobless claims

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan likely paid about $8.5 billion in fraudulent unemployment benefits over a 19-month period during the coronavirus pandemic, far more than previously estimated, according to a report released by the state. The figure reported Wednesday comes more than a year after the agency expected fraud losses in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars. Auditors have since reported the agency improperly paid $3.9 billion to claimants who were later deemed ineligible. New Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Julia Dale says she is outraged and frustrated, but progress is being made. The fraud rate is way down compared to early in the pandemic.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Central Michigan U requiring COVID booster shots by Jan. 17

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (AP) — Students and staff on campus at Central Michigan University must get a COVID-19 booster shot by Jan. 17. The school announced the mandate Wednesday. It says university community members are required to get the booster shot by then to be considered “fully vaccinated.” Students, staff and faculty who do not receive a booster vaccine will have to get tested weekly for the virus. The Michigan university is one of several in the state that is mandating a booster shot ahead of the upcoming semester. The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University have all issued COVID booster requirements leading into January. 

DEER CULL-MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP

Meridian Township cull aims to reduce deer-vehicle crashes

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — About 200 deer are expected to be culled as part of a deer management program in a Lansing-area community. The Lansing State Journal reports that the cull in Meridian Township was expected to start Saturday and run to Feb. 28. It will take place in select township parks, land preserves and on private property where consent is given by the property owners. Police officers will use firearms for the deer cull during evening and overnight hours when parks are closed. Parks will remain open from dawn to dusk. Township Police Chief Ken Plaga says the program is an effort to protect people from injury and property damage in vehicle crashes that involve deer.

PORT IMPROVEMENTS-MARQUETTE

Marquette awarded $1.6 million grant for port improvements

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) — Some port facilities in Marquette are in line for upgrades with a $1.6 million U.S. Maritime Administration Port Infrastructure Development Program grant. The Mining Journal in Marquette reports Wednesday that officials said the work will involve improving port infrastructure, dredging encroaching sediment to protect port infrastructure and depositing dredge materials on shore to enhance coastal restoration and protect road infrastructure. Marquette City Manager Karen Kovacs says the project is a collaborative effort between the city, Cleveland-Cliffs, Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad and the Superior Watershed Partnership. The total cost of the project is expected to be around $2.63 million.

FATAL HIT-AND-RUN

Man sentenced in western Michigan hit-and-run death

WYOMING, Mich. (AP) — A man has pleaded guilty in the death of another man who was struck by a vehicle and killed in western Michigan. WOOD-TV reports that Adam Grego’s plea to accidental failure to stop resulting in death or serious impairment came Wednesday in Grand Rapids District Court. A 19-year-old man was struck and killed on Sept. 13, 2020 in Wyoming, just outside Grand Rapids. The television station says police found a crowd in the area and believe a group of men fired shots at Grego before the 19-year-old was struck and Grego drove away. Grego’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 7.

CAPITOL RIOT-WEAKENING THE GUARDRAILS

‘Slow-motion insurrection’: How GOP seizes election power

Supporters of Donald Trump are trying to remove some of the guardrails that stopped him from overturning the 2020 presidential election. Trump is targeting closely contested states where key Republicans refused to go along with his plans to declare that he defeated Democrat Joe Biden in the White House race. Trump is backing an array of candidates for governor and secretary of state who support his unfounded view that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud. As Republicans increasingly accept Trump’s version of the 2020 election, they’re trying to take over election operations in pivotal states. Experts and even some Republicans warn it’s a grave threat to democracy.

STOLEN SCHOOL BUS-CHASE

Man flees Monroe County deputies in stolen school bus

MONROE, Mich. (AP) — A man has been arrested after leading police in southeastern Michigan on a chase in a stolen school bus. Monroe County Sheriff Troy Goodnough says in a release that a deputy spotted the school bus late Tuesday morning after county dispatchers broadcast a “be on the lookout” message regarding the theft. The deputy attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the man driving the bus refused to pull over. The chase reached speeds of 70 mph through a couple of townships. It ended when deputies were able to surround the bus with police vehicles. The 52-year-old driver was the only person on the bus. The sheriff’s office said alcohol appears to be a factor in the incident. 

MICHIGAN REDISTRICTING

Michigan redistricting panel OKs US House, legislative maps

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s new redistricting commission has approved congressional and legislative maps, ones that is fairer to Democrats than when the process was controlled by the Republican-led Legislature for two decades. In landmark votes Tuesday, the panel created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment passed the plans that will last a decade, barring likely court challenges. The state is losing a congressional seat following the 2020 census. Republicans have controlled the Legislature for years due to partisan gerrymandering. Voters in 2018 turned the process over to the independent commission.

TWO SLAIN-DETROIT

Man sought in deaths of wife, her daughter slain by police

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit man wanted in connection with the Christmas Day slayings of his 57-year-old wife and her 13-year-old daughter has been fatally shot by police searching for him. Police Chief James White told reporters that 62-year-old Dwayne McDonald was killed Tuesday in an apartment a few miles north of downtown. White says officers knocked on the apartment’s door and announced themselves before forcibly entering in. He said a shot was fired, and police then fired on McDonald who died at the scene. McDonald was believed to have been in hiding since Saturday’s shooting. The bodies of his wife and her adoptive daughter were found at their home by relatives arriving for Christmas dinner.