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VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN

Michigan urges schools to delay events or make them virtual

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s health and education departments are urging schools to postpone or make virtual large gatherings, including sporting events, if they are not “essential” — as COVID-19 cases spike across the state. The recommendation is intended to keep schools open when classes resume after the winter break next week. It was included in a letter to K-12 superintendents and charter school directors Thursday. Large events involve at least 100 people and include athletic competitions, concerts and meetings. Officials cite an expected rise in infections caused by the highly contagious omicron variant.

GAMBLING LOSSES

Michigan will allow tax deduction for gambling losses

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan will start allowing people to claim a state income tax deduction for gambling losses they claim on their federal tax return. The law, enacted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week, is effective for the 2021 tax year and beyond. It is expected to reduce state tax revenue by $12 million to $17 million a year. Federal law allows gambling losses to be deducted by those who are able to itemize their deductions.

DOCUMENTARY-GRAND RAPIDS

Documentary to focus on civil rights in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A film company in western Michigan is producing a documentary that will focus on the struggle for civil rights in Grand Rapids. WXMI-TV reports Wednesday that the documentary is based on the book “A City Within a City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, Michigan” and is in the final stages of production. It is scheduled for release in August by Grand Stand Pictures. The book studies issues around school integration and bureaucratic reforms. Grand Stand Pictures says the book articulates the Black experience in the city, but the documentary allows more people to understand and learn the ways in which it impacts their present lives. The company has interviewed residents and held community meetings.

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.

AP-US-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.