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Black lawmakers to sue to block Michigan redistricting maps

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Current and former Black state lawmakers in Detroit have announced a pending lawsuit to block Michigan’s newly drawn congressional and legislative districts, contending they illegally dilute the voting strength of African Americans. The step comes after the new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission finalized U.S. House and legislative maps for 2022 and beyond. The plans are fairer politically to Democrats but have drawn criticism because they slash the number of seats where African Africans account for a majority of the voting-age population. Commissioners say Black voters can still elect their candidates of choice without comprising at least half of a district’s electorate.


Family of boy who died after restraint at center settle suit

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — The family of a 16-year-old boy who was restrained at a shuttered western Michigan youth center and died two days later of cardiac arrest has settled a second wrongful death lawsuit in the case. The settlement between the family of Cornelius Fredricks and Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo was approved Dec. 29 by a Kalamazoo County judge. It was reached out of court and filed under seal, so no details are available. Another lawsuit was settled Dec. 2 in federal court for the Western District of Michigan. Fredericks died after he was restrained for 10 minutes at the center on April 29, 2020. 


Some schools expecting virus surge go online, cancel classes

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) — The continued rise in coronavirus cases across Michigan and an expected surge following Christmas and the New Year is extending the holiday break for some students. Classes that had been scheduled to resume Monday have been cancelled or moved online in several districts. Detroit’s public schools are closed through at least Wednesday. Ann Arbor schools in Washtenaw County will go remote Wednesday through Friday. Oak Park has cancelled classes Monday and says learning will be remote through the rest of the week. Southfield Public Schools have shifted to online remote learning for the week. The state reports 61,235 new virus cases since Thursday.


MSU to require vaccination proof or negative test for events

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University now is requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to attend athletic, music, art and theater events on the East Lansing campus. The university says proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event will be required of all attendees ages 12 and older. Persons who cannot provide the required information won’t be allowed into the venue. The policy applies to men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, wrestling and gymnastics home events. The university’s indoor mask requirement remains in effect for events and all MSU indoor spaces.  


State DNR reaches deal on trail grooming in southeastern UP

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — More than 100 miles of state-managed trails in the southeastern Upper Peninsula will be groomed as part of an agreement between Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and the Straits Area Snowmobile Club. The DNR has said grooming was to begin as soon as there’s enough snow on them. The agency earlier had alerted snowmobilers to avoid the area as trails would not be groomed indefinitely while an agreement was being discussed. The affected trails are in Mackinac and Chippewa counties, connecting the communities of St. Ignace, Trout Lake and Epoufette. State-designated trails are open through March 31 and grooming occurs when there is enough snow on the ground.


Snow storms and pandemic ground flights, delay holiday’s end

Wintry weather combined with the pandemic to frustrate air travelers whose return flights home from the holidays were canceled or delayed in the first days of the new year. The tracking service FlightAware said more than 2,600 U.S. flights and more than 4,400 worldwide were grounded Sunday. That followed Saturday’s mass cancellations of more than 2,700 U.S. flights, and more than 4,700 worldwide. Saturday’s single-day U.S. toll of grounded flights was the highest since just before Christmas, when airlines began blaming staffing shortages on increasing COVID-19 infections among crews.


Snowfall in Midwest as winter finally hits region

CHICAGO (AP) — The winter that took its time getting to the Midwest has begun to finally arrive on the first day of the new year. The National Weather Service that the snow started falling Saturday and was expected to continue through Sunday morning. In Michigan, forecasters said the heaviest snow was falling Saturday night, with as much as 6 inches expected along Interstate 94 in west Michigan and 3 to 5 inches anticipated in the southeastern part of the state. Northern Indiana is expected to see as much as 4 inches of snow. Motorists should be particularly careful when they cross bridges, which freeze first.


Taking a step back: US colleges returning to online classes

Amid a wave of COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant, dozens of colleges are making plans to move classes online for at least the first week of the semester. Harvard University is moving classes online for the first three weeks of the new year. The University of Chicago is delaying its new term and holding the first two weeks online. Others like Michigan State are inviting students back to campus but starting classes online. Many colleges hope an extra week or two will get them past the peak of a surge. But some say it’s possible the online shift could last longer than expected.


Michigan schools hiring hundreds of mental health staffers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Schools across Michigan are working to recruit 562 mental and physical health professionals mostly to respond to student needs related to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said this week that students will have the best chance at learning when their mental and physical health needs are met. The American School Counselor Association said Michigan ranked second worst in the United States in the 2019-2020 school year in its student-to-school-counselor ratio at 671-to-1. The association recommends a 250-to-1 ratio. The effort to bolster the number of counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses in schools is being funded by the $17.1 billion state K-12 budget Whitmer signed in the summer.


Detroit schools close through Wednesday for COVID-19 testing

DETROIT (AP) — All Detroit schools will be closed through Wednesday during the first week of January so that teachers and staff can be tested for COVID-19 amid a statewide spike in cases. The Detroit Public Schools Community District announced Friday that the district was canceling all in-person, online and virtual learning classes Monday through Wednesday for the testing effort. District superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the decision announced on the district’s website was made “due to the city’s all-time high rate of infection at 36 percent.” Vitti says employees will be required to take a COVID-19 test on Monday and Tuesday and the district also encourages all students to get tested.