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State officials require faster reporting of COVID-19 deaths

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An emergency order from the state’s health department is requiring doctors and funeral homes to report COVID-19 deaths quicker. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued the directive late Saturday. It took effect immediately. The idea is to help public health officials “provide better health services and enforce health laws.” Under the order, funeral directors have 24 hours to initiate a death record and and submit to the attending physician. Doctors have to attempt to certify the death record within 24 hours. Michigan has reported over 15,700 cases of COVID-19 with 617 deaths as of Sunday. 


Michigan lawmakers spar over emergency length, need to meet

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers plan to convene to lengthen Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency declaration amid the coronavirus pandemic but are at odds over the extension and whether the session is even necessary. The Republican-led Legislature is scheduled to meet Tuesday, three weeks after last voting. Since then, one legislator has died from a suspected COVID-19 infection and another has tested positive, causing uneasiness over congregating in Lansing. Stretching Whitmer’s emergency is important because the original declaration — set to expire — is the basis of nearly 30 subsequent executive orders, including those telling people to stay home and closing schools and businesses.


In years before outbreak, investment in public health fell

In the decade before the coronavirus outbreak, state and local officials across the United States made steady and sometimes dramatic cuts to their first line of defense against pandemics and other public health emergencies. Funding for public health was slashed at the federal level and for state and local departments after the 2008 recession caused serious budget problems. But as the economy recovered, public health funding did not. A shortfall persisted despite several alarming outbreaks, from H1N1 to Ebola, and experts say that’s left the U.S. more vulnerable now to COVID-19.


State: Most permits to openly burn yard debris suspended

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State officials are reminding residents that permits to openly burn yard debris remain suspended across most of Michigan and that the dangers of fire are increasing as temperatures warm. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources says recent fires, including a 21-acre blaze wildfire in Presque Isle County, have been caused by backyard debris burning. DNR firefighters also have stopped conducting prescribed burns at this time. Campfires for recreation and warming, as well as some agricultural burning, still are allowed. 


Court revives anti-fracking effort; could get on ballot

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A proposal to ban fracking in Michigan could land on the ballot this fall. The state appeals court last week ruled in favor of fracking opponents and revived their effort to present the issue to voters. The court says election officials were wrong to reject petitions with more than 270,000 signatures in 2018. The state rejected them because a summary of the proposal had referred to a wrong election date. Hydraulic fracturing  is a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are injected into wells, releasing oil or gas. Critics say it threatens the environment. 


Officials: Detroit approaching 4,000 COVID-19 cases

DETROIT (AP) — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Detroit is nearing 4,000, with 129 deaths. Figures released Saturday by the city’s health department show positive cases rose by nearly 400 from Friday. State health officials reported Saturday that 14,225 cases have been confirmed, with 540 people dead. Most of the confirmed cases continue to be in the Detroit area, with about 80% in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. State Corrections officials also say a 55-year-old man is the first prisoner to die from complications due to the virus. Joe Kearney was found unresponsive in his cell Wednesday. He later died at a hospital.


Lives Lost: Detroit woman, mother of 4, loved ballroom dance

DETROIT (AP) — Laneeka Barksdale, who died at 47 from coronavirus, was the mother of four children, including a 7-year-old. Family remembered her as a free spirit who was selfless, to the point that she didn’t want her sister to drive her to the hospital because of exposure risk. With long, flowing hair and a smile that could light up a room, friends called Laneeka “the queen” of Detroit-style ballroom dancing, which is a soulful dance popular in the African American community. 


Western Michigan boy struck, killed by pickup truck

Bridgeton Township, Mich. (AP) — A 10-year-old western Michigan boy has been struck and killed by a pickup truck. WOOD-TV reports Saturday that the child was hit about 7:30 p.m. Friday in Newaygo County’s Bridgeton Township, north of Grand Rapids. He later was pronounced dead at a hospital. Sheriff’s deputies say the 20-year-old pickup driver was grading a driveway when the boy was struck.


Campaign asks groups, individuals to pledge to stay at home

DETROIT (AP) — Some small business owners and grassroots organizers in Michigan are hoping to encourage people to stay at home for at least 15 consecutive days to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The #ShutItDown! Stop the Spread campaign was started Thursday and hopes to get at least 25,000 people to sign an online pledge. As of Friday, about 12,700 people in Michigan had tested positive for the disease and 479 people had died. Campaign manager and Detroit small business owner Darci McConnell says organizations and individuals are asked to educate family and friends, use phone banks and social media to reach out to their memberships, teach people what it means to stay inside and host video chats to educate others.


A mounting casualty of coronavirus crisis: Health care jobs

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Tens of thousands of U.S. medical workers are suddenly out of work as casualties of measures to prioritize coronavirus patients at hospitals and of the economic troubles the crisis is creating. Hospitals are plucking professionals from the industry to treat the burgeoning numbers of people with COVID-19, but others are being left behind. Many nurse anesthetists in Pennsylvania have been laid off, though they are particularly critical to the coronavirus response. Big-city specialist groups, tiny hospitals and big multistate systems are seeing big revenue dropoffs. Minnesota reported that over 13,600 practitioners or technicians filed unemployment claims in the last half of March.