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VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN

Whitmer mum on health chief’s resignation, sports ban

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is refusing to discuss the circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of Michigan’s health director during the coronavirus pandemic, including whether she asked for his resignation. The Democratic governor also declined Monday to set a date for the return of youth contact sports, despite growing pressure after her administration extended the ban through Feb. 21. Robert Gordon, who issued COVID-19 restrictions after Whitmer’s powers were upended by an October court ruling, resigned Friday as director of the state Department of Health and Human Services. The governor named Elizabeth Hertel to succeed him.

CAPITOL BREACH-MICHIGAN

US: Man at Capitol riot hit cops 10 times with hockey stick

DETROIT (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Detroit are disclosing more details about the alleged acts of a former Marine from Michigan who was at the U.S. Capitol riot. Authorities say Michael Foy of Wixom struck police at least 10 times with a hockey stick during the Jan. 6 attack. A judge says the 30-year-old Foy will remain locked up while facing charges in Washington. Prosecutor Hank Moon says Foy took multiple swings at police and subsequently crawled into the Capitol through a broken window. Investigators have the hockey stick. Foy is charged with assault and other crimes.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MICHIGAN SCHOOLS

Michigan asks for a waiver of standardized testing for 2021

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Education again has asked the U.S. Department of Education to waive standardized testing for the 2020-2021 school year so Michigan teachers can focus on making sure students are caught up in their education. State Superintendent Michael Rice says in the request that Michigan can’t safely and uniformly administer a fair standardized test. Standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year was waived for Michigan, but U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told states to expect testing to come back for the 2020-2021 school year. Rice is appealing to new President Joe Biden’s administration. 

HOMELESS CAMP-FIRE

Fire, explosions at Kalamazoo homeless camp; 1 person hurt

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — More than a dozen small propane tanks exploded at a homeless camp in southwestern Michigan when they were mishandled near an open fire. The fire was brought under control in 10 minutes Sunday by Kalamazoo firefighters. One person had minor injuries. The camp has many tents. Scott Brooks, the Kalamazoo fire marshal, says an improvised adaptor on one of the propane tanks failed, causing an explosion. Due to the intense heat from the fire, other small propane tanks exploded. Katrina Davis was delivering soup and witnessed the fire. Davis says it was “unbelievable.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VACCINATIONS

Vaccine shortage slows Michigan’s effort to end pandemic

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — If Michigan could administer 50,000 coronavirus vaccine doses a day, it could hit its goal of inoculating 70% of people age 16 and older by August. At the current rate, about 29,000 per day, it would not finish until a year from now. The issue is limited supplies. It is something Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and health officials hope can be addressed as new President Joe Biden takes the helm. In the first six weeks of the monumental undertaking, Michigan has gotten 182,000 doses a week — 52% of what is needed to get 50,000 shots in arms per day. 

INVASIVE SPECIES-MICHIGAN

Michigan adds Beech leaf disease to invasive species list

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Beech leaf disease has been added to Michigan’s invasive species watch list and state officials are asking residents to be on the lookout for trees infested with the damaging disease. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says the disease, which has not been found in Michigan, was discovered in Ohio in 2012 and has been identified in seven eastern states and Ontario, Canada. It causes damage to leaf tissue on American beech and European and Asian beech species. Trees weakened by leaf damage become susceptible to other diseases and can die within six years.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-WASHTENAW COUNTY

Visitors to Ann Arbor retail sites urged to get virus test

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Washtenaw County officials are urging residents who visited two retail sites in Ann Arbor to get tested for COVID-19 after cases of a more contagious virus variant were traced to those locations. The Detroit News reports county health officials say five cases of the coronavirus variant originally identified in Britain have been identified and additional tracing continues for other possible positive cases. Officials say that as a precaution, residents should immediately get tested if they visited the Meijer store on Saline Road in Ann Arbor on Jan. 17 between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. or Briarwood Mall, located at 100 Briarwood Circle, from 1 p.m.-2 p.m.

PROPERTY TAXES-DETROIT

Property tax exemptions up for eligible Detroit homeowners

DETROIT (AP) — A property tax assistance program has granted more than 10,500 property tax exemptions to eligible Detroit homeowners and officials are still reviewing hundreds of other applications. The exemptions come under a program that provides an opportunity for homeowners to be exempt from their current year property taxes based on household income or circumstances to help them avoid the possibility of foreclosure. The city approved 9,089 property tax exemptions last year. Mayor Mike Duggan says the “program has one purpose and that is to help keep Detroit families struggling to pay their property taxes in their homes and to take away the fear of foreclosure.”

SOCIAL JUSTICE-MLK STATUES

Benton Harbor, St. Joseph plan to erect King statues

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Two neighboring cities in southwestern Michigan are making a public commitment to social justice by installing statues of Martin Luther King Jr. in both communities. Benton Harbor is 84% Black, and St. Joseph is 84% white. Each city will also erect separate statues of a resident who is remembered as a social justice leader in each city. Benton Harbor Commissioner Edward Isom says art has a unique ability to enhance both communities. The Herald-Palladium reports that the goal is to have the statues up in 2022. Donations will be accepted.

SNOWMOBILE-DEATH

Man dies after crashing through frozen lake on snowmobile

WOLVERINE LAKE, Mich. (AP) — A man riding a snowmobile on a frozen Michigan lake died when his vehicle crashed through the ice. Wolverine Lake Police say the 26-year-old from Wixom was under the water for an hour before being removed by the Oakland County Dive Team at around 1 p.m. Sunday. Authorities say the victim was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Commerce Township Fire Department and the Wolverine Lake Police assisted in the rescue. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office will investigate the incident.