January 06, 2022

Can you guess what is pictured in the photo above? Click the image above for the answer and more.

Life seems to go on, but the ravages of Covid-19 lie hidden but devastating in the background. MItheology posted this on Ann Arbor Reddit:

"It's been rough. I work around here as a hospital chaplain.
"When I talk with other staff, folks describe themselves as hopeless, at a stage of coping via mostly gallows humor, or stressed out beyond belief.
"A staff member today said she's preparing to start caring for patients in beds they set up in hallways. It was I think a joke but also as an only slightly wildly hyperbolic statement to try to make herself feel better (so that she could feel both capable and as if things aren't actually as bad as they could be).
"Patients are lonely, and not just those in isolation. They are also feeling this weight because COVID restrictions include limiting visitors.
"I regularly see terrible downward spirals: folks whose lungs just cannot return to normal due to COVID or others who cannot get quite the right procedure due to the backups in ICUs.
"A striking memory was a husband of a patient who talked with me today and he just felt consumed by how dire everything was, how unexpected it was (they were unvaccinated), and how there just wasn't much to do.
"In other words, it's bad and we are preparing for it to get worse before it gets better."

James M. Manheim


Covid up: On Wednesday, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported 689 confirmed Covid-19 cases, seven hospitalizations, and one death. “Daily case numbers jumped up just before the New Year’s holiday/last week, and have stayed high,” emails WCHD’s Susan Ringler-Cernigila.“This is likely due to omicron spreading more rapidly as well as holiday gatherings and/or lack of precautions.”

The News...Briefly

Pandemic patients are crowding out others in urgent need of care. “It is a bit too early to know if we’ll continue to see high hospitalizations from omicron,” Ringler-Cerniglia writes. “Even if it’s somewhat milder …  the larger numbers may mean larger or still high hospitalizations/deaths.” Precautions remain the same, with vaccination leading the list, but “we now recommend better masks because of how easily omicron spreads (surgical/3 ply or KN95).”

A new Covid-19 testing site is now open at the old Walmart at 2515 Ellsworth in Ypsilanti Township. It's open daily, including weekends, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment here. Results are sent to your phone or email, typically within 48 hours. More test options are here.

The U-M has tightened its Covid measures for winter semester. All students, faculty, and staff must get a vaccine booster by February 4, and masks are required in common areas of residence halls,  in Recreation Sports facilities, and at all indoor sports events. Full details here.

Ann Arbor Public Schools are following Detroit and other districts with a short-term Omicron shutdown. Schools are closed today and tomorrow, with virtual learning in place. The closure will allow the district to monitor case data among staff and address its impact; Mlive reports that an announcement is expected Friday on what to expect next week.

Washtenaw Community College has pushed the start of classes back to January 18.

Is heavily masked Ann Arbor safer than other parts of the county? A bit, at least in parts. As of December 30, the percentages of the population confirmed or probable with Covid ranged from 7.5 percent in ZIP code 48105 in northeast Ann Arbor to 23 percent in 48167, the Washtenaw County portion of Northville Township. The 48103 ZIP code, at 9.3 percent, was the second lowest. Most ZIP codes ranged between 10 (48108 is at 10.5 percent) and 15 percent (48104 is at an even 15 percent).

Michigan's nonpartisan redistricting commission is out with its new maps for state house and senate and U.S. house districts. Ann Arbor is in the new 6th Congressional District, covering Washtenaw County and a small sliver of Wayne. Current 12th District U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell has announced that she will move in order to run in the new 6th District. Most of the city is in the new 23rd state house district, with the southwest side joining Saline and points south and west in the 33rd, while in the state senate we're divided between the new 14th district (running west to Jackson) and the 15th (including Ypsilanti and southern Washtenaw County). The congressional plan faces a lawsuit from groups objecting to the fact that the new map doesn't contain majority-minority districts, so the new maps aren't yet set in stone. Detroit News 

"Friends - I'm running for re-election," mayor Christopher Taylor tweeted yesterday. "A2 deserves a mayor who works every day to make our positive, progressive community even better. I do, and I will." And Third Ward council rep and mayor pro tem Julie Grand is retiring. "I can say that this decision was easier knowing that I'll be supporting a truly incredible candidate for this seat," she told MLive. But she didn't identify the candidate except to indicate her female gender. MLive

The city is extending compost collection through the winter months. It'll be offered in the weeks of January 3 (not too late for those of you with Friday collection), February 7, and March 7. Only compost in the compost carts will be picked up—not bagged or bundled yard waste. You can compost food waste, but there are restrictions in place to stop the bags from freezing to the carts.

Michigan ran up against a different football world in the Orange Bowl, losing to Georgia 34–11. On a brighter note, reader Phyllis Valentine pointed out that we’d overlooked  "a National Championship by the UM Women's Gymnastics team.”  Congratulations to the Wolverines gymnasts, who have announced their 2022 schedule.

"[T]he Ann Arbor, Michigan and LGBTQ communities lost a truly great and legendary person this weekend. On New Year’s Day, our beloved Jim Toy passed away peacefully at the age of 91," wrote council member Travis Radina. Few Ann Arborites, gay or straight, went untouched by Toy, who founded the first office at any university in the world devoted to sexual orientation concerns (it's now the U-M’s Spectrum Center). Toy's death made news well beyond Ann Arbor, with many reports noting that he was likely the first person in Michigan to come out publicly as gay, at an anti–Vietnam War rally in 1970. Toy once said that he was "committed to making as much trouble as I can to create and maintain justice," and he had countless followers who will carry on his work.

Eva, a "tripaw" rescue dog from Jordan, loves eating fresh snow. Some readers may remember her from last year's "unusual pet" contest (sorry, voting is closed). Photo credit: Tammie Gilfoyle, Tamchop Farms.


Ann Arborite Lisa Powers let us know about some helping hands in the city's close-knit restaurant community. On Christmas Eve, the Last Word was closed and had food that would go bad if left over the Christmas break. Instead, the restaurant's chefs came in voluntarily to cook the food and distribute it to the employees of the bar, plus those of LIVE and the Alley Bar, to take home for the holiday. The cooks made 100 or so meals in all.

Blogs and social media pages maintained by local businesses offer chronicles of the pandemic that future historians will find invaluable. A case in point is the Detroit Street Filling Station's Detroit Street Dispatch, where at year's end owner Phillis Engelbert wrote: "It's impossible to know if conditions are returning to normal, if they're getting farther from normal, or what normal even means anymore ... There are things I can fix more easily than others. As much as I’d like to steer society in a different direction, my main sphere of influence is my business. I take seriously my job of safeguarding the special bubble in which 50 of us (between Detroit Street Filling Station and The Lunch Room Bakery & Cafe) spend our work lives. ... Give a big thanks to the healthcare workers and teachers in your life!" Engelbert didn’t stop with thanks - her businesses also gave away 135 gift cards, valued at $6,750, to local health care workers.

Marketplace Changes

The Knight's restaurants are renaming and expanding their Ray & Mary Knight Scholarship Fund, which in 2019 donated $60,000 to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. It's now the Ray & Mary Knight Foundation, which will make donations in the wider community. This year's donation will go to an organization working in the field of mental health and suicide prevention; groups are currently being vetted. After being canceled in 2020, the group's annual golf outing is back on, and they've added TheKnightFest on August 4, an evening at Knight's on Dexter with cocktails, dinner, dancing to live music, and a "KnightCap."

Concentrate reports that Mothfire Brewery has opened a new tap room where drinkers can sample the new brews the company has been devising for the last 700 of a projected 1,000 days. It's at 2290 South Industrial, in the space last occupied by Pileated Brewing. and it's open from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. "We were like, 'For about 10 hours a week, let's just open up the doors like an Amsterdam-style garage bar and just let people hang out, owner Noah Kaplan told the online publication.  "We light real candles, we play music, sometimes we spin records."

We received this Jim Harbaugh bobblehead in the mail, and we'll give it away to one lucky reader. Email us at a2view@aaobserver.com by midnight Friday to enter our random drawing. Not feeling lucky, or just have to have one? They’re $48 (including shipping) here.

Things to Do

by Jennifer Taylor

7 Friday: Laugh at the sharp wit of New York comic Nore Davis, who presents fresh angles on relatable topics in a warm, punchy style. His subjects range from the struggles of being a millennial to math to why Black people should take up archery. Preceded by 2 opening acts. Alcohol is served. 7:30 p.m. (Fri. & Sat.) & 10 p.m. (Sat.), Ann Arbor Comedy, 212 S. Fourth Ave. $15 reserved seating in advance at etix.com before 6 p.m. the night of the show; $17 general admission at the door. 996—9080.

8 Saturday: Cozy up to a winter campfire at a cookout hosted by Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission naturalist Elle Bogle. Cooking gear provided, but bring your own food. Geared for ages 12 & up. 10 a.m.–2 p.m., Independence Lake County Park, 3200 Jennings Rd. $5 per group of 5 people or less. Preregistration required (search Activity #IL461100). 

9 Sunday: Try out new games from local board and card game designers and provide feedback at Michigame Design Lab’s Game Playtesting. 2-6 p.m. Bløm Meadworks, 100 S. Fourth Ave. 548-9729. Free. Proof of vaccination required. 

See the Observer’s online calendar for many more local events.

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