April 1, 2021

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This week

Vaccine allocation is rising right along with the number of new cases. Photos on social media of maskless teens frolicking on Florida beaches just before in-person classes resume give teachers pause. 

While it's discouraging to see so many reports of sexual assault and misogyny in the news, the fact that they are not being swept aside is itself reason for hope.

Signs of economic recovery can be seen in the streets, with several major construction projects poised to claim their piece of Ann Arbor sky. Chalk portraits of oddball creatures are also springing up around town, thanks to playful street artist David Zinn.  

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

Covid-19 Updates

Michigan’s surge, the worst in the nation, is being felt locally. On Wednesday morning, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported 131 new infections, six hospitalizations, and no deaths in the previous twenty-four hours. Last week’s positivity rate remained low at 2.2 percent, but according to department spokesperson Beth Ann Hamilton, that may have been because of an increase in the number of tests administered. 

Now that 78 percent of county residents sixty-five and older have been vaccinated, 62 percent of new cases are people under forty, a trend that can be seen across the state. 

Vaccine allocation to the Health Department has shot up, with 13,988 doses distributed the week of March 21-27. That number includes 2,500 doses from the MDHHS for high social vulnerability populations, and 1,368 doses from St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. Hamilton says the trend is likely to continue, and the department has “offered appointments to everyone who had been on our earlier waitlists, which does allow us more capacity to open up additional appointments at our sites in Ypsilanti and Chelsea.”  People sixty and over who have not been vaccinated can call (734) 544-6700 for the next available appointment. 

Sixty-eight Michigan schools are experiencing outbreaks, including two in Washtenaw County: Whitmore Lake High School has two cases among students, and the Livingston Classical Academy has five among students and teachers.

The News...briefly

EMU sued over handling of sexual assault reports. According to a Sunday article in the Detroit Free Press, “Eleven women say they were touched without consent, raped while they sobbed, and assaulted while they pleaded ’no.’ And they say Eastern Michigan University's response was to cover it up, block their transcripts, ignore a Title IX report, and advise them not to go to police.” The lawsuit mentions current prosecutions against three EMU grads for rapes allegedly committed while they were students. 

The Free Press quoted EMU spokesperson Geoff Larcom’s statement that "The accusation in the lawsuit the University covered up any such crimes is false.” It also noted that “the university previously told the Free Press that no complainant wanted a formal investigation, and in one case a complaint could not be followed up on because it was submitted anonymously.” 

All twenty U-M deans signed a letter condemning regent Ron Weiser’s “misogynistic and violent” comments made during a March 26 North Oakland Republican Club meeting, characterizing governor Gretchen Whitmer, secretary of state Jocelyn Benson, and attorney general Dana Nesse as “witches” who should face “burning at the stake.” The comments also drew criticism from President Schlissel, and four fellow U-M regents called on Weiser to resign. Michigan Daily.  Weiser conceded that he should have chosen his words more carefully, but declined to resign, saying that he wasn’t advocating violence—the “burning” would be done by Republican opponents in the 2022 elections. The Board of Regents has called a special meeting tomorrow to “address recent events.” 

Downtown high-rise construction has resumed after the pandemic had investors questioning the future of student housing in Ann Arbor. But the developers of two major buildings say that a 2019 affordable housing ordinance will make these the last of the downtown high-rises. The Observer’s Trilby MacDonald and John Hilton have our story. 

U-M commission calls for achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. The report’s recommendations stretch across the Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint campuses, including converting heating and cooling infrastructure to an electrified system centered on geothermal heat exchange, and transitioning U-M’s entire vehicle fleet to decarbonized vehicles. Michigan Today

The University of Michigan Depression Center is now the Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg and Family Depression Center, in honor of the family’s $30 million commitment to bringing “depression and bipolar illnesses out of the shadows and into the sunlight of advanced scientific research,” said President Schlissel in a statement. 

U-M and Ford Motor Co. partner to build a $75 million, 134,000-square-foot robotics complex for the U-M Robotics Institute. The buildings on North Campus will hold research labs as well as classrooms, offices, and makerspaces. The top floor of the central building will house a robotics and mobility research lab where 100 Ford researchers and engineers will develop robots for Ford Motor Co. Michigan Today 

Clonlara School student Shannon Germaine won second prize in the CSPAN StudentCam 2021 student documentary competition. Her documentary ”Plastic Crisis: Our Oceans in Peril” will air on C-SPAN at 6:50 a.m. ET and throughout the day on April 7. C-SPAN is available locally through Comcast. 

Pandemic birding is a thing, and more than twice the usual number of parties turned out for December’s Audubon annual count day. Notable results include a steady increase in sandhill cranes, the proliferation of wild turkeys after nearing local extinction a century ago, and shifts in the ranges of familiar species like chickadees and robins due to climate change. The “bird of the count” was the surf scoter–not seen locally since 1979. Washtenaw Audubon 

Burton Tower singing again. Last summer, reader Susan Wineberg asked a2view why the bells were no longer chiming the hours; we learned that the mechanisms had not worked since undergoing repair months earlier. Now Wineberg reports that “the bells are finally chiming and the Winchester chimes for time are working again. Just in time for spring when I'm out in my garden!”

Nonprofit Corner

Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Trustees Sri Maddipati and Meera Meerkov make a $100,000 endowment gift to Dawn Farm. The family was impressed by Dawn Farm’s long-term approach to treatment. “One of the primary goals of treatment is to help each person build a solid foundation within the recovering community,” says Dawn Farm clinical director Anna Byberg. “The recovering community is so essential to healing and maintaining long-term sobriety.” 

Marketplace Changes

It's understandable if passers-by are puzzled when they spot the sign for Moe's Grill at 25 Jackson and Industrial Dr. No, it's not a branch of Moe's Southwestern Grill, like the one on Eisenhower. This Moe's Grill serves both Mexican and Middle Eastern fare, and even Philly cheesesteaks if you have a hankering. The Observers Micheline Maynard has our story. 

Malofta Vintage Clothing Store makes its debut at the Kerrytown Mall. Like Dear Golden on 4th Ave, Malofta built up a loyal clientele online before venturing into brick and mortar retail. In addition to vintage clothing, you’ll find furniture, accessories, and limited household items. Facebook 

Two bakers expand the North side’s “pastry ally.” Annemarie Maldonado moved to Ann Arbor last year with husband Louis, chef-partner of Polpo Group, previously SavCo Hospitality. She is making all the pastries for Polpo Group restaurants, including The Boro To Go. About half a mile away, another Ann Arbor newcomer Liron Egozi is overseeing The Bread Project Bakery, with loaves, bagels, pita, and babka sold exclusively via email preorders. The Observer’s Micheline Maynard has our story. 

Great Dames

Our last profile for Women's History Month is Jimena Loveluck, who was only a few months into her new job as Washtenaw County's health officer when Covid-19 hit. She and her “dedicated and passionate staff” have not looked back, facing challenges such as test shortages, an overwhelmed contact tracing team, politicisation of the pandemic, and vaccine shortages. Loveluck and her indefatigable team have remained poised throughout, and Washtenaw County has maintained a relatively low case and positivity rate compared with much of SE Michigan. The Observer’s Shelly Daily has our story. 

Play On

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is 100 percent virtual again this year. Thanks to ingenuity, creativity, and strong community support, the festival has retained its small staff and will have a solid season of online events and concerts. The Observer’s Jan Schlain has our story. 

New illustrations by chalk artist David Zinn are springing up around town. This friendly otter is by the Bach Elementary School. Find him before it rains! 

Things to Do 

By Ella Bourland

Thursday: Attend this year’s rally against rape “Take Back the Night” (7 p.m.) featuring a keynote speech by Boston-based activist-writer Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, and performances by Young Professionals Youth Theatre (Detroit) music director Katie Crombez, the All About Dance Chicago! dance group, and others. Followed by a march through downtown; masks required. The entire rally is livestreamed online. Meet at the Diag. Free. Take Back the Night Ann Arbor 

Friday: Watch Darnell Ishmell direct members of the Willis Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale in a Holy Week program of African American spirituals, including composer Damien Geter's new video presentation "Cantata for a More Hopeful Tomorrow," and more (6 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday). Free, but donations welcome, online at Our Own Thing Chorale. 

Saturday: Walk by the U-M Institute for the Humanities gallery window to see the video installation “For Your Eyes Only,” by the Institute's 2021 Efroymson Emerging Artist Yasmine Nasser Diaz. The exhibit space is constructed to evoke a shimmering bedroom disco and explores various modes of self-assertion of bodily autonomy by people of Southwest Asian & North African origin in defiance of the experience of being surveilled, scrutinized, and censored. Can be viewed in-person at 202 S. Thayer, anyday 8 a.m.-11 p.m. through April 16. Free. Institute for the Humanities 

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

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