April 22, 2021

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This week

Vaccine supply has finally caught up with demand, and you can expect to get an appointment quickly through the health department or your local provider. Our weekly case tally is still high but has come down considerably. 

Affordable housing got a boost when the city approved plans to build new developments on three publicly owned downtown lots. 

The League of Women Voters provides background on a new way that communities can potentially influence how district lines are drawn. 

U-M junior Abby Heiskell's beam routine was the epitome of poise under pressure, taking the Wolverines women's gymnastics team to its first ever NCAA title. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

Covid-19 Updates

On Wednesday morning, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported 121 new infections, ten hospitalizations, and one death in the previous twenty-four hours. While new cases are down from last week’s all-time peak, positivity remains high at 6.7 percent. 

Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, spokesperson for the Washtenaw County Health Dept., believes that the reason for the spike in cases is because people are “Tired of protocols,” and have begun the “resumption of regular activities.” 

Seventy-four percent of new cases are among people forty-nine years old and younger.  WCHD spokesperson Beth Ann Hamilton attributes this mainly to “lower vaccination rates among younger people because it hasn’t been available to them as long,” as well as “a lot of variant cases” which “spreads more easily.” 

Hamilton says the health department reached “a turning point” this week when supply for vaccines caught up with demand. “We don’t have a formal backlog at this point,” and have “appointments readily available for people to self-schedule,” she says. 

Vaccinated U-M students won’t have to take Covid tests during spring and summer terms. They also won’t have to quarantine in the event of exposure as long as they remain symptom-free. University Record

So far, only one Michigan public university—Oakland, headed by former U-M medical provost Ora Pescovitz—has said it will require vaccination for fall enrollment, but the U-M hasn’t ruled it out. Spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald emails that “We continue to explore this matter.”

Families of the two hundred and seventy people who have died from Covid-19 in Washtenaw County are eligible for reimbursement of up to $9,000 in funeral expenses by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if Covid-19 is the first item on the death certificate. The deceased person must have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien. FEMA

The News...briefly

Protesters marched down Washtenaw Ave. to the county sheriff’s office Saturday in honor of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality. Speakers shared personal stories of police brutality in Washtenaw County and Detroit. Click on Detroit. On Wednesday a Minneapolis jury convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of all charges in Floyd’s killing. 

Federal money sought for Gelman plume cleanup. The state is working to add the west-side groundwater contamination to the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List.  EPA officials say that if approved, the federal efforts would likely take several years to begin. Polluter Gelman Sciences has been doing court-ordered remediation for many years, but local governments have been fighting for more aggressive cleanup and monitoring. That case is continuing. MLive

Blood and Gore changed Jonathan Overpeck’s mind. The dean of U-M School of Environment and Sustainability feared the green-energy transition would come too late to prevent a climate catastrophe, until his college roommate Dave Blood visited campus in 2019. Blood, who cofounded Generation Investment Management with former vice president Al Gore, convinced him that green energy is becoming so cheap that without political support, within a decade the fossil-fuel industry will reach a “tipping point” and collapse.  The Observer’s James Leonard has our story. 

Private sector initiatives, rather than government regulations, may be the key to spurring climate action across the political spectrum, particularly among moderates and conservatives. That’s the finding of research recently published in Energy Research & Social Science  by U-M Ford School of Public Policy prof Kaitlin Raimi and others. U-M News

U-M Women’s gymnastics wins NCAA title. The team beat out Oklahoma by 0.088 to earn the third best score in championship history and the top score in Michigan history. It all came down to junior Abby Heiskell’s beam routine, which had to be practically perfect for the win. It was. Go Blue

The Ann Arbor Housing Commission has reason to celebrate, emails executive director Jennifer Hall, because “all of our resolutions were passed unanimously.” The city will move forward to build affordable housing on the former city maintenance yard at Main and Summit and the closed fire station at Stadium and Packard. The AAHC was also approved to develop the Palio parking lot at Main and William, Hall writes, though a motion to proceed with that project was pulled from the consent agenda by councilmember Ali Ramlawi “to ask about the timeline related to the impact on Main St, with everything else going on there, as well as the community input process moving forward.”  

On Monday, city council also unanimously approved Trowbridge Company’s rezoning and site plan for “Near North,” twenty-two market-rate condo townhouses at 700 N. Main St. MLive (subscriber exclusive.) Eight homes on the site were demolished in 2013, after an affordable housing project of the same name was abandoned.

Ann Arbor city councilmember Jeff Hayner has been removed from several boards, committees, and commissions. After Hayner used a homophobic slur to attack journalists, on Monday city council voted 8-2 to strip him of these assignments until the conclusion of the current appointment cycle in December. Last week’s a2view included an incomplete description of the proposed action. MLive (subscriber exclusive)

 “I worry that nurses are accumulating these emotional scars,” says Christopher Friese, director of U-M’s Center for Improving Patient and Population Health and co-author of a U-M study just published in JAMA Psychiatry. The retrospective study found that female nurses are twice as likely to commit suicide as women in general. Male nurses commit suicide even more often, but at rates similar to other men. Friese is concerned that “if we don’t address these scars we’re going to place nurses at greater risk for mental health conditions and suicide.” Michigan Radio

Dog licenses, block-party permits, and construction plan approvals are now available online. These and many other licenses, permits, and approvals used to require a trip to City Hall. Ann Arbor just launched STREAM, an online system two years in the making, that lets it all be done remotely. 

TheRide wants your input on its long-term public transportation plan. The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority’s public advisory group will help shape the future of local public transport. Click here to learn about the plan, and here to apply to join the group (deadline is May 5.)

Marketplace Changes

Just Between Friends consignment sale returns. The Just Between Friends Spring Sale will return to the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds April 29 through May 2.The semiannual consignment sale allows parents to buy and sell a wide variety of previously owned baby, kids and maternity items at discounts of 50-90 percent off retail value. Consignors can drop sale items off April 26 and 27. Ann Arbor Observer  

Who Needs Ya?

Citizens can influence the shape of new political districts. The League of Women Voters of Ann Arbor Area (LWVAAA) is working to educate citizens about Communities of Interest, a new tool that has the potential to change election district lines. In  2018, Michigan voters passed a constitutional amendment creating an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission  to determine the boundaries of U.S. congressional and Michigan house and senate districts, which are among the most “gerrymandered” in the nation. The commission will consider Communities of Interest when they draw the new lines. LWVAAA’s Margaret Leary has the story

Keegan Rodgers, former People’s Food Co-op baker and owner of the Lakehouse Bakery in Chelsea, has been unable to work since becoming ill several months ago. Friends and family launched a GoFundMe campaign to help keep the bakery going while Rodgers recovers which has raised more than  $11,000 toward a $50,000 goal. GoFundMe

April 17, day one of Sacramento Knoxx's sidewalk art installation "Ancient Future Fire,"  which marks the final portion of the artists' work as UMS’s Community Engagement Research Residency Artist. See below for more information. 
Left: Kellz. Right: Sacramento Knoxx. Photo by Mark Francis II

Things to Do 

By Ella Bourland

22 Thursday: Get outside to celebrate Earth Day. Visit “Ancient Future Fire,” a sidewalk art installation that uplifts indigenous futures, the relationship to the land, and the sacred stewardship needed for a balanced life. It’s the work of Detroit Anishinaabe/Chicano rapper Sacramento Knoxx, founding member of Aadizookaan, an art and music collective guided by ancestral indigenous-based knowledge. The free installation is on display through Saturday April 24 at People’s Food Co-Op, 216 N. Fourth Ave.  

23 Friday: Talk a walk in the new Commons Park to see Megiddo Peace Project’s 7th Annual Earth Day Downtown (late morning through early evening time TBA, April 22–25) where Washtenaw County climate-oriented organizations will display and discuss their work to mitigate climate change, from instruments that purify water and trap solar energy to educational materials that promote conversation. Free at Center of the City Commons, Fifth Ave. at Library Lane. Masks required. Megiddo Peace Project,                                                                                                                                          
24 Saturday: Attend an outdoor concert by local sing-songwriter Fred Thomas, frontman of the indie punk band Saturday Looks Good to Me, whose influences range from the Beach Boys to Guided by Voices. Hyperion Coffee Co., 306 N. River St., Ypsilanti. No cover charge, masks required. 

25 Sunday: Stream a recording of Fifth Wall Performing Arts’s 2019 premiere of Grey Gant's opera Michigan Trees: A Guide to the Trees of Michigan and the Great Lakes Region (available all day). Directed by Karl Ronneburg, it’s about a trans woman grappling with self-acceptance as she travels to Northern Michigan, guided by the Mother of Trees, to transform herself into a white pine overlooking Lake Superior. With the Converge String Quartet. Stars Allison Prost, Grey Gant, Kate Moss, Kara Huckabone, and Samantha Kao. On-demand viewing available through Tuesday April 27. For URL and tickets ($0–$20 pay-what-you-can), see Fifth Wall Performing Arts.

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

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