December 10, 2020

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This week

With any luck, the Pfizer vaccine will be approved today or tomorrow and delivery will begin next week. It will still be months before most of us will be able to get it, however, so mask up and hang in there people.

One Ann Arborite shares a hopeful story of how she and her friends have gotten closer through a new weekly tradition: the "Saturday Night Live" driveway party. Many families are also starting a new tradition of getting a live Christmas tree, making this a banner year for local tree farms.

Virtual holiday events abound, as do fundraising campaigns to help the many families in need this year. And local retailers are making it easy to shop safely by appointment, or through online ordering with curbside pickup and delivery options.   

Trilby MacDonald, editor 


The county broke another two-week record with 2141 cases of Covid-19 from November 19 to December 2, with eleven deaths and a 7.5% positivity rate. The tally for December 9 was up sharply from recent days with 180 new cases and nine hospitalizations—a sign that we may be starting to see the effects of Thanksgiving. The decision to extend the partial shutdown to December 20 anticipated that the urge to gather around the holiday was too hard for many families to resist. 

The FDA’s Covid-19 vaccine advisory committee is meeting in open session today to discuss Emergency Use Authorization of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, and on December 17 for the Moderno vaccine. 

The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine was approved for emergency use in the UK on December 2 and in Europe on Monday, and is already being delivered. Doses for the U.S. market are being manufactured in Portage, MI, at the pharmaceutical giant’s largest global manufacturing site. “Based on current projections, we expect to produce globally up to fifty million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021,” Pfizer said Monday in a statement

If the FDA approves, Michigan Medicine could begin administering the vaccine as early as December 15, with both student and professional health care workers and senior facilities first in line, followed by other vulnerable populations. Michigan Daily 

In the News

For the first time since 1917, there will be no Michigan vs Ohio State football game. The Detroit Free Press reported that forty Michigan players would have missed it due to positive Covid tests, quarantines, and injuries. Fans reacted with a mix of fatalism and relief: the betting line had OSU winning by four touchdowns.

Ypsi public schools will extend remote learning until January 19 because of increased Covid cases. The district is opening both virtual and on-site “Learning Labs” where students will be able to take part in individual and small group tutoring opportunities. MLive 

Susan Pollay is stepping down after twenty-five years as director of the Downtown Development Authority. In her tenure the DDA overhauled the city’s public parking, created bike lanes and pedestrian safety measures, installed electric car charging stations and solar powered parking meters, and created an affordable housing grant program. MLive 

A pilot segment of the Treeline Trail is coming this spring. The nonprofit Treeline Conservancy plans to build a gravel path alongside the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks crossing the city-owned parking lot at 415 W. Washington St., bordered by pollinator gardens and a mural. MLive 

Ann Arborite wins Hamilton sweepstakes, donates prize money. Mary Richards won cash and VIP tickets to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s re-opening of Hamilton in a Prizeo fundraiser for the Hispanic Federation’s Emergency Assistance Fund. When Miranda called Richards with the news, she was inspired to give her $3,000 cash prize back to the group, which helps the Hispanic community fight Covid-19. 

The Washtenaw Audubon Society is getting ready for its seventy-fifth annual Christmas Bird Count on December 19. Instead of group outings, individuals will be assigned an area to record sightings on a tally form, which includes familiar species like downy woodpeckers as well as rarer birds like golden-crowned kinglets. Click here for more information and to register. 


Many downtown shops are offering safe shopping options for customers concerned about exposure to Covid-19. Rock, Paper, Scissors and 10,000 Villages offer personal shopping by appointment. Found offers curbside pickup and after-hours appointments. Mudpuddles offers curbside pickup for online orders as well as local deliveries and shipping. 

Bohmey Cosmetics opens in Kerrytown Market & Shops. Angeline Pratt learned to read food labels while studying dietetics. She started reading the labels on her body products too, and discovered that many contained toxic chemicals. She decided to open a store dedicated to all-natural skin and beauty products. Click on Detroit 

Indo-Chinese restaurant Aroma has taken the former Satchel's BBQ space at 221 W. Liberty. Aroma’s second location—the first is in Farmington— features a few Chinese staples like fried rice and noodle dishes, but you’ll find more Indian classics like biryani and korma. There’s no culinary crossover, though—the two cuisines remain distinct. 

Chuck E Cheese closes. The closure is temporary, according to their Facebook page, but the arcade and pizza place was being emptied out on Tuesday. Reddit 

Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor Thrift Sale will be closed through at least January of 2021. The sale will reopen when the Sales Management Oversight Committee deems it safe to do so.  

Christmas trees are flying. Hoping to bring extra cheer to their homebound holidays, more people are buying live Christmas trees than ever before. Local tree farms have typically done well, but this year has been off the charts. The Urquhart Christmas Tree Farm in Chelsea is celebrating their thirtieth year with a bang, selling a record 650 trees in one day. Westman’s Tree Farm is also having a banner year. The Observer’s Trilby MacDonald has our story. 

SOS for the Holidays 

American Red Cross needs donors for their December blood drive. “It may be the season of giving, but blood donations typically take a hit this time of year,” emails Todd Kulman, spokesperson for American Red Cross. Donors who have fully recovered from Covid-19 are especially needed to help patients who have life-threatening infections. Click here to find the drive nearest you. 

The Service Industry Workers of the Ann Arbor Area (SIWA3) have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help bar and restaurant workers as the holidays approach. Many workers have been furloughed since March, and unemployment benefits in Michigan are set to expire on December 26.

The Ann Arbor Entrepreneurs Fund is calling on tech companies to donate money saved on holiday parties and gifts to feed hungry families. Click here to donate online, or email for other options (drive ends Friday). 

On Saturday, the Salvation Army is hosting  a toy drive from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at 100 Arbana Dr. New, unwrapped toys for kids age 0–14 can be placed in reception barrels outside the building. Roughly 515 families have applied for assistance, needing holiday gifts for more than 1,288 children.  MLive

Mott Children's Hospital launched the "Gifts in Kind" holiday donation wish list that includes toys and games to help make hospital stays more enjoyable for young patients. 

The "Christmas for Incarcerated Individuals" campaign is raising money to buy "essential items, like toiletries, long johns, ramen noodles, stamps, holiday cards, and so forth," for individuals currently incarcerated in the Washtenaw County Jail. Items will be distributed throughout the remainder of the holiday season. GoFundMe

Washtenaw County Senior Leaders food drive ends tomorrow. Non-perishable items wanted, contactless drop off to the Ann Arbor Senior Center's drop off box, 1320 Baldwin Ave.


By Ella Bourland

Friday: Watch U-M musical theater students’ original virtual revue “My Ghostlight 2020” (8 p.m.), a mix of songs, skits, and dances prerecorded in October and November in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. The music includes musical theater classics, along with pop, folk, and jazz tunes. Available free for one week, online at SMTD YouTube.

Saturday: Sing along to Handel’s beloved oratorio at a virtual rendition of “55th Annual Community Messiah Sing” (the sing begins promptly at 2 p.m.). In past years, anywhere from 100 to 200 singers participated, including professionals, semiprofessionals, serious amateurs, families, and church choirs. For free Zoom link, see 2020 Virtual Messiah Sing Along Facebook

Sunday: Join a virtual book discussion. Today, the LezRead Book Club for queer women is discussing Boston-based poet Porsha Olayiwola's 2019 debut collection, I Shimmer Sometimes, Too, and Ohio cartoonist Melanie Gillman's 2017 collection of webcomics, As the Crow Flies (4 p.m.). And the Booked for Murder Mystery Book Club is discussing Beth Byers’ 2018 mystery Scones & Scandal (4:30 p.m.). Free. For LezRead’s meeting URL, see; for Booked for Murder’s, call Aline Clayton Carroll at (734) 769–2149 and give her your phone number and email.

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

Ask a2view 

Test the sleuthing skills of Observer staff by sending us out on fact finding missions about quirky, insider, local anything. No issue is too esoteric, and there are no stupid questions. Email and fire away!

“Can you tell us why there are no holiday tree lights on the south side of Liberty Street between Thompson and Division?” asked Marcia Dorr. “This leaves one side of the street – already suffering from business closures – looking sad and unloved.” (Dorr helps out at Elmo’s Liberty St. T-Shirts, the only active business on that stretch.) 

"The DDA is responsible for the light display downtown,” responds Maura Thompson, who handles communications for the Downtown Development Authority. “Although we are unable to cover every block, due to budget and labor constraints, we continue to grow the display every year. DDA staff and the lighting contractor will meet in early 2021 to review the budget and footprint for next year.”

Pandemic Gatherings
Outdoor meetups keep friends together, at a distance. 

By Amy Kuras

A group of friends that struggled to align pre-pandemic schedules manages to meet every Saturday night in a different driveway to eat, drink, and be merry despite the world and its woes. Amy Kuras has their story. 

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