December 17, 2020

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This week

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is being administered to U-M hospital front line workers. A recent survey by the MDHHS revealed that sixty-six percent of Michiganders are willing to get the vaccine, although it won't be available to the majority of people for some months. Covid continues to spread, but a spike in the numbers at the start of the week could just be catch-up after a reporting issue at a test-processing lab.

There are a lot ways to help the community this year, from supporting local businesses to donating money, toys, and food. But time is also valuable, and The United Way of Washtenaw County makes it easy to connect with local nonprofits through their volunteer portal. 

We'll be taking next week off for low-key celebrations with family. We hope you will enjoy the break and look forward to seeing you on the last day of 2020!

Trilby MacDonald, editor 


After declining for three consecutive weeks, Covid-19 cases spiked sharply on Monday, with 238 new cases. But there was "a reporting issue at one of the larger labs," says Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, communications officer for the Washtenaw County Health Department, and numbers for subsequent days were lower again. "It's possible that the higher numbers were related to that glitch." 

The virus is sending people to the hospital—and the morgue. On Wednesday morning, the department's online tracker showed fourteen hospitalizations and four deaths in the last twenty four hours. The positivity rate hit 9 percent last week and ten people died.  

U-M Hospital began providing Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to healthcare workers on Monday. St. Joseph Mercy Hospital will receive its first shipment of the vaccine this week. With surveys showing that many Americans are skeptical, St. Joe’s and its parent, Trinity Health, are asking the community to share their thoughts and concerns about Covid-19 vaccines. 

In the News

City council met on December 7. Recent council meetings have been highly fractious, and Councilmembers discussed ways to tone down the toxic rhetoric, both between members and from the public. MLive

At the city’s annual budget planning session on Monday, officials debated how to address a potential budget shortfall of $2.8 million to $9 million next year. Residents struggling with the impacts of Covid-19 require assistance, and parking revenues are down and tax receipts may shrink if commercial property values fall because of the economic downturn. MLive

After initially supporting the proposed court settlement with Gelman Sciences for cleanup of the Gelman Plume, the Scio Township Board of Trustees reversed its decision and voted on December 8 to ask the EPA to declare the Gelman Plume a Superfund Site, following similar actions by Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Gelman Sciences has already spent millions on cleanup efforts, but the contamination continues to spread. Rejecting the settlement means the circuit court case will continue; judge Tim Connors has scheduled a hearing in January. 

Ann Arbor residents were recently surveyed by the City on public services, amenities, and quality of life. Ninety percent of respondents said that quality of life was good or excellent, but public transportation and overall affordability were areas of concern. Over half said that the cost of housing was a source of financial stress.

Results of U-M’s annual student sex survey are back. Among the more striking findings: 13.9 percent of respondents identified as bisexual, 5.8 percent as gay, and 8.2 percent as “other.” Business students had the highest number of sexual partners, however the majority of respondents reported being in exclusive relationships. Only 27.8 percent reported a decrease in sexual activity because of the pandemic. Respondents wished they had more information about gay sex, consent, and healthy relationships going into college. Michigan Daily

Michigan canceled its final football game. The Wolverines were scheduled to play Iowa in “Champion’s Week,” but have continued to lose players to Covid infections and quarantines. Spared what threatened to be another crushing defeat, Jim Harbaugh closed his seventh Michigan season with a 2–4 record. Click on Detroit 


One Bowl Asian Cuisine owner receives $1,000 Christmas check. U-M business prof Derek Harmon “has been coming to my restaurant for more than three years,” says Unyeon Choi, owner of the pan-Asian restaurant at the corner of South U and Forest. “Last night he came to pick up his food and he gave me a Christmas card. I opened the envelope and there was a $1,000 check. I cried.” Choi tells a2view that One Bowl was “really successful” before the pandemic—it got a good review in the Observer—but business is down 75 percent. “It’s really tough times for everybody,” she says. “I’m really thankful and just want to try to do my best to keep my restaurant going. But the downtown rent is amazingly expensive.”

The Boro, a woodfired pizzeria, cafe, and bakery, opens  Monday. The latest venture of SavCo owner Sava Farah, it will be followed by a restart and events space called Dixboro House

Rhonda Gilpin opened Arcadian Antiques in the Nickels Arcade in 1983 when she was 19. Today she owns three stores, including the Caravan Gift Shop, which she believes is Ann Arbor's oldest retail store. Both her mother and her daughter work for her, and her grandkids are often in the shop. Times have been tough, but she's determined to keep her family businesses going. The Observer's Trilby MacDonald has our story

Arcadian Antiques has been open in the Nickels' Arcade since 1983. Image courtesy of owner Rhonda Gilpin. 

Nonprofit Corner

United Way of Washtenaw (UWW) has distributed $1.2 million in Covid-19 relief grants with another $400,000 on the way to nonprofits delivering emergency services to the community. “When Covid-19 happened, our CEO Pam Smith put out a call to action and individuals, corporations, and foundations stepped up to the plate to help the community,” says development and communications manager Ebony Robinson. UWW is currently raising money for its Community Impact Fund. Click here to contribute. 

UWW is committed to helping people achieve financial stability, and offers free income tax preparation and financial coaching services. For people who have experienced a recent financial change, UWW offers short term advice and resources. For individuals seeking to improve their overall financial management strategy, long term coaching is available. 

Nonprofits need help delivering services, and UWW has a volunteer portal to connect people with volunteer opportunities across the county. UWW is also looking for volunteers to help with their income tax assistance program.


By Ella Bourland

Thursday: Tune-in to the 33rd Annual Jewish Book Festival. Tonight, Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna discusses Cora Wilburn's 1860 novel Cosella Wayne: Or, Will and Destiny (8 p.m.), the first coming-of-age novel written by an American Jewish woman. Free, but reregistration required at Jewish Community Center.

Saturday: Join Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission naturalist Kelsey Dehring for winter birding at Leonard Preserve (8–10 a.m.). Bring binoculars and a field guide, if you have one. Masks required, group size limited to ten people. Free, but reregistration required by emailing WCPARC.

Sunday: Watch local playwright Carla Milarch and composer R. Mackenzie Lewis’s virtual comedic panto I’m Streaming of an Alright Christmas (5 p.m.). Santa's North Pole operations are run to the edge of ruin by the "the evil Rona Monster," and it’s uncertain whether or not Rudolph his star Reindeer will fly again. A panto is a British pantomime genre that blends children's stories with a bit of vaudeville sensibility to create a raucous family entertainment. Tickets $10 per person ($15 for two, $25 per household) at Theatre Nova. 

Monday: Spend the winter solstice with Detroit Anishinaabe/Chicano rapper Sacramento Knoxx as he live-produces a new track that reflects on the changing seasons. (5:30 p.m.). A founding member of Aadizookaan, an art and music collective guided by ancestral indigenous-based knowledge, Knoxx is known for creating powerful political messages that confront land loss and other social ills. Audience members are invited to contribute sounds using their computer microphones. Free, but preregistration suggested at University Musical Society.

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

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