February 25, 2021

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This week

Lots of positive education news. Thanks to a massive push to get teachers vaccinated, the school board voted to begin phasing in hybrid in-person instruction at the end of March. Covid cases are down to where they were just before the second wave hit. 

A bipartisan state program to help Michiganders get community college or associate's degrees has met with a huge response at WCC, and a U-M student raises funds to start a school in Malawi. 

I can't wait to see my kindergartener's face when she looks at her teacher in person for the first time. She won't be able to hug her, but I hope finally being in the same room will make this year seem a little more real. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

Covid-19 Updates

On Wednesday morning, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported fifty-three new infections, two hospitalizations, and no deaths in the previous twenty-four hours. Last week’s 469 new cases were the fewest since the second wave hit in October. 

WCHD has launched a Covid vaccine dashboard tracking first and second doses by race, age, and gender. As of Tuesday, 53,983 first doses and 38,154 second doses had been administered; of the 17.5 percent of all county residents that have been vaccinated, 37.6 percent are seniors 65+ who have received at least one shot. Updated weekly, the dashboard includes all vaccinations except those provided through the VA Health Care System. Washtenaw County

Michigan Medicine patient dies after receiving lung transplant tainted with Covid-19. The donor showed no signs of illness and initially tested negative. A surgeon who handled the donor lungs was also infected with the virus and fell ill but later recovered. US News 

The News...briefly

Following last week’s controversial decision by the Ann Arbor school board to direct superintendent Jeanice Swift to develop a plan for a fully remote spring semester, pressure mounted from community members both for and against a return to in-person classes. 

The board voted Wednesday to reopen classrooms starting March 25. Swift’s recommendation was propelled by the availability of rapid in-school testing and plans to vaccinate 1,200 elementary school teachers and staff this Saturday. AAPS is partnering with IHA and Michigan Medicine on the effort, and the health department is providing the vaccine out of this week’s allocation from the state. “This is really what we’ve been asking for and I am ecstatic that it is finally here,” said board member Rebecca Lazarus. MLive 

The hybrid in-person and remote learning option will begin March 25 and 26 with the youngest students and those with specialized learning needs. Plans call for grades 1-2 to return on April 5, followed by grades 3-5 and a phased return of grades 6-12 on April 12. 

Tickets dismissed in Chelsea BLM protest. Police ticketed twenty-nine people for obstructing traffic during a July march. Chelsea’s city council voted unanimously to request the police withdraw the tickets, and district court judge Anna Freshour dismissed them, citing protesters’ First Amendment rights. MLive 

The redistricting process for county commissioners will be delayed until the census data is available, which is projected to be the end of September. Dexter Forum 

Researchers at Michigan Medicine develop a screening tool that predicts teen suicide risk with 88 percent accuracy. The Computerized Adaptive Screen for Suicidal Youth is an electronic questionnaire presented to all teenaged emergency room patients. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among U.S. teens. Michigan Medicine

Washtenaw Community College received 1,193 applications for Michigan Reconnect, a state program that provides free in-district tuition for Michigan residents over twenty five who have not completed a college degree. The program also offers a tuition discount for students attending an out-of-district community college.

U-M student uses TikTok to raise $30,000 to build a school in Malawi. Simon Kim’s organization Keep it Wholesome is partnering with Build On to create a school in Mphasi that will serve 800 students. Click on Detroit 

EMU renames its engineering and technology college to the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology. The change comes in recognition of over $20 million in donations to the university by alumni donor group GameAbove, including a $5 million gift to the college of engineering. EMU Today

FoolMoon rises in a new direction this year. Organizers are offering online costume- and luminary-making workshops, and a rainbow of light-filled installations will emerge downtown in late March. Instead of theFestifools parade, fans will be encouraged to Stroll and Roll past the displays. WonderFool Productions

Who Needs Ya?

The Red Cross needs healthy blood donors. The Red Cross was forced to cancel more than 10,000 blood and platelet donations across the country because of recent winter weather, and needs healthy donors to step up. The Red Cross tests donated plasma for Covid-19 antibodies, which will help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions. February 22-March 15, 2021 at several locations including the Ann Arbor Blood Donation Center, 4624 Packard, and 242 Church, on 648 S. Wagner. 

The Breakfast at St. Andrew’s Church continues through the winter. Salt Springs Brewery and Brewed Awakenings have been donating food and coffee to the church program since March. St. Andrews Ann Arbor

Snow owl sculpture and photo by Mark Lee, taken on February 21 in the artist's backyard in Ann Arbor.  

Marketplace Changes

Newly expanded Frita Batidos opens its doors. The Cuban street food restaurant took over the space occupied by Logan last year, but dine-in restrictions delayed opening until now. New attractions include a tropical fruit cocktail bar and rice bowls. The Observer’s Michelene Maynard has our story. 

Brothers George and Alex Rouche have high hopes for their new business, Shawarma Shop. It’s attached to the Shell station at State and Eisenhower, a spot George knows well—he worked there when it housed Pita Pan before a five-year stint as executive chef of a deluxe hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Observer’s Micheline Maynard has our story. 

Out of the ashes of Bubble Island arose Quickly. The bubble tea shop stands out from the rest with an extensive food menu, including rice bowls, Taiwanese popcorn chicken, spring rolls, and desserts like Japanese mochi waffles. Michigan Daily 

Things to Do 

By Ella Bourland

Thursday: Tune in to “Stump UMMA,” a live online game show-esque program (6-7 p.m.). Audience members submit random prompts in the Zoom’s chatbox, such as “flour tortilla” and “kawaii,” to UMMA learning and program staffers Dave Choberka and Isabel Engel, who then compete against each other and the clock to find the most relevant piece of art in UMMA’s collection. Hosted by U-M student and UMMA programs assistant Jacob Ward. Free, but preregistration required at U-M Museum of Art.

Friday: Partake in renowned Scottish mentalist and storyteller Scott Silven’s evening of mesmerizing illusions and sounds, interspersed with tales from his home in rural Scotland (7:30 & 9 p.m.). Silven’s shows are known for their sophistication, intelligence, and immersiveness; this program is meant for one person per ticket/per screen. Tickets $51-$61, online at Ann Arbor Summer Festival. 

Saturday: Help remove invasive plants from the prairie in Mary Beth Doyle Park (1-3 p.m.). Wear a mask, leather work gloves, long pants, close-toed shoes, and maintain a 6-foot distance from others at all times. Tools and know-how provided. Minors should be accompanied by a caregiver. Free, but preregistration required at Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation Division (click on “NAP Workdays”).

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

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