February 4, 2021

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This week

Both infection and positivity rates continue to drop in our county, and local restaurants beleaguered by multiple shutdowns are hopeful they can remain open for good this time. Valentine's Day is around the corner, so make your reservations! 

Without clear prioritization for teachers in Phase 1-B of the vaccine rollout, some public school parents like myself are doubtful about the likelihood of any in-person classes this year.  

Despite the pandemic and all of its woes, local government continues to function. The Planning Commission weighs whether to loosen restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units, and City Council approves the preservation of a bicentennial farm. 

There are lots of ways to celebrate Black History Month. Consider participating in a library event, or purchasing Roohee Mashall's new book profiling "gallant, audacious" African-American elders, many from Michigan. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

Covid-19 Updates

On Wednesday morning, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported sixty-nine new infections, five hospitalizations, and no deaths in the previous twenty-four hours. The positivity rate continues to drop, and is currently at 3.1 percent. 

Though many are finding the wait frustrating, vaccination continues to move ahead. On Thursday morning Michigan Medicine reported administering more than 53,000 doses, with more than 20,000 people fully vaccinated after receiving their second shot. On Monday, St. Joe's Hospital reported administering 12,488 first doses and 3,854 second doses. The Ann Arbor VA Health Center announced last week that it has delivered more than 10,000 doses to health-care workers and veterans.  

U-M administered a record 21,286 Covid-19 tests in its first full week of classes in January, and 233 were positive. Outside tests detected an additional sixty-five, bringing the total to 298—the highest level since October 2020. The university and county continue to call for all students to stay home through Sunday. The VA Hospital passed 20,000 and U-M passed 50,000 vaccine doses administered so far. 

Eleven off-campus, group-living residences are experiencing Covid outbreaks and are under quarantine. The university is arranging “pop up testing” for quarantined individuals on the fifth day of their fourteen-day quarantine. 

To help control the spread of the B.1.1.7. variant, U-M is offering free walk-in testing for any asymptomatic persons who live near campus. Contactless, saliva-based tests will be available all month at the Intramural (IM) Sports Building, 606 E. Hoover, on Mondays 10 a.m.–noon, and Wednesday and Fridays 1 p.m.–5 p.m. 

League of Women Voters "Brews & Views" online event on February 10 offers an update on our county's pandemic response with Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, director of Communications and Health Promotion for the Washtenaw County Public Health Department. 

Iona Woods Waits, ninety-three, in front of her Ypsilanti home in 2018. Ms. Waits was featured in Roohee Marshall's new book "Generation Found: Precious Pearls of Wisdom." See Marketplace Changes for details. 

The News...briefly

Public input sought on proposed amendments to loosen restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units. The first amendment would relax standards in current districts, the second amendment would open ADUs to more districts. Goals of the proposals include increasing housing options and use of public transportation. The Ann Arbor Planning Commission working session will meet on Zoom on February 9, passcode 361611. 

Parents rally for return to in-person classes. Reasonable Return, a nonprofit formed in support of an in-person option for Ann Arbor Public Schools students, organized a demonstration outside the post office on Liberty street in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Dozens of AAPS parents, students, and healthcare workers gathered. MLive 

AAPS had already set a goal to offer a “hybrid in-person learning experience” starting in March. With the pandemic still raging there’s no chance of meeting the “metrics” laid down last summer, but superintendent Jeanice Swift says the vaccine rollout and the promise of frequent, rapid in-school antigen testing make a phased safe return feasible. The Observer’s James Leonard has our story. 

DTE Energy partners with Ann Arbor schools to deploy six electric school buses. While classes remain virtual, the zero-emission busses will be used to deliver 9,000 meals twice weekly to school children who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch. The busses save 40% on fuel and maintenance compared to traditional buses. DTE Energy

Greenbelt adds a 375-acre bicentennial farm to protected areas surrounding Ann Arbor. The Hamilton cattle farm is the largest purchase in the city-led preservation effort’s seventeen-year history. In addition to high quality farmland, portions of the property contain beech-maple forest, button-bush swamp, and wetlands. MLive, subscriber exclusive.

Sheriff’s office forgives debt for purchases made and services received in the county jail. People who accrued debt while incarcerated in the Washtenaw County Jail between January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2020 will have that debt forgiven, Sheriff Jerry Clayton announced today. Debt totalling $509,888 was accrued by 31,614 individuals, and includes purchases from the commissary and services like barber shop and doctors visits.

Food Gatherers’ CEO, Eileen Spring, was chosen by the United Way of Washtenaw County as the 2021 Woman of the Year for her ceaseless efforts to meet a surging need for food assistance since the onset of the pandemic. Ms. Spring will be honored at a UWWC fundraiser on March 10. Funds raised will support women’s programs in the county. Tickets are available here. 

There are many ways to celebrate Black History Month in Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor District Library is offering a series of events for all ages, from puppet shows to book readings and more. Click here for a complete listing. 

Washtenaw Faces Race and three other partner organizations are co-sponsoring a two-part conversation, America Without Racism: Making the Vision a Reality. Experts will talk about the fundamental changes needed in the institutions of policing, work, health care, and the commons, with interludes by local musicians, poets, and artists. February 5, 6–9 p.m. and February 6, 1–4 p.m.

Marketplace Changes

Sidewalk “chalets” offer novelty for diners while keeping restaurants afloat. Winter set in just as the latest outdoor-only mandate hit struggling restaurants hard. But a handful are managing to stay in business with heated, plexiglass chalets for outdoor dining. The Observer’s Trilby MacDonald has our story. 

When Ypsilanti writer-photographer Roohee Marshall saw Iona Woods Waits cheerfully mowing her lawn at age ninety-three, she asked the retired U-M cook to share her life lessons. That led to thirty-nine more interviews with “gallant, audacious, high-spirited” African-American elders ages eighty to 108. Sadly, “Ms. Iona” didn’t live to see the publication of Roohee’s  A Generation Found: Precious Pearls of Wisdom. It’s $40 online at

Kroger adds surveillance towers to Maple Rd and Carpenter stores. The systems have sirens and strobing lights, and are capable of recording standard and thermal-imaging footage that can be used to recognize vehicles and read license plates using artificial intelligence software. The Observer’s Kati Shanks has our story. 

Loves Furniture follows Art Van into bankruptcy. The Art Van on Eisenhower closed last year after the new parent company filed for bankruptcy. It was purchased by Loves Furniture, which quickly followed suit, citing industry-wide supply disruptions due to the pandemic. The Observer’s Michaline Maynard has our story.

Things to Do 

By Ella Bourland

Thursday: Listen to Ina Park, UC-San Francisco Medical School Centers for Disease Control and Prevention medical consultant, and Peggy Orensteinn, author of Girls & Sex and other bestsellers, discuss Park’s new book Strange Bedfellows, on STDs and their influence on human culture (7 p.m.). Free, but donations accepted, online at Literati Bookstore.

Friday: Cross-country ski, snowshoe, or walk a half-mile lantern-lit loop in rural Chelsea (7–9 p.m.). Bring your own equipment. Staggered starting times permit one household per twenty-minute slot only. Masks required. Free, but preregistration required at Waterloo Recreation Area. 

Watch Huron High English teacher Claire Federhofer direct Huron students in an abridged version of Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identities and misplaced affections (7 p.m. Fri. & Sat.; 2:30 p.m. Sun.). Post-performance actor meet & greet. For URL and tickets ($5 per household or device), see Huron High School Players. 

Sunday: Tune-in to “Wine, Women, and Song,” a Kerrytown Concert House tradition that’s moved online this year, which features a video compilation of archival performances of jazz, classical, and cabaret songs that showcase noted local singers (4:15 p.m.). Free, but donations requested, online at Kerrytown Concert House. 

See the Observer’s online calendar for many more local events. Want to see different types of events featured in a2view? (Think categories such as age-specific, spectator sports, talks, art exhibits, films, or other arts and entertainment.) Send your thoughts to events editor Ella Bourland. 

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