January 21, 2021

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This week

The country managed a peaceful transition of power yesterday (audible sigh of relief) and we are already hearing about a smorgasbord of new federal aid destined for Michigan. If new cases continue to drop, we can look forward to dining out come February.

The vaccine rollout continues although somewhat out of order. A number of relatively young and healthy people have managed to get their shots, while many more vulnerable people have not. 

Blue sky overhead for the first time in weeks! The lake by my house was frozen and perfectly white this morning, with a neat set of bunny tracks all the way across. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor 


On Wednesday, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported sixty-three confirmed cases, three hospitalizations, and one death in the previous twenty-four hours. The weekly positivity rate was 7.7%. 

Michigan’s first case of the new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.7. was discovered Saturday in a Washtenaw County woman who had recently traveled to the UK. The new variant is far more contagious than the original;—the Ann Arbor News reported that by Tuesday it was already linked to seven additional infections—but there is no evidence that it affects clinical outcomes. Health department spokesperson Susan Ringler-Cerniglia told Michigan Radio that currently approved vaccines protect against the new variant. 

Some people jumped the line to get vaccines intended for others at greater risk. "People are scamming the system," U-M epidemiologist Arnold Monto told the Detroit Free Press. St. Joe’s spokesperson Laura Blodgett confirmed that signup links emailed to healthcare workers were used by people who didn’t qualify for priority vaccination. WCHD reported that on Monday, shared links crashed its signup system. 

As of Monday, Michigan Medicine had vaccinated nearly 27,000 people and had enough doses on hand to begin randomly vaccinating patients sixty-five and older. But the county health department had to postpone its Tuesday vaccination clinic because it received the Moderna instead of the Pfizer vaccine, and didn’t have time to change procedures before the Tuesday clinic. “Everything was based on Pfizer (forms, reconstitution, scheduling, etc,)” says Ringer-Cerniglia. They decided to send the roughly 1,500 Moderna vaccines to providers who could start using them immediately. “We don’t know yet if additional allocations of Moderna are coming in subsequent weeks, but are prepping to use both in the future,” she says. 

In the News

Department of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon says the state is on track to reopen indoor dining on February 1. For over a week, Michigan has had one of the lowest rates of new cases in the country. Detroit News 

As part of an ongoing effort to reduce incarceration, the County Prosecutor’s office rolled out several of new programs recently, including no longer pursing prostitution cases or cases against people who use marijuana and hallucinogenic plants, as well as putting an end to cash bail. Click on Detroit. On January 5 the office announced a “prosecutor transparency project” to “uncover potential racial inequities through the collection and analysis of data regarding decisions made by the prosecutor’s office.” On MLK Day, the prosecutor’s office announced it would no longer pursue criminal cases based on evidence obtained in traffic stops through “pretext checks”—traffic stops ostensibly made for traffic violations, but in reality are made as an excuse to search for drugs, weapons, and other contraband. MI Daily

Ann Arbor’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2030 relies on getting U-M to go along. The university produces a third of Ann Arbor’s carbon, and “it could cost over $3.3 billion to make building conversions and install solar and geothermal systems needed to eliminate emissions from on-campus facilities.” Subscriber exclusive. MLive 

EMU trustee Rich Baird resigns after Flint water crisis charges. Baird was an advisor to former governor Rick Snyder, who also faces charges related to the crisis. Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor’s new transportation plan aims to create “Twenty Minute Neighborhoods” with grocery and other shopping, parks, schools, and public transportation all within a twenty-minute walk. “By bringing people and the destinations they need to reach closer together, twenty minute neighborhoods offer residents a host of benefits: improved access, more opportunities for physical activity, lower transportation costs and reduced emissions and air pollution,” the plan states. MLive 


Coffee rebound: Michigan coffee shop franchise Biggby Coffee had to close thirty-six of its Midwest locations during the economic shutdown. Eleven of these never reopened. But customers kept showing up at the 200+ survivors. “Coffee was something to give them a little slice of normal," Ann Arbor-based president Michael McFalll told the Observer’s Micheline Maynard. It ended the year with record revenues.  

Pointless Brewery & Theatre closes; Improvisation classes and workshops continue online. Its website said it did not make financial sense to renew its lease when there was no telling when they could open to the public again.


By Ella Bourland

Friday: Listen to DJ Batz spin records from the 60s onward outdoors at the York Yard (6:30 p.m.). Also, Batz’s friend Chad Pratt, a member of the local post-punk synthpop band Same Eyes, debuts tracks from the band's new album, Parties to End. Copies of the album available for purchase. Taco pop up and small batch hot sauce by Lucha Puerco and burekas (a savory Israeli pastry) by Shuk onsite. Masks required. No cover charge. York Food + Drink, 1928 Packard.

Saturday: Follow a virtual docent-led tour through U-M’s Kelsey Museum of Archeology on “Messages and Magic: The Power of Writing in Ancient Mesopotamia” (2–3 p.m.). The tour traces the development of writing from prehistoric pictograms through cuneiform and alphabetic scripts. U-M LSA.

Sunday: Take a guided walking meditation in Scio Woods Preserve led by Mindful City co-founder Julie Woodward and WCPARC naturalist Elle Bogle (2–3:30 p.m.). Hot tea available, so bring a mug if you like. Masks required. Free. Capacity limited to 10 people; preregister by emailing Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission.

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

Parties to End is the debut album of Ann Arbor synth pop duo Same Eyes. Album cover art by Fred Thomas.

Play On 

Same Eyes drops debut album Parties to End

Local musicians Chad Pratt and Alex Hughes are twenty-five years apart in age, but they see music with the same eyes—hence the name chosen by the Ann Arbor duo, whose debut album Parties to End is inspired by 80s new wave, synth pop, and post punk sounds. Click here for their music video Forever, and find their album on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Apple Music. Jeff Milo reviews Parties to End on See Events, above, for their album release party. 


In November of 2020, the James L. Crawford (Pratt) Elks Lodge #322, aka the “Black Elk’s Club,” caught fire. The kitchen was destroyed and the building sustained significant smoke damage. The lodge opened on 220 Sunset Rd in 1922, and is part a national fraternal organization founded in 1899 by black men denied entry into existing fraternal groups. A GoFundMe campaign was launched Tuesday to help the lodge repair furniture and cleaning costs not covered by insurance.

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