October 1, 2020

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This week

The return of students to college campuses has not yet caused the spike in Covid-19 cases that many feared. In response to criticism, U-M is stepping up testing and increasing transparency around its Covid-19 containment strategy.

Absentee ballots arrive amid a highly politicized battle over how to ensure that all ballots are counted. 

Theaters are allowed to reopen, but few are large enough to cover operating expenses because of seating restrictions. Like many arts organizations, the Ann Arbor Arts Center is finding creative ways to reach audiences and has turned the West side of downtown into a walking art exhibition. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

In the News

Absentee ballots began to arrive over the weekend.The Observer’s Jim Leonard has our story. Lawmakers in the state House and Senate approved a bill that gives clerks ten hours on November 2 to prepare absentee ballots for counting. Michigan Legislature. On September 14, a judge ruled that ballots postmarked as late as election day must be counted, but Republicans are suing to reverse the ruling, and voters are encouraged to return their ballots by mail or dropbox in City Hall’s north and south vestibules as soon as possible.

U-M is boosting its Covid-19 testing capacity to 6,000 a week, aided by a saliva test developed by a university spinoff. The U-M’s enhanced Covid-19 dashboard shows 141 students diagnosed last week, up from 96 the week before. On Monday, just over 100 were either quarantined after testing positive, or isolated after exposure--a critical tool to limiting infections that got off to a rocky start.

A U-M junior died by suicide. In an interview with MLive, his father spoke about Ian MisKelley’s struggles with depression. Despite success in school and sports and his loving family’s best efforts to support him, he said, his son was tormented by “a demon lurking under the surface.” The Garrett Halpert Memorial Fund at the U-M Depression Center is working to create Garrett’s Space, a holistic mental health center and supportive community for young people struggling with depression. If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, find help here. 

An affordable housing millage is on the Nov. 3 ballot. With redeveloping city-owned lots a key part of the plan, the city running a survey about four sites: the large parking lot at Ashley and William, the smaller ones at Main and William and Fourth and Catherine, and the large but flood-prone former city yard on N. Main near Summit. The first of three virtual engagement sessions will be on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. Also, see Events for a roundtable discussion this Saturday on the affordable housing millage.

Arts group protests lack of COVID-19 aid. The Arts Alliance tracked more than $5.56 million in local public emergency grants  to small businesses and nonprofits negatively impacted by Covid-19, including the Michigan Small Business Relief Program Grant, the Michigan Small Business Restart Grants, the Washtenaw Small Business Emergency Relief Fund, and the Washtenaw United Way COVID-19 Community Relief Fund for Nonprofits. It found that no funds were allocated to arts organizations. 

As of September 30, the cumulative total of laboratory-confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 in Washtenaw County stood at 3887, with 40 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours (as of 9/30 at 11 am.). Returning students have not caused the spike in cases that many anticipated. 

An affordable health clinic lost a staffer to Covid, gained a new headquarters and future clinic. The Observer’s Grace Shackman has our story.  

The number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Washtenaw County has remained fairly steady since students returned to college campuses.


Governor Whitmer issued an executive order Friday increasing the limit for both indoor and outdoor gatherings, and allowing theaters, performance venues, arcades, bingo halls, bowling centers, indoor climbing facilities, amusement parks and trampoline parks to reopen Oct. 9. 

Cloud Cannabis dispensary to open in October. The company was co-founded by former Detroit police officer John McLeod who credits cannabis with helping him overcome his opioid addiction. Click on Detroit. 

In an otherwise ordinary strip mall, La Pina Loca dazzles with eye-popping colors and tongue-zapping flavors like elotes dusted with hot Cheetos, and fresh fruit topped with tamarind gummies and chili and chamoy sauces. The Observer’s Lee Lawrence has our review


By Ella Bourland and Maggie McMillin

Thursday: Watch Neighborhood Theatre Group’s virtually staged reading of local playwright Crysta Coburn’s new drama Letting Go, based on Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” (7 p.m., free)

Friday: Listen online to celebrated documentary filmmaker (and Pioneer High grad) Ken Burns and journalist Isabel Wilkerson, the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, discuss "The Complexities of the American Narrative." Part of the U-M Penny Stamps speaker series. (8 p.m.)

Saturday: Listen online to a roundtable discussion with Ann Arbor Mayor Chris Taylor and other local leaders on the proposed millage on the November ballot to fund housing affordable to low-income residents (9 a.m.). Tell a 3–5 minute story at “StorySlam,” The Moth’s virtual storytelling competition. This month’s theme is “Disguises” and will be judged by an audience poll at the end of the program. Wear a fake mustache, cloak, or giant hotdog costume, if you like. (7:30 p.m., preregistration required). 

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

Ten murals beautify Ann Arbor's "creative district" 

By Trilby MacDonald

Local artists Gary Horton and Chris Dokebi discuss their influences and the stories behind the murals they created on two of Ann Arbor’s most iconic bars. The Observer’s Trilby MacDonald has our story. 

Artist Chris Dokebi in front of his mural along side 8 Ball Saloon.
Photo by Trilby MacDonald. 

Wiard's Country Fair  

By Maggie McMillin

This fall attraction spot is open for the season. The Observer's Maggie McMillin has our review.

Wiard's offers a socially distanced cider mill and autumn country fair for families. Photo by Maggie McMillin. 
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