Metro Detroit’s Latest COVID-19 Updates: May 18

Northern Michigan cities prepare to reopen some businesses on Friday, a new app helps companies manage health screenings, and Big Three employees start returning to work
traverse city - northern michigan covid-19
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was joined by Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers during her press conference today. Traverse City is among the northern Michigan cities that can start reopening some business — including retail and restaurants — on May 22. // Photograph courtesy of Gov. Whitmer

John Hopkins University is reporting 1.5 million COVID-19 cases and 90,312 deaths in the U.S. Today, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced that professional sports may return to the state in the first week of June without spectators, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he hopes some schools can hold in-person graduation ceremonies in July, and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said that he believes the city’s rising COVID-19 case numbers are due partly to the state’s reopening of businesses. Here’s what’s happening in metro Detroit:


The state of Michigan today reported 773 new COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths. Of the cases reported today, 513 are due to enhanced testing occurring in the Michigan Department of Corrections facilities. So far, the state has seen a total of 51,915 cases and 4,915 deaths. []


In a press conference today, Gov. Whitmer discussed her new executive order that allows for the reopening of retail businesses, office work that cannot be done remotely, and restaurants and bars (with limited seating) in the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City regions. These places can open on May 22, and Whitmer may announce more re-engagement plans for other parts of the state later this week. “It’s pained me this entire time to say, ‘No, please don’t come to Traverse City right now. We need to figure this out,’ said Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers, who joined Whitmer during the press conference today. “…Now, with the new order, we can hopefully open up and be successful and be a model for the rest of the state.” According to Mayor Carruthers, while popular events such as the National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival have been canceled this year, reopening parts of the city will help Traverse City begin to economically recover from the coronavirus crisis. Gov. Whitmer also signed a second executive order today that requires all businesses in the state to adhere to strict safety guidelines to protect workers, patrons, and their communities from the coronavirus. “Because we continue to fight this virus, nobody in Michigan should feel unsafe when they go back to work,” Whitmer said. As part of the order, businesses that resume in-person work must develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide COVID-19 training to employees. To watch the entire conference, click here. [Facebook: Michigan State Police]


Mayor Mike Duggan announced that Pepsi Co. is donating $600,000 to Detroit’s coronavirus efforts at his press conference today. The money will help fund food needs, testing, minority-owned business ventures, and more. The city is now reporting 1,263 deaths from COVID-19. Between May 9 and May 15, the city saw 38 deaths. Duggan also announced that, as of May 20, every Detroiter who wants a COVID-19 test can get one for free at the Michigan State Fairgrounds site. Residents do not need to be showing symptoms or have a doctor’s note. “We wanted to create the city where every one of our residents could get immediate testing, and we have done that now,” he said. To get a test, residents will need to make an appointment by calling 313-230-0505, and they will have to present a Detroit ID, such as a driver’s license, state or city ID, or document showing an address. Duggan also shared a new safe reopening playbook for small businesses, which can be found on the new Detroit Means Business platform. Watch the entire press conference, here. [Facebook: City of Detroit Government]


Local photojournalist Eric Seals connected with 14 high school seniors from metro Detroit to capture their memories, challenges, and dreams as they graduate during the pandemic.  “Their names may not be called in traditional graduation ceremonies this year,” said Seals in the Detroit Free Press story, “but their collective journey is just as special.” [Detroit Free Press]


On May 26, Oakland County will begin a phased return to its onsite services — including reopening its County Clerk and Register of Deeds offices for services such as obtaining marriage licenses or passports — with new safety measures put in place. Anyone entering a county government building must wear a face covering and they will have their temperature checked. To ensure social distancing, residents can also expect to see place markings on floors and plexiglass dividers in county building lobbies, waiting areas, and other public spaces and offices. For more information, the Oakland County Department of Human Resources has created a COVID-19 Safety Playbook. “Our team has worked very hard evaluating each building, its public spaces, and offices, to determine how we can best serve the public and our employees while maintaining appropriate social distancing and other health protocols,” says County Executive David Coulter. “The pandemic has changed our lives. This is the new normal for the foreseeable future.” []


The Detroit News captured the early-morning scene as thousands of workers at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plants returned to work today. All three companies are returning workers in phases and adopting new safety protocols, such as temperature checks and health questionnaires. [The Detroit News]


President Donald Trump is expected to visit a Ford manufacturing plant in Michigan this week, CNN reports. Officials with Ford say the White House asked to visit the plant as part of Trump’s trips to thank businesses produce personal protective equipment and medical equipment. Earlier this month, he visited an N95 mask facility in Arizona, and he visited a PPE distribution facility in Pennsylvania last week. [CNN]


A new app called Clear to Go! has been launched to help companies and municipalities bring employees back to work during the coronavirus crisis. Based out of Rochester, Clear to Go! allows organizations to manage the screening of employees and guests through health-related questions and optional temperature checks. Once an individual is cleared, they receive a Clear to Go! Badge until the next required screening period. Human resource departments can then track this information to manage safety protocols at the workplace. “COVID-19 has illuminated the challenges businesses face with illness in the workplace,” says Clear to Go! co-founder Scott Garretson. “Whether a global pandemic or the seasonal flu, how we ensure our employees are healthy in the workplace is vital to keeping a business thriving.” So far, more the app is being used to screen more than 1,000 employees, customers, and visitors. [Clear to Go!]  


The Michigan Association of Ambulance Services is encouraging residents to continue to call 911 for health emergencies. While EMS have been working the front lines during the pandemic, the organization says agencies have seen emergency calls reduced by 50% due to callers’ fear of contracting COVID-19. Yet, during the pandemic, EMS providers are putting extra protective measures and disinfecting protocols in place to care for patients. In light of National EMS Week — which takes place from May 17-22 — MAAS also shares that the state has 28,820 EMS providers, 812 life support agencies, and more than 3,867 licenses life support vehicles. [Michigan Association of Ambulance Services]


A photo of Father Tim Pelc of St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park using a squirt gun to bless parishioners with holy water through their car window on Easter weekend is taking the internet by storm. Buzzfeed News reports that the image was first shared by the church a couple of months ago, but it has since resurfaced and been shared more than 100,000 times on Twitter. [Buzzfeed News]