Metro Detroit’s Latest COVID-19 Updates: May 4

A quick look at what’s happening locally
spirit of detroit - covid-19
The Spirt of Detroit is now wearing a large white ribbon in support of first responders, healthcare workers, and other essential workers facing the pandemic. // Photograph courtesy of Henry Ford Health System

The CDC is now reporting 1.152 million cases of COVID-19 and 67,456 deaths in the U.S. An updated model from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is forecasting that 134,000 people will die of the coronavirus in the country. The new forecast nearly doubles the model’s previous prediction, which was 72,433 deaths, and CNN reports the stark increase is due to the relaxed social distancing and increased mobility in states across the U.S. In other news, Carnival Cruise Lines plans to restart its cruises before the end of the summer, Costco is limiting how much meat its customers can buy, and Kroger will begin providing free COVID-19 testing to its front-line associates. Here’s what’s happening in metro Detroit:

Due to a software issue, the state of Michigan will share its case and death numbers for May 4 later tonight. On May 3, Michigan reported 547 new COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths. As of this afternoon, the state has seen a total of 43,754 cases and 4,049 deaths. [Michigan.gov]

As part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s spirits buyback program — administrated by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission — more than $3.3 million is being distributed to 657 bar and restaurant owners in the state. The program offered a 100% cash buyback to on-premise liquor licensees for spirits ordered from the MLCC prior to March 16, which is when dine-in service at bars and restaurants in Michigan was suspended. Licensees were able to keep possession of the products the commission bought back, and they have up to 90 days after emergency declarations are lifted to repurchase the inventory by selling it and paying the MLCC back without interest. “I know the financial losses have been incredibly devastating to business owners in the hospitality industry during this COVID-19 pandemic,” says Whitmer. “I am pleased that through this innovative program, we can provide much-needed cash to hundreds of Michigan’s bars and restaurants that are struggling right now, to help tide them over until they’re open for business again.” [Michigan Liquor Control Commission

In a press conference today, Gov. Whitmer shared that she has signed an executive order today to create the Michigan COVID-19 Office of Accountability. Part of the State Budget Office, the Office of Accountability will provide oversight of all spending related to the coronavirus crisis and reporting its finding to Whitmer and the state budget director. [State Budget Office]

The Spirit of Detroit — the iconic 26-foot-tall bronze statue pictured on this month’s cover of Hour Detroit — is now sporting a T-shirt resembling scrubs and a three-foot-long white ribbon in support of healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers. The white ribbon is inspired by The White Ribbon Campaign, which is Henry Ford Health System’s official campaign to symbolize hope and support during the pandemic. As part of the campaign — which Henry Ford officials say was started by Dr. Dennis Lemanski, a retired senior vice president of Medical Education and Medical Staff Affairs for the health system’s Wyandotte Hospital — locals are encouraged to wrap white ribbons around their trees, tie them on their porches, display them in storefronts, and wear them on their jacket lapels to recognize and thank essential workers. “To know that the hundreds or thousands of people who pass the Spirit of Detroit each day or who may get a chance to see photos of the statue wearing the ribbon touches me deeply,” Lemanski says. “More important than that though is the way it has given our front-line workers a boost as they head to or from the hospital, doing work that’s never been more stressful or tiring.” [Henry Ford Health System

During his daily news conference, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan shared 200 of the city’s general service workers and 200 Department of Public Works employees came back to work today. Duggan says that all employees were tested for COVID-19 before returning, and through that testing, it was discovered that 20 general service employees and 10 DPW employees had the coronavirus. Yet, they were mostly asymptomatic. “We are making it a point that as we bring folks back together in the workplace that we are going to do everything possible to screen out those who are contagious, make sure they get proper medical care, and also make sure that if you come back to work for the City of Detroit, you’re protected,” he said. Duggan also said that 400 postal workers are being tested now. Watch the entire conference on the City of Detroit Government Facebook page. [Facebook: City of Detroit Government]

Three people have been charged in the death of a Family Dollar store security guard in Flint. Police say the guard, 43-year-old Calvin Munerlyn, was shot on May 1 after telling a customer to wear a face mask. “From all indications, Mr. Munerlyn was simply doing his job in upholding the Governor’s Executive Order related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the safety of store employees and customers,” said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton in a press release. “It is important that the Governor’s order be respected and adhered to and for someone to lose their life over it is beyond comprehension.” [Facebook: Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton]  

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press today, Gov. Whitmer shared her concerns about the crowds that congregated at Belle Isle this past weekend. According to the paper, state officials temporarily closed Belle Isle to new traffic twice on Sunday, and photos circulating on social media drew concerns about social distancing and mask usage. “We’re looking at state parks and we’ll have more to say on Wednesday,” said Whitmer. For more, click here. [Detroit Free Press]

The third drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Oakland County is opening on March 8. Located at the Novi Civic Center at 45175 W. 10 Mile Road, the site will service asymptomatic first responders, healthcare workers, and essential business employees as well as Oakland County residents who show symptoms for the coronavirus, The new site can perform 250 tests a day, and results will be returned in 24 to 48 hours. A prescription or doctor’s note is not required, but an appointment must be scheduled through the Oakland County Health Division’s Nurse on Call hotline at 800-848-5533. [Oakland County Health Division]  

Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak has started enrolling patients in a clinical study to test the effectiveness of the drugs naltrexone and ketamine in reducing the side effects of the coronavirus. The United States Food and Drug Administration’s Investigational New Drug program granted Beaumont permission to start the study, which is called SINK COVID-19. The study is testing COVID-19 patients at the hospital who are 18 years old and older. Dr. Matthew Sims, director of Infectious Disease Research at Beaumont Health and study principal investigator, says that there is a need to develop COVID-19 treatments that are easily available and affordable. “Ideal new treatments for COVID-19 would help halt the progression of the disease in patients with mild cases prior to the need for ventilators, and provide a rescue treatment for patients with severe cases of the virus,” he says. [Beaumont Health

The Rainbow Connection, a nonprofit that “grants wishes” to kids facing life-threatening illnesses, is partnering with Guernsey Farms Dairy on May 4 to provide cartons of ice cream to the families it works with. The ice cream will be available through a drive-thru pickup at The Rainbow Connection office in Rochester. Due to the pandemic, the nonprofit is not able to complete wishes that require travel at this time. “What a wonderful opportunity to bring a smile to faces that need them the most,” says George Miller, executive director of The Rainbow Connection. “The Rainbow Connection is grateful for the continued relationship with Guernsey Farms Dairy.” [The Rainbow Connection

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