Ten Things Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Should Do for Detroit

There are two reasons Detroit should have a special place in President-elect Joe Biden’s heart. First, because Detroit needs real help–now. And second is because Detroit is one of the key places that brought his victory. Detroiters voted in massive numbers for him and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and Democrats will need Detroit voters to win again. As the saying goes, you need to dance with the ones who brung you.

Here, then, are ten agenda items Biden and Harris should prioritize—giving back to a City that helped bring them into office.

1.Make plenty of vaccine doses available. Unemployment linked to COVID-19 closures have hit the poor and those in service jobs far harder than other industries. Unemployment numbers are more than double in Detroit than in Michigan. More vaccines mean it’s safer to go back to work, and Detroiters need that work and the accompanying income now. That will improve many other things mentioned here, including reducing violence.

2. Reduce the violence. We’ve seen major increases in murders and shootings. On surveys through the years, Detroiters have consistently said public safety is at the top of their agenda, but that does not translate to a desire for heavy duty police enforcement across the board. Rather than defund the police, Biden should talk about demilitarizing the police and making them responsive to the true needs of the community. Detroit citizens want tough action against the repeated violent offenders, but they want first time offenders and others diverted out of stigmatizing court process into community service, education and job training programs. For example, police regularly stop hundreds of people and arrest them for carrying illegal weapons. We need to divert these citizens into training programs that teach them about the risks of violence. We need to use conflict deflectors and de-escalators to reduce violence. Increased participation in youth sports and utilization of open community centers will also help deter violence. While many of these outlets have been closed and cancelled due to COVID restrictions, we must find ways to continue to offer such opportunities.  

3. Reduce domestic violence. Domestic violence, already high in Detroit, has increased under COVID-19, and the enforcement of parole violations for domestic violence offenders by Michigan Department of Corrections has declined.

Detroit has far fewer shelter beds than surrounding communities for survivors of domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV). This needs to be corrected immediately. Beyond that, survivors need to have far more access to advocates who can help them navigate the complex legal and support systems that do exist. They need more financial help to pay for things like moving to safe locations and serving Personal Protection Orders that are intended to help shield survivors from further violence.

4. Increase jobs for youth.  Detroit youth have extraordinary unemployment levels, well above the already high adult unemployment levels. This is a crisis, especially because we know that this will affect their lifetime earnings and connection to the workforce. Such high levels have led to challenges to democracy itself in other times and countries.

We need broad, youth employment programs funded by the federal government and operated by non-profits that do real work to help improve Detroit.  These jobs must create job ladders for youth so they have a future in which to invest.

5.Increase support for youth to go to college, apprenticeships, and training at community colleges. Many youth have no real way to pay for college.

We need to increase Pell Grants very substantially so youth who want higher education can get it without having a lifetime of debt, as so many do now. Apprenticeships and training in the skilled trades also often lead to good jobs with benefits and high wages—sometimes higher than college-educated jobs. These opportunities also need more funding so the youth have access to an even wider range of skills and jobs.

6.Fully fund special education. In Michigan, charter schools are implemented in a manner where they generally recruit higher performing students from the public schools, leaving the public schools with fewer higher performing students—who tend to cost less to educate. In major urban areas, charter schools proliferate and the public schools end up with a disproportionate share of special education students, which the charter schools avoid. These students cost more to educate. Because special education is not fully funded by the federal government, the costs are off loaded onto urban school districts in Michigan. These costs drive urban school districts into debt and decline. None of this makes it onto the debate stage, but this is the crucial work that needs to be completed to help Detroit and other cities like it. More federal funding is needed for special education students.

7.Invest massively in home repair. Detroit’s housing is crumbling with 63% of the housing units having at least one major health hazard. Lead paint, lack of heat, flooding, asbestos, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), structural hazards, fire hazards—these are all present across the range of homes in Detroit both for homeowners and renters.

Detroiters don’t have the money to pay for all these repairs, and Community Development Block Grant dollars continue to decrease. Money for repairs of existing homes is needed to make them safe and to protect existing residents from disease, injuries and break-ins. This will also protect them from gentrification.

8.Protect homeowners from foreclosure. This is a perennial issue in Detroit that turns into a crisis with every recession. In the Great Recession, many thousands of homes were wrenched from homeowners. Now foreclosures are high again.

Short term cash and longer term re-writing of mortgage agreements are critical to short circuiting this endless cycle of foreclosures that has already made Detroit a majority renter city. This too will protect existing homeowners from gentrification.

9.Invest heavily in weatherization. One the highest costs that Detroiters face are their utility bills, both for renters and homeowners. Leaky old houses mean huge heating bills that often take up a large part of the budgets of low and moderate income households. In neighborhoods like Southwest Detroit, where industry and traffic pollute the air, this weatherization should also include air filters to clear the air that people breathe most of the time (Americans typically spend 80% of their time in their homes).

The Obama Administration initiated a large weatherization program but the budget for that got nixed by the GOP in Congress. Now is the time to move forward with this both for the sake of everyday Detroiters and the sake of the planet.

10.Build Community Solar. Unlike many cities, Detroit has lots of open space that could be used for solar energy production. DTE, our local utility, mainly produces electricity from coal, which hurts the planet and the lungs of Detroiters. And, Michigan produces none of this coal. Another way to help Detroiters reduce their utility cost is use some of the massive amount of vacant land in the city for building community solar installations. With investment from the federal government, these could be owned by Community Development Corporations or others who could sell the solar power at cost to homeowners nearby. Investing in these small-scale production facilities would produce installer jobs for Detroiters, increase reliance on alternative sources of electricity, cut costs for citizens and make appropriate use of vacant land.

COVID’S Economic Impacts Continue in Michigan and Beyond

Twenty-twenty may be a wrap but the COVID-19 pandemic continues on and the economic impacts continue to be felt, nationally and locally. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, on Jan. 2, 2021 there were 497,127 confirmed COVID-19 cases; that is 8,983 new confirmed cases since Dec. 29, 2020 (the State did not release data over the New Year’s holiday). According to the five-day rolling average (shown in the chart below) there were 489,096 confirmed COVID cases in Michigan on Dec. 31, 2020. New case numbers continue to remain in the thousands, and while the vaccine is in its first phase of distribution, we still have a ways to go until the affects of this virus—physically, economically, socially and mentally—are no longer felt.

In November of 2020 the unemployment rates for the State of Michigan and for the City of Detroit increased after general declines between July and October. The State of Michigan reported an unemployment rate of 6.3 in November, a higher rate than what was reported in October, which was 5.7—the lowest rate reported since the pandemic began. While the November unemployment rate was still lower than what was reported between April and September of 2020, it was still an increase from October and likely a reflection of the stronger COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the State and growing caution from citizens as the confirmed case numbers began to rapidly increase.

For the City of Detroit, the unemployment rate for November of 2020 was 18.7, which is higher than the October rate of 15.4. While Detroit’s unemployment numbers remain much higher than what they were a year ago and above the State’s, the city is following the same trend as the State. Furthermore, the November unemployment data shows how the unemployment gap between the State and Detroit continues to grow wider as the case numbers increase.

A direct reflection of the unemployment data above is the number of small business closures. According to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), 33 percent of small businesses in Metro-Detroit closed as of Dec. 30, 2020. While this lower than the May 12, 2020 local small business closure percentage of 54 it is still far above the 3 percent closure rate on April 1, 2020—less than a month after COVID hit Michigan.

The data on the percentage of small business closures is determined through the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker. This source uses credit card transaction data from 500,000 small businesses and estimates closures from the number of small businesses not having at least one transaction in the previous three days. The data covers industries such as healthcare services, leisure and hospitality, and retail and transportation.

Michigan’s economy continues to rely heavily on the auto industry and between February and March of 2020 auto sales for cars, trucks and light weight vehicles were cut in half. Since then, the number of auto sales has slowly, yet steadily, grown—but not to pre-pandemic levels. In November of 2020 auto sales for: light weight vehicles was 15.5 million, compared to 16.9 million the year prior; light truck sales was 11.8 million compared to 12.6 million in November of 2019; car sales was 3.8 million, compared to 4.4 million the year prior. All three types of vehicles have experienced a decline, with light weight vehicles experiencing the largest decline when comparing 2019 sales to present sales.

Below shows the consumption expenditures of goods in the U.S. between 2019 and 2020. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, durable goods have an average useful life of at least 3 years (e.g. motor vehicles) while nondurable goods have an average useful life of less than 3 years (e.g. food) and services are commodities that cannot be stored or inventoried and are consumed at the time of purchase (e.g., dining out). The chart below shows how in March of 2020 consumption of nondurable goods increased while consumption of durable goods and services decreased. Following the initial panic of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumption expenditures of nondurable goods decreased in April, 2020 and have since somewhat leveled off. In November of 2020 $3167 billion in nondurable goods was consumed and in November, 2019 $3017 billion in nondurable goods was consumed.  Overall, there has been an increase in consumption expenditures of nondurable goods since last year. For durable goods, $1813 billion was consumed in November of 2020 and in November of 2019 $2032 billion was consumed; this shows an overall decrease.

Services have been the hardest hit in terms of expenditure consumption. In November of 2020 $8014 billion in services was consumed and in November of 2019 $8589 billion was consumed.

In addition to COVID impacts on employment rates and consumption of goods and services, it has also impacted the sale prices of homes. However, the pandemic seems to have had the opposite effect—home prices have continued to increase.

According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $135,760 in September of 2020; this was $164 higher than the average family dwelling price in August. The September 2020 price was an increase of $8,290 from September of 2019.

Local Journalism Plays Important Role in Local Government

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected hundreds of thousands of small businesses, and news organizations have not been exempt. When the pandemic first hit CandG News halted publication for several weeks, the Troy-Somerset Gazette and the Detroit Metro Times made layoffs, employees were furloughed at the Detroit Free Press and the Macomb Daily no longer operates out of a newsroom. These are just some local examples of how the pandemic impacted the local news market. And, while these cuts will certainly affect the communities in which they operate, local newspapers began suffering long before COVID.

In Michigan, there have been more than 30 newspaper closures, several mergers of smaller papers into larger organizations and a loss of more than 40 percent of journalists since 2004, according to the Pew Research Center. The Pew Research Center also found there were about 114,000 newsroom employees in 2008 in the US and by 2019 that number decreased to about 88,000. The brunt of that decrease occurred at print news organizations, with about 72,000 people being employed at a newspaper in 2008 and only about 35,000 being employed in 2019. While digital and broadcast newsrooms experienced increases in employment and serve as sources of delivering the news, that doesn’t mean the impact of a local newspaper on a community was maintained. There is just as much news today, and arguably more, to be reported on but fewer and fewer resources to do so.

According to the New York Times, 65 million Americans live in a county with only one local news source. In the Midwest there are 27 counties without a newspaper, according to Poynter. This means there is zero or maybe one local news source to report on city council and school board meetings, police and fire operations, business and a host of human interest stories in dozens of counties across the region and country. Certainly not everything can be followed and reported on in a county by one newspaper. When a story is reported on relating to any one local government it is more often than not that readers lack the full understanding of the story and its impact due to prolonged periods of disengagement by both the news organization and the community itself.

Disengagement in local news directly affects voter turnout, the number of candidates who run for local office and an increase in the potential for corruption. For example, a Governing.com study found that for every additional staffer hire a 6 percent increase in local voter turnout was expected. The study also found that for each additional staffer a newspaper were to hire per 1,000-person circulation the number of candidates who would run for local office would likely increase by a factor or 1.2. As for corruption, when local newspapers are thriving, or least not clawing themselves out of a hole, more time and resources can be spent to follow local policy and spending decisions and truly get to know a community so even small discrepancies or irregularities can be recognized and investigated. Additionally, the Brookings Institute “Local Journalism in Crisis” report found that borrowing costs significantly increased for counties where a newspaper closed. While this doesn’t directly point to wrongdoing it does leave many question as to why.

The necessity for strong local journalism is clear and as this pandemic dredges on and government budgets dwindle their importance only grows greater. One of the beauties of newspapers/journalism is supposed to be how it acts as the fourth estate, the watchdog of government. But, continued decline in newspaper advertising revenues, circulation and staffing levels current approaches to local journalism and its funding are not proving to be successful. This leaves a question as to how these local news organizations can diversify their revenue sources and if government subsidies for the organizations or the readers could help keep them afloat. Creative means to maintain local journalism are vital. To ensure this country has an educated and engaged electorate and sources to unveil wrongdoing and encourage civic participation we must support the local news organizations we currently have and also vocalize their importance and demand more coverage.

Michigan’s Unemployment Benefits Lowest in the Region

The national average for weekly unemployment benefits in the United States is $468; $362 per week is what is provided in Michigan. Michigan has the lowest unemployment benefits of any state in the Great Lakes region and ninth lowest in the nation. In addition to the unemployment amount being $362 a week, that amount is traditionally paid for 20 weeks (it has currently been extended to 26 weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Even with extended and additional unemployment benefits, families in Michigan continue to financially struggle.

According to the most recent Kids Count report, 56 percent of adults living in a household with children have reported losing income as of Nov. 9, 2020 in Michigan. The same report states that only 4 percent of adults living in a household with children in Michigan are receiving their full pay and not using leave for time not working, while 92 percent who are off work are not receiving any pay for their time off.

The October 2020 unemployment rate in Michigan was 5.1 percent, compared to 3.5 percent in October of 2019 (the most recent data available).  At the national level, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the unemployment rate was 6.9 percent of the non-farm working population. At the national and local level, unemployment rates aren’t as high as they were in April, when the pandemic first hit, but they are higher than they were compared to 2019.

So, as the pandemic continues we are more likely to see higher unemployment rates and more people unable to meet their needs from the unemployment benefits they receive (or should be receiving). According to a recent Money.com article, unemployment benefits in most states do not cover the basic needs of most families. This is due to the cost of living in a state (food, rent, utilities) compared to the amount and length of unemployment benefits received.

The map below shows the maximum unemployment an individual can receive in each state. Massachusetts has the highest amount of unemployment paid to an individual (with dependents) at $1,234 a week; it is also one of the wealthiest states. Conversely, Mississippi pays the lowest amount at $235. According to the article, Kentucky and Maine are among the poorest states in the Country but their unemployment benefits ($552 and $667, respectively) allow residents to cover their basic needs.  The unemployment benefits in Kentucky and Maine are higher than that of Michigan’s $362 a week.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, families with two adults and two children in the Detroit-Livonia-Warren metro need an annual income of $79,308 – or $6,609 per month – to live comfortably. With the an unemployment amount of $362 a week for 26 weeks (factoring in the pandemic) for an adult household of two (two adults bringing in income, but with two children as well), that brings in about $19,000 for the year—far below the amount a family with two children needs to live comfortably.

As the pandemic continues on, citizens and certain lawmakers continue to urge for additional relief to aide affected families and the economy. Just last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on the legislature to permanently extend the unemployment benefits length to 26 weeks and also increase the weekly amount (no amount was specified). No movement has been made on the request. Michigan’s current unemployment benefits were inked into law in 2002 and are due for an overhaul. The way it currently stands, hundreds of people could be left without unemployment benefits the day after Christmas because of a combination of having maxed out their time receiving Michigan unemployment benefits and the fact that federal COVID unemployment programs created through the CARES Act are set to expire. Changes to unemployment benefits need to take place at the State level, but help from the federal government is also necessary, especially during the pandemic. 

What’s the Future of School Vaccines in Michigan?

Healthcare workers and the elderly will be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it is widely distributed. And, in the months following their vaccinations, the general public will become eligible too. While there are still many questions to be answered regarding the adult population being vaccinated against COVID, there are also questions regarding children being vaccinated. 

When will the vaccine be ready for children? Is it safe for them? Will children be required to be vaccinated to attend school?

According to a recent Washington Post article, trials for a COVID vaccine geared toward children have either just begun or have yet to start, depending on the company. This information alone means that a vaccine for children is farther out, however more than 1.1 million children have tested positive for the virus thus far. A child’s immune system responds differently than an adult’s does which is just one reason why child-oriented trials are necessary; ensuring the vaccine is safe and effective for this sector of the population is critical.  

Certainly when a vaccine will be available for children will impact when students can safely return to school and partake in school-oriented activities. However, even when one becomes available, the question of whether they will be required to obtain take the vaccine to attend school remains. States determine vaccine laws and in Michigan the Public Health Code requires children to be immunized against polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. There are exceptions though, such as if vaccinating a child violates the religious beliefs of the family or is medically advised against because it could cause more harm than good to the child. 

Below are the overall vaccination and waiver rates for the diseases mentioned above by county in Southeastern Michigan. This highlights how the majority of the K-12 students in Southeastern Michigan are vaccinated as required by Michigan law.  According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Detroit (which was included in the regional maps due to its size) had the highest percentage of students vaccinated as of February 2020 at 94.1 percent, followed by Washtenaw County with 93.9 percent of its student population being vaccinated. Livingston County had the lowest percentage of students vaccinated at 90 percent. Conversely, Livingston County had the highest vaccine waiver rate at 7.7 percent while Detroit had the lowest at 1.9 percent. 

The data displayed above is reflective of vaccines required by the Michigan Public Health Code and as of yet there is no word as to whether or not the COVID vaccine will be required for school attendance in Michigan. In theory, we can only hope that vaccination rates for school-aged children will be as high as they are for the required vaccines in Michigan. But, until a vaccine for that population becomes available, and likely for sometime after, schools will have to continue to enforce social distancing, mask-wearing and regular sanitization, if they are meeting in person. 

Flu Vaccination Rates Increase as COVID Vaccine Authorization Pends

The flu vaccine has been increasingly stressed this year to thwart a winter where COVID-19 and the flu run rampant. In Michigan, 350,021 people had already tested positive for COVID as of Nov. 28 and while a vaccine is expected to be available soon, it is not here yet. Currently, the best chance to avoid contracting COVID is to remain at home whenever possible and wear masks and maintain a distance from others when needing to leave the house. With the flu though, a vaccine is available, and has been available prior to every flu season for decades.

For the 2020-21 flu season, 198 million flu shots have been made available to the public, an increase from 175 million last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the Washington Post, national pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens have reported demand for the flu vaccine is higher this year than in years past, even double in same cases. However, according to the data from the Michigan Department of Health and Services there was no county in Southeastern Michigan where even half of the adult population had received the flu vaccine for the 2019-20 flu season.

Washtenaw County had the highest percentage of adults who received the flu vaccine at 42 percent last year, followed by Oakland County where 41 percent of the adult population received the flu vaccine. St. Clair County had among the lowest percentage of adult residents who received the flu vaccine last year at 25 percent. The City of Detroit had the lowest percentage though at 13 percent.

The CDC recommends everyone above the age of 6 months receive a flu vaccine, with rare exceptions. While the flu vaccine is widely recommended for nearly all ages, those with compromised immune systems and above the age of 65 tend to be the most targeted populations for vaccination. According to the CDC, between 70 and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group. With such data, it would make sense that the counties with the highest population of older adults would also have among the highest flu vaccination rates. However, that is not that case.

In Southeastern Michigan, St. Clair County has the highest population of adults 65 years of age or older at 19.5 percent and a 25 percent flu vaccination rate for adults, the lowest in the region. In Washtenaw County 14.5 percent of the population is made up of older adults, among the lowest percentage in the region (Detroit’s older adult population makes up 13 percent of its population and 13 percent of the adult population received the flu vaccine last year) yet it has the highest flu vaccination rate.

The flu vaccine for the current flu season is still available, but attention has certainly shifted in recent weeks to the availability of a COVID vaccine. According to media reports, Moderna applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for authorization of its COVID vaccine Monday and Pfizer applied for emergency authorization of its COVID vaccine last Friday. According to CNN, the FDA is scheduled to meet with its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on Dec.10 to review Pfizer’s application and on Dec. 17 to review Moderna’s application. If approved, millions of doses of the vaccines could be shipped around the US by mid-December. According to media reports, about 6.4 million Pfizer vaccines will be distributed throughout the US by mid-December and about 20 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will be available by the end of 2020. The CDC will make the recommendation on who should get the shots first; it is likely healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be recommended to get vaccinated first.

For Michigan, Henry Ford Hospital estimate that as early as Dec. 12 vaccines can begin to be distributed. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan expects that 5,000 residents will need to be vaccinated a day for 3-4 months to ensure the City’s population is vaccinated.

While we wait for a COVID vaccine to be approved and distributed, it is imperative we take additional steps to maintain our health, such as receiving a flu vaccine. The data from the State shows that not even half of the adult population in Michigan received one last year (the State average is 32 percent); we must do better at becoming vaccinated against COVID once vaccines are widely available. The flu is deadly; up to 62,000 people died from it last year, according to the CDC. However, 267,000 people have already been killed by COVID in the US and it hasn’t even been an active virus in the US for a year.

Where are the Deer at in Southeastern Michigan?

There are about 2 million deer in the State of Michigan and they are most active in the spring and fall at dusk and dawn. Such activity, especially in areas more heavily populated by deer and vehicles, can be attributed to thousands of deer-vehicle crashes a year. According to Michigan Traffic Facts, in Southeastern Michigan in 2019 Oakland County had the highest number of deer-vehicle crashes at 1,836. It is estimated by data3 from ArcGIS that Oakland County has a deer population of about 13,000, or 15 deer per square mile. Regionally, Livingston County has the highest deer population at about 25,400, or 45 deer per square mile. According to the data, there were 905 deer-vehicle crashes in Livingston County in 2019. Wayne County reported the fewest number of crashes in 2019 at 499; Wayne County’s deer population is estimated to be about 9,200 per square mile.

Washtenaw County data is forth coming.

While the size of a deer population plays a role in the number of deer-vehicle crashes in a county, so does the amount of traffic and how their living environment has been impacted. The Average Annual Daily Traffic map from the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments shows that Livingston County has far less daily traffic than Oakland County. So, while Livingston County may have a higher deer population than Oakland County, the amount of traffic clearly plays a role. Also, according to the Michigan State Police, 80 percent of deer-vehicle crashes occur on two-lane roads.

As areas further develop, deer and humans are also interacting more, particularly as deer become more comfortable with their new neighbors. Backyard gardens, bird feeders and other items the deer prefer to munch on also bring them more in contact with humans, and the areas they live in—including their roadways–as they look for easily accessible areas to eat.

Deer-vehicle crashes may not be entirely avoidable but there are solutions to at least curb them. Such ways to avoid crashes with a deer include:

  • Watching the sides of the road as you drive, particularly in low visibility or tall grasses and woods near the road;
  • Being aware for groups of deer. If one deer crosses the road there is a good chance more may cross as they tend to travel in groups;
  • Using high beams at night (when possible) to help see farther ahead and to identify the eye-shine of a deer;
  • Avoiding swerving around a deer, instead break firmly and honk the horn;
  • Slowing down.

Government entities can also help curb the amount of deer-vehicle crashes by:

  • Enforcing speed limits;
  • Installing fences 8 feet or higher in high deer traffic areas to keep them off the road;
  • Studies to identify frequently used pathways of deer and setting up warning signs for drivers.
  • Installing specific devices that warn deer of oncoming traffic to scare them away from the road.

Oakland County’s COVID Numbers Surpass Wayne County

Michigan reported 5,772 new COVID cases on Nov. 18, 2020, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 277,806. In Chart 1 we show that the State total for the number of confirmed COVID cases on Nov. 16 was 264,884–a five-day rolling average. The five-day rolling average for the total number of COVID cases (Chart 1) reflects a smoother curve and adjusts for fluctuations in testing and/or the quality of reporting or failure to report. This chart also shows that the curve continues to increase at a much higher rate than previously.

Chart 2 shows that on Nov. 16, according to the five-day rolling average, Oakland County reported the highest number of confirmed COVID cases in Southeastern Michigan at 32,190; Oakland County surpassed Wayne County as having the highest number of confirmed cases on Nov. 11. Wayne County reported the second highest number of cases on Nov. 16 at 31,527. Macomb County reported 28,088 COVID cases on Nov. 16 and Detroit reported 17,893.

As shown in Chart 3, new daily numbers continue to spike above early daily highs, although there has been a decrease in the last few days. Wayne County reported the highest number of new daily confirmed cases on Nov. 16 at 93, followed by Macomb County with 92 new confirmed cases and Oakland County with 91. Detroit reported 43 new daily confirmed COVID cases on Nov. 16. These numbers are also based on a five-day rolling average.

The daily data highlighted in these posts is from Michigan.gov/coronavirus, where data is updated daily at 3 p.m. Historical data were supplied from covidtracking.com, which republishes COVID data from the State. Additionally, the case totals do not reflect the number of people who have recovered, just those who have been infected. In early June the State changed how it reports its data on the website, making data more accurate in the long-term but more complicated to track as well. The State regularly updates older data and as we continue to publish regular updates on COVID the State’s changes to past data many not always be reflected in our posts. The data published in new posts is accurate for the day we received it on though.

The chart below (Chart 4) shows that Macomb County has the highest number of COVID confirmed cases per capita. According to the data released on Nov. 18, Macomb County had 33,506 COVID cases per million people. Wayne County had the second highest number of confirmed cases per million people at 31,496. Detroit had 12,068 confirmed COVID cases per million people; no other counties in the region had fewer number of cases per capita.

In Chart 5, the five-day rolling average for the number of deaths, shows the number of deaths in the State of Michigan reached 8,078 on Nov. 16. The actual cumulative COVID-19 deaths on Nov. 18 was 8,190, an increase of 62 deaths from the prior day. Chart 6 (a five-day rolling average) shows that on Nov. 16, the City of Detroit reported 1,565 deaths. Wayne County had the second highest total at 1,389 deaths on Nov. 16. Death related numbers overall remain flat, however hospitalizations are rapidly increasing according to Bureau of Epidemiology at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Sarah Lyon-Callo.

Yesterday (Nov. 18) marked the beginning of a three week pause on certain operations such as indoor dining, high school and college in-person learning and recreational activities such as movie theater going and indoor skating. This pause is meant to slow the spread of the virus in Michigan, which has been particularly rampant the last several weeks. Currently,  Michigan has sixth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country and the fifth highest number of deaths.  A pause will not suffice in slowing the spread though; continued diligence in wearing a mask, washing hands, keeping a distance from others and not participating in group activities it what is truly needed to bring new daily case numbers back down.

Local Government Budgets Not Out of the Woods Yet

The coronavirus pandemic hit Michigan in March and quickly came emergency orders triggering school, government and business closings. This left many concerned about the potential economic impact on these industries and sectors and beyond. These concerns still loom today, especially as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just announced a three week pause of in-person learning for high schools and universities, indoor dining, operations for casinos and movie theaters and other forms of recreation to help slow the rampant spread of the virus.

Local county government have adapted, however, approving or recommending balanced budgets, in most cases, despite early economic concerns. Much of this is because of actions taken by the counties themselves, such as hiring freezes and furloughs, coupled with COVID-19 funding passed down by the federal and/or state governments. COVID-19 funding comes with stipulations on spending, while it also frees up general fund monies for other expenses. 

On Aug. 31 it was announced by the State of Michigan that $150 million in Coronavirus Relief Local Government Grants (CRLGG) program funds would be administered to county and municipal governments through the State of Michigan Treasury Department. Below we show how much each county in Southeastern Michigan received through the CRLGG program. These funds replace the statutory revenue sharing payments that local governments would have normally received for the month of September. Counties, cities, townships and villages receive an annual amount of revenue sharing but those payments come in monthly; the CRLGG funds are about 150 percent of the amount local governments would have received for their September amount. 

In addition to CRLGG funding a handful of counties, and the City of Detroit, received direct CARES Act funding from the federal government early in the pandemic, the City of Detroit received $117 million, Wayne County $197 million, Oakland County $219 million, Macomb County received $152 million and Kent County received $115 million. In addition to the State of Michigan receiving $3 billion from the CARES Act funding.

Just as with CRLGG funding, CARES Act monies must also be used on CARES Act stipulated expenses. Such approved expenses include: personal protective equipment, public safety items and personnel, public health items and personnel, social services and items related to emergency management and communications. Also, under both programs, any funds used on non-eligible expenses or not used by Dec. 30, 2020, must be returned by Jan. 30, 2021.

Despite counties such as Oakland, Wayne and expectedly Macomb passing balanced budgets with minimal funding cuts, and monies still in the fund balance, losses in government employment continue. According to the National Association of Counties, about 1.4 million local government jobs were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, and of those 451,000 have since been restored. However, this means that 939,000 jobs have yet to be restored to reach pre-pandemic levels. NACO also noted that state and federal job levels are being restored at a faster rate than local government jobs levels. Data for the State of Michigan on local government employment was not available. 

Overall, while supplemental funds have been sent to aid local governments we must be aware and concerned of the potential long-term effects of this pandemic on government services, and of course the overall economy. Government entities are primarily funded by property taxes; revenues from the state and federal governments, services, special tax levies, also impact a government unit’s budget. Declines in property value driven by an economic downtown would not show up just yet on government units’ tax rolls, meaning the longer-term impact of the COVID-19 recession have yet to be seen. If government revenue declines so do the services it can support, including public health, social services and public safety. We are still weathering this storm on a local, national and global front. As COVID case numbers continue to increase rapidly actions are being taken to curb that spread. Complaints rise as shutdowns occur. However, greater responsibility on mask-wearing, social distancing and limiting interaction with others could also help curb the spread, and result in less stringent mandates that directly impact the economy.  

Michigan COVID New Daily Numbers Continue To Rise

Michigan reported 6,008 new COVID cases on Nov. 11, 2020, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 229,285. In Chart 1 we show that the State total for the number of confirmed COVID cases on Nov. 8 was 212,437–a five-day rolling average. The five-day rolling average for the total number of COVID cases (Chart 1) reflects a smoother curve and adjusts for fluctuations in testing and/or the quality of reporting or failure to report. This chart also shows that the curve has begun to increase at a much higher rate than previously.

Chart 2 shows that, based on the five-day rolling averages, the growth of new COVID cases in Southeastern Michigan is reflective of the statewide trend that daily case numbers are increasing at a higher rate than previously. However, when COVID-19 first hit Michigan in March of 2020 Detroit was reporting the highest numbers for a municipality and/or a county. Now, as Nov. 8, Wayne County reported the highest number of confirmed COVID cases in Southeastern Michigan at 27,198 followed by Oakland County with 27,042 confirmed cases. Macomb County reported 23,361 COVID cases on Nov. 8, and Detroit reported 16,614.

As shown in Chart 3, Macomb County reported the highest number of new daily confirmed cases on Nov. 8 at 223, followed by Oakland County with 209 new confirmed cases and Wayne County with 195. Detroit reported 52 new daily confirmed COVID cases on Nov. 8. These numbers are also based on a five-day rolling average.

The daily data highlighted in these posts is from Michigan.gov/coronavirus, where data is updated daily at 3 p.m. Historical data were supplied from covidtracking.com, which republishes COVID data from the State. Additionally, the case totals do not reflect the number of people who have recovered, just those who have been infected. In early June the State changed how it reports its data on the website, making data more accurate in the long-term but more complicated to track as well. The State regularly updates older data and as we continue to publish regular updates on COVID the State’s changes to past data many not always be reflected in our posts. The data published in new posts is accurate for the day we received it on though.

The chart below (Chart 4) highlights how Wayne County not only has the highest number of confirmed total COVID cases in the region (this data does not include Detroit’s numbers) it also has the highest number of confirmed cases per capita. According to the data released on Nov. 11, Wayne County had 31,496 COVID cases per million people. Macomb County had the second highest number of confirmed cases per million people at 28,089. Detroit had 11,242 confirmed COVID cases per million people; no other counties in the region had fewer number of cases per capita.

In Chart 5, the five-day rolling average for the number of deaths, shows the number of deaths in the State of Michigan reached 7,607 on Nov. 8. The actual cumulative COVID-19 deaths on Nov. 11 was 7,766, an increase of 42 deaths from the prior day. Chart 6 (a five-day rolling average) shows that on Nov. 8, the City of Detroit reported 1,556 deaths. Wayne County had the second highest total at 1,370 deaths on Nov. 8. Although the curved has flatted for the number of COVID deaths in Southeastern Michigan, state health officials are predicting those numbers to begin to increase at a more rapid rate again. For example, Spectrum Health on the west side of the state reported more COVID related deaths in the last three weeks and that they are preparing to hit capacity with COVID patients, according to a Detroit News article.

Michigan’s new daily COVID numbers continue to increase at a rapid rate. Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 11 new daily case numbers in Michigan went from 681 to 6,008. Although new daily case numbers are higher now than they were in April, some new trends have emerged. For example, the 20-29 age group leads with the most number of cases, and college campuses over the last several weeks have been experiencing large outbreaks. Even with demographics shifting since the spring, community spread is occurring, the numbers are increasing at a rapid rate, and hospitals are once again nearing capacity. Furthermore, positive COVID test rates have increased to 11.4 percent statewide; last month Michigan averaged a positive test rate of about 3.7 percent.

As all the data points to the fact that we are in the second-wave, it is vital that masks be worn in public and inside, social distance from others be maintained and gatherings be avoided.