COVID-19 Cases Still Surging in Michigan

The surge of COVID-19 cases in Michigan is continuing, with the state still having the worst case rate in the country. There is now a wide margin between Michigan and the state with the second-highest case rate: 605.5 cases per 100k people in Michigan vs. 314 per 100k in New Jersey. Michigan also has the highest proportion of cases caused by the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus (39%), which is more infectious and causes more severe disease than the original strain. The surge in cases (including the increasing number of cases of the more infectious variants) has been connected to people having a false sense of security due to increasing vaccination rates, and particularly younger people who are unvaccinated and are participating in more in-person activities, including youth sports and extracurriculars.

On Friday, Governor Whitmer requested that for the next two weeks, youth sports be paused, high schools provide remote classes, and people avoid eating indoors at restaurants. The request is not accompanied by a mandate or legal force. On Monday, the Ingham County Health Department made a similar recommendation, asking that "local schools avoid in-person instruction for students in grades 6-12 for the week of April 12" and that they implement "rapid testing for students who traveled during spring break." The CDC has also recommended "refraining from youth sports that are not outside and cannot be conducted at least 6 feet apart."

A petition demanding that in-person schooling be "paused in Michigan until the COVID-19 spread goes down and we can ensure safe learning environments" has been circulated. The petition is signed by Black Lives Matter Michigan, Michigan Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (MICORE), Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan (DAYUM), MI Ed Justice, Detroit Heals Detroit, and MI Students Dream, and has collected over 10,000 signatures.

More information:

New Mexico Becomes Second State to End Qualified Immunity

Last week, New Mexico became the second state (following Colorado) to ban qualified immunity for law enforcement, which is used to prevent lawsuits against government officials who were performing official duties. In most states, it’s often extraordinarily difficult to prosecute police when misconduct—such as excessive force or unreasonable search and seizures—occurs. The new law will provide an avenue for accountability, allowing individuals to file civil charges against law enforcement when misconduct occurs and, hopefully, be a step towards preventing future abuses from happening in the first place. 

“Eliminating the legal doctrine of qualified immunity not only provides financial justice to victims of police abuse, including people who have been wrongfully convicted, but it also incentivizes police agencies to properly hire, train, and supervise law enforcement to prevent abuses from occurring in the first place,” said Rebecca Brown, the Innocence Project’s director of policy.

More information:

St. Louis Justice Center Inmates Demand Hearings

Incarcerated individuals at the St. Louis Justice Center in Missouri broke windows, set small fires, and chanted, “we want court dates,” to protest court delays and dangerous living conditions—largely (but not entirely) due to the pandemic. The uprising is just one of many staged by inmates at this facility to highlight grievances such as poor nutrition, lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE), denial of in-person visitation, lack of information about their legal cases, and more. 

Many courts across the country have limited proceedings to what they deem the most “essential” and “urgent” matters. These delays, combined with many individuals’ inability to pay expensive bail fees, leave many people in jail for an indeterminate amount of time while they await trial, creating a cascade of civil rights issues and abuses. BIPOC, particularly Black men, are disproportionately impacted, as they are disproportionately targeted by the justice system and are more likely to have cash bail used to keep them incarcerated before trial.

Beyond the already abysmal pre-pandemic conditions in many jails and prisons, COVID-19 cases in U.S. prisons are approximately 5.5 times higher than case rates in the general population. Without mandatory testing, PPE, and the ability to appropriately social distance, once the virus gets in, it’s a challenge to get it under control. In addition, “given their older age and disproportionately high burden of underlying conditions, incarcerated people are at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 infections that require hospitalization or end in early death,” according to the Harvard Medical School's Center for Primary Care.

More Information:

Congressional Candidate Makes Racist Comments at GOP Forum

Sery Kim, who is running in a special election to replace late United States Representative Ron Wright from Texas, made racist remarks against Chinese immigrants at a GOP forum earlier this week. Kim claimed that Chinese immigrants “steal our intellectual property, they give us coronavirus, they don’t hold themselves accountable” and that “I don’t want them here at all.” This prompted two Korean American GOP women who are U.S. Representatives California to rescind their endorsement of Sery Kim. She has also received backlash from the Dallas/Fort Worth Asian-American Citizen Council and AAPI Progressive Action, who work to build up political power for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Kim, who worked in the Small Business Association under Donald Trump, is Korean American and used this as a reasoning as to why she was able to make racist claims, stating “I can say that because I’m Korean,” referring to her anti-Chinese comments. She has since said that she was making claims against the Chinese Communist Party and has now filed a lawsuit against the Texas Tribune for referring to her remarks as “racist,” but those claims don’t seem to match her actual remarks. This rhetoric continues to perpetuate harmful stereotypes that Chinese individuals are to blame for the coronavirus pandemic and don’t belong in the United States and is lending to the increased violence against Asian Americans in the past year. 

More information:

Study Shows 1 in 3 COVID-19 Patients Diagnosed With Psychiatric or Neurological Condition Within 6 Months

A recent study published in the Lancet Psychiatry looked into neurological and psychiatric outcomes within the 6 months following a COVID-19 diagnosis. The study, based on 236,379 COVID-19 survivors’ health records, showed that around 1 in 3 were diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within the 6 months after their COVID-19 diagnosis. For about 1 in 8 COVID-19 survivors in the study, this was their first such diagnosis. A lot of research has been and continues to be done to understand the potential long-term effects of COVID-19, such as the increased risk of strokes documented in other studies and in this study. In addition, however, there were those diagnosed with dementia, parkinsonism, some form of an anxiety disorder, or a psychotic disorder, to name a few. The study suggested that while the risk of developing a psychiatric or neurological condition was greatest in those with severe COVID-19, it was not limited to those individuals. More research needs to be done to understand the mechanisms behind the increased risk of these conditions after getting COVID-19, however it is clear that there are many long-term risks and consequences to getting COVID-19, and we must continue to do our part to protect each other and ourselves until this pandemic is over. 

More information:

New Study Examines COVID-19 Mortality by Gender and Race in Michigan

In Michigan, the age-standardized mortality rates per 100,000 people were as follows:

More information:

MSU to Offer On-Campus COVID-19 Vaccination to Students

Michigan State University has received approval from the state to begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine to students, allowing students to receive the vaccine without having to leave campus. MSU will be administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and CATA is providing free transportation for students to get to the vaccination site (the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education). MSU students can sign up for vaccinations on this page.

More information:

CDC Reverses Statement that COVID-19-Vaccinated People Are Not Contagious

After CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky recently suggested in an interview that those vaccinated against COVID-19 may no longer transmit the virus that causes the disease, the CDC announced that Dr. Walensky was speaking broadly and that this conclusion still can’t be made. Dr. Walensky stated that “Our data from the CDC today suggests that vaccinated people do not carry the virus,” however studies are still ongoing to confirm this. So far, research based on real-world data has shown that it is much more difficult for those vaccinated to get COVID-19, however other public health and medical experts have stated that infection is still possible. In addition, the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are becoming dominant will definitely affect future research and outcomes, as current vaccines may be somewhat less effective against them. The CDC has since clarified that we still do not know how COVID-19 vaccines affect transmission, and that even if you are vaccinated and can safely partake in some activities, it is important to still take the necessary precautions such as wearing a mask, practicing proper hand hygiene, socially distancing, and following any additional public health guidelines.

More information:

COVID-19 Vaccine are Always Free to Receive, Even When Health Insurance Information is Collected

Starting last Monday (April 5th), the Ingham County Health Department began collecting health insurance information from people receiving COVID-19 vaccines. Despite this change, no one will be charged any out-of-pocket cost for the vaccination. The federal government is ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines are provided at no cost to the people receiving them but "providers are allowed to seek reimbursement for a vaccine administration fee from insurance plans including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance." The Ingham County Health Department "was the only local provider not billing the fee to insurance" and changed its policies "to be consistent with other providers."

More information:

European Medicines Agency States Possible Link Between AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine and Blood Disorder 

In a recent announcement, a European Medicines Agency (EMA) official stated that there was “a clear association” between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and developing a blood clotting or bleeding disorder. Other experts, however, have not confirmed this statement and research is still ongoing. The EMA had announced at the end of March, 2021 that while there was a possible link, the direct cause and a direct link to the vaccine is unknown. That being said, they included in the announcement that providers of the vaccine should be on alert for signs of clotting or bleeding disorders after the vaccination. Currently, the EMA still states that while there is a possible link between the two, it is still a very rare occurrence and the benefits of the vaccine still greatly outweigh the risks.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is not approved for use in the United States, and many countries have banned or limited its use due to concerns.

More information:

Michigan Attorney General Warns About COVID-19 Scams

On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned about vaccine scams "offering a reward in exchange for personal information." The warning notes that "The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), in collaboration with a number of other federal agencies, recently issued alerts to the public due to an increasing number of victims receiving email and/or text messages after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine."

"In the messages, people are prompted to participate in a fraudulent post-vaccine survey with the promise of cash or a prize upon completion. The bogus surveys are reportedly asking victims to pay for shipping and handling in order to receive a prize that is never delivered."

The Intellectual Property Rights Center has indicated that "No post-vaccine surveys are being conducted by Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson" and "Any emails or text messages that purport to be sent on behalf of these companies seeking personal financial information are illegitimate and fraudulent as these companies would never request an advanced payment for shipping or other expenses."

More information:

This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):