Michigan Now Worst State in U.S. for COVID-19

Michigan now has the highest COVID-19 case rate in the country, and numbers are still rapidly rising in the state. The number of new cases is approaching the worst the state has had during the pandemic, and the number of new daily cases at the end of March was more than 5 times the number just a few weeks earlier at the end of February, and it has nearly doubled in the last two weeks.

Governor Whitmer is urging medical providers to "fill every [vaccine] slot even if they don't have someone in the priority groups right now." Whitmer also indicated that she thinks it "would be prudent for schools to consider keeping students virtual for a week after spring break" due to the likely rise in infections resulting from travel.

According to an analysis of per capita new COVID-19 cases by metro areas, the worst 6 are all in Michigan, with Jackson topping the list, followed by Detroit, Flint, and Monroe, then Lansing at #5 and Owosso at 6th. New York City ranks 7th, followed by Battle Creek at 8th. In total, 7 of the top 10 worst metro areas for COVID-19 in the country right now are in Michigan.

In response to the high number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan, White House has increased the number of vaccine doses being delivered to the state.

The pandemic is not over. It is critical that people wear a mask when outside their home, that they maintain physical distance whenever people who have not been fully vaccinated are present (remember, it takes weeks for vaccines to take full effect; you aren't fully vaccinated immediately after getting a shot!), that people wash their hands, avoid crowded areas, and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

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Practice Self-Care During the Derek Chauvin Trial

Over the past week, a variety of traumatic and potentially triggering testimony has been presented in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck, resulting in his death. Many people are watching live coverage of the trial, and many more are reading updates in the news. We encourage everyone to practice self-care, particularly Black members of our communities, who are most likely to be impacted by secondary trauma from the trial. Consider taking breaks from or avoiding the news and social media if you are becoming overwhelmed, finding time to relax, talking to friends and family about how you're doing, and setting boundaries on how much you talk about the trial. Avoid compensating with potentially harmful behaviors like alcohol use. Working with a therapist or support group can also provide helpful ways to deal with the experiences.

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Pfizer/BioNTech Announces COVID-19 Vaccine 100% Effective in Adolescents

Pfizer/BioNTech recently released a report stating that the Phase 3 trial of their COVID-19 vaccine was 100% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections in adolescents ranging from 12-15 years old, with no serious side effects. The study had 2,260 adolescents enrolled. From these results, Pfizer/BioNTech has filed for an expansion of their COVID-19 vaccine emergency authorization use to include this population with the FDA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). In the same announcement, Pfizer/BioNTech stated they had just begun trials in children 6 months to 11 years of age. This data is promising, showing that the vaccines are safe in a wider population, crucial if herd immunity is ever to be reached. So far, almost 60 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated, but at present, only people age 16 and up are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in the US.

This news is especially crucial as cases continue to surge once again in Michigan and other places, with many of the new cases and hospitalizations in younger populations, and schools being tied to outbreaks. For the first time, the majority of new hospitalizations have been in those 50-65 years old as compared to those over the age of 65. Cases have decreased significantly in populations that have been vaccinated, such as in nursing homes, however additional challenges are still ahead, especially with the new strains of the virus that causes COVID-19. If younger populations continue to be at risk, then it will be crucial to vaccinate as many people as possible. Thus, while it is imperative that those that can get vaccinated should as soon as they can, we must continue to wear our masks, socially distance, practice proper hand hygiene, and follow any additional public health guidelines. 

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California Supreme Court Finds Imprisoning People for Inability to Pay Cash Bail to Be Unconstitutional

On March 25, the California Supreme Court ruled that "conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional." The ruling requires judges to take a person's ability to pay into account before setting bail, and to favor pretrial release. Defendants may only be kept in jail when there is "clear and convincing" evidence that it is the only way to protect the public and ensure that they come to court. According to the ruling, "The common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional," and "Other conditions of release — such as electronic monitoring, regular check-ins with a pretrial case manager, community housing or shelter, and drug and alcohol treatment — can in many cases protect public and victim safety as well as assure the arrestee’s appearance at trial."

The bail system has long been criticized for putting people who have not been convicted of a crime in jail simply for being unable to come up with significant amounts of money quickly, and thereby criminalizing poverty. The disproportionate targeting of BIPOC by the criminal justice system, combined with the economic impacts of White supremacy on BIPOC communities, has led to a large number of BIPOC (particularly Black people) being in jail without having been convicted of a crime. A study of San Francisco (presented during the Supreme Court case) found that Black adults were 11 times more likely than White adults to be put into jail before trial.

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New York Moves to End Qualified Immunity for Police

New York City Council recently passed legislation to end qualified immunity for law enforcement, which prevents lawsuits against government officials who were performing official duties. It is now awaiting the signature of Mayor de Blasio, who is supportive of the measure. Currently, excessive use of force by police can rarely be prosecuted, but the new bill would give citizens the right to be free of excessive force, and unreasonable searches and seizures, and removes qualified immunity for officers involved. While a Supreme Court ruling provides federal protection for police from many lawsuits, “The Council’s legislation would end qualified immunity for police officers in New York City by creating a new local civil right protecting New Yorkers against unreasonable search and seizures and against excessive force and ban the use of qualified immunity, or substantially equivalent immunities, as a defense.” The New York Police Department covers the largest municipality in the nation, underscoring how impactful this decision will be. The measure will not only allow citizens to hold officers accountable for their actions but will also hold departments accountable as well. It will become increasingly costly for departments that keep or continually hire cops whose actions lead to damages and lawsuits. The bill also includes language requiring the city keep records to measure the success of this new policy and inform changes in other cities. 

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Majority of Black Residents of East Lansing Don't Think POC are Treated Fairly By Police

On March 23, East Lansing City Council reviewed a new survey of 500 East Lansing residents about law enforcement. The survey found that 52% Black residents and  22% of White residents don't think the East Lansing Police Department treats people of color fairly. 56% of Black respondents said that police officers don't treat people of color fairly. 51% of Black residents said that they feel less safe than they did a year ago. Councilwoman Lisa Babcock expressed doubt that 57% of Black residents in the city are satisfied with the East Lansing Police Department, which the survey showed. The survey did not collect any racial data on respondents other than to ask if they were Black, eliminating the possibility of the results providing information on how other groups feel about police in the city.

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