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Wednesday, Sept. 16: Latest developments on coronavirus in Michigan

MLive - GrandRapids/Muskegon/Kalamazoo logo MLive - GrandRapids/Muskegon/Kalamazoo 9/16/2020 By Zahra Ahmad, mlive.com
a group of people standing in front of a window: Flint resident India Seahorn, center, holds her 1-year-old son Zy'Aire Duman as she joins family while coping with saying goodbye to her uncle Calvin James \"Duper\" Munerlyn during his visitation on Friday, May 8, 2020 at Sheldon T. Banks Funeral Chapel in Flint. Munerlyn, 43, of Flint was shot May 1 at the Family Dollar store off East Fifth Avenue following an alleged verbal altercation with 45-year-old Sharmel Teague after he told the woman’s daughter she needed to wear a mask while inside. © Jake May | MLive.com/The Flint Journal, MLive.com/mlive.com/TNS Flint resident India Seahorn, center, holds her 1-year-old son Zy'Aire Duman as she joins family while coping with saying goodbye to her uncle Calvin James \"Duper\" Munerlyn during his visitation on Friday, May 8, 2020 at Sheldon T. Banks Funeral Chapel in Flint. Munerlyn, 43, of Flint was shot May 1 at the Family Dollar store off East Fifth Avenue following an alleged verbal altercation with 45-year-old Sharmel Teague after he told the woman’s daughter she needed to wear a mask while inside.

Michigan’s health officials reported 571 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, Sept. 15 and 11 new deaths.

Additionally, the Michigan Senate passes a bill to allow absentee ballot processing to begin one day earlier; statewide, it’s uncertain when businesses will bring employees back; and bills that would exempt Michigan businesses from paying state taxes on PPE were introduced to the legislatures.

Here’s the latest on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting people across the state:

Michigan reports 571 new coronavirus cases for Tuesday, Sept. 15

The state reported 11 new deaths, including five that occurred outside the last 24 hours and were late additions discovered through regular vital records reviews.

Health officials recommend looking at seven-day moving averages to evaluate data trends during the pandemic. The state is now averaging 756 new cases, compared to an average of 659 a week ago. The seven-day average of deaths is nine deaths a day compared to an average of eight a week ago.

Since the start of the pandemic, Michigan has confirmed 115,183 confirmed of COVID-19 and 6,612 deaths. There also are another 11,675 probable cases and 320 probable deaths.

As of Sept. 15, there are 564 adult hospital in-patients with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, which includes 360 with confirmed COVID-19. There also are three children in pediatric units with confirmed coronavirus and six with suspected COVID.

Of tests included in Tuesday’s report, 917 -- or 3.6% -- of 25,415 came back positive for the virus.

Thirty-three of the state’s 83 counties reported no new cases on Tuesday.

Michigan Senate passes bill to allow absentee ballot processing to begin one day early

Clerks in communities with at least 25,000 residents are a step closer to being able to process absentee ballots before Election Day.

The Michigan Senate voted 34-2 on Tuesday to approve a bill that would allow election officials to start processing absentee ballots on Nov. 2, one day early, with a sunset clause that make it a one-time accomodation.

The bill, SB757 sponsored by Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, is meant to give clerks more time to process an expected influx of absentee ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 2.1 million absentee ballots have already been requested for November’s general election, according to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

The bill requires a report to determine how many municipalities participate in pre-processing absentee ballots. The Michigan House of Representatives will now have to vote on the bill.

Michigan businesses don’t have 20/20 vision on bringing workers back to the office

On a Friday in early March, Spectrum Health had its office employees work from home for the day – an experiment, in case the COVID-19 pandemic ballooned and forced people to work from home.

They never returned to the office.

Six months later, many industries are back – from manufacturing and construction to restaurants and retail. Yet, many white-collar employees continue working from their kitchen tables and makeshift home offices.

Michigan offices are allowed to reopen in Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan and Executive Order 2020-176, but only for work that can’t be done remotely. In Phase 5, everybody can return to offices – but it’s still recommended people who can work remotely keep doing so.

Northern Michigan Regions 6 and 8 are in Phase 5 while the rest of Michigan is in Phase 4.

Many people have adapted after six months of working from home. But there’s a group of workers itching to go back.

“There are people that need that routine,” said Corey Stowell, vice president of human resources at auto supplier Webasto. “They need to get up every morning and do their shower, gym, whatever it may be and come into the office and have that human-to-human interaction. They go crazy if not. And then there’s the other half that are completely 100% OK staying at home and working from home full time.”

The vision on when office workers can return is unclear. But for a handful of Michigan’s larger employers, the answer isn’t 2020.

Bills would exempt Michigan businesses from paying state taxes on PPE

Personal protective equipment and other materials purchased by businesses to comply with safety measures required during the COVID-19 pandemic could be exempt from state taxes under bills pending in the Michigan legislature.

House Bills 6033, 6034 and 6035, sponsored by Reps. Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills, Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, and Joe Tate, D-Detroit, would collectively include exemptions for PPE and disinfectant products like masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes purchased by employers subject to new COVID-19 safety protocol, and allow employers meeting certain growth and retention targets to claim an income tax credit for PPE purchases.

Changes made to the bills in the House Tax Policy Committee Tuesday would allow for retroactive sales and use tax exemptions on PPE dating back to March 10, the day the COVID-19 state of emergency began, and include a Dec. 31, 2021 sunset on the tax exemption.

Webber told lawmakers the bills account for the added expenses of enhanced workplace cleaning and providing PPE to employees and customers “that many employers didn’t account for when planning their budgets for 2020 and beyond.”

COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS

In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.

Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.

Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. See an explanation of what that means here.

Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

For more data on COVID-19 in Michigan, click here.

Read more on MLive:

Utica football cancels opening game due to coronavirus quarantine

Michigan high school football tickets scarce due to coronavirus, here’s how to go or how to watch

University of Michigan dance building closes, more than 10% of department in quarantine

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©2020 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

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