Morning Briefing Sept. 5, 2021: State recommends residents in parts of Flat Rock evacuate due to gas leak, health experts warn not to use Ivermectin for COVID treatment, Pope urges countries to take in Afghan refugees

Here are this morning’s top stories:

State of emergency in Flat Rock: Odor prompts search for hazardous material in sewer

Michigan health department, Wayne County recommend evacuation for areas of Flat Rock due to hazardous fumes from gas leak

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Wayne County Health Department (WCHD) are recommending residents of the Flat Rock area bounded by I-75 to the east, Gibraltar Road to the north, Cahill Road to the west and Woodruff Road to the south evacuate their homes until further notice due to the potential risks caused by fumes from a gasoline leak. The source of the leak is a storage tank at Ford Motor Company’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

Response teams will go door-to-door immediately beginning Sunday, Sept. 5 in affected areas to ensure residents are informed and receive quick and accurate information about evacuation.

In addition to the smaller geographic area described above, there is a broader area of Flat Rock under investigation for potential exposure. This area is bounded by Gibraltar Road to the north, Sheeks Road to the west, East Huron River Drive to the south, and Tamarack Road to the east, as well as buildings along Woodruff between East Huron River Drive and Cahill Road.

The community is at risk of exposure to high levels of benzene, considered a total Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), which can be harmful to human health, according to the state. Measurements of air inside buildings and sewer lines have shown levels of VOCs exceeding health protective and explosive levels, the state added.

“We urge Michiganders in the affected areas to take swift action and evacuate their homes,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “You may not be able to see or smell the vapors that could put your health at risk, and we recommend everyone in the affected area consider relocating until further notice and we can confirm it is safe to return to your homes.”

Read more: Recommended evacuation area expands after gasoline leak at Flat Rock assembly plant

Health experts warn not to use Ivermectin for COVID treatment, prevention

Doctors across the country are warning about the use of a drug meant to farm animals to treat COVID.

However, Ivermectin has still been promoted by one of Michigan’s top leaders.

In a Tweet, Senate Majority leader Mike Shirkey -- who has promoted other COVID misinformation in the past -- linked to a website that promoted unapproved and dangerous treatments for coronavirus.

“I am not qualified to determine the veracity of these studies,” Shirkey Tweeted. “That requires medical professionals. However, these claims beg the question why the medical community in America (or MI) isn’t at least vigorously investigating?”

Dr. Varun Vohra with Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center weighed in on the issue.

“It hasn’t been shown to be useful, effective in improving patient outcomes or reducing mortality and then what we get into trouble is, people thinking that they either want to prevent COVID, they want to prevent contracting it and they will try to get their hands off formulations that aren’t intended for humans,” said Dr. Vohra.

More: Efforts grow to stamp out use of parasite drug for COVID-19

Pope urges countries to take in Afghan refugees

Pope Francis is encouraging countries to welcome Afghan refugees who are seeking a new life.

During his appearance to the public in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Francis also prayed that displaced persons inside Afghanistan receive assistance and protection.

“In these tumultuous moments, in which Afghans are seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them, I pray so that many countries welcome and protect all those seeking a new life,” Francis said.

Weather: Mostly sunny with warm breeze Sunday

Sunday, September 5, 2021

COVID in Michigan 🦠

Michigan reported 4,448 new cases of COVID-19 and 51 virus-related deaths Friday -- an average of 2,224 cases over the past two days.

Friday’s update brings the total number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan to 955,640, including 20,367 deaths. These numbers are up from 951,192 cases and 20,347 deaths, as of Wednesday.

NOTE: The state of Michigan reported 20,347 deaths on Wednesday, but when Friday’s update was posted, Wednesday’s number was decreased to 20,316. Therefore, the state announced Friday’s total of 20,367 deaths as an increase of 51, not 20.

The deaths announced Friday include 28 identified during a Vital Records review.

Testing has increased to around 20,000 diagnostic tests reported per day on average, with the 7-day positive rate at 9.44% as of Wednesday, slightly higher than the previous week. The positive test rate has been steadily climbing since the end of June, when it was at its lowest. Hospitalizations have increased by 231% since July 1.

Cases are rising again in Michigan. The state’s 7-day moving average for daily cases was 1,995 on Friday -- a significant jump since the beginning of July. The 7-day death average was 25 on Friday. The state’s fatality rate is 2.1%. The state also reports “active cases,” which were listed at 54,000 on Friday.

Michigan has reported more than 9.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered as of Friday, with 66% of 16+ residents having received at least one dose while 57.4% of 12+ residents are considered fully vaccinated.

Here’s a look at more of the data:

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