Morning Briefing Oct. 2, 2021: Construction workers find human remains under sidewalk in Detroit, why some Michigan counties are rescinding school mask mandates, Merck COVID pill a potential game changer

Here are this morning’s top stories

Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 morning newscast

Construction workers find human remains under sidewalk in Detroit

Construction workers ripping up concrete sidewalks on Fort Street and Cass Avenue stumbled upon human remains beneath the sidewalk.

According to the Detroit Police Department, the remains are those of a male but portions are missing, which led anthropologists and police to a dirt and debris pile near Interstate 75 and Ferry Street where the refuse from the construction site is being stored.

They’re looking for the skull and a portion of the torso. The remains are skeletal and police do not know how long they have been there.

What was recovered at the site has been taken to the Wayne County Medical Examiner for testing.

Merck says COVID-19 pill cuts risk of death, hospitalization

In a potential leap forward in the global fight against the pandemic, drugmaker Merck said Friday that its experimental pill for people sick with COVID-19 reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half.

If cleared by regulators, it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19, adding a whole new, easy-to-use weapon to an arsenal that already includes the vaccine.

The company said it will soon ask health officials in the U.S. and around the world to authorize the pill’s use. A decision from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could come within weeks after that, and the drug, if it gets the OK, could be distributed quickly soon afterward.

All other COVID-19 treatments now authorized in the U.S. require an IV or injection. A pill taken at home, by contrast, would ease pressure on hospitals and could also help curb outbreaks in poorer and more remote corners of the world that don’t have access to the more expensive infusion therapies.

Why some Michigan counties are suddenly rescinding school mask mandates

There has been a lot of confusion and worry over a line in the new state budget banning mask mandates.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said it’s unconstitutional and unenforceable, while some health departments have already done away with their mask mandates.

Read: Tracking Michigan school districts, colleges requiring masks for 2021-2022 school year

It’s another example of the politics of the pandemic bleeding into public health. The controversy has made things even more difficult for health officials trying to stop the spread.

As of Oct. 1, only five counties have rescinded their mask mandates or quarantine protocols, while the major counties in Metro Detroit have kept policies in place following Whitmer’s guidance that the new language meant to withhold money from health departments that put mask mandates in place was unconstitutional and unenforceable.

University of Detroit Mercy professor emeritus of law Larry Dubin said the dispute is more political than constitutional.

“If you are threatening the funds that would go to public health departments in various counties, and they’re making their decisions, not based upon the health of the community, but the fear of not getting their funds based upon the law, if they perceive it, then that’s an important issue,” Dubin said. “And I think that certainly could end up in the courts for hopefully a quick determination of who’s right who’s wrong.”

The orders have also been confusing for struggling local health departments.

Chart: Michigan COVID vaccine coverage

Despite delays with $3.5T plan, Biden vows to ‘get it done’

President Joe Biden has pledged at the Capitol to “get it done” as Democrats strained to rescue a scaled-back version of his $3.5 trillion government-overhaul plan and salvage a related public works bill after days of frantic negotiations.

But it’s not getting done right now.

Biden huddled with House Democrats on their home ground in a private meeting Friday that was part instructional, part morale booster for the tattered caucus of lawmakers, telling them he wanted both bills passed regardless of the time it takes. He discussed a compromise topline of $1.9 trillion to more than $2 trillion for his bigger vision, according to lawmakers in the room.

But it was clear they are all now in it for the long haul as the White House and its allies in Congress prepared for protracted negotiations.

Weather: Sunny Saturday morning, cloudy afternoon, wet evening

Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 weather forecast

COVID in Michigan 🦠

Michigan reported 8,058 new cases of COVID-19 and 79 virus-related deaths Friday -- an average of 4,029 cases over a two-day period.

Of the 79 deaths announced Friday, 42 were identified during a review of records.

Friday’s update brings the total number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan to 1,030,633, including 21,077 deaths. These numbers are up from 1,022,575 cases and 20,998 deaths, as of Wednesday.

Testing has increased to around 30,000 diagnostic tests reported per day on average, with the 7-day positive rate at 9.47% as of Friday, slightly lower than the previous week due to the increasing test volume. Hospitalizations have been steadily increasing for several weeks.

The state’s 7-day moving average for daily cases was 3,223 on Friday -- the highest it has been since early May. The 7-day death average was 32 on Friday. The state’s fatality rate is 2.1%. The state also reports “active cases,” which were listed at 77,100 on Monday.

Michigan has reported more than 9.9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered as of Wednesday, with 67.8% of 16+ residents having received at least one dose while 59.1% of 16+ residents are considered fully vaccinated.

Michigan COVID: Here’s what to know Oct. 2, 2021

🦠 63 new Michigan COVID facts -- Hospital metrics, new variant category, slowed increase in spread

Here’s a look at more of the data:

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About the Author:

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.