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A city vs. burbs comparison worth digging into. Promising drops in the Detroit data. Arts and culture nonprofits losing millions in funding. Pressure on for the right to read. City budgeting during a pandemic. When WFH will become WFW for Detroit’s solo entrepreneurs and small startups. All that and more are below in a jam-packed Detour. 


The Count: Of the 19,246 tests the city has conducted so far, 27% of Detroiters and 26% of suburbanites have tested positive for COVID-19. Mayor Mike Duggan touted that statistic in his Monday press conference to make the point that suburbanites are not less immune from the disease than city residents. (Case counts have been high across the metro area, but Detroit’s rate of infection -- and deaths -- is significantly higher.) "It’s important to know that many suburban residents also have access to testing sites in their community," Detroit Health Department Communications Director Vickie Winn wrote Detour in an email. While the testing at the State Fairgrounds site is open to anyone regardless of residency, the majority (60%) of tests have been given to Detroit residents. In recent days, the positive rate has hovered around 10 percent, according to Duggan, who noted that most of those being tested now are essential workers looking to get cleared to return to the job, not individuals with prescriptions. However, the city does not record symptoms at point-of-testing. (City)

Promising Detroit data: Just a single bed was occupied in the TCF Center Wednesday, underscoring the continued decline in cases and deaths this week in Detroit. The city has recorded a total of 1,128 deaths -- up 17 from Tuesday -- but the death rate is on track to decline by 50% every week, with a total of 9,652 cases recorded since the start of the pandemic. The city has completed retesting 14 of 26 of its nursing homes, which initially showed positivity rates between 30-50%. Preliminary data show 5-10% of those re-tests coming in positive in the second round, indicating that the rate of transmission is slowing. Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said the next step is to tackle the more than 10,000 senior homes and other group facilities. (Press conference)

Testing the test: The city is working to verify the results of its 15-minute Abbott tests after clinicians raised concerns about their accuracy in certain situations. Detroit is one of the first places to use the rapid tests and is requiring city staffers to take the test before returning to work. By comparing results on two swabs from the 50 individuals — one done by the city's Abbott machine and the other sent to a state lab for gold-standard PCR assay testing — Duggan says he has "confidence" in the test, and now has "the science to back it up." Duggan also shouted out the city's testing program on “The Rachel Maddow show” Tuesday. (Press conference, Stat News, Metro Times)

Look westward: A few weeks ago, Michigan was on track to become another New York, but now new cases are falling even as tests increase. The state has recorded a total of 45,054 cases Wednesday with 4,250 deaths. That's up 657 cases and 71 deaths as of the day before. However, outstate counties, particularly those on the west side of the state, are continuing to see cases rise. An MLive animation shows how rising case counts spread across the state over the last month. (COVID Tracking Project, state, MLive)

City budget takes a hit: Detroit City Council unanimously approved budget cuts recommended by Duggan to address a $194 million shortfall expected this fiscal year (and $348 million total projected over the next 16 months.) The adjustment includes a $50-million withdrawal from the city's rainy day fund and deep cuts to summer recreation programs and the city's demolition fund. No cuts to employee pensions, police, fire, EMS and bus services are included. The new budget goes into effect July 1. "If this pandemic continues longer than the end of this year, we're gonna have to make more cuts," Duggan said. (Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, press conference)

An unjust crisis: Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield signed onto a letter to the Department of Justice sent by nearly three dozen leaders from cities where COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted African Americans. The letter calls on the DOJ to investigate "whether the actions of executive branches of government in response to the threats posed by the pandemic served to perpetuate and exacerbate racial inequality." (Buzzfeed)

The Great Mask Debate: Are they markers of self-responsibility or infringements on individual rights? Face masks have become the central symbol of the deep political divisions emerging in our new normal. These Michigan incidents of hostility between shoppers and workers -- and one fatal shooting -- show grocery store attendants and security guards are facing another danger as they put their health at risk to work. Worth noting: Grocery store employees are essential workers and often have no health insurance, no hazard pay and are basically the reason so many people can stay home. In Detroit, 1 in 4 working residents are doing “essential” jobs. In Warren, police have been instructed to crack down on mask-wearing and social distancing requirements at businesses. Meanwhile, the Detroit Grocery Coalition has begun distributing "grocer safety kits" to the city's independent grocers that include informational posters, face masks, hand sanitizer and floor stickers to aid with physical distancing.  (Bridge, Eater, Vox, Detroit News, press release)

Whitmer can't win this week: Republicans in the Michigan legislature sued Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday, alleging her 28-day extension of the state of emergency order last Thursday was unlawful. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel affirmed that Whitmer's stay-at-home orders remain enforceable. Meanwhile, the Gov relinquished her Buffs (backstory here) and is donating the proceeds to the nonprofit New Era Detroit. (Free Press)

Can't stop Cinco de Mayo: Car parades are becoming a thing. So when Southwest Detroit teachers held one for their students in lieu of a traditional celebration, the whole neighborhood got in on the action. Plus: no special occasion needed to check out Detroit’s female-led mariachi band. (Slate, Freep, WDET)

Survivors' voices: Three Detroiters who survived COVID-19 spoke with Michigan Chronicle about their experiences, recalling delirium, high fevers and then despair at witnessing the rapid spread within the African American community. "It makes me feel as if some of us literally have blood on our hands," said Rev. Horace Sheffield III, the head of DABO (Detroit Association of Black Organizations) on the delay in implementing social distancing. As for the protests in Lansing, they saw racial overtones in protesters "pitting Detroit against the rest of the state," as LaToya Henry of Lathrup Village said. (Michigan Chronicle)

Defending the right to education: According to a ruling last week from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Detroit's students have a fundamental right to education. Activists and other leaders are calling on Whitmer to settle the lawsuit. Nessel has declined to get involved, which places Whitmer in an "awkward position" between living up to her campaign promises and her role as governor of the entire state. What's at stake? This young person, for one. (Chalkbeat, Freep)

Even in a pandemic, she's still your mom: Sunday is Mother's Day. How to honor mom under shutdown? You could pick up brunch at Blake's Cider Mill, order her a posh meal kit, or shop for a gift at a "Boss Mom"-owned business. Or, you can just call her. We're pretty sure she'd like that. (Fox 2, Eater, Oakland County Times)

#Keep Detroit Local promotional content

Congratulations to Mainstreet Mondays’ first Color Your City Challenge winner, Candice Meeks of The Craft Cafe Detroit! Read the story of how her small business has created a safe space for locals to create, then head over to Mainstreet Mob to learn how you can champion her by hosting your own Virtual Art Party from anywhere in the world!

The Craft Cafe Detroit is hosting an exclusive virtual art party for Mainstreet Champions on Saturday, May 9 from 5 to 5:40 p.m. Visit the event page for more details.

Mainstreet Mondays creates challenges for small businesses and rewards them for sharing their stories. Discover a new small business each week and participate in a digital cash mob event tied to their stories.

Keep Detroit Local is Detour’s pay it forward promotion to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19. For every current or new Detour member who signs up at our sustainer or builder levels, we’ll donate a free ad to nonprofits and small businesses working to serve Detroiters. Learn more here.
While foundations fund the frontlines, Detroit's arts and culture nonprofits are left hanging
Benito Vasquez, or Mav, started an acclaimed youth dance program in Southwest Detroit.

Two months ago — when students were still learning hip-hop at his Southwest Detroit studio — Benito Vasquez was getting ready to raise $30,000 for Motor City Street Dance Academy.

If he raised $15,000, the crowdfunding platform ioby would match that amount, and he could provide a year of dance classes for 25 kids, plus snacks, field trips and wages for instructors. He just had to click “submit” to launch the online fundraiser. But then COVID-19 hit. 

Vasquez estimated his 3-year-old grassroots organization (which has fiscal sponsorship through nonprofit Allied Media Projects) will lose an additional $450,000 in anticipated grant funding. Though he’s pivoted to live dance and yoga classes on YouTube, he said funders told him “there’s no way to do what you do virtually.” He could still launch the crowdfunding campaign, but he worries those donors would be hit harder than the big funders who have tightened purse strings. 

“I know if I launch it, people in my community… are going to donate to it. I don’t want to take from people who barely have [anything]. And that’s what’s messed up. The people who barely have are the first ones to give.”

Detour worked with reporter and nonprofit founder Stephanie Steinberg to survey nonprofit leaders about how they're getting by right now. Keep reading for a deep dive on the difficult situation for arts and culture nonprofits in the city -- worried about survival, but still figuring out ways to provide services. Click the button for more!

Keep reading
Lonely but productive, Detroiters find WFH a mixed bag
By Nina Misuraca Ignaczak

Just as we're all getting comfortable with the jargon, and the practice, of WFH: Detroit's offices and coworking spaces are thinking about the day when we might once again WFW. That was the drive behind a survey sent to members and followers of downtown coworking space Bamboo Detroit. 

"We wanted to get a pulse on how working from home is working for people," Amanda Lewan, cofounder of Bamboo, told Detour Detroit. "How are people feeling about returning to the office? I think there's going to be a lot of anxiety and a slow return."

What they found:


  • The 147 survey respondents live in Detroit or the suburbs. 
  • 29% said they work as "individuals/sole proprietors" and 42% work in teams of fewer than 10.
  • Nearly a third of respondents said they felt equally as productive at home as they did at work, 42% said they felt more productive, and 26% felt less productive.
  • Collaborating is a challenge -- 60% say it's much harder to work as a team and 70% say it's harder to build new business relationships.
  • 65% say they miss going to an office.
  • 40% of respondents said they had worked from home regularly prior to the pandemic.
  • Only 19% said they would not work from home once the stay-at-home order is lifted; 29% said they would and 52% weren't sure.

The biggest pain points of WFH? Distractions, focus, proper workspace setup, and loneliness.

"There were lots of comments that said, 'I'll work part from home, part from office,' or, 'I'm not sure what I'll be allowed to do yet with my employer,'" said Lewan. "There's going to be a big chunk of people that just want flexibility, like they may want to go in just once or twice a week. That's where coworking can help."

Industry publication Allwork.Space predicts coworking spaces like Bamboo may be poised to thrive in the post-pandemic working world as companies seek to decentralize workforces and reduce overhead, but they'll have to adapt to a world where sanitation and social distancing are required. Coworking juggernaut WeWork is modeling what some of these changes will look like — think sanitation stations, one-way traffic flow and buffered seating.

Lewan said Bamboo is at work on a range of protective measures, including reconfiguring workspaces, creating a "touchless experience" in bathrooms, restricting kitchen access, supplying hand sanitizer and implementing a robust cleaning and reporting method. She tentatively plans a June 1 reopening, and in the past week has received several applications for Bamboo's new Royal Oak location. 

"We're being as flexible as we can with our members, and working towards a safe reopening," she said.
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