This week, Bridge Michigan is revisiting some of its most impactful stories from 2020, a year like few others. Today, we examine our top articles about the coronavirus.
The pandemic officially came to Michigan on March 10 with two confirmed cases announced hours after polls closed on the presidential primary.
Since then, the virus has killed nearly 12,000 residents and upended nearly every facet of public life, from social restrictions that shuttered much of the economy and left jobless 2.1 million workers to an abrupt shift to remote learning statewide whose implications may be felt for years.
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The virus also exposed racial and class divisions and prompted untold suffering in ways large and small, from funerals that moved outside or were canceled and social distancing that separated families to political divisions and anger that continue to fester.
In this sad year, we are looking back on some of Bridge’s top stories about the coronavirus. In the coming days, we will revisit the articles about the environment, social justice, education and business.
This story, composed on deadline by five Bridge reporters in late March, conveys the terror and bewilderment of hospital staff and ordinary residents as Detroit intensive care units filled, families were separated and the virus tore through every corner of the city.
When the coronavirus first swept into Michigan, it hit African-American communities hardest, from Detroit to Flint to Saginaw and Benton Harbor; Black residents and other people of color lost lives at disproportionately high rates. Led by data reporter Mike Wilkinson, Bridge Michigan was the first news site in the state to make the connection that would later become national news.
In early March, when the medical establishment was still getting its arms around how to advise people with COVID symptoms, patients were stunned to learn their family doctor didn’t necessarily want them in waiting rooms, Bridge reporters Robin Erb and Jonathan Oosting found.
Whitmer has won praise from public health experts for her aggressive efforts to curb COVID-19. But her administration has been slow at times to release information on infections. Bridge Michigan's watchdog reporting, led by Robin Erb, Ron French and Mike Wilkinson, helped lead to the public release of outbreak data at identified schools and nursing homes.
As of June, nursing homes accounted for at least 1 in 4 coronavirus deaths in Michigan. Reporter Jonathan Oosting used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain state inspection reports that showed many were ill-prepared for the pandemic, as staff called in sick, used raincoats as protective gear and failed to isolate infected patients.
Reporter Robin Erb spent the year telling stories of ordinary people fighting through extraordinary barriers to see loved ones. In November, she chronicled Melanie Zeiger’s efforts to be by her husband Jerry’s side when he died.
Northern Michigan was hit hard by the pandemic in fall, as hospitals struggled with bed shortages and rates rivaled those anywhere. But, reporting from the Upper Peninsula, Robin Erb found that doubts still lingered about the virus and its severity, even among those who suffered mightily because of it.