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First COVID-19 related death in Michigan confirmed


A man in his 50s who had COVID-19 has died at a Detroit-area hospital, officials said Wednesday, the first death in Michigan from the coronavirus. The man who died also had other underlying health conditions, according to Beaumont Health.

“Our medical team went to extraordinary efforts to care for this patient and we are deeply saddened by his passing and empathize with his family,” chief nursing officer Susan Grant said.

Meanwhile, fears of the coronavirus slammed Michigan’s flagship industry as Detroit’s three automakers agreed to close all factories in North America. The U.S. and Canada also agreed to temporarily close their shared border to nonessential travel, although trucks carrying goods between the countries are exempt.

Michigan has four border crossings with Canada in Detroit, Port Huron and Sault Ste. Marie. Canada relies on the U.S. for 75% of its exports.

General Motors and Ford Motor said they were suspending factory operations through at least March 30. Fiat Chrysler was expected to announce a similar plan. The United Auto Workers has been pushing for factories to close because their members are fearful of coming into contact with the virus.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Michigan has at least 80 COVID-19 cases in 15 counties, with more than half of them in Wayne and Oakland, the state’s most populous.

Beaumont Health, which has eight hospitals, is treating dozens of people, said Dr. Nick Gilpin, an infectious disease specialist.

In Detroit, buses were back on the road, a day after drivers stayed home because of virus fears. Rides are free and passengers enter and exit through the side-rear door, steps that greatly limit contact with drivers. An average of 85,000 people ride the buses each day.

“I feel comfortable now,” said driver Wayne Clayton, who wears a mask. “It’s certainly an important job. We’ve got to get people to work.”

Detroit police Chief James Craig said he’s urging officers to ease up on misdemeanor arrests or tickets to prevent the spread of the virus and reduce stress among residents.

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