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Duggan urges weekend COVID-19 enforcement, 500-alley clean-up

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday encouraged businesses to abide by COVID-19 regulations this weekend to help prevent a spike in cases.

He also promoted a new citywide alley clean-up program and an initiative to bring the 2020 census to Detroit doorsteps and increase the city's response rate.

In the last week, the city has had four deaths from the virus, bringing the weekly average down to single digits, he said during his weekly press briefing at the Detroit Public Safety headquarters.

Racial justice demonstrations in the city for the last three weeks don’t seem to have sparked an increase in infections, Duggan said. 

“I think the protesters were very diligent about wearing masks and I think it’s proving how really important it is to commit to the masks while we’re seeing huge surges in COVID infection rates in Florida, Arizona, Texas, and we don’t want to see that happen here.”

To prevent an uptick in cases, Duggan said health department officials will be visiting Detroit bars and restaurants to remind operators and staff to respect regulations, which include limiting capacity to 50% and requiring all employees to wear masks.

Duggan said in a few instances last weekend, bars and nightclubs had far too many people. Violators will face shutdown orders, he said.

"We have done way too much work to knock down the COVID infection rate in the city of Detroit to have it get out of hand because of a few business establishments,” the mayor said. “I pushed very hard for the governor to open the bar and restaurants as well as the hair and nail salons, but we made a commitment that we would honor the social distancing requirements.”

500 alleys by end of 2020

In the last two years, 2,000 vacant homes have been removed from the city and it's time to move on to cleaning alleyways, Duggan said.

The Department of Neighborhoods will launch a citywide cleanup next month of 500 alleys to be completed by the end of the year. After the pilot, city officials believe they can clean up 1,500 alleys a year to cover Detroit's 7,000 blocks.

To be one of the first pilot blocks, residents need to be a registered block club or neighborhood association and apply through a request form on the city's website.

The General Services Department is hiring seven crews of 10 people, one crew for each City Council district, to start on the alley cleanup in August. Workers can apply online for the positions starting at $13 an hour. 

The department plans to start in the neighborhoods where residents can commit to doing the cleanups twice a year, with help from city crews who will do the heavy lifting.

“The government can’t do everything,” Duggan said. "We can’t come in and do this and not have the people who still live there be committed to maintaining it."

Ray Solomon, deputy director of the Department of Neighborhoods, came up with the plan and said district managers are excited to move forward.

“The amount of calls we get throughout the year asking for help on alleys … this is going to be a major help. We worked well with the City Council especially this time of the year. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do our traditional Motor City Makeover, so this happening right now is a perfect time.”

Parking enforcement, Detroit Public Works, BSEED maintenance and ticketing will all resume on July 6.

2020 Census at the door

Among other things, Duggan said the city’s census return status is becoming a concern.

Michigan has the third-highest U.S. Census return rate in the United States at 68%, but the city of Detroit is the third-worst of every major city, ahead of just Cleveland and Newark, with a return rate under 48%.

“If we do not get counted, we are now at very high risk of having that voice be shrunken. It’s not going to matter who your mayor or council person are if your voice isn’t heard in Lansing," he said. "This is not somebody else silencing our voices, this is us, failing to fill out the census form."

The city spent a year planning a census door-knocking campaign, which was derailed by the coronavirus. Starting July 6, census workers will be restarting the campaign, wearing yellow shirts and masks and holding tablets to fill out the form on Detroit doorsteps.

“We have five weeks before the federal government takes over,” he said. “Donald Trump will be responsible for counting the census for the people in the city of Detroit and I feel a whole lot better about Detroiters doing that counting in the next five or six weeks.”

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_