Hello and happy New Year! It’s off to an interesting start! Today, a few words about omicron, and some other news of the week. This is another brief holiday edition before we get back into the “normal” swing of things on Jan. 8.

I always love your notes, ideas and fun facts: abragg@crain.com.The big story: Unclear new year 

A note: This essay was written on Friday. Things are moving swiftly with omicron and some things may have changed by the time this reaches your inbox. Check crainsdetroit.com for the latest.

For this second consecutive holiday edition of the Saturday Extra, I had planned to round up a few predictions from business leaders for 2022 — trends to watch in real estate, finance, politics, you get the picture. But how to make predictions about a year that feels scrambled from the start?  

Daily cases of COVID-19 in Michigan climbed to nearly 13,000 a day this week, smashing the previous daily record by almost a third. Anecdotally, everyone seems to have COVID, has been exposed to someone with COVID and/or had to cancel holiday plans due to COVID. Rapid tests are sold out all over the place, and with many testing facilities booked up or closed for the holiday weekend, appointments for PCR tests are hard to come by until at least Jan. 4, according to the state’s COVID testing portal, which returns a message like this with nearly every search: 

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The CDC also changed its quarantine and isolation guidelines this week, cutting its suggested isolation time for people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to five days from 10. Controversially, the guidelines do not include a negative testing protocol, and some people with COVID-19 could still be contagious after five days so they are advised to wear a mask for five days after isolation.

But the CDC’s recommendations consider the evidence that omicron may be milder and faster-moving than previous coronavirus variants — as well as the large-scale disruption that omicron could cause if literally millions of people across the U.S. have COVID-19 at the same time, which seems to be playing out. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told the Associated Press on Monday. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services initially said it would not adopt the CDC’s new guidelines, but changed course Friday and said it would.    

Early information — including health officials in South Africa reporting only a marginal increase in deaths from that country’s now-receding omicron wave — does seem to suggest that this wave could be a milder one. That’s a huge relief. Hospitalizations in Michigan are still dropping after a Dec. 10 peak. But people are still confused and anxious about what exponential spread could mean — and what they’re even supposed to do if they think they might have COVID. Where to find a test? How to keep your still-unvaccinated kids under 5 years old safe? Is it OK, after eight days of isolation but while you’re still testing positive on a rapid test, to mask up and do a load of laundry in your apartment building’s shared laundry room, as one Crain’s staffer non-hypothetically asked this week? 

Here’s the other thing: Even if a much smaller percentage of people with omicron end up in the hospital, those numbers could still add up to a capacity crunch, especially when health care workers are isolated with their own cases of COVID-19. Many businesses have already temporarily closed this week due to COVID-19 cases on staff, and more such closures seem inevitable. Michigan State University and Wayne State University are going remote in January, and more schools seem likely to follow. K-12 schools and daycare centers that open as planned will likely close classrooms for COVID exposures soon after. In other words, the works will be very gummed up. 

So I think it’s prudent to wait until February to make any predictions or plans for 2022. How about you? Need to know: Starving (United) Artists

The vacant United Artists Building in downtown Detroit. Photo credit: Kirk Pinho/Crain’s Detroit Business

The developers behind a long-planned project to rehab the United Artists Building are asking the city to approve an additional $6 million in loans to bridge gaps created by rising construction costs, the project team told Crain’s. The additional dollars would bring the total value of loans on the project from the Downtown Development Authority to $8.5 million from a previously approved $2.5 million. “Construction costs go up, the rents (for the apartments) don’t go up and the loan dollars don’t typically go up and you’re stuck trying to fill the gap with any means necessary,” a spokesperson for the project said. The 1928 United Artists Theatre attached to the 18-story building is still expected to be demolished. Read up on the project and what happens next.

Redistricted: Michigan’s new citizen-led redistricting commission approved new congressional and legislative maps Tuesday. It was a big milestone after months of work by the 13-member panel created by voters to stop partisan gerrymandering, and it captured national attention this week. The maps are fairer to Democrats than when the redistricting process was controlled by the Republican-led Legislature the past two decades, but will likely be challenged in court. One issue: The maps would eliminate two majority-minority congressional seats in and around Detroit, which could be challenged under the federal Voting Rights Act.  

Newsmakers: We’re counting down to our unveiling of the 2021 Crain’s Newsmaker of the Year, publishing one Newsmaker honoree every day until Jan. 7. Catch up on the list so far, which includes headline-makers Larry Bell, Jennifer Gilbert, Mat Ishbia and more. Historical footnote: Auld lang syne

Via the Detroit Public Library’s digital collections.

No footnote this week: Just my sincere best wishes for a happy, healthy, abundant 2022. And this cute vintage postcard. 

See you next year.Most-read stories: Dec. 25-311. Metro Detroit restaurants temporarily close amid COVID surge

2. More million-dollar condos are selling in metro Detroit. Here’s why

3. 2021 Crain’s Newsmakers

4. United Artists Building developer seeks $6 million in additional public funding

5. Despite labor shortages, metro Detroit saw plenty of notable restaurant openings in 2021

6. Whitmer signs bills reestablishing Michigan’s first HBCU

7. Michigan paid $8.5 billion in fraudulent pandemic jobless claims

8. A Detroit-based ad agency is behind Chevrolet’s viral holiday ad

9. Doctors, insurers take wait-and-see approach on Alzheimer’s drug over safety, effectiveness questions

10. COVID-19 case counts explode to new highs in Michigan

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