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Michigan Reaches $600 Million Settlement Over Flint Water Crisis

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  • A $600 million settlement was reached between the lawyers of Flint, Michigan residents and state officials over civil cases pertaining to the Flint water crisis.
  • 80% of this settlement will go to those who were children at the time. Another 18% will go to adults, and the rest will go to property damage, business economic loss, and programmatic relief settlements.
  • It is currently unclear exactly how much money each person will get. Those details are expected to be announced in the near future.
  • Leaders in Michigan believe that this is a start to bringing justice to the residents of Flint, who have been dealing with the water crisis since 2014.

Settlement Reached

A $600 million settlement was reached Thursday between the lawyers of Flint, Michigan residents, the office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and the office of Attorney General Dana Nessel regarding the Flint water crisis. 

According to a summary of the preliminary settlement, roughly 80% of the funds will go to those who were under the age of 18 when the crisis began. This will break down to 64.5% for those who were six and under at first exposure, 10% for those who were between seven and 11, and 5% for those aged between 12 and 17. 

Another 18% will go to adults, and the remaining will go to property damage, business economic loss, and programmatic relief settlements. This settlement is the result of 18 months of negotiations and is meant to resolve all of the civil Flint water cases against the state and its related groups and individuals. The $600 million sum is larger than every lawsuit the state has paid out in the last 10 years combined, per a count from Michigan Live

Details about how many recipients there are and what their exact payouts will be are unclear. There were between 18,000 and 20,000 kids in Flint during the exposure period. The population of the city is roughly 100,000. Those eligible to receive funds include those who lived in a residence or owned a business that received Flint water at the time of the crisis, those who came into contact with Flint water for a certain period of time during the crisis, and those who were exposed to the water and were diagnosed with Legionnaires disease, as certain outbreaks were tied to the city’s water. 

The summary states that the state of Michigan, its agencies, as well as current and former employees will be released from any liability to those who receive payment from this fund with respect to civil claims per this settlement. However, Attorney General Nessel went to Twitter to explain this does not mean battles in this case are over. 

“General Hammoud and Pros. Worthy continue their investigation into criminal actions by state actors and the quest for justice and accountability is not over,” she wrote. 

Background on the Flint Water Crisis

In an effort to save the city money, Flint changed its water source in 2014 from the Detroit-treated Lake Huron water to the Flint River. Once it did so, citizens complained that the water had a poor smell, taste, and color, but city officials told them it was safe. It was later confirmed that officials did not ensure corrosion control treatments were added to the water, leading to contamination. 

In 2015, researchers found that lead was leaching into the water and children had elevated levels of lead in their blood since the water source changed. The percentage of infants and children in the city with above average levels nearly doubled citywide, and even nearly tripled in high risk areas. By the end of 2015, the water source was switched to the Detroit water system.

Still, many in Flint still do not trust the water they receive or the local government that allowed this to happen. While the city has checked pipes and replaced many, Michigan Live says that 2,500 have still not been checked yet. Former Governor Rick Snyder admitted that this was the result of mass government failure and the water crisis is widely considered one of the most devastating cases of environmental injustice. 

Responses from Leaders in Flint

“Flint residents have endured more than most, and to draw out the legal back-and-forth even longer would have achieved nothing but continued hardship. This settlement focuses on the children and the future of Flint,” Nessel wrote in a Thursday morning statement about the settlement. 

“Ultimately, by reaching this agreement, I hope we can begin the process of closing one of the most difficult chapters in our State’s history and writing a new one that starts with a government that works on behalf of all of its people,” she added. 

Governor Whitmer also spoke about the settlement Thursday morning. She said that in addition to this payout, the state will be allocating resources to Flint to provide lead service line replacement, nutrition programs, child health care services, early childhood programs, lead prevention and abatement, school aid and more in the future. 

“What happened in Flint should never have happened and financial compensation with this settlement is just one of many ways we can and will continue to show our support for the city of Flint and its families,” Whitmer said. 

Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor and water expert who helped expose the lead contamination spoke to The Detroit News about the settlement. 

“If money is how government expresses sorrow for its crimes — this is a big apology,” he said. 

However, some were slightly more critical about the settlement considering what has happened to the city of Flint. 

“There will never be a number that adequately recognizes the harm done to Flint families,” Rep. Dan Kildee wrote, while still acknowledging his support for the settlement.

See what others are saying: (Michigan Live) (Detroit Free Press) (The Guardian)

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Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation

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Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.


Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed

A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.

The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.

In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.

“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”

Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.

“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

Potential Litigation

If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.

A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”

Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.

Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.

Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11

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Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works

Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.

While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.

Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults. 

Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage. 

That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.

Overeager Parents

While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course. 

With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.

“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)

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Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air

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While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.


Booster Rollout in Flux

President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.

The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.

However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.

The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.

Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.

Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.

Debate Continues in Crucial Week

More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.

On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.

The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide. 

On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.

The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.” 

Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.

Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.

“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”

Uncertain Future

It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.

Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.

Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.

Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.

“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (The Guardian)

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