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Blue Angels continue salute to medical workers, this time from Metro Detroit skies

By SARAH RAHAL AND NEAL RUBIN | The Detroit News | Published: May 12, 2020

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DETROIT (Tribune News Service) — The Blue Angels aren't social distancing.

Sometimes flying only 18 inches apart, the U.S. Navy's flight demonstration squadron tore through the sky Tuesday to salute Metro Detroit's tough front line workers in the battle against COVID-19.

The Blue Angels joined in an effort dubbed #AmericaStrong with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds for joint flyovers this month over several hospitals in the country.

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Starting at 11:30 a.m., the six blue and yellow jets took off near Jackson and headed east.

During the 21-minute flyover, the Angels streaked over Allen Park, Ann Arbor, Clinton Township, Dearborn, Eastpointe, Hamtramck, Sterling Heights, St. Clair Shores, Warren, Wayne and Ypsilanti,leaving a path of smoke behind.

The site was crowded with dozens of healthcare workers on the front lawns of Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn looking up at the sky.

Carol Christie-Nichols, a nurse at the hospital for 30 years, said being nationally recognized is not something she's ever encountered but was a beautiful moment.

"I think, nationally, we're getting a lot of recognition right now because nurses are the warriors of this pandemic, especially critical care nurses," said Christie-Nichols, from Southgate. "Things are improving and we're just hoping there isn't another spike and that research is done quickly. That's what we can't rush. Valid research needs time and we want it done right.

"We've never been more important and this shows that others believe that, too," she said tearfully.

At a Beaumont parking lot across the street, families and nearby residents gathered while practicing social distancing to watch the demonstration.

Peggy Schous and her three grandchildren, Fin, Kate and Marty, sat in the back of their red pickup truck waiting to see the streaks across the sky.

"It was short, but we get to see it twice," said Peggy Schous of Dearborn. "We've been cooped up and I think we need to start opening up and everyone to be personally responsible. I think it's unhealthy to stay locked up too long and we understand it better now."

The aviators fly as fast as 700 mph at 15,000 feet, according to their website.

The Angels are also saluting workers Tuesday in Chicago and Indianapolis.

On Wednesday, the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Wing will follow suit. Officials with the wing, the host unit of the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, said in a Facebook post that some of the base's jets will fly over Detroit to "show appreciation to the thousands of Michigan heroes who are at the front line battling COVID-19."

The exact time was not released and the flyover is subject to weather and operational requirements.

The flyover is part of the Michigan Air National Guard's Michigan Strong flyovers. The wing's KC-135 Stratotankers, which refuel jets in mid-air, are scheduled to fly over Marquette, Lansing and Flint on Tuesday. Its A-10 anti-tank fighter jets, known as warthogs, will fly over Traverse City, Grand Rapids and Battle Creek on Tuesday.

The crew requests residents refrain from traveling to see the flyover and continue to practice social distancing.

A total of 4,584 people in Michigan have died due to COVID-19, according to state data released Monday.

The state tally of confirmed cases has reached 47,552. The daily cases have declined 25% over the past seven days, which is an "encouraging" sign, said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive.

The numbers mark a continued downward trend in cases and deaths in Michigan. Monday marked the ninth day when the state had fewer than 100 new deaths and the 12th day in which the state had fewer than 1,000 new cases.

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