COVID-19 Update: $1M Grant to Help Relocate Pediatric ICU at Ascension St. John, Midtown Detroit Launches Small Business Grant Program, and More

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
map of Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Aug. 25

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Carls Foundation Grants Ascension St. John $1M to Help Relocate Pediatric ICU
The Carls Foundation has donated $1 million to Ascension St. John Hospital to relocate and renovate its Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

The re-location of the PICU involves moving and renovating the entire unit, including eight patient rooms, the nurses station, corridor, consultation room, and physician workroom. The $1 million grant will:

  • Provide an enhanced environment where the smallest, most vulnerable patients will continue to receive the highest quality care from specially trained staff.
  • Expand the space to support a better overall patient/family care experience.
  • Provide warm, welcoming private patient/family rooms with comfortable furniture, where parents can stay overnight with their child.
  • Provide state-of-the-art technology and equipment in each room.
  • Ensure each bed is monitored, and a patient’s vital signs such as heart and respiratory rates are recorded and can be viewed by health care staff at the bedside or at the nursing station.
  • Create a more-efficient nurses’ station to help elevate patient care.

“We are so thankful for the generous support from The Carls Foundation,” says Dr. Kevin Grady, president, of Ascension St. John Hospital. “This gift will enable our youngest patients to receive the expert care they need in an enhanced environment that is family friendly, comfortable, and state-of-the art.”

The relocated PICU will be adjacent to the inpatient pediatric unit in the Ascension St. John Children’s Hospital, allowing for specially trained medical staff to respond to patient care and emergencies in a safe, timely manner. Having the PICU next to the pediatric unit also will allow young patients to be easily transferred between the units, when medically appropriate, to get the level of care they need.

Midtown Detroit Launches New Grant Program for Woodward Corridor Small Businesses
Midtown Detroit Inc. is launching the COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund for small businesses located within the Woodward Corridor suffering from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The program is supported by a $100,000 grant from the PNC Foundation.

Grants can be approved for a variety of activities, but will focus on efforts to grow, stabilize, or pivot business models. Fifty percent of the funding will be prioritized for woman-, minority-, and/or immigrant-owned businesses.

The application period is open through Aug. 31, followed by a two-week review period. Applications will be evaluated and scored by a review committee consisting of area residents. Approved businesses will begin receiving funding in mid-September.

“Small businesses are an important part of our community and we are pleased to be able to offer some additional support during these difficult times.” says Susan Mosey, executive director of Midtown Detroit.

The grant is part of a broader commitment announced by The PNC Financial Services Group Inc. to provide $30 million in charitable contributions in support of coronavirus relief efforts, primarily directed toward basic needs and hardship relief programs across the markets in which PNC operates.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on small businesses throughout the state,” says Ric DeVore, regional president for Detroit and Southeast Michigan for PNC. “We applaud Sue Mosey and her team for their efforts to help businesses during this unprecedented time.”

Karmanos Cancer Institute Receives $630,000 CATCH-UP Grant
Researchers at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit have secured a one-year, $630,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute that will help support the institute’s clinical trials targeting underserved populations in Detroit and in the rural areas that Karmanos serves.

CATCH-UP is short for the NCI P30 Cancer Center Support Grants to Create Access to Targeted Cancer Therapy for Underserved Populations. The grant supplements Karmanos’ P30 grant, a cancer center core grant that supports the enhancement of multidisciplinary approaches and collaborative research efforts in treating cancer.

Grant requirements include accruing a minimum of 24 patients to active NCI trials annually with approximately 50 percent of patients identifying as members of racial/ethnic and/or rural populations. Other requirements include designating an outreach coordinator to specifically identify eligible patients among minority and underserved patients for participation in the trials, as well as supporting education and outreach efforts.

In 2019, Karmanos’ interventional treatment clinical trials included 25 percent minority patients with more than 1,300 on these clinical trials. Of the more than 600 patients on treatment trials, almost 22 percent were minorities. As part of the larger McLaren Health Care Network, there were 641 patients involved in clinical trials in 2019, as compared to 94 in 2014, the year Karmanos joined the McLaren network and expanded its clinical care base. Many of those patients live in rural areas of the state.

“While Karmanos has extensive research experience in Phase I and Phase II trials, our proposal for the grant seeks to expand these offerings for our patients, particularly those who have been underserved,” says Dr. Anthony Shields, lead cancer center investigator on the CATCH-UP grant. “To improve our accrual onto these trials, our investigators plan many efforts including expanding the number of ETCTN trials available for our patients; adding sites in Flint, Lansing, and Bay City to help recruit additional patients, particularly rural people; expanding the use of telehealth visits; and using the Research and Advocacy Consortium of the Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement at Karmanos to help select trials and recruit patients.”

In the grant proposal, researchers note that part of Karmanos’ catchment area includes the city of Detroit, a resource-challenged area. About 79 percent of the approximately 672,000 Detroit residents identify as African American, a group that disproportionately carries the area’s cancer burden.

They also note that southeast Michigan is home to approximately 400,000 Arab Americans. Presently, there is no nationally coordinated cancer-related surveillance of this group. There are about 750,000 people in rural areas served by Karmanos.

Karmanos will use the CATCH-UP grant to support many ETCTN trials that are already open or in the process of opening. Researchers have identified four clinical trials that are already open or in process and have 15 new trials that will be covered by the grant. These trials include Phase I and Phase II trials and involve myriad cancers from gastrointestinal, gynecological, breast, lymphoma, solid tumors, lung and genitourinary.

“Receiving this CATCH-UP grant will do much to increase our recruitment to these important clinical trials and provide new treatment options for our patients,” Shields says. “Residents of Detroit and rural communities bear a disproportionate cancer burden compared to the general population of Michigan and the United States. Karmanos is dedicated to serving those in minority and rural populations at our 16 treatment facilities. The more of these populations we can recruit to clinical trials, the more momentum we’ll see in the therapeutic developments that effectively treat cancer among minority populations and those living in rural areas.”

CDC Using U-M Senior’s COVID-19 Machine Learning Data Model
Sabrina Corsetti, a senior physics and math student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has developed a data-driven machine learning algorithm to model the spread of COVID-19 that now are being included in the CDC’s weekly projections.

Corsetti had her previous research halted when the U-M suspended in-person classes and labs in March. Thomas Schwarz, one of Corsetti’s research professors, happened to be modeling the pandemic’s data and included her in the project.

Under Corsetti’s direction, the small analysis has developed into a full, data-driven research project. She says while originally interested in the pandemic due to the news, it was the amount of “unknowns” surrounding the data that inspired her to dive deeper.

“At the beginning, we didn’t know the scope or end goal, but we realized that the simple epidemiological models weren’t carrying us like we needed,” Corsetti says. “But then I came across a paper about applying machine learning to epidemiology, and I worked off of that to build better predictions based on the data alone and without any external assumptions.”

Corsetti’s new model performs ridge regression, which is a type of machine learning algorithm that finds a best-fit projection of future COVID-19 cases and deaths for the United States. The model currently is able to project up to 40 days in advance, using a method that centers a spectrum of predictions around a single optimal projection.

The model’s greatest value comes from its contribution to the COVID-19 Forecast Hub initiatives by researchers at the University of Massachusetts. The hub aggregates data models from more than 30 international research groups to make a stronger forecast.

Corsetti’s model, in contribution to the hub, has been implemented in the CDC’s public prediction database. Most recently, General Motors Co. has shown interest in the model for potential supply chain studies. It’s the model’s strength in projecting more than five weeks ahead that allows organizations and companies like GM to set mitigation efforts in advance of a potential outbreak.

“The model can confirm the trajectory and give you a bit of an edge,” Corsetti says. “If the area’s curve is twisting slightly, you can track when cases are escalating or mitigation efforts are taking effect. You can get definite early predictions.”

The next step for Corsetti and Schwarz will be developing a user-friendly website to report local COVID-19 data for students and staff at the university. They believe their efforts are important to the U-M community.

Schwarz says that making the data accessible will enable students to understand the pandemic’s trajectory and can help inform their decisions.

“When you look at the data, it’s pretty obvious when there’s going to be an increase or decrease in cases, and you can see the hot spots,” Schwarz said. “Once you look at the data on a daily basis, you’ll see which places are having trouble.”

Such a website or mobile app would also allow students to report locations of potential cases anonymously, which benefits those who fear being associated with a reported outbreak.

Local Limo Service Outlines Driving in a Changed World
Allstar Chauffeured Services in Troy lost 97 percent of its business during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s slowly returning to what is being called the new normal.

“Along with the rest of the country, we were thrown in uncharted waters seemingly overnight,” says Bob Beutel, owner and president and owner of Allstar Chauffeured Services.

In response, he secured a PPP loan and reassigned his approximately 60 mostly full-time professional chauffeurs to part-time status. In its vehicles, Allstar provides complimentary hand sanitizer and masks are available upon request for client use. Shared reading material has been removed and all touch surfaces are disinfected between trips. Vehicle air filtration systems are sanitized with a fogger disinfectant and the number of ozone machine cleanings have increased.

“We’re working hard to keep everyone employed and have instituted stringent safety-measures to keep our chauffeurs and passengers healthy and confident in our services,” Beutel says.

For more information, visit here.

Holocaust Memorial Center to Host Virtual Film and Conversation About Charlottesville
The Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus in Farmington Hills will host a virtual program featuring a film and conversation about the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m.

The event, which will begin with a showing of the short documentary “Reawakening,” which recounts the neo-Nazi rally outside Charlottesville’s only synagogue, will be available as a Zoom webinar.

Following the screening, filmmaker Alexandra Horowitz and Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin will have a discussion on using the lessons of Charlottesville, as well as the memory of the Holocaust, to fight racism, antisemitism, and hate in 2020 America.

“We are honored to have Alexandra Kauffman Horowitz and Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin share their perspective on the impact of what happened in Charlottesville,” says Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, CEO of the Holocaust Memorial Center. “As we encounter instances of hate, the experience of the Charlottesville community resonates with all of us.”

Registration is required. To register, visit here. For more information, visit here or call 248-553-2400.

Automation Alley Fund and Michigan Works! Seek Donations for Laptops for Learning
The Automation Alley Fund is partnering with Michigan Works! agencies across southeast Michigan to solicit corporate monetary donations and deliver much-needed laptops to unemployed and underemployed individuals enrolled in education programs who do not have access to a computer for online virtual learning.

Since March 14, 1.2 million unemployment claims have been filed by Michigan residents, 25 percent of the state’s labor force. Many of these individuals, who previously relied on computer labs which are now unavailable, are in immediate need of a laptop to upgrade their skills or be trained in a new career. This includes people that have financial hardships, those that have a home computer being used by children enrolled in online schooling, or those sharing their computer with another person in the home for work or job searching.

“With so many challenges facing student workers, we want to eliminate the cost barrier to accessing technology,” says Jake Sigal, president of the Automation Alley Fund. “When we reached out to the Automation Alley member community about Laptops for Learning, we had an immediate response in partnership with Michigan Works! to keep Michigan adult students on the path to success.”

The donation goal of $75,000 for Laptops for Learning will be matched by a $75,000 contribution from Michigan Works!

Donations will be accepted through Aug. 31. To donate, contact Sigal at

Stahls Autos for Autism Car Show Going Virtual
The Stahls Auto Museum in Chesterfield Township is collaborating with the “Under the Radar Michigan” television program crew to present the virtual Autos for Autism “In Your Garage” Car Show to benefit the Ted Lindsay Foundation.

Enthusiasts and collectors will submit the following information by Sept. 3 to

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Year, make, model of car
  • Best photo of car
  • Their story

The museum will select 100 applicants to have their cars posted on its Facebook page for the world to vote on. The winner from each day will compete for the grand prize trophy! A $25 donation to the charity is required to enter the competition and each entrant will receive a gift bag.

Cars advancing to the Top 10, if local, will bring their car to the museum for filming. Non-local winners will be asked to submit a video of their vehicle.

For more information, visit here.

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