COVID-19 Update: App Built at U-M Helps Businesses Stay Open Amid Pandemic, Business Leaders Launch Work to Eliminate Racial Inequity in Michigan, 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 Sept. 22

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.

App Built at U-M Helps Businesses Stay Open Amid Pandemic
A COVID-19 symptom checklist web app developed at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is helping more than 2,500 employers, including small businesses, in Michigan meet state requirements to screen employees before they enter the workplace each day.

MI Symptoms was built by a team of faculty, staff, alumni, and students from the U-M College of Engineering and the School of Public Health as part of a broader effort to provide expertise, data, and tools to inform state and industry decision-makers as well as the public during the pandemic.

Since it was released in May, more than 50,000 Michiganders have built profiles and every day, more than 16,000 use it.

The team recently released an update that provides real-time employer dashboards through the web app, in addition to the end-of-the-day emailed reports that the previous system provided.

“This update makes it easier for employers to meet the current state requirements that staff showing up for work in person must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms every day,” says Dan Maletta, executive director of information technology at U-M School of Engineering who co-led the tool’s development. “It offers employers a live feed of data as employees report their symptoms.”

The web app is designed to eventually help state public health officials and employers identify new outbreaks earlier than they could through the use of testing data alone. It can take two to five days for COVID-19 results to be available after testing. But MI Symptoms shows where and when new symptoms are cropping up as the data is collected.

The web app is not used for contact tracing, and it does not track users’ locations or movements through GPS or Bluetooth.

Business Leaders Launch Work to Eliminate Racial Inequity in Michigan
Lansing-based Business Leaders for Michigan has committed to eliminating the racial inequities that exist in Michigan for Black Americans, beginning with its own board member organizations.

For the past several months, a subset of the organization’s board focused intensely on examining how corporations can – and should – work to reduce racial inequity, and outlining a scope of work for its members, including identifying foundational metrics for progress measurement. The work has been co-led by Ron Hall, CEO of Bridgewater Interiors, and Andi Owen, CEO of Herman Miller, along with support from PwC.

Business Leaders for Michigan will survey its membership on several specific targets to first analyze how much work already is being done at the organizational level, for example: identifying the percentage of members who are signatories of CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion; the percentage of companies that measure diversity, equity and inclusion in employee hiring, compensation, and progression; and the percentage of members who have supplier diversity targets.

The board says it recognizes that individual member companies are at various points on the spectrum, with some doing work in this space for a long time and some taking action more recently. Regardless of their current scale, organizations are encouraged to participate now, in order to measure progress. Business Leaders for Michigan expects to release initial data findings in the fourth quarter of 2020, with annual progress reporting to follow.

“Our strategic plan outlines the need to invest in Michigan’s greatest strength: our people,” says Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “But after careful review, it is clear that we have not invested enough into addressing racial inequity, specifically the income and education gaps that exist in our own state.

“What gets measured, gets done. Michigan will never be a Top 10 state unless all Michiganders benefit from the progress made, but we won’t know whether we’re truly making an impact until we have a benchmark to measure from.”

Additionally, Business Leaders for Michigan’s annual benchmarking report will for the first time measure several key data points specific to racial equity gaps, beginning in January 2021.

Beaumont Partnership Among Nation’s Top Accountable Care Organizations
The Beaumont Accountable Care Organization is the top-performing ACO in Michigan in terms of savings percentage generated and 17th in the country, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The ACO generated $27.8 million in gross savings for contract year 2019.

“Strong partnerships between Beaumont Health and physicians has helped us transform health care by improving efficiency, reducing costs and improving care,” says Dr. Belal Abdallah, board chairman of the Beaumont Health ACO. “We always strive to provide the best care to patients in a cost-effective manner.”

The Beaumont ACO is a physician and health system partnership with more than 1,900 physician members. It has allowed physicians and hospitals to share in cost savings resulting from their efforts to improve patient care and outcomes.

“Our benchmark for success was raised by CMS in 2019 and I am proud the Beaumont ACO continues to exceed the target and create savings in the program,” says Walter Lorang, executive director and COO of the Beaumont ACO. “While many ACOs have begun to drop out of the program or struggle to meet the new targets, our performance has elevated. We are always searching for ways to help patients manage their health by strengthening their relationships with physicians. We collaborate with physicians to improve communication and information sharing among primary care physicians, specialists and hospitals.”

This is the seventh consecutive year the Beaumont ACO achieved significant cost savings, dating back to its origin as the Oakwood ACO. ACOs must meet financial and quality targets set by Medicare to achieve shared savings.

Ann Arbor SPARK to go 100% Renewable Energy with DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower Program
Ann Arbor SPARK, and DTE Energy have announced that the nonprofit organization that builds regional economic growth, has committed to 100 percent renewable energy through DTE’s MIGreenPower program.

Ann Arbor SPARK’s investment in MIGreenPower will offset 334,000 pounds of CO2 annually, equivalent to the carbon removed by 200 acres of U.S. forests in one year.

“Enrolling in MIGreenPower was an easy decision for our organization,” says Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. “The program provides us with the ability to make an immediate impact on the environment and contribute to the clean energy economy. Increasingly, easy access to renewable energy is a major draw for companies to open or relocate to a community. Programs like MIGreenPower help us attract and retain businesses that help drive continued economic growth and technological innovation.”

DTE’s MIGreenPower program enables customers to choose the percentage of their energy use they would like to attribute to renewables beyond the 13 percent wind or solar power DTE already provides every customer in their energy mix. More than 16,000 DTE Electric residential and small business customers have already joined in the program since its launch in April 2017. Enrolled MIGreenPower customers are reducing their carbon footprint by participating in DTE’s Pinnebog Wind Park, Lapeer Solar Park, and O’Shea Solar Park. Together, these renewable energy projects offset 186,357 tons of CO2, the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking more than 36,500 passenger cars off the road for a year.

“Partnering with an outstanding economic development organization like Ann Arbor SPARK is a tremendous opportunity for DTE,” says Trevor Lauer, president of DTE Energy’s electric company. “SPARK has consistently demonstrated their ability to help drive economic development in the Ann Arbor area and across the state of Michigan. Today, companies of all sizes are interested in accessing more renewable energy to meet their sustainability goals. By enrolling in MIGreenPower, both business and residential customers can reduce their impact on the environment and help accelerate renewable energy development in Michigan.”

Michigan organizations, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., the University of Michigan, and the Detroit Zoo, along with more than 10 other commercial customers, also  have enrolled in a MIGreenPower program specifically designed for their size and energy use. DTE is bringing three new wind parks and three new solar parks online to meet customer demand for this program.

DTE plans to build additional renewable energy projects and expand MIGreenPower to meet increasing customer demand. As the state’s largest producer of renewable energy, DTE will more than double its renewable energy generation capacity, investing an additional $2 billion in wind and solar by 2024 and has a goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Customers can join MIGreenPower by visiting here or calling DTE’s MIGreenPower enrollment hotline at 855-613-4445.

Twist Out Cancer’s 2020 Brushes with Cancer Event to Take Place Friday at GM Design Center
Twist Out Cancer will host its 2020 Brushes with Cancer program at GM’s Design Center in Warren, beginning with a virtual art exhibition on Friday, Sept. 25.

Twist Out Cancer is an is an international nonprofit charitable organization that provides psychosocial support to individuals touched by cancer through creative arts programming. After conducting 14 programs in seven cities over the past eight years, this is the first time a Brushes with Cancer program will involve employees of one company.

Brushes with Cancer is a celebration that pairs accomplished artists with “inspirations” – people who are previvors, survivors, fighters, and caregivers affected by cancer. As they share their “twist on cancer” – stories, feelings, and experiences – the artists create unique pieces of art representing their personal journey with cancer.

This year, each of the 25 inspirations and 23 artists involved in the program are employees at GM Design. Their artwork and the stories behind them will be available for everyone to view during a virtual art exhibition and celebratory event on Friday. Tickets are available here.

Following the event, the artwork will be on display at the GM Design Center Gallery until Oct. 30, and will be auctioned online. Proceeds from art sales are reinvested into Brushes with Cancer, helping to bring this program to more people around the world. More information is available here.

“Our Brushes with Cancer program in Detroit was a resounding success last year, and we were honored to be approached by the GM Design Center Gallery to work with their employees for our 2020 program,” says Jenna Benn Shersher, founder and CEO of Twist Out Cancer. “We have worked hand-in-hand with employees at GM Design during this unprecedented time to continue our program virtually, which is offering our Inspirations and Artists the same transformational experience our participants have come to expect over the past eight years.

“As Twist Out Cancer has grown, we continue to bring our impactful programming to new cities and new audiences around the world and are thrilled with the start of this new program.”

Questions about corporate partnerships can be directed to Amelia Hanrahan at

Pope Francis Center Hosts Off-Road Rally Sept. 24
Pope Francis Center, which assists the homeless in Detroit, is hosting its second Off-Road Rally tomorrow. The event is the final event of the organization’s THRIVE Change for Change campaign.

Participants will take part in a downtown Detroit scavenger hunt. The final clue will lead contestants to the afterglow, where snacks and drinks will be served. Prizes will include gift baskets, camping gear.

Registration, which is open until the end of the day today here, is $100 per car, allowing four people per car to complete their team.

All proceeds will benefit the Center’s $50,000 added expense to supply guests with clean clothes, through a partnership with Lafayette Laundry.

Nominations for MotorCities’ Annual Awards of Excellence Now Open
Nominations are now open for the MotorCities National Heritage Area’s 7th annual 2020 Awards of Excellence, which will take place on Nov. 18.

A winner in each of the three categories – revitalization, education and tourism – will be announced during the annual Michigan Auto Heritage Day, being conducted as a virtual event for the first time this year.

The deadline for the 2020 Awards of Excellence nominations is Oct. 2. Self-nominations are accepted. Nominations can be submitted here.

Michigan Automotive Heritage Day and the Awards of Excellence began in 2014 and have become an annual opportunity to celebrate the story that can only be told in Michigan: How this area put the world on wheels.

Last year’s winners included:

  • The Award of Excellence for Preservation: Cherry Hill Veterans’ Dormitory in Canton.
  • The Award of Excellence for Tourism: Back to the Bricks of Flint.
  • The Award of Excellence for Interpretation and Education: SAE International’s Mobility History Committee of Troy.