COVID-19 Update: Blue Cross Blue Shield Expands Prescription Access, Hospitals Seek More Donations, Pure Michigan Goes Virtual, and More

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

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

Blue Cross Blue Shield Prescriptions
Detroit-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network of Michigan will further expand access to prescription drug refills for members in order to comply with an executive order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to expand access to prescription drug refills during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

On March 6, BCBSM announced a series of steps to expand prescription drug access during the COVID-19 pandemic period, including waiving early medication refill limits on 30-day prescription maintenance medications, consistent with the member’s benefit plan. BCBSM also is encouraging members to use 90-day mail order, if available, to ensure ample supplies of prescriptions. BCBSM also will ensure formulary flexibility if there are shortages or access issues. If such circumstances arise, patients will not be liable for the additional charges that stem from obtaining a non-preferred medication for COVID-19 treatment.

Medical Supplies
To better accommodate the processing of community donations, Beaumont Health is adding a safe and secure drop off location. Beginning today, March 26, Beaumont is asking donors to drop-off medical supplies at their Van Buren Township facility at 29165 Ecorse Road, Van Buren Township. The facility will be open for drop off services Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Requested items include:

  • New or unused disposable face masks
  • N-95 mask (sometimes called respirators)
  • Eye protection including face shields and safety goggles
  • Disposable gowns
  • Disposable gloves (especially non-latex)
  • Disposable surgical caps
  • Disposable foot covers
  • Wipes: bleach or anti-microbial
  • Hand-sanitizer
  • Home-sewn reusable masks
  • Specialized items
    • PAPRs (powered air purifying respirators) and PAPR hoods
    • Nasal testing swabs
    • Viral testing kits

The drop-off locations are “touchless” to ensure donor safety with donors placing items directly into bins. Receipts for donations will be available online at www.beaumont.org/giving.

Donations are strongly encouraged and appreciated. Donations will also be accepted outside the main entrance of the Beaumont Service Center in Southfield at 26901 Beaumont Blvd. through April 4. Donors who are not feeling well should wait until they are well before donating supplies or equipment. Bulk donations for pick-up by Beaumont can be organized by contacting covid19donations@beaumont.org.

To make a financial donation to Beaumont’s COVID-19 Fund to assist patients and emergency operations, visit www.beaumont.org/giving or mail a check to the Beaumont Health Foundation. Please write COVID-19 Fund on your check.

Beaumont Health Foundation
26901 Beaumont Blvd., 5D
Southfield, MI  48033
For more information, contact the Beaumont Health Foundation:  947-522-0100, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Insurance Coverage
Honigman, a large law firm in Detroit, has published information on how businesses can navigate potential insurance coverage for direct losses and potential claims in light of COVID-19. Business interruption coverage is typically part of commercial all-risk property insurance. For business interruption losses to be covered, there typically must first be physical damage to property – either the insured’s property (“business interruption”) or that of a supplier on which the insured relies (“contingent business interruption”). Whether contamination constitutes property damage depends on judicial decisions and the policy language, including whether and to what extent the policy excludes coverage for contamination due to viruses. Some policies may cover business interruption due to infectious disease even if there is no property damage. For the full report, visit here.

Unemployment Services
JVS Human Services, a human service agency in Southfield, is providing video conferencing and phone call opportunities free of charge to people who have experienced a job loss related to the pandemic. The nonprofit organization helps people find work. While its office is closed, the staff is working from home and is available. Online services include:

unemployment graphic
Graphic courtesy of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency

Dairy Industry
Based on the stimulus package unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate Wednesday night, the measure includes billions of dollars in new farm aid. The 883-page bill outlines a $2 trillion economic rescue package and provides billions to replenish the Agriculture Department’s Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) authority. It also earmarks dollars for local agriculture and livestock and specialty crop producers.

Michigan ranks sixth in the nation in milk production with 11.2 billion pounds produced in 2018, according to Statista.com. Michigan’s dairy herd numbers 423,000 animals in 2018, up from 300,000 head 20 years earlier. Forty-one Michigan dairy farms have installed a total of 142 robotic milking systems, and the average Michigan cow produces 72.3 pounds of milk per day, compared to an average of 63.7 pounds per cow per day in the United States.

The federal spending authority allows the USDA to make additional Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments, which help mitigate trade tariffs and sluggish exports.

The breakdown of the stimulus package in terms of agriculture includes:

  • $14 billion to the CCC (capped annually at $30 billion)
  • $9.5 billion to livestock and specialty crops (which includes dairy producers)

Other agricultural elements of the bill include:

  • $15.5 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as an increase in demand is projected
  • $8.8 billion for child nutrition programs.
  • $450 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP (funds food distribution to food banks)
  • $100 million for additional rural broadband grants through USDA’s ReConnect program.
  • $33 million to the Food Safety and Inspection Service to cover the cost of temporary and intermittent workers, relocation of inspectors and overtime costs.
  • $25 million for the Rural Utilities Service to support telemedicine and distance learning services in rural areas.
  • $4 million to cover the cost of repatriating Foreign Agricultural Service staff.

For more information, DBusiness covered Michigan’s dairy industry here.

Manufacturing
Detroit’s American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. March 25 announced that, as a result of the unexpected disruption in light vehicle production and economic uncertainty due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, AAM is withdrawing its 2020 financial outlook.

“During this unprecedented time for AAM, the automotive industry and the world, our focus continues to be the health and well-being of our associates, their families and our communities,” says David C. Dauch, chairman and CEO of AAM. “In addition, we have implemented significant measures to adjust our operations to our customers’ revised production schedules, which include flexing our variable cost structure and intensely managing our controllable expenses.”

Banking
KeyBank, the Ohio-based bank with 16 branches in Michigan, has unveiled several steps to help support its clients facing economic hardship due to the spread of COVID-19. In addition to financial programs already in place, KeyBank announced it will defer payment for at least 90 days for clients facing economic hardship due to the spread of COVID-19. Measures include:

  • A payment deferral plan for clients facing economic hardship
  • Support for its employees, including a childcare reimbursement
  • Temporary closure of certain branches to keep teammates and clients safe
  • An initial $1 million commitment to support vulnerable individuals, small businesses, and neighborhoods.

Customers with questions can contact their local branch or 1-800-KEY2YOU (539-2968). TDDY 1-800-539-8336.

Education
Davenport University in Grand Rapids says it is first university in Michigan to adopt a new platform, virtual reality software called VirBELA, that mimics a traditional college campus classroom experience through an online community.

“Davenport has a 20-year history of offering bachelor and graduate programs online,” says Richard J. Pappas, president of Davenport University. “That is why we are well-positioned, during this challenging time of a pandemic, to expand our universities use of online technologies and create an even more effective classroom experience for both our professors and their students.”

Since being introduced to the platform almost a year ago, the university has been using it as a classroom for select online classes and as an internal team management space for its remote staff.

The school is set to introduce the software into its online bachelor’s in health information management degree program this spring. At the same time, it says it will continue to look for ways to expand how and where it uses the software. The university is planning to host its first virtual graduate fair on March 31. It will have representatives from each of the university’s colleges – business, technology and health – as well as admissions, advising and career services.

To learn more about Davenport University’s upcoming virtual program fair, visit here.

Social Media
A group of local entrepreneurs – Sari M. Cicurel, Abby Stybel and Brett Panter of Event Studios, Julie Yaker of Eye Catcher Events, and Emma Zerkel of Winning Imprints and Trophies – are partnering to create a website and Facebook page as a resource for families confined to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

StayHome4Love.com is a site designed to give businesses a place to supply content, blogs, and listings free of charge.

Some of the categories are already created and providing information include:

  • Arts and entertainment
  • Health (mental and physical) and fitness
  • Finance and assets
  • Children and families
  • How to give back
  • Supporting local small businesses
  • Lifestyle (including cooking, decorating, entertaining, and more)

Pure Michigan Online
From live cams featuring beaches to virtual tours of exhibits, Pure Michigan is helping bring the state’s educational, outdoor, and cultural experiences to life at home through its new #VirtualPureMichigan campaign. New virtual experiences will be posted regularly across Pure Michigan’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter channels in the coming weeks as people are being encouraged to Stay Home and Stay Safe to combat the continued spread of COVID-19.

“During these extraordinary times, we want to continue to do what Pure Michigan does best – inspire people – while offering alternative ways to experience the stay at home and follow social distancing guidelines,” says Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “By sharing the tremendous virtual offerings our travel partners across the state have available, we are hoping that individuals can enjoy, learn and explore our beautiful state from the comfort of their own homes as they look ahead to future adventures.”

Organizations around the state are offering virtual experiences for all to enjoy, including:

  • Pure Michigan is providing live web camera viewings here for people to take a peek at destinations including Alpena, Holland, Frankenmuth, west Michigan, and the Mackinac Bridge.
  • The Ann Arbor Film Festival is going virtual now through March 29. The entire festival will be live-streamed for free, including all submitted films and follow up discussions with participating filmmakers. The full festival schedule can be found here.
  • The digital collections of The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is available on the museum’s website here.
  • Get a sense of spring with a live stream of the butterfly exhibit and more at Frederik Meijer Gardens here.
  • Take a virtual field trip of the Detroit Institute of Arts with Detroit Public Television here.
  • The Michigan History Museum in Lansing offers information about Michigan’s rich past, from the time of the state’s earliest people to the late 20th The five-floor museum offers a virtual tour here.
  • The Michigan Science Center in Detroit offers a virtual tour for kids of all ages to explore and makes for an educational experience adhering to STEM guidelines. Kids can explore the health and wellness gallery to learn about the human body, the lunar and space gallery to learn about space travel, and more here.
  • The Menominee Range Historical Museums in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula encompasses three different museums for guests to explore here.
  • Paddle out into the St. Mary’s River from Voyager Island and Rotary Park in Sault St. Marie on a 360 virtual guided tour here. This water trail gives you a front row seat to Great Lakes freighters passing through the channel on their way to and from the Soo Locks.
  • Manistee County in Northern Michigan is rich with history and natural beauty that can be explored through the Visit Manistee Natural Wonders Tour here.
  • PBS television program “Under the Radar Michigan” features the people, places and things that make Michigan a great place to be. Michiganders can check out episodes that feature Michigan’s Museums, stories from the U.P., downtown Detroit and more here.

In the coming days and weeks, the Pure Michigan social channels will be posting virtual experiences all across the state using the #VirtualPureMichigan hashtag.

The latest COVID-19 pandemic information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Postpone Non-Essential Digging
MISS DIG 811, the Detroit-based non-profit corporation that operates as the underground utility safety notification system for the entire state, reminds Michigan residents to postpone all non-essential digging projects as a result of Gov. Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order. These include all gardening, landscaping and any do-it-yourself projects.

By law, Michigan residents are required to always practice safe digging by placing tickets marking underground utility lines.

For more information about MISS DIG 811 and safe digging practices visit here.

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