COVID-19 Update: Blue Cross Blue Shield Waives Out-of-pocket COVID-19 Costs Through Sept. 30, Oakland County Provides Free Contact Tracing Software for Restaurants and Schools, 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 coronavirus cases in Michigan by county
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Feb. 9

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.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Waives Out-of-pocket COVID-19 Costs Through Sept. 30
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network will continue to waive cost sharing for members who are diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 through Sept. 30.

This extension of a temporary benefit ensures members will not pay out-of-pocket costs — copays, deductibles, or coinsurance — for the medical care associated with COVID-19. The temporary waiver applies to all commercial and Medicare Advantage plans offered by Blue Cross and Blue Care Network.

Blue Cross and BCN members have not had to pay cost sharing for COVID-19 treatment since March 2020 when the first cases of COVID-19 were announced in Michigan. More than 55,000 members have had their shares of COVID-19 treatment costs waived. Blue Cross will continue to work with large group customers on potential benefit changes, as some employers may have different benefit provisions.

“With vaccines arriving, we are seeing signs of hope and promise in our collective fight against COVID-19,” says Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of BCBSM. “But too many are still at risk, many are still battling the virus, and we want our members to know that we stand behind them.”

The company is posting information on its blog and website to provide the latest information on coronavirus and COVID vaccines, as well as guidance for members with symptoms.

Oakland County Provides Free Contact Tracing Software for Restaurants and Schools
Oakland County is providing free user-friendly screening software to local restaurants and public schools in the county to help enhance safety protocols and streamline the process of screening and tracking for COVID-19.

The county’s Department of Economic Development has contracted with Rochester-based software developer Clear To Go! for its software and app that helps ensure anyone who enters a building is healthy and adheres to current health protocols.

The county is paying between $500,000-$750,000 for the cost of the software using federal CARES Act funding passed at the end of 2020. The contract runs through June.

According to Clear To Go!, employees, guests, or students who enter a location are screened with the Clear To Go! iOS, Android, or SMS app using a configurable set of key COVID-19 health-related questions and optional temperature check. Once the individual is cleared, the information then is linked to a Clear To Go! badge allowing that person to work onsite until the next required screening period.

If an employee or guest fails the screening, Clear To Go!’s case management tool provides early warning detection and a central point to ensure an employer’s established processes and protocols are followed, and then tracks all documents and communications from a human resources perspective.

2021 Ram 1500 HFE EcoDiesel Offers 33 MPG; Joins Fuel-efficient Ram 1500 Lineup
The Ram Truck brand of Auburn Hills’ Stellantis announced today that a new, fuel-efficient model is joining its half-ton truck lineup.

The 2021 Ram 1500 Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel delivers a highway rating of 33 mpg. HFE EcoDiesel’s city and combined mpg ratings are 23 and 26, respectively. The HFE designation, or High Fuel Efficiency, is Ram’s way of highlighting this model’s excellent fuel efficiency.

“Ram is committed to innovation and powertrain leadership, and as the no-compromise benchmark for efficiency and performance, we continue to listen to customer input by offering unsurpassed fuel economy,” says Mike Koval Jr., Ram brand CEO for Stellantis. “The Ram 1500 is America’s most powerful half-ton diesel pickup with 480 lb.-ft. of torque and the most capable light-duty diesel with towing capability up to 12,560 pounds, and delivers up to 1,000 miles of range on a single tank of fuel.”

The Ram 1500 Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel is available on crew cab four-door models with a 5-ft. 7-in. bed and 20-inch aluminum wheels. Other features include a black bumper and grille, tonneau cover, wheel-to-wheel side steps and cloth bucket seats.

The 2021 Ram 1500 Tradesman HFE EcoDiesel is available in Bright White Clear Coat or Diamond Black Crystal. HFE EcoDiesel models start at $42,240 MSRP (excluding $1,695 destination) and go on sale in the second quarter of 2021.

Bloomfield Hills’ Unite Digital Expands Dealership Marketing Software Platform
Unite Digital, a Bloomfield Hills digital marketing company that focuses auto dealership marketing, is expanding its Unite CONNECT platform.

Unite CONNECT is a customizable lead management and data insights platform built to incorporate the latest advances in technology and intelligent automation, according to the company. It was built to handle the ways consumers expect to connect with dealerships today, expanding beyond email and phone response, to include text and messaging platforms in one unified interface.

The platform integrates with all major customer relationship management programs and provides more than 200 customer data elements to provide dealerships with an in-depth look at customers, to understand where they live, what they drive, and what drove them to the store. This helps dealerships respond to customers quickly and with customized communications that can increase sales conversions.

“Unite CONNECT helps OEs and dealerships attract and identify more customers, customize their interactions, and unite their data across tiers to create experiences that surprise and delight consumers,” says Stacey Coopes, founder and CEO of Unite Digital. “For example, with our platform, OEs capture and personalize communication to 10 times more customers than older technology in use by most certified digital programs today.”

Unite CONNECT is being used by Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) in its MiDigitalSolutions certified digital program, a comprehensive suite of digital marketing services and solutions managed by Unite Digital for the growing U.S. network of Mitsubishi Motors dealer partners.

Unite Digital has acquired and integrated real-time sales data from Mitsubishi Motors and competitive brands, so dealers know if the customer has purchased another vehicle elsewhere, allowing them to optimize their follow-up resources and tailor their communication to that customer with a more relevant service message.

“Customer expectations of their online experience have dramatically changed over the last year based on experiences with companies like Amazon, Domino’s, Google, Instacart and Zappos,” says Coopes. “Our team is working hard to bring similar capabilities to our OEM and dealer partners. We have exciting new product and service launches we will be introducing throughout the year to meet these evolving needs.”

The company also has hired automotive digital retailing veterans, Dave Zuchowski and James Casazza, as chief strategy officer and chief innovation officer, respectively.

“James and Dave know automotive retailing and digital sales and marketing inside and out,” says Coopes. “I can’t think of two better people to help catapult our business forward and serve our growing list of clients to create seamless consumer experiences that unite and differentiate manufacturers and their distribution network, bringing them into the modern age of buying and selling, wherever customers are.”

State Partners with GetSetUp to Help Residents with Online Vaccine Information
Through its partnership with the national education technology company GetSetUp, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Aging and Adult Services Agency is offering a series of sessions to walk older Michiganders through the Michigan COVID-19 vaccine website. The goal is to help them find their local health department to register online for a vaccine appointment or to be added to the waitlist.

On Thursday, Feb. 11, at 3 p.m., Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive and MDHHS chief deputy medical director, will join a session to provide a brief overview of the landscape in Michigan and to answer some frequently asked questions.

Registration is required. To register, visit here or call 1-888-559-1614. Michiganders without internet access looking for vaccine information should contact the MDHHS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-535-6136.

This project is funded in part by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

Downtown Northville Extends Street Closures Through April 30, 2022
The Northville City Council recently approved the continued closure of East Main Street (between Center and Hutton) and North Center Street (between Main and Dunlap) for expanded outdoor dining and a social district through April 30, 2022.

As restaurants and shops continue to navigate through the pandemic, the continuation of street closures enables the Northville Downtown Development Authority to keep its Social District concept in place to provide a vital expanded footprint for the local businesses.

“The DDA remains committed to supporting our businesses and the community. We are excited to continue the success of our Social District, for the next year,” says Lori Ward, director of the Northville Downtown Development Authority. “This new experience will provide an opportunity for all of the downtown businesses to continue welcoming guests safely and with the maximum capacity allowed under state COVID-19 guidelines.”

During the winter months the Northville DDA partnered with local business owner Manfred Schon of Up2Go to create the “Heat in the Street” experience, which brought four heated food stands — two located in Town Square and two on N. Center Street, and heated dining pods — located on the E. Main Street and N. Center Street to the downtown.

The food stands, which will remain open in downtown Northville for the year, provide restaurants with a supplemental venue to serve seasonal quick bites and beverages on the weekends. Weather permitting, food stand hours are Friday: 4-8 p.m.., Saturday: 12-8 pm., and Sunday: 12-4 p.m. Dining pods will also remain open every day for the year so visitors can eat their quick bites or carryout purchased from one of the many downtown restaurants.

For more information, visit here.

Buddy’s Pizza Donates Food Across Michigan for National Pizza Day
In honor of National Pizza Day Tuesday, Buddy’s Pizza donated pizza to feed more than 200 people through its community partner, the Pope Francis Center in Detroit.

Burton Heiss, CEO of Buddy’s Pizza, distributed the donated food alongside Fr. Tim McCabe, executive Director of the Pope Francis Center, and additional Buddy’s Pizza team members.

Inspired by its ongoing partnership with the center, Buddy’s extended the initiative state-wide in all of their service areas, donating more than 5,000 slices to shelters across Michigan, including Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids, in an effort to Slice Out Hunger.

Chasing the Dream and Making it Pay: Free Webinar on Finding A Dream Job, Even During a Pandemic, Plus Budgeting for Success

JVS Human Services Job-finding Webinar to be Streamed Feb. 16
JVS Human Services in Southfield is offering a free webinar to metro Detroiters titled “The Road Ahead: Budgeting and the Dream Job,” which will be streamed live on Feb. 16 at 10 a.m.

This webinar will discuss the need to meet an individual’s financial goals while pursuing a dream job. It will be streamed on the JVS Human Services Facebook page. No registration is necessary.

“For some, the definition of a dream job may not be clear cut, but we can guide people through self-assessment, looking at their strengths, interests, values, skills, abilities, and personal style,” says Sherrie James, a career counselor at JVS Human Services. “Conversely, others are locked into what their perfect job looks like but need practical financial skills to make a switch work.”

James will be running the webinar along with JVS financial capability counselor Emily Bergt.

“You need to look at numbers and figure out what you need in order to survive — the bare essentials for you to stay afloat covering housing, transport, food and utilities,” says Bergt. “This might mean ensuring you can make minimum payments on credit cards so that credit scores are not affected. Or it might mean staying in a current job for a while longer while you work part-time on a business you are setting up.”

JVS Human Services can also provide one-on-one career counselling. Contact for more information.

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