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.
State Government – Construction Industry to Reopen May 7
Michigan’s construction industry will get back to work on May 7, a spokesman for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer confirmed today. The news was first reported by MIRS News, a capitol newsletter.
The governor said in a news conference earlier this week that residential and commercial construction and additional outdoor enterprises would be among the next businesses to reopen.
Last week, Whitmer permitted lawn services, garden shops, landscapers, and nurseries to reopen as long as they follow enhanced social-distancing rules.
Citizens Business Conditions Index
The first quarter of 2020 is a tale of two U.S. economies — one that was solidly grounded in January and another that found itself tipped upside down by the end of March, according to the new Detroit-based Citizens Business Conditions Index.
While the Q1 2020 Citizens Business Conditions Index shows only a slight decline (61.0 to 60.8) given the full economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged late in the quarter, even that modest directional shift from past quarters reflects the gathering storm of the pandemic disruption.
“The U.S. economy was off to a strong start this decade, and then the coronavirus spread globally and completely threw everything off track,” says Tony Bedikian, head of global markets for Citizens Commercial Banking. “Some sectors are doing better than others. Some have completely ground to a halt. The bull market went into a tailspin, though the government has stepped up to backstop the economy. The changes have been dramatic and more sudden than most of us have experienced in our lifetime.”
The Index is derived from a number of underlying components, most of which declined during the first quarter. For example, the unemployment rose during the first quarter while wage growth stalled as the pandemic put the brakes on growth in several sectors.
The Index draws from public information and proprietary corporate data to establish a unique view of business conditions across the country. An index greater than 50 indicates an expansionary trend and points to improved business growth for the next quarter. Citizen’s Bank has its Michigan headquarters in Southfield.
Henry Ford Health System’s first patient to receive an infusion of convalescent plasma was Dr. Scott Kaatz, a Henry Ford Hospital doctor who took care of some of the first COVID-19 patients during the early days of the coronavirus’ discovery in metro Detroit.
Kaatz, who had no underlying medical conditions, says he “came as close to death as you can be,” while being treated by his colleagues at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
“Six days ago, I was on the ventilator. Now, I’m home taking care of myself,” Kaatz said by phone from his home in metro Detroit on April 26. “I got really, really lucky, and I’m fortunate to be cared for by an incredibly skilled team.”
Kaatz received five different experimental medical therapies during his treatment:
- Convalescent plasma
- Interleukin 6
“Did some, all or none of them work? We don’t know,” says Kaatz. “I’m hopeful that as the science progresses, we may know. Knowing that at Henry Ford there are all of the options available was certainly peace of mind for my family.”
On Sunday, March 29, Kaatz woke up with signs of illness: a slight fever and headache. Worried it could be COVID-19, he called his division head and said he wasn’t coming in to work at the hospital.
“It wasn’t I was so sick I wasn’t able to work,” he says. “It was I couldn’t come in and be contagious.”
Within the next six days, his symptoms deteriorated. His fever never climbed high. But “crushing” body aches and “significant headache” accompanied the tell-tale dry cough. He made two trips to the Henry Ford Hospital emergency room in six days. But since chest x-rays and his oxygenation looked ok, he was sent home both times.
That changed April 4, when he was admitted with shortness of breath and worsening fatigue. April 5 began a devastating spiral in the ICU – leading to intubation and the ventilator on April 12. His hospital colleagues didn’t know if Kaatz was going to pull through. Neither his wife, a nurse now in Texas with their son, nor his daughter still in metro Detroit, were able to visit.
“The nurses held up my phone to do FaceTime, just before they put me on the ventilator,” Kaatz says about the virtual visit with his family on Easter Sunday. “I knew the statistics; my wife had worked in a step-down unit, so she did too. So we had the opportunity do a potential goodbye.”
His colleagues, as they were doing with all patients, used the knowledge they had at the time to do what they could. Unable to lie prone while awake, Kaatz was flipped on his stomach for three days while sedated and on the ventilator. They ran through the list of experimental treatments, desperate as his oxygen levels and conditioned worsened.
Then things started to improve. Just under a week later, Kaatz woke up on Saturday, April 18. On Monday, April 20, he was extubated and taken off the ventilator.
Henry Ford has been working with donors who are Henry Ford Health System employees who tested positive for COVID-19, recovered and show no signs of disease. Donors who qualify either have a negative COVID-19 test at least 15 days after their positive test or have been symptom-free for at least 28 days after testing positive.
Donors must meet regular volunteer blood donor criteria and have a donor form signed by a doctor. The plasma collection takes place at a blood center collection site and takes about one hour. Donation can be repeated at weekly intervals, and one donation can provide between one and four doses of plasma. Those who may qualify and would like to be evaluated for donation can email iPlaza@hfhs.org for more information.
“I will be donating in a couple of weeks; I’m already plugged in,” says Kaatz. “If you’ve had this disease, there are opportunities to help others who are desperately sick. We’ll track this and get some clues.”
New Drug Therapy
Advaita Bioinformatics of Ann Arbor, a company that interprets high-throughput biomedical data, announced April 28 that it identified a generic drug with clinical efficacy against COVID-19. This was confirmed in a clinical study at Henry Ford Health System.
The drug was identified using Advaita’s advanced AI platform, iPathwayGuide, which showed the necessity of modulating the immune response to SARS-CoV-2. An important finding is that drugs in the same class may not have similar effects. For instance, methylprednisolone was predicted to revert COVID-19-induced changes, while other steroids, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, were not. It also was found that several drugs currently being investigated would not revert many changes induced by this disease.
An independent clinical study undertaken at HFHS and led by Dr. Mayur S. Ramesh, has shown in a cohort of more than 200 patients that a short course of methylprednisolone was able to significantly reduce transfers to ICU, requirements for ventilation, as well as mortality. A peer-reviewed paper has been submitted to a leading journal.
“iPathwayGuide was able to identify a few drugs that would be effective, very quickly after data became available several weeks ago,” says Sorin Draghici, CEO of Advaita. “We were surprised to see that several drugs proposed before were not expected do as well as the ones we identified. The fantastic work done at Henry Ford by Dr. Ramesh and his colleagues proved that our approach has clinical value. Hearing that the drug we identified actually saved lives was extremely rewarding. We have a few other drugs that are predicted to be effective, and we are seeking additional clinical partners to demonstrate their validity.”
Ramesh says, “We were very excited to see the very positive clinical results provided by methylprednisolone in the Henry Ford Health System. We have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of deaths after we started treating patients with this drug. We are looking forward to exploring the clinical efficacy of the other repurposed drugs identified by Advaita’s drug repurposing platform.”
For more information on this new drug therapy, click here.
Rite Aid has expanded COVID-19 testing criteria to include all individuals 18 and older exhibiting any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.
Rite Aid currently offers self-swab testing sites at five store locations in Michigan, a total of 25 across eight states, through its partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
All of Rite Aid’s self-testing sites are open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week and has the capacity to conduct approximately 400 tests daily through online appointments. Rite Aid drive-up COVID-19 self-testing sites utilize self-swab nasal tests overseen by Rite Aid pharmacists. Testing sites are located in store parking lots, and patients are required to remain in their vehicles from the time they arrive until the time they depart.
Patients are required to provide government issued identification, be at least 18 years old and need to pre-register here in order to schedule a time slot for testing. An email address is required as part of the pre-registration process. The patient does not need to bring a prescription or lab order in order to be tested, since the lab order is part of the on-site process.
Rite Aid’s Michigan test sites include:
- Macomb Township: 46977 Romeo Plank Rd.
- Flint Area: 9090 Miller Rd. in Swartz Creek.
- Grand Rapids Area: 5995 Kalamazoo Ave., SE in Kentwood.
- Lansing Area: 715 South Main St. in Eaton Rapids.
- Saginaw: 4598 State St.
In Other Testing News: The SAY Detroit Family Health Clinic in Highland Park has opened a free COVID-19 testing site on its grounds at 211 Glendale Ave., a few blocks west of Woodward Avenue.
The site is the result of a collaborative effort led by SAY Detroit in partnership with Trinity Health, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, EVO Detroit/Detroit2Nepal (D2N) Foundation, and Michigan Healthcare Professionals. Vibra Health Lab in Troy is overseeing the lab work.
The testing site is open three days a week – Monday, Tuesday, and Friday – with results being conveyed to patients within 24-48 hours. Tests are offered at no cost, and a physician’s referral is not required.
“This test center will overcome many of the barriers which deny access to other testing centers, including patients allowed to be seen without a doctor’s note or prescription, allowing foot traffic for individuals without access to cars, and seeing patients without health insurance at no charge,” says Dr. Richard Keidan, founding director of EVO/D2N.
The testing site is one of six focused initiatives created by SAY Detroit in response to the pandemic called “Detroit Beats Covid-19!” It also is supported by charitable donations from Mitch Albom’s “Human Touch’’ fictional, serialized story of hope during the coronavirus pandemic, written in real time and shared each Friday in weekly installments here.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is developing telehealth programs with behavioral health providers so certain patients with substance use disorder can undergo detoxification and treatment at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our program meets people where they live,” says Dr. William Beecroft, medical director for Behavioral Health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “By treating substance use disorder patients at home using secure telehealth technology, we also look at ways to help bring the family into the treatment process and treat the whole person. We may find this approach could change the status quo for substance use disorder treatment in the future.”
Substance use disorder is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and makes the individual lose control of their use of a substance. Substances can be legal – like alcohol, nicotine or prescription opioid painkillers – or illegal, like heroin or illicitly obtained medication.
In collaboration with providers, Blue Cross is using evidence-based research to repackage existing services into a virtual format to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for low- to moderate-risk patients with substance use disorders. These patients would traditionally be in treatment programs that require frequent office visits and potential hospitalization. Many people with substance use disorder have underlying health conditions, including heart disease and liver diseases, that put them at higher risk of problems in the detoxification process and these factors need to be weighed against the risk of severe illness from potential exposure to COVID-19.
Telehealth treatment for substance use disorders varies by patient and provider but could include an initial medical assessment and vital signs check, multiple check-ins with doctors, nursing and social workers throughout the day, virtual group therapy, psychotherapy sessions, and medication-assisted or facilitated treatment.
Patients are also connected to online meetings provided by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. The program uses telehealth to deliver services provided through traditional intensive outpatient programs and partial hospitalization programs.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has successfully used telehealth to treat veterans with substance use disorders, especially in reaching veterans who live in rural areas.
Blue Cross and Blue Care Network members seeking help for substance use disorder can find providers participating in telehealth programs by calling the BCBSM or BCN Behavioral Health Services phone number on the back of their member I.D. card. Call center clinical team members will direct members with information and referrals.
Honeywell today announced that it is temporarily shifting manufacturing operations at two chemical manufacturing facilities to produce and donate hand sanitizer to government agencies in response to shortages created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company’s sites in Muskegon and Seelze, Germany, will produce hand sanitizer over the next two months for government agencies, which will then distribute the product to institutions in need. Both sites are part of Honeywell’s Performance Materials and Technologies business group.
The Muskegon plant manufactures high-purity solvents and blends with more than 1,500 products used in high-end applications such as DNA and RNA synthesis, environmental analysis, precision cleaning, pharmaceutical testing and various other laboratory applications. The plant has begun production of hand sanitizer that it will donate to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“As global citizens, we are honored to be able to answer the call for help in hopes of minimizing the spread of this pandemic,” says Rajeev Gautam, president and CEO of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. “When called upon to help, our team rushed to transform production lines to produce hand sanitizer for areas where it is most urgently needed. I am proud to work with such innovative and dedicated employees who not only care enough to make a difference but have the spirit to make it happen.”
Small Business Grants
Facebook has created a $150,000 small business grant for Detroit to help nearly 40 small businesses affected by COVID-19 and applications are now open. This is a critical injection to help local small businesses who need it most, so they can keep the lights on and help pay their employees.
“Within our overall U.S. SMB grant investment, we are prioritizing 50 percent of grants to eligible minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses due to the disproportionate negative impact that COVID-19 will have on these businesses, their employees, and the communities that they serve,” says Maxine Williams, global chief diversity officer at Facebook.
For more information on how to apply for a Facebook grant, visit here.
Facebook also is introducing a place for people to discover digital gift cards and create person fundraisers for their favorite local restaurants and businesses. Businesses who are interested in creating digital gift cards can visit here to learn how to sign up.
Using Facebook Fundraising tools, business owners now can create fundraisers for their businesses and ask their loyal customers for support during this critical time. Facebook also is making it easier to help businesses who have been impacted to COVID-19 communicate service changes to their customers through their Facebook page including online services, delivery, pickup, and other changes.
As of last week, 96 percent of U.S. small business owners already were feeling the impact of coronavirus, and as this pandemic continues in the weeks ahead, and many states extend shelter-in-place orders, it is important to get support to small businesses quickly.
Annual Kids Count Data
The Michigan League for Public Policy’s Kids Count in Michigan Project today released its 2020 Kids Count online data profiles that examine child well-being at the state and county level, which it says is more important than ever in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
The profiles look at 16 child well-being indicators in four categories — Economic Security, Education, Family and Community, and Health and Safety — for each of Michigan’s 83 counties, with additional data profiles for five regions, the cities of Flint and Detroit, and the state as a whole.
“Kids across the state are full of promise and potential, and policymakers need to listen to the data and make sound policy decisions to make sure they all thrive,” says Kelsey Perdue, project director of Kids Count in Michigan. “The policy and funding needs of Michigan kids will be more important than ever in the months ahead as the Legislature may have to make substantial cuts to the state budget while also helping distribute more than $3 billion in federal COVID relief for the state.”
While the most recent data available on child well-being in Michigan does not incorporate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it shows where kids were at before this health and economic crisis, and where the biggest needs will be following it. The business closures and job losses related to COVID-19 will have a significant impact on Michigan parents and their kids, putting even greater emphasis on safety net programs, food security, healthcare, child abuse and neglect prevention, and more.
Some of the key findings in the 2020 Kids Count profiles — and data that is particularly relevant to the COVID-19 crisis and the related economic strain includes:
Economic Security: Since 2010, the percentage of Michigan children age 0-17 living in poverty has improved from 23.4 percent in 2010 to 19.3 percent in 2018. That still means that nearly one in five Michigan children live in poverty. Looking at what it really costs to make ends meet, almost 1.7 million Michigan households (42.3 percent) were living in poverty or below the ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed) threshold in 2017, an increase over the past decade.
Food Access: For school year 2018-2019, half of all Michigan kids (730,891) received free or reduced-price lunch. For that same year, 162,111 Michigan kids age 0-18 received food assistance benefits. Young kids (those 0-5) are most at risk of not having enough food or nutritionally adequate foods, jeopardizing vital brain and body development.
Health Care Coverage: Health care continues to be a bright spot for Michigan kids, with 97 percent having health coverage in 2017. Michigan’s improved health care coverage for kids is due in large part to the Affordable Care Act and the Healthy Michigan Plan.
Child Abuse and Neglect: Child abuse and neglect continue to be a concern in the state, with children in investigated families increasing by 71.8 percent and confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect increasing 33.7 percent over the last decade.
Children’s Internet Access: Statewide, 87.7 percent of children age 0-17 in the state live in homes with access to the internet. The 12.3 percent of kids who do not have internet at home equals about 266,000 kids. Kids’ internet access by county ranges between 65 percent and 96 percent, and is lowest in rural areas.
“The Kids Count data is intended to be an advocacy tool as well as an informational one, and the project achieved several big wins over the past year,” Perdue says. “We helped successfully pass Raise the Age to stop automatically treating all justice-involved 17-year-olds as adults. With criminal justice reform, key 2020 budget investments and other important policy decisions, lawmakers have shown that they can put political differences aside to work for common sense and the common good. We hope that collaboration can continue to tackle the problems facing Michigan kids before, during and after the COVID-19 crisis.”
In looking at county trends in the data, 80 counties saw a decrease in child poverty, 79 counties saw a decrease in teen births, and 55 counties saw a decrease in young adult poverty since 2010. The profiles also show that 57 counties saw an increase in high school graduation rates over the trend period.
Child abuse and neglect continue to show concerning trends, with 81 counties seeing an increase in children in investigated families, 64 counties seeing an increase in confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect, and 51 counties seeing an increase in children in out-of-home care since 2010. Over the trend period, 62 counties saw an increase in households below the ALICE threshold and 68 counties saw a decrease in students scoring proficient in Grade 3 English Language Arts on the M-STEP.
Visit here to review the entire 2020 Kids Count report.
Rent Support for Families
In an effort to provide assistance to individuals, families, and seniors impacted by the COVID-19 economy, the nonprofit LifeBUILDERS says it has raised $100,000 to provide rent forgiveness to property tenants in its Regent Park neighborhood on Detroit’s far east side during the month of May.
The organization also has been providing food delivery assistance to these neighbors, as well as its program participants in surrounding communities.
In anticipation of what might lie ahead for the residents of Regent Park, LifeBUILDERS began putting out the call for help in mid-March. Individual supporters, donors, and private foundations made contributions. This effort was also financially assisted by the Fifth Third Foundation in the amount of $25,000.
“Many of our residents work in industries deemed non-essential and have been laid off,” says Larry Johnson, co-founder and executive director of LifeBUILDERS. “It is an uncertain and stressful time for many families. They simply can’t wait for or rely on the arrival of the federal stimulus or unemployment compensation. We’ve built our own stimulus package for families who are in need now. The stability, security, and well-being of our families while they wait to get called back to work is important to the entire revitalization effort taking place in Regent Park.”
The digital divide, households in urban areas lacking access to reliable Internet and computer technology, has further hampered many residents’ access to quick unemployment registration and subsequent payment.
Of the $100,000 raised, LifeBUILDERS has earmarked a portion toward the continued purchase and door-to-door delivery of fresh food. Thus far, a total of 150 deliveries have been made to homes of residents, as well as families who participate in LifeBUILDERS’ programs throughout the year. Along with the food, LifeBUILDERS’ team members are including notes of encouragement and information to stay involved online during this time.
The bulk of the funds collected will go toward rent relief, beginning with the month of May. This assistance is being offered to 50 tenants residing in LifeBUILDERS-owned properties and others in investor-owned homes and apartments in Regent Park that LifeBUILDERS manages.
LifeBUILDERS now is requesting donations of Kroger or Aldi cards. Anyone interested in making a financial contribution to help the organization’s residents with rental assistance and other developing needs can do so here or via mail: LifeBUILDERS, 20141 Kelly Rd., Detroit, MI 48225.
For more information call 313-401-5433 or send an email to email@example.com.
Support for Restaurants
Moe’s on Ten in Novi is one of many restaurants in southeast Michigan that is able to stay afloat because of FLAG Metro Detroit. The grassroots nonprofit, which stands for Front Line Appreciation Group, was founded in response to the COVID-19 crisis to support local restaurants, provide meals to health care workers, and enable the public to help without having to leave their homes and put themselves or others at risk.
FLAG Metro Detroit has provided 27,000 meals to 40 area hospitals since its inception in March. This week, staff at DMC Sinai-Grace received a delivery of 200 meals courtesy of FLAG from Balkan House.
The Suburban Collection now is matching every dollar donated to FLAG Metro Detroit, up to $10,000, to aid in their efforts to give back to the community.
For more information about FLAG Metro Detroit and to make a donation, visit here.
Detroit Lions veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. and his wife, Jazmyn, will provide 1,000 hot meals April 30, at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital. Food trucks will serve meals during lunch from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and dinner from 8 – 9 p.m. in the hospital’s parking lot. Additionally, the Joneses are donating 250 cakes from their Nothing Bundt Cakes store in Troy. “We are so inspired by the courage shown by the men and women on the front lines across our nation. They work tirelessly to do all that they can to help and care for the people while risking their own health,” the Joneses said. For more information about making a donation to the Henry Ford Health System Foundation, visit here.
In Related News, Detroit Lions Charities is conducting an online auction of several one-of-a-kind items and autographed memorabilia with 100 percent of the net proceeds benefitting the team’s charitable foundation, which is committed to supporting transformational efforts in underserved communities and working to create lasting impact through meaningful partnerships with local nonprofits.
Among the items available for bidding include:
- Virtual trivia with Lions legends Barry Sanders and Lomas Brown.
- An authentic helmet autographed by Lions first-round draft pick Jeff Okudah.
- Playing Xbox with current Lions Kerryon Johnson and Jamal Agnew.
The online auction is open now and the bidding ends May 1 at 8 p.m.
To see all the items available and bid on items, visit here.
In Addition, Wild Bill’s in Troy, which operates 100 stores, is donating nearly 1,000 meals on Thursday, April 30 in two waves ( 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.) to feed all staff members on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. The sponsors of the donation include Wild Bill’s, Nick Konja, and Mike Samona, and the food is being prepared by Roman Village in Dearborn. In addition, Wild Bill’s has donated more than 20,000 surgical masks, 10,000 pairs of surgical gloves, and 5,000 meals to local health care professionals, first responders, law enforcement agencies, and fire departments.
The Grosse Pointe Yacht Club’s (GPYC) response to COVID-19 includes showing appreciation and support for its community, members, and employees.
On April 15, the GPYC donated and delivered 250 meals to Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit. The meals were prepared by the club’s kitchen staff, and the funds for the food was donated by a group of GPYC members.
The club also has a supportive banner visible on Lake Shore Road, reading “Not All Heroes Wear a Cape. Thank You to All Front Line Workers.” The banner includes photos of a police officer, a grocery store employee, a fireman, postal worker, and health care professionals.
Another important part of the GPYC’s mission during this time is to take care of its employees. Just like most businesses in the area, the club has had to lay off most of its employees – many of whom need to be on the property to complete their job. To ease the stress of these layoffs, the GPYC has made the commitment to continue health care coverage for its full-time employees.
The GPYC has been connecting with members by offering curbside carryout. This service also is available to Grosse Pointe Shores residents. GPYC members also have been enjoying virtual events such as “Happy Hour,” where one of the Club’s bartenders demonstrates how to make various cocktail recipes via Zoom.
In an effort to thank members during this difficult period, the club’s board has offered all members spending food and beverage credits over the next transitional months.
Michigan Israel Business Accelerator and Start-Up Nation Central will be hosting a three-part webinar series starting Tuesday, May 5 at 9 a.m. with a program titled “Innovation vs. Corona.”
The series will be presenting Israeli digital health care solutions around COVID-19 challenges and discussing partnership opportunities between Israeli and Michigan companies to meet the needs of the health care industry both in the U.S. and globally.
This online event is free of charge and open to the public, dedicated to health care delivery system stakeholders, experts, policymakers, businesses, industry leaders, and innovation players.
To register for the webinar series, visit here.
Educational Activities for Children
Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills has created a webpage to help children of any age and their parents find art-inspired activities during the Stay Home, Stay Safe order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Activities are provided for each day of the week including:
- Monday: Creating characters
- Tuesday: 2-D Tuesday
- Wednesday: Picturesque prints
- Thursday: Offbeat objects
- Friday: Fibers