COVID-19 Update: Downtown Detroit Winter Blast Weekend Falls Victim to Pandemic, U.S. Sending $15.5M to Improve Michigan Rail Network Safety, 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.
graph of daily Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge

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.

Downtown Detroit Winter Blast Weekend Falls Victim to Pandemic
After 16 years celebrating winter in Downtown Detroit, Winter Blast Weekend organizers today announced that they are canceling the 2021 event due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are many factors related to COVID-19 that have led to the cancelation of the 2021 event,” says Jon Witz, producer of the event. “Between a spike in cases both nationally and in Michigan and suggested limitations in large gatherings by both the CDC and state of Michigan, we have made the decision to focus our efforts on planning in 2022. The health and safety of our guests, sponsors, and stakeholders is our top priority and we hope for positive developments in treatments or a vaccine that will hopefully allow larger special events to happen later in 2021.”

Through its many iterations (Motown Winter Blast, Detroit’s Winter Blast, the multi-weekend Winter Blast Weekends event, and last year’s Quicken Loans Winter Blast Weekend presented by Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort) Winter Blast has been a mainstay of the Detroit winter activity season.

Originally designed as a showcase for the city of Detroit during Super Bowl XL, the community festival provided winter programming, quality of life, and helped showcase local businesses and positive developments in downtown Detroit, according to organizers. Prior to the pandemic, in 2020, the free event returned to its original, single-weekend format and hosted 75,000 people in Campus Martius Park.

“The goal was always to keep the positive energy that surrounded the events of the Super Bowl going,” Witz says. “Over the years Winter Blast has been an inclusive, family-oriented festival that brought thousands into the city to appreciate all of the amazing progress going on here and we’re really proud of that.”

U.S. Sends $15.5M to Improve Safety of Michigan’s Rail Network
Michigan will receive more than $15.5 million as part of $291 million in grants issued for 11 intercity passenger rail projects in nine states through the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program.

“This $291 million in federal grants will upgrade rail infrastructure and enhance railroad safety and reliability in communities across America,” says U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, who made the announcement today.

In Michigan, the state’s Department of Transportation will use the $15.5 million to improve rail geometry by making modifications to the rails between Ypsilanti and Jackson.

The project will rehabilitate and improve geometry for 42 horizontal curves, installing approximately 80,000 feet of rail and related safety enhancements at 16 public and eight private at-grade crossings, including roadway vertical profile changes and active warning device installation on the state-owned rail corridor between Ypsilanti and Jackson. The work is expected to result in a 7-minute trip-time reduction and improve operational reliability and grade crossing safety throughout the corridor.

$2M Gift to Expand New Ascension Center for Infectious Disease Research
A $2 million gift from a Grosse Pointe Farms resident is helping to expand the Infectious Disease Research Program at Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit. This expansion comes at a time when infectious disease efforts are at the forefront of health care because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thomas Mackey, 85, says he is grateful for the care he has received at Ascension St. John over the years and most recently from infectious disease specialist Dr. Miriam Levine. He wanted to give back to the hospital and support an area that had meaning to him and relevance to the community.

“It’s the right thing to do at the right time, and I’m fortunate to have the means to help,” says Mackey, who also recently gave $1 million for a new hybrid cardiac catheterization laboratory at the hospital. “Those who are blessed with great wealth have an obligation to give back and help others.”

Dr. Louis Saravolatz, chair of the department of medicine for Ascension St. John, and a professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, said the hospital already saw a need to enhance infectious disease research efforts but that COVID-19 prompted the program expansion now.

“Mr. Mackey’s extremely generous support comes at a time when our needs in infectious disease care and research are greater than ever,” Saravolatz says. “Mr. Mackey’s gift is greatly appreciated by the Department of Medicine and will have an impact in our community for many years to come.”

The new research center will be named for the Thomas Mackey Center for Infectious Disease Research and will perform research to improve the clinical care of patients and serve the community by providing diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies against serious infectious diseases.

It will provide a home for performance​ ​of clinical studies involving new therapeutics and vaccines against infectious diseases,​ including COVID-19. ​The laboratory’s expanded capabilities will provide the necessary support for combating​ ​infectious diseases seen both in the hospital and the community. It will allow for the development of​ ​new testing methodologies for both the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.

Design has started on new center, which is scheduled for completion in late March 2021.

Henry Ford Health System to Provide Free Flu Shots at Pop-up Clinics in Detroit

Henry Ford Health System will provide free flu shots at a series of “pop-up” clinics in the city of Detroit as part of its community outreach efforts to limit the spread of flu illness this fall and winter.

These mobile clinics will provide flu shots to Detroit residents ages 9 and older. People attending the clinic are required to wear a facemask and have their temperature checked before receiving a vaccination. Those with a body temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be encouraged to contact their doctor.

“Because the flu virus and COVID-19 will both be circulating this fall and winter, getting a flu shot is more important than ever,” says Bethany Thayer, director of Henry Ford’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. “It’s important to get a flu shot every year and to get it before flu season begins as it takes two weeks for your antibodies to build up immunity and provide protection against the flu. It’s safe and effective and prevents thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year.”

Flu shots will be administered at the following Detroit locations:

  • Friday, 2-6 p.m., Greater Grace Temple Church, 23500 W. Seven Mile Rd.
  • Sunday, 1-4:30 p.m., Bethel Temple Church, 5024 28th St.
  • 6, noon-4 p.m., King David Baptist Church, 18001 Sunset St.
  • 7, 9 a.m.-noon, Liberty Temple Baptist Church, 17188 Greenfield.
  • 9, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.North Rosedale Park Community House, 18445 Scarsdale St.

In Related News: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Trinity Health, and Meijer are partnering to offer free flu vaccinations today at Samaritan Center, 5555 Conner St., in Detroit, until 3 p.m.

Registration will take place in cars prior to receiving vaccinations. Gleaners Community Food Bank also will be onsite to distribute food to those in need.

Also, Beaumont Health is offering free flu shots to medically underserved communities at four events in Wayne County. They are:

  • Friday, 8 a.m.-noon, Thurston High School, 26255 Schoolcraft Ave. in Redford Township.
  • Tuesday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Tomlinson Middle School located, 25912 Annapolis St. in Inkster.
  • 5-6, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Iglesia Cristiana La Roca Eterna Church, 4300 Lonyo St. in Detroit.
  • 10, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Romulus High School, 9650 Wayne Rd. in Romulus.

Capital Impact Partners Helps Establish Market in Downtown Port Huron
Capital Impact Partners, a community development finance institution, is providing two small business owners the funding to bring a grocery store to downtown Port Huron.

The $1.9 million investment will allow Steve Fernandez and Michelle Jones to rehab the historic downtown storefront located at 1414 Pine Grove Ave. and provide residents access to a grocery store in an area where there currently are none.

ASE to Host Virtual Conference on HR Laws Concerning COVID, Diversity, Inclusion
ASE is hosting a virtual two-day conference, Dec. 2-3, combining its usual Employment Law Conference and AA/EEO and Diversity Conference together into one legal compliance event, bringing together employment and labor law attorneys together with EEOC and OFCCP officials and AA/EEO/Diversity experts.

Day one features the employment law track featuring attorney-led breakouts that will review everyday laws and regulations, including many of the new regulations around COVID-19 that impact the employer-employee relationship.

Day two features the AA/EEO and diversity track focusing on enforcement activity under the Trump Administration, even in the pandemic, which has continued at a high pace.

For a complete agenda and registration information, visit here.

Stefanini Group Wins Award for Actions During COVID-19 Pandemic
Stefanini Group, a global digital solutions company based in Southfield, has won a 2020 Golden Bridge Award for Company Rethinking of the Year for its efforts in launching nine new solutions and services to assist companies in their response to COVID-19.

The annual Golden Bridge Awards program recognizes and honors the world’s best in organizational performance, products and services, innovations, executives and management teams, women in business and the professions, case studies and successful deployments, public relations and marketing campaigns, product management, websites, blogs, white-papers, videos, advertisements, creativity, partner programs and customer satisfaction programs from every major industry in the world.

“Stefanini Group is extremely proud and honored to be recognized in the Company Rethinking of the Year category by Golden Bridge Awards,” says Spencer Gracias, CEO of Stefanini North America/APAC. “Throughout the pandemic, it has been our highest priority to be a resource and provide services and solutions to assist businesses in their digital transformation journey. We know there is no return to normal, so we will use this recognition as motivation to continue to innovate and give our industry the expertise and hands-on service it deserves.”

Winners will be celebrated and presented their awards during a virtual awards ceremony in December.

For a complete list of the 2020 Golden Bridge Award winners, visit here.

MDHHS Launches Campaign Promoting Free Mental Wellness Counseling
Mental health experts at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are launching a statewide media campaign urging residents to seek relief from COVID-19-related emotional distress by talking to a trained crisis counselor and learning about other help available.

The “Be Kind to Your Mind” campaign promotes the use of Michigan’s free, confidential Stay Well counseling line, and aims to combat stigma associated with seeking help for feelings of depression, anxiety, anger or loss — all common during a disaster like COVID-19.

The Stay Well counseling line debuted in May and is staffed with crisis counselors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can access the line by dialing Michigan’s COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 and pressing “8” at the prompt. The service is part of a federally funded grant program implemented by the MDHHS Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration in partnership with the Michigan State Police.

“Many of us are having a hard time right now,” says Robert Gordon, director of MDHHS. “There should be zero shame and zero stigma — just honesty that can help each of us find our own inner strength. ‘Be Kind to Your Mind’ says you can talk about the strain from COVID with trained counselors who are available for free.”

Language translation is available for non-English-speaking residents who call the counseling line.

To access other mental health resources for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, visit here.

Tickets Now on Sale for Holiday Light Show at Meadow Brook Hall
Tickets are now on sale for Meadow Brook Hall’s all-new holiday light attraction — Winter Wonder Lights.

Located in Rochester on the campus of Oakland University, Meadow Brook Hall will build on its tradition of being a major holiday destination with the new outdoor light show, which will run from Nov. 27 through Dec. 30.

Winter Wonder Lights will follow COVID-19 health and safety measures, such as physical distancing outdoors and timed guest entry to maintain a safe event capacity. Meadow Brook Hall’s traditional indoor Holiday Walk has been canceled for 2020 because of the ongoing health and safety challenges surrounding COVID-19. Holiday Walk will return alongside Winter Wonder Lights in 2021.

All tickets must be purchased online here for a specific date and time. Tickets are $22 each for adults aged 13 and up, $12 for youth aged 3-12, and free for children 2 and under. Active military and veterans receive tickets for $18. Every youth ticket comes with a pair of special interactive holiday glasses.