COVID-19 Update: Employment Opportunities Rising in Southeast Michigan, Charles H. Wright Museum to Reduce Carbon Footprint, 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.
chart of daily 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.

Report: Employment Opportunities Rising in Southeast Michigan
Employment opportunities in southeast Michigan increased in the third quarter, according to a report from the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN).

The WIN report shows 36,204 more job postings in the third quarter than in the previous three months. The figures represent a 13.7 increase in job postings compared to the second quarter, but 131,730 fewer postings than a year ago.

Job seekers can look for positions on various websites at Pure Michigan Talent Connect.

“While the marketplace continues its gradual recovery, employers are hiring again,” says Michelle Wein, director of research and regional initiatives at WIN. “There is still caution and uncertainty as we enter the winter months, yet we’ve come a long way over the course of this year like no other.”

Corresponding to the high demand related to the increase in online commerce, occupation in transportation, distribution, and logistics saw the greatest demand in postings in the third quarter, followed by health care.

The top 10 occupations offering opportunities to job seekers in the third quarter, according to the WIN report, are:

  • Heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck drivers (22,982 postings)
  • Registered nurses (14,378)
  • Retail salespersons (9,837)
  • First-line supervisors of retail sales workers (9,709)
  • Software developers and software quality assurance analysts and testers (7,421)
  • Light-truck drivers (6,437)
  • Stockers and order fillers (5,982)
  • Customer service representatives (5,642)
  • Home health and personal care aides (5,231)
  • Childcare workers (4,652)

The quarterly WIN Region labor market report highlights employment trends, top jobs, and information for custom occupation groups across the 16-county region of southeast Michigan.

To review the full report, visit here. For more information on the labor market in southeast Michigan, the custom occupation groups, or other workforce-related data projects, visit here.

Charles H. Wright Museum to Reduce Carbon Footprint
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit has established a goal to reduce its carbon footprint and become the largest green museum campus in the country.

To do so, the museum is working with Environmental Consulting and Technology (ECT) in Ann Arbor.

The Charles H. Wright Museum, the world’s largest permanent exhibit on African American culture, recently received a Merit Award for its green initiatives master plan by the Michigan Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects.

One aspect of the project, and why it recently received the Merit Award, are the steps the museum has taken steps to manage the stormwater that falls on its 4.62-acre campus onsite. By using “green” techniques to become more sustainable, the Wright not only is reducing its costs, but it is doing what it can to alleviate flooding downstream, which is more likely to impact roadways and neighborhoods in Detroit.

As part of this effort, the Wright Museum can manage stormwater in a “greener” fashion while intertwining artwork where possible. For example, the museum incorporated artistic cultural patterns within the permeable pavement around campus to match aesthetic designs.

Additional details that adhere to sustainable practices include recycling (one project will use the wood from dead trees on campus to make art and specialty objects), water bottle filling stations, the expanded use of LED lights, and variable frequency drives (VFD) on pumps and fans to reduce energy.

Native plantings also have been incorporated throughout the campus helping to sequester carbon and reduce the museum’s environmental impact. A roof membrane recently was installed that allows for a future “green” roof. A green roof over the auditorium will not only manage stormwater and provide habitat but will improve acoustics.

Once all seven green infrastructure projects are complete the Wright anticipates an annual drainage fee savings of more than $3,500.

The Wright Museum is participating in The Detroit 2030 District, which is part of a national movement to create districts of high-performance building that reduce the environmental impacts of building construction and operations. Simultaneously it increases the owners’ return on investment and promotes economic development in the community. The museum is working to become an advisor and leader for “green” museums.

“These are lofty goals, but we believe strongly in this message especially how it impacts neighborhoods in and around Detroit and other places where African Americans live,” says Lesli Tom, chief sustainability officer at the museum. “Water challenges such as flooding and other sustainability issues that impact these neighborhoods must be woven into the conversation around environmental justice. We believe our efforts can create a sense of truth-setting and a template for other cultural organizations to follow.”

Patrick Judd, group manager at ECT, says, “It’s a wonderful project for our team because of how proactive the museum’s team is. They also are able to build these sustainable concepts into the design of sections around the museum which is quite innovative.”

For more information on the Charles H. Wright Museum’s green initiatives, visit here.

City of Detroit, GLWA and MSU Expand Partnership on Virus Detection Project
The City of Detroit and the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) have expanded their partnership with Michigan State University’s (MSU) College of Engineering to use samples of untreated sewage as one of several methods to detect virus outbreaks, including COVID-19.

Phase One of the partnership was initiated in November 2017 between the MSU engineering research team led by Associate Professor Irene Xagoraraki, and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and continued into Phase Two to focus on the COVID-19 outbreak using funding from GLWA in Spring 2020. This fall, a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is funding the expansion to monitoring of sewage in nine zip codes throughout southeast Michigan.

The partnership has been at the forefront of U.S. wastewater utilities using the sewer system to help identify virus outbreaks. In Starting in Phase One, the team proved the hypothesis that untreated sewage coming from homes and businesses could help provide advance notice of virus outbreaks using the molecular analysis of the samples.

Since April, GLWA has been funding Phase Two of the project, helping the MSU team refine the process to focus on COVID-19 and sampling for SARs-CoV-2 in the three primary regional GLWA sewer interceptors.

The expanded virus detection partnership, which is Phase Three of the project, funded by EGLE will:

  • Enhance the collaboration to include the public health officials from the City of Detroit, as well as Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, to participate in the data analysis.
  • Target the monitoring to include nine selected locations in the sewer-shed: 48235 (Detroit), 48210 (Detroit), 48205 (Detroit), 48076 (Southfield), 48237 (Oak Park), 48322 (West Bloomfield Twp.), 48021 (Eastpointe), 48310 (Sterling Heights), and 48044 (Macomb Township).

Funding from GLWA will provide the following:

  • Continued monitoring of the three sewer interceptors that feed GLWA’s Water Resource Recovery Facility (WRRF) in Detroit. These interceptors collect untreated wastewater from the city of Detroit, and large portions of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
  • The method led by the MSU Engineering research team goes above and beyond simple surveillance of SARs-CoV-2 in wastewater outlined in this published paper.

The MSU study’s findings show that RNA markers can be detected in untreated sewage, including coronaviruses. When that data is combined with health care data, the research scientists can determine how the sewer signal provides advance notice of outbreaks. Using the data from the sewage samples and the county health data for the same timeframe the researchers discovered that viruses were apparent in the sewer collection system approximately 1-2 weeks prior to seeing increases in reported data at health departments for those same viruses. It should be noted that, per MIOSHA guidelines, individuals working with sewage wear standard personal protective equipment, which has been determined to provide the proper protection.

“The expansion of the partnership gives us targeted information that is critical in our battle against COVID-19,” says Denise Fair, chief public health officer for the city of Detroit. “The expanded reach of this study allows us to pinpoint neighborhoods and zip codes where COVID-19 is trending upward, and we can use this information to reach out to residents and businesses in those areas to reinforce our messaging with regard to testing, quarantine protocols, contact tracing, and even assistance for businesses who need help in developing a plan to operate while keeping their employees safe during this pandemic.”

Rebel Nell Releases Jewelry Inspired by Belle Isle Aquarium
Detroit jewelry designer Rebel Nell is collaborating with the Belle Isle Conservancy to produce a limited-edition collection of jewelry inspired by the iconic Belle Isle Aquarium.

The Belle Isle Aquarium Collection includes items such as necklaces, tie bars, cufflinks, earrings, necklaces, and wine stoppers, made of materials that have adorned the aquarium for more than a century.  A portion of proceeds from this collection benefit the Belle Isle Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that now operates the Aquarium.

Like other collections from Detroit landmarks such as Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Michigan Central Station, and the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Belle Isle Aquarium Collection is made from repurposed material and transformed into wearable art.

“We are excited to partner with the Belle Isle Conservancy on this special collection that honors one of my favorite places in the city, the Belle Isle Aquarium,” says Amy Peterson, founder of Rebel Nell. “The collection will create economic opportunity for many women in Detroit through our mission at Rebel Nell, as well as help fund the aquarium and other activities on Belle Isle.”

The pieces go on sale today here and at Rebel Nell’s retail store at 1314 Holden St. in Detroit.

The Belle Isle Aquarium was designed by famed Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, and opened on Aug. 18, 1904. It is the oldest aquarium in the country.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Extends No-cost COVID-19 Treatment Through March 31, 2021
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 March 31, 2021.  This extension of a temporary benefit, originally set to expire on Dec. 31, 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.

Members have not had to pay cost sharing for COVID-19 treatment since when the first cases of COVID-19 were announced in Michigan. BCBSM has paid more than $25 million to support these cost-share waivers. More than 55,000 members have had their COVID-19 treatment cost share waived through Sept. 30.

“Since the early days of the public health emergency, Blue Cross has stood behind our members, removing barriers in access to care and making sure their health care is affordable,” says Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of BCBSM.

As an enterprise, BCBSM has put more than $1.3 billion behind a multifaceted response to the COVID-19 crisis, including more than $230 million behind COVID treatment.

Community Foundation and Shinola Detroit Announce $180K in Grants to Area Health Systems
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, in partnership with Shinola Detroit, today announced three grants from its COVID-19 Health Fund to support the needs of area health care workers during the pandemic.

Grants totaling $187,500 were made to three health care systems throughout metro Detroit: Ascension St. John Foundation, Beaumont Health Foundation, and Henry Ford Health System.

The funding for the grants, which is being used to support unexpected expenses for health care workers due to COVID-19, was made possible by Shinola Detroit.

In June, the Detroit-based brand released a limited-edition watch dubbed “The Champ,” originally designed to commemorate the 2020 Summer Olympics. In lieu of the games, Shinola dedicated all proceeds of the now-sold-out watch to the Community Foundation and its COVID-19 Health Relief Fund.

“We are grateful for this partnership with Shinola and its ability to make a direct and immediate impact in the lives of healthcare workers in our community,” says Mariam C. Noland, president of the Community Foundation. “As we work to meet the challenges of this pandemic together, it is vital that we continue to support the needs of essential workers who are fighting for all of us on the frontlines.”

Shannon Washburn, president and CEO of Shinola, says, “We at Shinola are honored to support the real champs continuing to fight the most unprecedented pandemic of our lifetime – all over the country and in our hard-hit hometown of Detroit. We salute the amazing work of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan – specifically to their efforts supporting the health care workers who are giving it their all on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.”

For more information or to make a donation to the Community Foundation and its COVID-19 relief efforts, visit here.

State Awards $1.6M in Grants for Recycling Infrastructure in Washtenaw County
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced a total of more than $1.58 million in infrastructure grants awarded to six public agency and nonprofit recipients that will support the largest expansion of recycling in Washtenaw County history.

“Recycling infrastructure grants are a critical component of EGLE’s support for recycling growth in Michigan,” says Elizabeth Browne, assistant director of the Materials Management Division at EGLE.

“The objective of the EGLE recycling infrastructure grants is to increase processing and collection capacity in Washtenaw County, improve access to community recycling programs and grow participation among the constituencies they serve by assisting with the purchase of equipment and other items. In addition, several of these projects will have a direct impact on reducing the spread of infectious disease through greater use of automation, which aligns with Michigan’s efforts to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

The Washtenaw County grants are part of EGLE’s strategy to support recycling infrastructure, improve the quality of recyclable materials and promote market development using the Renew Michigan Fund, which was created in 2019 to boost the state’s recycling efforts.

EGLE’s Washtenaw County grant recipients are:

  • $458,370 to the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority (WWRA) to purchase sorting equipment and a new truck to increase processing and collection capacity.
  • $118,605 to the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority (WRRMA) that will continue its efforts to increase the quantity of member communities’ high-quality recyclables.
  • $112,716 to Ann Arbor Public Schools to increase access to recycling by installing recycling collection containers and promoting food reclamation activities throughout the district’s campuses and buildings that serve more than 20,000 students.
  • $73,440 to the city of Ypsilanti to expand public space recycling through the purchase of recycling containers for the city’s downtown area, Depot Town, and 12 public parks.
  • $17,608 to Dexter Community Schools to expand lunchroom recycling and establish food waste collection programs throughout the district, which serves 3,635 students.

In addition to the grants, EGLE unveiled an award of $800,000 to Recycle Ann Arbor. The grant – which is the largest-ever EGLE has made to the Ann Arbor-based 40-year-old nonprofit – will help rebuild and reopen the community’s materials recovery facility that has been closed since 2016. The new facility will be owned and operated by Recycle Ann Arbor. The $6.75 million project, which includes an additional $800,000 loan from national nonprofit Closed Loop Partners, will ultimately create a state-of-the-art materials recovery facility that allows for enhanced sorting of valuable recyclable materials.

The new facility will provide processing capacity for 15,000-plus tons of recycled materials that is now being transported to Ohio, as well as processing additional volume from the surrounding region. The project is expected to create 10 to 20 new full-time jobs upon completion.

EGLE’s support of new research, education and recycling activities planned for Washtenaw County come as Michigan and states across the United States are seeing significant increases in curbside recycling due to more Americans sheltering and working from home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

MK Advisors Launch Program to Help South African Artisans
MK Advisors, a Detroit-based, women-owned company, has launched a subscription box service of South African handcrafted wares to support more than 1,800 women entrepreneurs there with the goal of raising $100,000.

The quarterly subscription box, called Mana, features handcrafted, unique pieces created by women artisans in South Africa. Sales from each subscription will support South African women entrepreneurs, their families, and community. Mana is committed to quality and providing a consistent product and experience for each customer, all while restoring the hope and livelihood to the women and communities in South Africa. Each box features stylish accessories, décor, and fashions — for any lifestyle.

The company also has initiated a Kickstarter program to aid the cause. When individuals purchase a Mana subscription, back the Mana Kickstarter, or make a donation, they are empowering a woman to grow her business, which benefits her family and community. It creates a far-reaching impact, far beyond the cost of a box.

For more information, visit here.

Fleece & Thank You Forms Partnership to Deliver Messages of Hope
Farmington Hills nonprofit Fleece & Thank You today announced that it has partnered with Clinton Township-based interpretation agency Global Interpreting Services to further its efforts to deliver messages of hope to non-English speaking children in hospitals.

F&TY provides comforting no-sew fleece blankets with recorded video messages of hope from blanket makers and delivers them to the more than 30,000 children receiving hospital treatments across Michigan annually.

GIS is lending its services to F&TY by volunteering to record video messages for the hospitalized children. The GIS interpreters have made videos in dozens of languages, including Spanish, Arabic, and American Sign Language, and will continue to add more. Currently, F&TY has 22 languages on file courtesy of GIS.

“We are grateful for Global Interpreting Services and its interpreters for helping us deliver compassionate messages of hope in many different languages to children in the hospital,” says Nicholas Kristock, co-founder and executive director, Fleece & Thank You. “We believe in the healing power of connection, but a blanket and a video message can only go so far if the message cannot be understood. Now, through this new partnership, we can ensure that every child receives the warmth and comfort when they need it most and truly understands they are not battling their illness alone.”

Dawn Flanigan, president and owner of GIS, says “We, and our professional language interpreters, are honored to help F&TY fulfill this need. A warm, colorful blanket and inspiring words can serve as a beacon of hope to children in the hospital, especially when those words are delivered in their language.”

MIS to Host 12th Annual Track and Toy Drive Dec. 5
Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (southeast of Jackson) is hosting its 12th annua MIS Cares Charity Track and Toy Drive on Dec. 5 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Guests who donate a non-perishable food item or a new, unwrapped toy will have the opportunity to take five laps around the 2-mile track in their own vehicle.  All food items will be donated to the St. Mary’s Good Counsel in Adrian.  The toys will be donated to the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots in both Jackson and Lenawee Counties.

“This is a perfect way to lift the spirits of those in need,” says Rick Brenner, president of MIS. “It also gives our guests the rare opportunity to drive their own vehicle around the track that has been the site of many memorable moments in motorsports. We recognize that these are challenging times, and this event becomes even more paramount than ever before.”

Participants should enter the speedway through the U.S. Highway 12 entrance and follow the signs to the drop off spot. Guests then will be directed to enter the racetrack, where they will take five laps at highway speeds around the two-mile oval.

The track laps are limited to passenger vehicles only, no motorcycles. No passing of other vehicles will be allowed at any time. The driver of the vehicle must be 21 years of age, provide a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. All participants will need to sign a waiver before driving on the track. Seatbelts and headlights must be on at all times.

For more information, visit here.