COVID-19 Update: Federal $2.5M Grant to Help Hospitality Workers, Henry Ford Study Suggests UV-C Light Effective in Killing Virus on N95 Masks, 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.

MRLA Receives $2.5M Grant from State to Help Hospitality Workers
The Michigan Department of Treasury has awarded the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association a $2.5 million grant from the federal CARES Act to support restaurant and lodging industry workers who were financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Payments of up to $500 will be provided to approved applicants until resources are fully depleted. Applicants must be Michigan residents and demonstrate proof of employment in the hospitality industry on March 10, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan, as well as proof of furlough or job loss in the wake of that date.

“This important funding will make a difference for thousands of Michigan’s hospitality workers who have been struggling to survive after losing full-time work and high-paying jobs because of the pandemic,” says Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the MRLA. “More than half of the 600,000 hospitality workers in Michigan temporarily lost their jobs and too many restaurants across the state were unable to reopen after the shutdown.”

All eligible hospitality employees in Michigan should apply for assistance online here from today through Oct. 1. Applications will be processed until all available funds are disbursed.

“The pandemic has been very hard on all of our employees and business,” says State Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), who sponsored Public Act 123 of 2020 authorizing use of available federal CARES Act funding to help Michigan families, workers, and schools affected by the COVID-19 health crisis, including $2.5M in assistance to hospitality workers who may not be eligible for full unemployment benefits. “The money for the employee relief fund is going to help these employees make it through until our economy is fully reopened.”

The Michigan Hospitality Industry Employee Relief Fund was initially launched in April in response to devastation to the industry caused by the statewide shutdown and has already supplied 375,000 in payments to employees. The $2.5 million grant received by the state Treasury Department will continue to support fund resources.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association was founded in 1921 and represents more than 5,000 Michigan foodservice and lodging establishments, which employ more than 595,000 people and create nearly $40 billion in annual sales.

Henry Ford Study Demonstrates UV-C Light is Effective for Killing COVID-19 on N95 Masks
Dermatology researchers at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, in collaboration with a team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, have demonstrated that certain N95 respirators tainted with COVID-19 can be effectively and safely decontaminated for reuse using ultraviolet-C light, a method commonly utilized for treating rare skin diseases.

Researchers say the outside and inside of the facemasks were decontaminated in a prototype phototherapy unit that dispenses a UV-C dosing level high enough to effectively kill the virus in less than two minutes while still preserving the facemask’s breathability, fit, and overall integrity.

Of the five N95s used at Henry Ford and tested for the coronavirus in the study, the decontamination process worked best on two models – facepieces on 3M 1860 and Moldex 1511 and straps on 3M 8210 and Moldex 1511. The effects of the dosage varied on the other tested models and their straps, suggesting that the UV-C radiation can degrade them. Researchers say wiping the straps with ethanol before decontamination would likely be required as an additional disinfection step in the process to maximize the wearer’s safety.

Researchers emphasized that fit testing be required each time a disinfected facemask is returned for use or a new model is being worn for the first time.

The research, conducted in partnership with the University of Michigan, is published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“Our findings reveal a practical, and viable option should hospitals encounter shortages of N95s in the future,” says Dr. David Ozog, chair of Henry Ford’s Department of Dermatology in Detroit and the study’s lead author. “Using UV-C has been shown to be effective in killing other coronaviruses and the flu virus. We were able to replicate that sterilization effectiveness with COVID-19.”

Ozog stressed that facemask sterilization should only be used in severe shortages of N95s.

Testing of the N95s for decontamination was performed at U-M’s SARS-CoV-2 research lab in Ann Arbor.

Study: Seniors Feel Safe, Glad to be Part of a Community During Pandemic
A new national survey of independent senior living communities residents, staff, and prospective residents released today by Plante Moran Living Forward and Retirement Dynamics showed they felt safe during COVID-19 and confident their communities had taken appropriate precautions to keep them safe.

Plante Moran Living Forward, the senior living development consulting division of Plante Moran Cresa and an affiliated entity of Plante Moran, partnered with Retirement Dynamics, a leading senior living consulting firm, and surveyed more than 23,000 residents and staff at senior independent living communities across the country, along with prospective future residents.

While prospects worried about social isolation, shopping, and other daily tasks when living in their own homes, survey results showed only a slight decrease in their likelihood to move into an independent living community as a result of the pandemic.

The survey also revealed:

  • 92 percent of staff felt the community where they worked responded well to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 93 percent of residents felt their community took all precautions to keep them safe.
  • 85 percent of staff agreed residents “are safer in their community than in their previous homes.”
  • 77 percent of residents said they were “glad to be living in a community during the pandemic,” with 86 percent affirming they were glad they made the decision to move.
  • Both prospective residents (61 percent) and residents (68 percent) felt socially isolated during shelter-in-place orders.
  • 74 percent of prospective residents reported their time frame for a move has been unchanged by the pandemic.

While independent living communities received high marks from seniors on cleanliness, sanitation, and communications, they didn’t fare so well in other areas. Residents generally gave their communities low remarks on alternative recreation and activities offered during shelter-in-place, as well as the variety and quality of food and dining options and technology. The survey did not include assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.

“Our goal in conducting this survey was to gauge the sentiments of those living in, working in, and thinking about moving to a senior living community,” says Dana Wollschlager, a Chicago-based partner who leads Plante Moran Living Forward. “We wanted to move beyond the overriding focus on nursing homes to take the pulse of other types of senior living communities.

“The results of this survey, which was months in the making, gave us more than a few ‘ah-ha’ moments but generally affirmed that the majority of residents and staff felt their communities were doing the right things to keep them safe during the pandemic. They offered many thoughtful suggestions for improvement, which can provide the basis for some meaningful changes.”

Bobby Sumner, president of Retirement Dynamics, agreed, “When we began this process, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We wanted to ask specific questions about how people felt living and working in a senior community – or the prospect of living in one – and tap into their true feelings and sentiments.”

The survey, which had a 21.1 percent overall response rate, was sent to senior living communities around the United States. It posed both open-ended and multiple-choice questions to each stakeholder group, generating more than 7,000 write-in comments.

“Residents and staff identified not only problems but potential solutions that are often easy fixes,” Wollschlager explains. “For example, many residents told us they had trouble bending over to pick up their meal trays. One community quickly fixed that problem by putting TV trays outside their doors.

“We realized that traditional outreach to prospects, such as in-person visits, was no longer possible during quarantine. That meant communities need to get creative – and proactive. Prospects told us they appreciated seeing videos and hearing detailed solutions to COVID-19 problems as they weighed their decisions.”

Sumner noted: “Residents and prospective residents of independent living communities were vocal with their suggestions – and just as vocal with their praise for their safety during the pandemic. This survey offers a wealth of information and many teachable moments for these communities by highlighting areas where even small changes can earn big improvements.”

DTE Energy Offers Students Virtual Field Trips
DTE Energy in Detroit has developed a virtual field trip to its wind and solar parks to teach young people about clean energy and the role it plays in addressing climate change.

Students experience what it’s like to climb up a 300-foot wind turbine tower, learn how solar panels use sand to create energy, and visit three DTE renewable energy projects in different locations across Michigan.

The 27-minute video also introduces middle and junior high school students to the many career opportunities available in the energy sector, ranging from jobs in the skilled trades to positions requiring advanced-level graduate degrees.

In addition, DTE has created an educators’ guide for teachers to supplement the field trip content. With suggested research and discussion topics, worksheets and games, DTE says it hopes the activities in the guide will challenge students to think creatively about reducing carbon emissions and building a more sustainable future.

The virtual field trip video and teachers’ guide are available to all here.