COVID-19 Update: Federal Government Requests Urgent Medical Supplies, Latest on U.S. Canada Border, Financial Markets, and More

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, below is a roundup of the latest announcements from our region, state, federal government, and international channels. Our coverage includes ways local industries, businesses, and organizations are responding to the virus. We’re also sharing information about new and expanded digital offerings. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message here.
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Here are the most recent announcements regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. // File photo

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, below is a roundup of the latest announcements from our region, state, federal government, and international channels. Our coverage includes ways local industries, businesses, and organizations are responding to the virus. We’re also sharing information about new and expanded digital offerings. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message here.

Alert: Personal Protective Equipment and Medical Supply Firms
The federal government and Pure Michigan Business Connect are requesting help identifying suppliers and providers of Personal Protective Equipment and Medical Supplies required to combat COVID-19 to assist by completing this survey. Please share the information with anyone who may be able to assist. They are specifically seeking insight on the products companies make as well as the ability to provide needed supplies. The need is immediate.

Due to the urgency of the request, please fill out the survey by 5 p.m. EST today, March 18. It takes 5 to 10 minutes.

U.S. Canada Border
USA Today reports the border between the U.S. and Canada will close for non-essential travel.

President Donald Trump confirmed the news in a tweet on Wednesday morning. “We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!” Trump tweeted.

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he was closing the country’s border to noncitizens, but American citizens had been exempt from the restriction. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Trudeau’s wife, has COVID-19.

Rumors had been circling for days that the spread of COVID-19 closed the U.S. border with Canada, Kris Grogan, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Friday evening. Grogan said those rumors were false in a press release Friday.

Processing thousands of people per day puts border agents at increased risk for contracting COVID-19 and passing it along to others.

Financial Markets
TreppWire reports: Overnight, stock futures were up solidly following Monday’s colossal sell-off. At the open, however, the actual gains were much smaller than the futures had initially pointed towards and later in the morning, the Dow actually flipped negative for a short time. A press conference around mid-day seemed to turn the tide – Treasury Secretary Mnuchin relayed some forceful words indicating a stimulus package of more than $850 million geared towards putting money in Americans’ pockets was under proposal – the headlines helped lift the markets almost as soon as word got out. Part of the package would include sending checks directly to consumers. Also providing a boost was news from the Fed that it would be taking steps to help unlock the commercial paper market.

The Dow finished up more than 1000 points (5.20 percent) on Tuesday, clawing back some of Monday’s losses. The S&P 500 jumped 6.00 percent and Nasdaq climbed 6.23 percent. On the data front, investors got an early taste of the impact of COVID on consumer activity. The Commerce Department’s February number showed that retail sales dipped by 0.5 percent in February which was worse than consensus estimates.

Airlines
Reuters reports: On Tuesday, The Boeing Co. “called for a $60 billion lifeline for the struggling U.S. aerospace manufacturing industry, which faces huge losses from the coronavirus pandemic.” Gordon Johndroe, vice president government operations communications at Boeing, said the company “supports a minimum of $60 billion in access to public and private liquidity, including loan guarantees, for the aerospace manufacturing industry.” Boeing “declined to say how much of that would be for the plane maker versus loan guarantees for its suppliers; it was also unclear if U.S. banks would loan any of the more than $60 billion without government backing.” Boeing “has noted that typically 70 percent of its revenue flows to its 17,000 suppliers and has told lawmakers that without significant assistance the entire U.S. aviation manufacturing sector could collapse.”

Hotels
Leading hotel CEOs met Tuesday with the White House to discuss urgent economic recovery solutions needed to protect millions of U.S. hotel employees and 33,000 small businesses as travel grinds to a virtual halt across the country. From Main Street to major cities across the country, hotels everywhere are on the verge of shutting their doors in the coming days – many by the end of this week.

With 1 in 25 jobs directly supported by the hotel industry, the rapid pace of booking cancellations is having an immediate, negative ripple effect that risks seeing mom and pop hotel owners shutter, furlough their employees, hurting community businesses.

Based on current occupancy estimates, the American Hotel and Lodging Association says four million total jobs have been eliminated already or are on the verge of being lost in the next few weeks. In certain affected markets, including Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, and Boston, hotel occupancy rates are already down below 20 percent and individual hotels and major operators have already shut down operations.

According to an Oxford Economic Study, a 30 percent decline in hotel guest occupancy could result in the loss of nearly 4 million jobs, with $180 billion of wages and a $300 billion hit to the GDP – crippling the hotel industry, the local communities they serve, and the U.S. economy.
Top hotel industry leaders laid out several immediate actions the White House and Congress could take to help the hotel industry protect jobs and help small business operators. The group focused on two critical goals – retaining and rehiring employees and keeping hotels from shutting down through access to liquidity and low interest loans, including for small businesses.

Movie Industry
U.S. movie theaters have closed nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, turning dark nearly all of the country’s 40,000-plus screens.

AMC Theaters, the nation’s largest chain, has closed all locations in the U.S. for at least six to 12 weeks. Regal, the second largest chain, said Monday that its theaters would close until further notice.

With movie theaters locked down for the foreseeable future, some studios took the extraordinary step of funneling new or recently released films onto home viewing platforms. Universal Pictures said Monday it will make its current and upcoming films available for on-demand rental, becoming the first major studio to break the traditional theatrical window of 90 days due to the pandemic.

The studio said it will put movies currently in theaters — “Invisible Man,” “The Hunt,” “Emma”— up for rental as early as Friday. It also said that “Trolls World Tour,” one of the only major releases left on the April calendar, will debut in theaters and on-demand services simultaneously. A 48-hour rental will cost $19.99.

Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest chain, hasn’t yet announced closures. But chains like the Alamo Drafthouse, Landmark Theatres, Showcase Cinemas and Bow Tie Cinemas have closed. Most of those that haven’t yet declared themselves closed are expected to do so this week.
The Alamo Drafthouse put an “Intermission” card up on its website.

Universal’s move could be seen as either a watershed moment for Hollywood or an aberration due to extreme circumstances. With few exceptions, the major studios have guarded the 90-day exclusivity window even as digital newcomers like Netflix and Amazon have challenged it. For the studios, box office still is the primary revenue generator. Last week, the Motion Picture Association said worldwide ticket sales reached $42.2 billion last year.

NBCUniversal is prepping its own streaming service, dubbed Peacock, but it isn’t to launch until July 15. On Sunday, the Walt Disney Co. made “Frozen 2” available on its streaming service, Disney Plus. But that film had already completed its theatrical run. Its digital release didn’t break the traditional 90-day theatrical exclusivity window.

Still, Hollywood’s major upcoming releases aren’t currently heading for the home; they’re being held for when theaters reopen. Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place Part II,” earlier slated for release Friday, has been removed from the schedule. Disney’s “Mulan” and the James Bond film “No Time to Die” have been put off. Universal earlier pushed its latest “Fast and Furious” movie, “F9,” from late May to April of next year.

Retail
In response to the widespread COVID-19 outbreak, Macy’s Inc. announced on Tuesday it will temporarily close all stores through March 31, 2020. This includes all Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bluemercury, Macy’s Backstage, Bloomingdales the Outlet and Market by Macy’s stores. Macy’s Inc. will provide benefits and compensation to its impacted workforce.

“The health and safety of our customers, colleagues and communities is our utmost priority. As a result of the recent COVID-19 developments, we have decided to temporarily close our stores. We will work with government and health officials to assess when we will reopen our stores and safely bring our colleagues back to work,” said Jeff Gennette, chairman and CEO of Macy’s Inc. “During this closure, we will continue to serve our customers through our e-commerce sites.”

All three Macy’s, Inc. brands – Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Bluemercury – will continue to serve customers through macys.combloomingdales.com and bluemercury.com and through its mobile apps.

Entertainment
On Tuesday, Michigan Opera Theatre cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season. The decision comes following federal, state, and CDC recommendations to reduce social gatherings in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“While we are disappointed that circumstances have necessitated the cancellation of our spring season, the health and safety of our guests, artists, staff members, and entire community are our greatest priority,” said Wayne S. Brown, president and CEO of Michigan Opera Theatre. “We appreciate the support and patience of our patrons and donors, as well as our corporate, foundation and community partners in light of this difficult decision.”

The cancelled shows include “Champion,” March 25-April 5; “Easter Jazz Spectacular,” April 11; American Ballet Theatre’s “Swan Lake,” April 16-19; MOT Children’s Chorus “The Very Last Green Thing,” April 25; and “Pagliacci,” May 9-17.

MOT is offering patrons who have purchased tickets to these performances the option to donate their tickets, exchange them for a future performance or receive a full refund. Ticketholders will receive further notifications via email and are encouraged to follow the directions listed rather than calling the ticket office. Information and refund/donation instructions can also be found at MichiganOpera.org.

While MOT is happy to reimburse patrons for canceled events, Brown encouraged ticketholders to consider donating the cost of their tickets to MOT.

“Michigan Opera Theatre is a non-profit organization that depends on the support of its donors and patrons to survive,” he said. “The cost of mounting a production is significant, with many of those costs incurred before the performance opens and regardless of whether or not the show goes on. The loss of revenue from these performances represents a substantial hardship for the organization. Donations are tax deductible and go a long way to ensure MOT can continue to provide arts programming in the future.”

MOT continues to plan for its 50th anniversary season, slated to open in October. The organization plans to announce its new season in the coming weeks.

Restaurants
The Birmingham Shopping District today announced it is promoting open restaurants to help support these small businesses affected by the State of Michigan’s ban on dine-in customers at restaurants throughout the state through March. The governor’s order permits food and beverages via curbside pick-up and delivery.

“We hope customers will take advantage of take-out or delivery service from their favorite restaurants,” says Ingrid Tighe, executive director of the Birmingham Shopping District. “It is essential that we rally around our downtown businesses and support them through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Additionally, the city has announced free parking is available on the downtown streets and in the parking structures through April 5th. For a list of open restaurants offering take-out service in Birmingham, visit www.AllinBirmingham.com/takeout.

In addition, on Monday we posted another restaurant resource for area delivery or curb-side assistance, which can be found here.

Detroit
At 3 a.m. today, the Detroit Department of Transportation resumed bus service. On Tuesday, the system shut down as many drivers concerned about safety refused to work. Following meetings with local officials, new initiatives were put in place, including more rigorous bus sanitizing practices while limiting close contact between passengers. In addition, fares were suspended in order to reduce the extent of close contact between drivers and passengers.

Schools and Food
The Michigan Department of Education announce on Tuesday that an online map has been developed for families to find locations where meals are being provided during this period of school closure. The map can be found here and will be updated twice each day during the closure period.

The meals, served under a program called Unanticipated School Closure Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), are available to all children at no cost. Up to two meals per day may be served to all children ages 0-18. This includes students with disabilities ages 18-26 with an active individual education program (IEP). The program assists Michigan’s school districts and community partners to ensure that kids receive nutritious meals.

Schools and sponsors that participate in Unanticipated School Closure SFSP help ensure children do not experience a lapse in food security now that schools are closed through April 5, 2020. For questions about Michigan’s Summer Food Service Program or Unanticipated School Closure, contact MDE at 517-241-5374 or mde-sfsp@michigan.gov.

Nonprofits and Charities
Lighthouse, a Pontiac-based nonprofit dedicated to fighting homelessness and poverty, is partnering with the several local organizations to ensure that hungry children, families, and individuals in Oakland County get food, shelter and other vital assistance during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis.

United Way for Southeastern Michigan will match up to $50,000 in donations made to lighthousemi.org/Covid-19.

In addition, the Oakland Intermediate School District, Gardner-White Furniture, and the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce are among those teaming up to help thousands of local students who rely on free and reduced school lunches every day. That need continues despite school closures.

Lighthouse will continue to distribute emergency food boxes from its Pontiac and Clarkston pantries. Starting Friday, March 20, two additional distribution sites will be added in Oak Park and Farmington Hills. Access to the pantries will be increased during the crisis.

In turn, effective immediately, The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division is pausing all weekly activities at its corps community centers throughout the eastern and central areas of the state.

However, essential social services such as food and utility assistance are still available and will continue to serve people in need with limited person-to-person interaction. Worship services will also be held virtually and livestreamed on Sunday mornings. This new policy is in effect until March 31. Emergency Disaster Services will still be serving first responders and victims of disasters when called upon. Access The Salvation Army here The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division.

In related news, on Thursday, March 19, from 2-3 p.m., the Association of Fundraising Professionals for Great Detroit will host an online town hall to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on area nonprofit organizations and the charities are responding. The goal is to share information and resources.

There is no cost to join. Anyone in the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors are asked to share the information on the town hall. More information is available here.

Federal Taxes
With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic impacting every sector of the economy, the Trump Administration announced that the U.S. Treasury and IRS will extend the April 15th tax season deadline by 90 days to July 15th this year on up to $1 million in income. But the federal government stressed, as much as possible, 2019 tax returns should be filed by the original April 15 filing deadline. For more information, visit www.IRS.gov.

In related news, the National Association for the Self-Employed on Wednesday released its Tax Filing Key Updates and Reminders list.

  • The new Qualified Business Income Deduction will benefit most small business owners providing a deduction of up to 20% of net business income.
  • A doubling of the standard deduction, which is $12,200 for single filers and $24,400 for married couples.
  • The reduction or elimination of specific deductions such as for moving expenses or the unlimited state and local tax deductions known as SALT deductions, which are now capped at $10,000.
  • A streamlined, standard home office deduction is available.
  • The standard mileage rate for business use of an automobile is 58 cents per mile for 2019, up from 54.5 cents last year.
  • Limits for retirement plan contributions such as SEPs, IRAs, and 401(k) plans may have changed for your situation.
  • A lower individual rate, which is where most self-employed small businesses file.
  • The healthcare individual mandate penalty is officially repealed.

Michigan Taxes
The Michigan Department of Treasury today announced small businesses that have experienced disrupted operations due to COVID-19 now have additional time to make their sales, use, and withholding tax monthly payment.

Effective immediately, small businesses scheduled to make their monthly sales, use and withholding tax payments on March 20 can postpone filing and payment requirements until April 20. The state Treasury Department will waive all penalties and interest for 30 days.

Specific information about Treasury providing tax assistance to small businesses due to COVID-19 can be found in SUW Penalty and Interest Waiver Notice.

Cleaning Products
From Consumer Reports: News of stores running out of hand-sanitizing gels and chlorine wipes may have you worried about how to protect your family at home as COVID-19 spreads. But plain old hand soap will go a long way.

“It isn’t possible to disinfect every surface you touch throughout your day,” says Dr. Stephen Thomas, chief of infectious diseases and director of global health at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. “The planet is covered with bacteria and viruses, and we’re constantly in contact with these surfaces, so hand-washing is still your best defense against COVID-19.”

Apart from hand sanitizers and chlorine wipes, here are other ways to kill COVID-19:

Soap and Water
Just the friction from scrubbing with soap and water can break the coronavirus’s protective envelope. “Scrub like you’ve got sticky stuff on the surface and you really need to get it off,” says Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist and member of the American Chemical Society. Discard the towel or leave it in a bowl of soapy water for a while to destroy any virus particles that may have survived.

Bleach
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a diluted bleach solution (⅓ cup bleach per 1 gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per 1 quart of water) for virus disinfection. Wear gloves while using bleach, and never mix it with ammonia or anything, in fact, except water. (The only exception is when doing laundry with detergent.) Once mixed, don’t keep the solution for longer than a day because bleach will degrade certain plastic containers.

“Always clean the surface with water and detergent first, since many materials can react with bleach and deactivate it,” Sachleben says. “Dry the surface then apply the bleach solution and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before wiping it off.”

Bleach can corrode metal over time, so Sachleben recommends that people not get into the habit of cleaning their faucets and stainless steel products with it. Because bleach is harsh for many countertops as well, you should rinse surfaces with water after disinfecting to prevent discoloration or damage to the surface.

Isopropyl Alcohol
Alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol are effective against coronavirus on hard surfaces. First, clean the surface with water and detergent. Apply the alcohol solution (do not dilute it) and let it sit on the surface for at least 30 seconds to disinfect. Alcohol is generally safe for all surfaces but can discolor some plastics, Sachleben says.

Hydrogen Peroxide
According to the CDC, household (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide is effective in deactivating rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, within 6 to 8 minutes of exposure. Rhinovirus is more difficult to destroy than coronaviruses, so hydrogen peroxide should be able to break down coronavirus in less time. Pour it undiluted into a spray bottle and spray it on the surface to be cleaned, but let it sit on the surface for at least 1 minute.

Hydrogen peroxide is not corrosive, so it’s okay to use it on metal surfaces. But similar to bleach, it can discolor fabrics if you accidentally get in on your clothes. “It’s great for getting into hard-to-reach crevices,” Sachleben says. “You can pour it on the area and you don’t have to wipe it off because it essentially decomposes into oxygen and water.”

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