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 – Easing Restrictions
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today issued an executive order extending her Stay Home, Stay Safe edict through May 15, but she eased some restrictions on certain businesses and outdoor activities.
Under the new order, landscaping and nursery businesses may reopen as early as today, subject to strict social distancing. Bicycle repair shops also can reopen. Big box stores can open many of its departments deemed nonessential in Whitmer’s previous executive order set to expire April 30.
Golfing, running, hiking, motorized boating, and “other similar activity” now is allowed as long as participants practice strict social distancing. Also allowed now is travel between two state residences, including moving to a new residence, although it is not recommended. Individuals may travel to a home or residence outside the state or leave the state for a home or residence elsewhere.
As of April 26 at 11:59 p.m., Whitmer’s order requires any individual able to medically tolerate a face covering wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth — such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief — when in any enclosed public space. In addition, all businesses and operations whose workers perform in-person work must, at a minimum, provide non-medical grade face coverings to their workers.
The full executive order can be found here.
“Today’s executive order is a positive step toward reopening our economy as Michigan works to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan. “Small businesses have done their part to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus. We are pleased that today’s order allows some of Michigan’s small businesses to resume operations, providing products and services to Michiganders and paychecks to their employees.
“We recognize that completely reopening of Michigan’s economy will take time and careful actions but are encouraged to see these first steps being taken today,” Calley continues. “In addition to these steps, we urge the governor to consider adoption of updated Homeland Security CISA guidelines.”
Federal Government – COVID-19 Relief
President Donald Trump today signed a $484 billion COVID-19 relief package that will replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which supports small businesses, and provides emergency money for hospitals.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the measure yesterday.
The bill provides $310 billion more for the Paycheck Protection Program, $60 billion in economic disaster loans for small businesses, $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion more for COVID-19 testing, and additional relief amounting to $14 billion.
State Government – National Guard
The Michigan National Guard has expanded its role supporting community health care coalitions with supply and logistics management of medical equipment across the Upper Peninsula.
Since April 22, guard members have been serving at regional logistics hubs in Sault Saint Marie, Marquette, and Ontonagon to assist with distributing critical medical supplies throughout the UP.
The Guard is supporting each site with six members to assist the coalitions with planning, distributing, and tracking critical medical supplies across Michigan in the fight against COVID-19.
“Over 500 men and women of the Michigan National Guard live in communities of the Upper Peninsula as neighbors,” says Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “They are also technical experts that have the skills to support the state of Michigan’s response to COVID-19.”
State emergency managers requested Michigan National Guard personnel to assist community and regional health care coalitions with supply chain management. These coalitions are responsible for requesting necessary medical supplies from the state and receiving and distributing those supplies within their regions. Supplies, such as gowns and face masks, come from the national stockpile, donations, or from other regions, and are critically important to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The Michigan National Guard’s support for this mission is expected to continue through the end of May.
Restarting Michigan’s Economy
The Detroit Regional Chamber has posted a document representing a summary of its views as it consults with local, state, and federal officials regarding the restarting of Michigan’s economy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Restarting the economy will require a thoughtful plan giving proper consideration to both business and public health voices,” the document reads. “The Detroit Regional Chamber applauds both the legislature and governor for approaching this critical issue in a thoughtful manner. While currently the governor and leaders of the legislature differ in their approach, they have been thoughtful and have strived to balance public health and economic issues. The Chamber encourages them to work together to develop a consensus plan.”
The document outlines the twin challenges of historic proportions, which is balancing health concerns with economic issues.
To review the entire document, click here.
Kroger Health, the health care division of The Kroger Co., today announced the expansion of free COVID-19 testing sites to Michigan, Colorado, Ohio, and Tennessee, joining existing sites in Kentucky and Tennessee, for all priority groups, including health care workers, first responders, and symptomatic groups.
Additionally, the company will begin piloting site-specific testing for Kroger associates in Michigan and Colorado, while also empowering its own pharmacists to initiate the lab order and observe self-administered testing where allowable by applicable law.
Michigan locations were not released.
For the testing, patients remain in their cars throughout the process, which is completed in just a few minutes using self-administered test kits. The test uses self-administered nasal swabs, which are less painful and designed to increase safety. Testing services are provided at no cost to the aforementioned priority groups.
Kroger Health testing sites are generally located off site at closed schools, businesses, and public grounds in partnership with local communities.
Americans can access Kroger Health’s free screening tool to determine if testing is appropriate for them here. This screening tool was adapted from CDC recommendations and is intended to identify patients who need testing the most. Screened individuals can schedule and pre-register for a test at a convenient location.
Royal Oak-based Excelerate America, an online digital learning resource and virtual community for small business owners, has launched a grant and loan search tool called Funding Finder designed for small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking COVID-19 relief funding programs. Users of the site get the specific national, local, and other COVID-19 relief opportunities available to businesses in their area with a simple search of the system. For more information, click here.
Derek Dickow, founder of Steward Media, a Birmingham-based public and political relations firm, has launched IMPACT, an eight-part virtual event series moderated by Dickow featuring industry leaders and service providers offering expert insight and guidance on how to move the economy forward post COVID-19.
The one-hour sessions are filmed live every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., and participants can ask guest-specific questions by registering for free here through the Zoom Chat Box. All programs are then uploaded to YouTube and available to the public.
In lieu of charging a registration fee, IMPACT asks its viewers to make a monetary donation to The Children’s Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Sponsors such as Signal Restoration Services and Midwest Mobility Solutions help underwrite production costs.
More than 400 registered for the first episode of IMPACT on retail, which featured one on one interviews with Joey Agree, CEO of Agree Realty Corp., and Don Barnes III, president of Belle Tire.
Future sessions and topics include:
- April 29, IMPACT on Multifamily.
- May 6, IMPACT on Office and mixed use.
- May 13, IMPACT on Industrial.
- May 20, IMPACT on Hotels and hospitality.
- May 27, IMPACT on Small business and entrepreneurship.
- June 3, IMPACT on Residential real estate.
- June 10, IMPACT on Cannabis
Auburn Hills’ TI Fluid Systems, a global supplier of automotive fluid systems technology, is collaborating with Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn and 3M to produce air flex tube assemblies for powered air-purifying respiratory systems in response to the increased demand caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
3M’s PAPR uses a waist-mounted, battery-powered blower that sends filtered air into a hood that helps provide respiratory protection for workers, including those in health care services. When Ford announced its proposed design solution for the production increase, TIFS says it recognized an opportunity to leverage the current design and manufacturing processes to engineer and mass produce quick connectors and a new air flex tube solution for the hood and fan pack used in the PAPR system.
Quick connector production and sub-assembly will take place at the TIFS facility in New Haven, with tube final assembly taking place at the Ashley, Ind. plant. Keeping production local will allow Ford and 3M to rapidly meet the increasing demand and to provide much-needed protection for health care professionals.
Consumer Sentiment Amid COVID-19
Consumer sentiment tumbled 17.3 index points in April, the largest one-month decline in nearly a half century, according to the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.
A two-month decline of 29.2 points also was the largest consecutive monthly decline ever recorded.
Most of the weakness was due to a collapse in consumers’ evaluations of current economic conditions, which posted a percentage decline twice as high as recorded in the Expectations Index, says Richard Curtin, a U-M economist and director of the surveys.
The difference was due to the notion that the coronavirus would be transitory, and the spread of the virus would significantly decline in the upcoming months, he says. Nonetheless, the data indicate that the economy already is in recession and suggest that the economic downturn could persist at least until the start of 2021.
“As several states reopen their economies, more information will reach consumers about how reopening the economy could cause a resurgence in coronavirus infections,” Curtin says. “Consumers’ reactions to relaxing restrictions will be critical, by either putting further pressure on states to reopen their economies, or exerting added pressure for states to extend their restrictions.
“The risks associated with these decisions are not equally balanced, with the wrong decision to reopen having serious repercussions,” he adds. “The necessity to reimpose restrictions could cause a deeper and more lasting pessimism, even among those in states that did not relax their restrictions.”
Surging numbers of consumers mentioned soaring unemployment, reflecting the record five-week surge in claims to 26 million. The rise in unemployment is hardly over, as the proportion of consumers who expected additional increase in the year ahead rose to 52 percent in April, more than twice February’s 23 percent. Although it was nearly a universal view that the economy was in recession, consumers were more likely to expect a recovery in the year ahead, with the proportion rising to 58 percent from 39 percent in March and just 29 percent in February. This expectation was largely based on the view that the impact of the coronavirus would greatly ease in the year ahead.
When asked to explain their buying plans, record numbers of consumers justified their negative views by referencing their uncertainty about future job and income prospects. Negative views of buying conditions for large household durables were voiced by 55 percent, twice last month’s 27 percent and three times February’s 18 percent. Home-buying conditions were judged less favorable than anytime since 1984. Vehicle-buying conditions declined to their lowest levels in nearly a decade. Home and vehicles were aided by more frequent references to price discounts. The attraction of lower interest rates and prices were easily offset by rising uncertainty.
The overall Consumer Sentiment Index fell to 71.8 in April, down from 89.1 in March, and 101 in February, a record two month decline of 29 percent. The Expectations Index fell to 70.1 in April from 79.7 in March and 92.1 in February. The Current Conditions Index posted the largest losses, plunging to 74.3 in April from 103.7 in March and 114.8 in February.
The Senior Alliance in Wayne conducted an emergency food distribution April 23 for adults age 60 and older in need of food assistance during the Stay Safe, Stay Home Executive Order. More than 400 boxes were distributed.
Additional distributions will occur at the alliance’s city of Wayne office location on Thursday, May 7 and Thursday, May 21 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., and at Yack Arena in Wyandotte on Thursday, April 30 and Thursday, May 14 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
“Many seniors are unable to visit the grocery store during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Tamera Kiger, SEO of the Senior Alliance. “Whether this is due to barriers ranging from transportation, mobility, lack of an available caregiver, or concern with underlying health conditions during the pandemic, the Senior Alliance is here to help.”
Questions about eligibility and pickup procedures can be directed to Suzanne Radocaj at 734-727-2011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Related News: The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association and AT&T have announced a partnership to feed frontline health care workers at TCF Center in Detroit beginning Saturday, April 25. AT&T is providing $50,000 in funding to cover the cost of 500 meals per day for frontline health care workers treating COVID-19 patients at TCF Center. Plans for meal support at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi are in development, bringing AT&T’s support to a total of 10,000 meals.
Through the MRLA and AT&T partnership, breakfast and lunch will be freshly prepared for health care workers at the TCF Center field hospital. Meal service is scheduled to continue for two weeks, totaling 7,000 meals. Each meal, prepared following safe food handling procedures, will be individually packaged with pre-packaged utensils. Approximately 500 meals will be delivered daily — 250 for breakfast and 250 for lunch — to TCF Center by individuals wearing masks and gloves in accordance with guidelines from local, state, and federal health agencies and the CDC. Meal support at Suburban Collection Showplace is being finalized.
Companies and organization leadership providing meal donations at the TCF Center over the next 14 days thus far include: Paul Hess, Epoch Hospitality; John Kesterke, Gordon Food Service; Chef Maxcel Hardy, Hardy Hospitality Group; Petro Drakopoulos, Republica; Jake Schostak, TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants; and Jon Grayeb and Jean Lanfear, JK & T Wings.
In Addition: Health care professionals at Henry Ford Hospital locations in Detroit, Dearborn, and Brownstown Township are receiving lunches and dinners due to a new collaboration between Ford Fund, Corktown restaurants, Eastern Market in Detroit, and the Lincoln Motor Co.
With help from a Ford Fund grant, Corktown restaurants — Brooklyn Street Local, Folk Detroit, IMA, McShane’s Irish Pub, Michigan & Trumbull, and Onassis Coney Island — are cooking up dinners for workers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. The menu will include a variety of offerings from shepherd’s pie and cornbread to quiche with fruit salad, tuna melt with fries, pizza, and vegetarian options.
“Our purpose on earth is to serve others and that’s what we’re doing,” says Bob Roberts, president of the Corktown Business Association. “And then you add the gratification of where these meals are going. The doctors, nurses, and emergency room folks, I can’t fathom what their daily routine is like.”
Angela Crooms, system director of food and nutrition at Henry Ford Hospital , says “The support from our community during this unprecedented time has been incredibly moving. They are helping our front-line teams keep up their strength for the work they are doing for our patients. Ford Motor Company Fund’s generosity is remarkable.”
The Ford Fund also provided a grant to Eastern Market in Detroit, which is preparing daily lunches for healthcare workers at Henry Ford Brownstown and Henry Ford Dearborn.
“The partnership Henry Ford Health System shares with Ford Motor Co. and its charitable Fund is truly special in the best of times; in these times it is extraordinary,” says Michele Harrison Sears, senior director of development office foundation relations at Henry Ford Health System. “I cannot overstate how much these gestures of support and appreciation mean to our front-line staff working long, demanding shifts.”
The Ford Fund is helping coordinate delivery of the meals, as well, in collaboration with the Lincoln Personal Driver pilot program — a transportation service that allows Lincoln clients to hire professional drivers by the hour using some of the brand’s newest vehicles. The program’s fleet of vehicles and professional drivers are transporting meals to the hospitals so doctors, nurses and emergency personnel tirelessly tending to patients struggling with COVID-19 can be fed.
The hospital meal deliveries are among the many activities coordinated by Ford and Ford Fund to help local hospitals during the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this month, Ford Motor Co. loaned two unused employee shuttle vans to Henry Ford Hospital to help transport out-of-town volunteer doctors and nurses to-and-from the airport, local hotels and hospitals. Ford Fund also redirected $200,000 in funding to help Henry Ford Health System and Beaumont Hospitals with medical supplies and IT support during the pandemic.
“The Transits on loan from Ford Motor Company Fund have been amazingly helpful in shuttling our wonderful travel nurses from out of state who have recently arrived to assist us, employees working long shifts unable to make the drive home and frontline clinical staff who must be separated from their loved ones,” says A.J. Evans, consultant, Equal Employment Relations and Workforce Diversity, Henry Ford Health System. “Transportation is now one less thing for our hardworking employees to worry about.”
To learn more about Ford Fund’s response to COVID-19, visit fordfund.org/covid19.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, impacting travel and public gatherings, the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills said on Thursday it has decided to pause a search for a new president. Dominic DiMarco has agreed to stay on as Cranbrook’s president until a leadership transition is able to take place.