COVID-19 Update: Governor Unveils MI Safe Start Plan, Blue Cross to Waive Medicare Advantage Cost Sharing, 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.
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map of Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of May 7

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 – Governor Unveils MI Safe Start Plan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who on Thursday extended Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order to May 28, said the state’s Big 3 automakers could get back to work on May 11. She also unveiled her MI Safe Start Plan.

Under Executive Order 2020-77, manufacturing facilities must adopt measures to protect their workers from the spread of COVID-19. That includes conducting a daily entry screening protocol for workers and everyone else entering the facility, including a questionnaire covering symptoms and exposure to people with possible COVID-19, together with a temperature screening as soon as no-touch thermometers can be obtained. They also must create dedicated entry points at every facility and suspend entry of all non-essential in-person visits, including tours.

“The safety of our workers is our top priority, and I am confident that Michigan manufacturers are prepared to deliver on the worker protections included in today’s order,” says John Walsh, president and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association. “We believe the manufacturing industry has a big role to play in Michigan’s economic recovery, and we’re ready to lead the way. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the governor to bring the manufacturing industry back up to full strength.”

Manufacturing facilities also must train workers on, among other things, how COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person, signs and symptoms of COVID-19, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or suspected or confirmed diagnosis, and the use of personal protective equipment.

All businesses in the state — including manufacturers — must require masks to be worn when workers cannot consistently maintain six feet of separation from others and consider face shields for those who cannot consistently maintain three feet of separation from other workers.

The governor also detailed the six phases of the pandemic that she is using to guide her MI Safe Start Plan to re-engage Michigan’s economy.

The phases of the pandemic and what work can be done in those phases include:

  1. Uncontrolled growth. The increasing number of new cases every day, overwhelming our health systems. Work: Critical manufacturing, health care, food and agriculture, essential retail, transportation.
  2. Persistent spread. We continue to see high case levels with concern about health system capacity. Work: Same as above plus additional recreational activities.
  3. Flattening. The epidemic is no longer increasing, and the health system’s capacity is sufficient for current needs. Work: Construction, manufacturing, real estate, and outdoor work.
  4. Improving. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are clearly declining. Work: Additional lower-risk businesses with strict safety measures, other retail with capacity limits, offices but telework required if possible.
  5. Containing. Continued case and death rate improvements, with outbreaks quickly contained. Work: Increased gathering sizes, most businesses with strict mitigation measures, restaurants and bars, live instruction for K-12 and higher education, travel.
  6. Post-pandemic. Community spread not expected to return. Work: All businesses, events and gatherings of all sizes, social distancing rules relaxed, large events permitted.

The governor says the state currently is in phase 3.

Federal Government – Seafood and Fishing
On May 7, President Trump signed an executive order promoting American seafood competitive and economic growth. In a statement, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said: “America is an ocean nation with the laws, the resources, the tools, and the expertise to be a seafood superpower,” the statement said. “Unfortunately and unnecessarily, our country overwhelmingly relies on imports to meet our seafood demands. Today, President Trump took bold action to secure America’s place as a seafood superpower by removing unnecessary regulations that restrict our seafood industry. This action allows for job creation that will put Americans back to work while prioritizing delivery of safe, sustainable, and healthy food on American tables.”

In addition, the Department of Commerce announced that $300 million in economic relief is being allocated to U.S. fishermen and seafood industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds were allocated as part of the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27 by Trump.

Commercial fishing, charter/for-hire businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and parts of the seafood sector in coastal states and territories are among those eligible to apply for funds. Tribes also are eligible for funding including for any negative impacts to subsistence, cultural, or ceremonial fisheries.

The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will work with the three Interstate Marine Fishery Commissions, organizations with a demonstrated track record of success in disbursing funds, to quickly deliver financial assistance into the hands of those who need it.

“For generations, our coastal communities have taken great pride in delivering protein-rich seafood to dinner tables across the country and enabling access to our world class recreational fisheries,” says Neil Jacobs, administrator of NOAA. “NOAA thanks our partners in the interstate marine fisheries commissions, states, territories, and tribes for their assistance. Together, we will work to distribute these funds as quickly as possible.”

For more information, click here.

Digital Solutions to COVID-19 Business Issues
Southfield-based Stefanini Group, a global technology company specializing in digital solutions, announced a set of nine new solutions and services to assist companies in their response to COVID-19.

As businesses adjust to the changing needs of their people and customers, Stefanini’s solutions assist with digital needs, reshaping industries, and building resilient businesses.

“At Stefanini Group, we aim to be a resource to businesses during this trying time,” says Spencer Gracias, CEO of Stefanini North America/APAC. “Life as we know it has changed drastically, which has challenged business and increased the need for a virtual model. In order to move forward, companies need to re-tool their approach to be resilient in times of change, and we are thrilled to be announcing a new suite of solutions and services to assist businesses in the digital transformation journey that comes from this pandemic.”

Among the new solutions include those to address new behavior and digital needs, reshaping industries, and building a resilient business.

For more information, click here.

Health Insurance
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network of Michigan will waive cost-sharing for Medicare Advantage members through Dec. 31 for certain specific services that enable seniors to consult with their doctors and therapists about their health needs, both in-person and virtually. Members in BCBSM and BCN Medicare Advantage plans will be assured of no copays, coinsurance, or deductibles for the following in-network services, from May 1-Dec. 31:

  • In-person primary care services.
  • Behavioral health office visits.
  • Telehealth services for both medical and behavioral health.

NeuMoDx Plans Extension for SARS-CoV-2 Test EUA
NeuMoDx Molecular, an Ann Arbor-based sample-to-result molecular diagnostic company, announced plans to enhance its U.S. Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization for the NeuMoDx SARS-CoV-2 Assay implemented on the NeuMoDx Molecular Systems.

The current NeuMoDx SARS-CoV-2 Assay is a rapid, automated in vitro real-time RT-PCR diagnostic test for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA from nasal, nasopharyngeal, and oropharyngeal swabs in transport medium and bronchoalveolar lavage specimens from individuals suspected of COVID-19 by their health care provider.

NeuMoDx now is expanding its current workflow to include the ability to test clinician-collected saliva specimens and self-collected saliva specimens (collected in a health care setting) in the NeuMoDx saliva collection device. The NeuMoDx SARS-CoV-2 Assay is available to CLIA certified hospitals and clinical reference laboratories with experience performing moderate or high-complexity tests.

The high-throughput, fully automated NeuMoDx 288 and 96 Molecular Systems can provide results from the test in as little as 80 minutes from primary collection or daughter tubes.

“Our proprietary NeuDry technology enables efficient automation of the NeuMoDx SARS-CoV-2 Assay, as all reagents and consumables are provided in a “ready-to-use” format for immediate processing without any need for refrigeration,” says Sundu Brahmasandra, president and COO of NeuMoDx.

In Related News: Kroger Health, the health care arm of Kroger, is opening a free COVID-19 drive-thru testing site today for patients in the Grand Blanc area, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Testing will continue through the end of May, Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., in the Grand Blanc High School parking lot (12500 Holly Rd.).

Individuals can determine eligibility and schedule a test here.

Those eligible will then select the Grand Blanc location and appointment time and receive an email confirmation with pre-appointment paperwork. When an individual arrives for a test, they should have a photo ID ready and leave their windows rolled up for check-in. A Kroger pharmacist will approach the car and alert the individual when to roll down their window.

Test results are expected within approximately 48 hours. Kroger Health is expected to administer 250 tests per day at the location.

Credit Union Helps Businesses Land $35.1M in Relief Funds
Community Choice Credit Union in Farmington Hills says it has helped more than 580 local business owners secure $35.1 million of the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program funds.

The proactive measures taken by the credit union to get member applications and supporting documentation ready for submission allowed local business owners to be among the first to receive relief funds that will support them while their business is closed or operating with restrictions.

“Whatever we can do to support these businesses, we’re happy to do it,” says Barb Babington, vice president of lending at CCCU. “Our business services team, plus a host of others we pooled from around the credit union, have been working 24 hours to get the applications entered for business members. I’m proud to say that we reacted quickly to the crisis and were able to give some of our business owners a little peace of mind.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Community Choice has supported members with auto loans, home equity loans, and mortgages, while also providing members with a variety of financial relief loans.

Businesses that still need help getting an SBA PPP loan can apply online here.

Pistons and McDonald’s Offer Free Breakfast to Frontline Workers
The Detroit Pistons and McDonald’s announced today the launch of a new program called Motor City Frontline Meals in which all health care workers, Detroit Police Department police officers, Detroit Fire Department firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, and Detroit Department of Transportation bus drivers can start their day with a free breakfast at participating McDonald’s locations inside the city of Detroit.

The companies are teaming up to thank frontline workers showing incredible dedication and providing critical services to the public while battling the COVID-19 crisis.

“First responders and workers on the front lines are keeping our community safe and helping Detroit move forward during this crisis,” says Tom Gores, owner of the Detroit Pistons. “Their commitment in the face of adversity is inspiring, and we are grateful for everything they do.”

From store open to 10:30 a.m. every day from Monday, May 11 through Sunday, May 31, all 28 McDonald’s locations inside the city of Detroit will offer Detroit health care workers, first responders, and DDOT bus drivers their choice of a free breakfast bundle (Egg McMuffin or McChicken Griddles, with hash brown and either a coffee or carbonated soft drink), compliments of the Detroit Pistons.

Valid employee ID is required. Limit one meal per person per day and menu options may vary by restaurant. For complete program details visit here.

To learn more about how the Pistons have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

Detroit Parks & Rec. Increases Meal Distribution
The city of Detroit’s Parks and Recreation Department is increasing the number of free meals offered to city residents through a partnership with Project Isaiah, a nonprofit founded to preserve food service jobs by providing meals to organizations in need.

After starting with 5,000 last week during a trial, the city now will provide 7,000 additional meals per week to families in need. Approximately 4,000 of those meals will be provided to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, ensuring that they have the resources necessary to shelter-in-place.

Since launching in Detroit on April 11 through a grant funded by Bank of America, Project Isaiah has provided nearly 70,000 meals to residents through partnerships with the Detroit Area Agency on Aging, Forgotten Harvest, and Salvation Army of Michigan. The meals are being prepared by Gate Gourmet, one of the nation’s largest airline catering companies. Project Isaiah hired Gate Gourmet to produce the meals, saving local jobs and allowing their airport kitchens to be used to fill a growing food need.

“No one should have to worry about food during a global pandemic,” says Michael S. Klein, chairman of Project Isaiah. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Bank of America and the city of Detroit in this important effort. We all win when everyone stands together.”

Detroit Parks and Recreation will use the support from Project Isaiah and Bank of America to build infrastructure to increase the city’s impact and reach more families in Detroit. With the additional funding support, Project Isaiah now will be able to provide more than 30,000 boxed meals per week to Detroit residents.

To date, Detroit Parks and Recreation has served nearly 300,000 meals in Detroit.

“This partnership provides us with additional resources to support critical food distribution in Detroit,” says Erin Casey, assistant director of Detroit Parks and Recreation. “With Project Isaiah and added organizational partners, it ensures we reach a broad net of Detroiters during this pandemic.”

Click here for distribution schedules, locations, and real-time service updates.

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