COVID-19 Update: Health Insurers Offer Free Testing and Treatment, Henry Ford Health System Begins HCQ Medical Study, and More

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and 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 April 10

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Health Care
Most health insurance companies in Michigan are waiving cost-sharing, including copays, deductibles, and coinsurance for COVID-19 testing and treatments. They include:

  • Aetna Better Health of Michigan
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, MI Blue Cross Complete
  • HAP, Alliance Health
  • Humana Insurance
  • McLaren Health Plan
  • Meridian Health Plan
  • Molina Healthcare Michigan
  • Physicians Health Plan (PHP)
  • Priority Health, Priority Health Insurance Co., Priority Health Choice, Total Health Care
  • United Healthcare Insurance, United Healthcare Community Plan

COVID-19 Study
Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System said Thursday it has started enrollment for the first large-scale study in the U.S. of the effectiveness of an anti-malarial drug in preventing COVID-19. Health care workers and first responders will be able to volunteer to participate. The study — Will Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) Impede or Prevent COVID-19, or WHIP COVID-19 — and will include 3,000 participants who will take the drug to see whether it prevents contracting the virus. Preliminary results are expected in about four months. Currently, there are no FDA-approved preventions, vaccines, or treatments for the virus.

Participation in the study is limited to volunteer health care workers and first responders in southeast Michigan. The FDA will provide the necessary drug directly to Henry Ford physicians to distribute. Those who participate cannot have been previously diagnosed with the virus or be currently showing symptoms.

Volunteers will provide a blood sample and then be given vials of unidentified pills to take over the next eight weeks: a once-a-week dose, a once-a-day dose, or a placebo. The medicine was procured for the study and will not affect supplies for people who take it for other conditions. Participants will be contacted weekly as well as in-person at week four and week eight of the study to see if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or medication side effects. Blood will be drawn again at eight weeks, and results from the three groups will be compared to see if the medication had any effect.

The drug is FDA-approved and has been in use for decades to treat malaria and arthritis. It has been used recently to treat those in hospitals with COVID-19 and as a preventative measure with no major study to back up its use in preventing or treating the virus.

Henry Ford dedicates more than $100 million to research each year and is involved in numerous COVID-19 trials with partners around the world. There are currently more than 25 studies either underway or being reviewed at Henry Ford to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Medical Supplies
Woodbridge INOAC Technical Products (WITP) in Troy, a 50/50 joint venture partnership between Woodbridge and INOAC Corp., today announced the conversion of its manufacturing facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Kitchener, Ontario; and Woodbridge, Ontario to make face masks. WITP says it will be ramping up these sites to produce more than one million face masks per week to help increase access to protective gear for health care workers and others battling the spread of COVID-19 at hospitals and other facilities. WITP is exploring options to increase production in support of Mexico. To start production of the face masks, WITP says it is closely following public health guidance and will enforce government and local guidelines for sanitation and social distancing on-site at all facilities to protect teammates. In addition, WITP is also working on other initiatives to support the global COVID-19 pandemic such as face shields and hospital beds.

In Related News, Harbor Retail in Grand Haven, which designs and builds retail experiences and fixturing for big-box retailers, major brands, and c-stores, has introduced new product lines to combat the spread of COVID-19 and to help advance rapid, economic recovery post crisis. Leveraging its U.S. based design-engineering team and manufacturing plants, Harbor is developing and producing PPE response products for pop-up medical treatment centers/hospitals, pharmacies, grocery, c-stores, fast casual, retail chains, municipalities, and more. Production for products like service-counter protection shields (sneeze guards), sanitation-wipe dispensers and modular, pop-up room systems are among the top products and services being requested and produced at scale at Harbor, while numerous custom PPE products are in R&D for rapid prototyping and scaled production. In addition, Harbor says it is working with national and regional retailers and other industry sectors like transportation, hospitality, entertainment and health and wellness to adapt & develop new solutions to encourage confidence from customers and clients post crisis, to spur positive economic activity. For more information on COVID-19 response products to slow the spread and/or ways to begin to prepare now for the economic recovery, visit www.harborretail.com/lets-talk or call (800) 968-6991.

Education
In a move to address the serious disruption in students’ pursuit of their college degrees, Eastern Michigan University is introducing the new EMU CARES Grant. The new one-time grant provides $500 to undergraduate students enrolling in one three-credit course, and $1,000 for undergraduate students enrolling in two courses, or six-credit hours. It applies to current students as well as guest and transfer students who enroll in EMU’s more than 750 online/virtual summer courses, which begin May 4. Summer registration is currently underway. Students can visit the University’s online enrollment page to learn more about the University’s extensive online and transferable summer course offerings. For more information, visit the University’s website.

Medical Workers Support
The Michigan Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is seeking partners in an effort to support metro Detroit health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic through “Random Acts of Light” at hospitals and health care facilities.

The program offers businesses and individuals the opportunity to support meal delivery, gift cards, mental health and stress management counseling, messages of support, and more. Sponsoring partners will help the workers as well as blood cancer patients who are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 by providing resources, groceries, gas cards, and supply delivery.

The chapter will customize the program packages for each sponsoring partner.

Business Support
Oakland County has created a grant fund of $700,000 for companies that are shifting or accelerating their manufacturing capabilities to create personal protective equipment such as face masks and gowns. Companies applying for the Saving Business, Saving Lives grant must demonstrate the ability to make the equipment during the pandemic. Eligible use of funds includes procuring necessary equipment to manufacture supplies; logistics, shipping, and technology upgrades; and other costs related to starting up new production lines.

The county has more than 500 businesses that are clothing and sewing manufacturers, plastics and 3-D printing, and automotive and paint suppliers.

The application is available here. The grant is part of a $1.85 million small-business stabilization fund created by David Coulter, county executive, and the county board of commissioners. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. also awarded the county a $1.15 million grant.

Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Albom, author, journalist, and philanthropist, Huntington Bank, and Metro Solutions have partnered with the Detroit Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship to host the Metro Detroit COVID-19 Artist Crisis Emergency Fund (ACE Fund) to provide relief for local arts and cultural workers who are experiencing a loss of wages.

The fund will address the needs of individual artists who live from gig to gig. The fund launched a GoFundMe campaign. Funds raised will go to artists who have lost earnings, need reimbursement for conference and travel losses, or need funds for medical expenses, rent or mortgage payments, food and utility, and other living expenses.

The initial goal is $50,000, and the fund is expected to exceed $100,000 thanks to initial investments from the Huntington Bank Foundation, Albom, and Rochelle Riley, author and director of arts and culture for Detroit.

Albom and Riley are also planning a virtual telethon featuring performances by and visits with fine and performing artists. Those who are interested can send a horizontal video no more than three minutes long of themselves performing, creating, or talking about their crafts or lives. The clips will be edited into a stream. Those interested in submitting can do so at detroitartsandculture@gmail.com.

Artists must live in Wayne or Oakland county and can apply for $500 grants. The application is available here.

The Motown Museum in Detroit is hosting Motown DJ Dance Parties on Fridays via the museum’s Instagram Live. At 8 p.m., DJ Rue will mix songs and streams from a Motown Museum playlist. People can tune in @motownmuseum. The first dance party took place last Friday.

The French American Chamber of Commerce is hosting a virtual wine tasting. At 6 p.m. on Thursday, participants will open bottles of wine sent by the chamber and participate in a Zoom wine tasting. The event is limited to Oakland County residents, and registration is available here. It costs $50 for chamber members and $60 for nonmembers.

Wine experts will include Michael Cregar, sommelier at Woodberry Wine; Helene Fertal, owner and sommelier at Birmingham Wine; and Christel Gaillard Burks, manager at Les Vignobles Foncalieu. Cregar will present Domaine Haut Bridau, Picpoul de Pinet 2018. Burks will present Les Amours d’Haut Gleon Rose 2018. Fertal will present Chateau Michel Cazevieille, Origine 1922, St. Chinian Rouge 2016.

The chamber has also created the Spring Sensation Virtual Wine Tasting touring South of France playlist on Spotify to listen to while tasting the wine.

Retail Services
Airbnb today announced the launch of Online Experiences, a new way for people to connect, travel virtually and earn income during the COVID-19 crisis. Airbnb is working with the following Detroit-based entities, including Bedrock, a full service commercial real estate firm, to connect their tenants and other entrepreneurs to Online Experiences. Other participating businesses include Citizen Yoga, Vibe Ride, and La Feria.

“The small business community in Detroit is truly something special. Bedrock is fully committed to supporting local, small businesses and exploring innovative ways to help entrepreneurs to succeed during these times,” says Matt Cullen CEO of Bedrock. “Partnering with Airbnb, Detroit businesses will have the ability to share their stories and showcase their talents to people around the globe.”

In Related News, MiCannaDelivery.com, short for Michigan Cannabis Delivery, today announced the launch of new services for Michigan residents to safely and securely purchase high quality, lab-tested medical and recreational cannabis products. MiCannaDelivery.com, based in Hanover, near Jackson, says it provides online ordering and secure, contactless delivery of cannabis products directly to homes. It also offers educational support through a virtual chat with expert customer service specialists via phone, FaceTime, Skype, and other platforms. The company says its offerings are state certified. For more information, visit MiCannaDelivery.com

Farmington Hills-based Buddy’s Pizza is hiring additional staff for carryout and kitchen staff positions at multiple locations across metro Detroit. Available positions can be viewed here.

General Motors
Detroit’s General Motors Co. is investing $2.7 million in 40 nonprofits and supporting employee volunteer and donation efforts. Included in the efforts is a $1 million grant to the DonorsChoose Keep Kids Learning Programs, which provides $1,000 worth of credits to 1,000 teachers in high-need school districts to help send books, pencils, notebooks, food, cleaning supplies, and more to students’ homes.

An additional $1.7 million in grant funding is being deployed to GM facility communities across the U.S. Each facility dedicates funds to nonprofits providing services to their communities such as food and housing assistance, small business support, and at-home learning resources for parents, teachers, and students.

More than 2,100 GM employees have volunteered during the pandemic, including 931 who are making and delivering personal protection equipment from the Warren facility, 178 who have donated more than $14,000 to supported United Way’s local COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Funds and the DonorsChoose Keep Kids Learning Program, and 1,051 employees and their friends and families who have pledged to the American Red Cross SleevesUp campaign.

GM employees are also recording short videos thanking teachers for their efforts to continue education while at home.

United Wholesale Mortgage
Mat Ishbia, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage in Pontiac, today announced all of its 5,800 team members have job security. “Every single member of this family is equally important and I can’t think of a better way to let 5,800 people know we’ve got their back than giving them job security at a time like this,” he says. “I will sleep on their couch before I lay anyone off.”

In addition, UWM is offering the following benefits to help team members stay connected, help their families, and help their communities:

  • Training: For the past three years, thousands of UWM’s partners have traveled to UWM’s headquarters to attend its popular Success Track courses that combine UWM’s comprehensive mortgage expertise and award-winning training methods dedicated to championing the success of brokers everywhere. All classes are free to UWM clients and in order to adjust to changes resulting from COVID-19, they are available online with opportunities for attendees to ask questions and collaborate.
  • Culture: UWM is maintaining its strong culture by going online with its 3 o’clock dance parties, company contests, theme dress days and virtual workouts like yoga and Zumba.
  • Perks: UWM provides team members with, “UPerks,” or discounts and offers made by partnering with businesses. Currently team members have offers that include 20 percent off purchases at Rite Aid and a complimentary DashPass membership with Door Dash offering team members free food delivery from local restaurants. Team members are also all offered telemedicine services through our onsite provider, SALTA and waiving the fee.

Food Relief
Michigan is the first state to be approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, a new program that provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures. The program was authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Act, which was signed by President Trump.

The program will offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. For the 2019-2020 school year, Michigan had nearly 750,000 children eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.

Under the act, states can submit plans to the secretary of agriculture for providing the benefits to eligible households.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs.

In Related News, the Food Bank Council of Michigan has called on state residents to help feed an increasing number of children, families, and seniors who don’t have food during the pandemic. The initiative encourages donors to virtually shop for food items or make a direct donation here. In addition, contributors can select which of the state’s seven regional food banks receives the donation. The council will distribute undesignated fund and food to areas of greatest need.

In Other News, a collection of Detroit chefs, restaurateurs, and entrepreneur have teamed up to pool their perishable food items in an effort to respond to a call for help from local homeless shelters who are in need of meals for Detroit’s homeless population and food insecure. James Beard Award nominated chef Genevieve Vang, of Bangkok 96 Street Food (inside Detroit Shipping Company); celebrity chef Maxcel Hardy, owner of Coop Caribbean Fusion; Ron Bartell, retired NFL player, entrepreneur, and Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles; Stephanie Byrd, owner of The Block, Flood’s Bar and Grille; community executive chef Phil Jones, of Ma Haru; and, David E. Rudolph, managing partner at D. Ericson and Associates PR, all have teamed up in the spirit of making a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic by pooling and sourcing perishable food items, and to prepare meals that are being donated to feed homeless shelters at Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO) Tumaini Center in Midtown Detroit, Coalition of Temporary Shelters (COTS), Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), and Alternatives for Girls. For food and monetary donations in care of “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen for Good,” contact Sharon Maiser, vice president of corporate development at NSO at (313) 400-6439 or SMaiser@NSO-mi.org. Accepted food items include perishable foods — vegetables, pasta, sauces, and protein. Deliveries do not violate the state stay-at-home order.

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