COVID-19 Update: Henry Ford Health Study Endorses Controversial Treatment, State Protects Households from Utility Disruptions During Pandemic, 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 July 5

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.

Henry Ford Health Study Endorses Controversial COVID-19 Treatment
Treatment with hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin reduces the chance of death in COVID-19 patients, according to a study by researchers in the Henry Ford Health System.

More than 2,500 patients were included in the analysis, which took place between March 10 and May 2 at HFH’s six area hospitals.  Of those, the mortality rate was 13.5 percent when treated with hydroxychloroquine alone and 20.1 percent among those receiving hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Those who received azithromycin alone had a 22.4 percent death rate while patients receiving neither medication suffered a 26.4 percent mortality rate.

Patients treated with hydroxychloroquine at Henry Ford met specific protocol criteria as outlined by the hospital system’s Division of Infectious Diseases. The vast majority received the drug soon after admission; 82 percent within 24 hours and 91 percent within 48 hours of admission. All patients in the study were 18 or over with a median age of 64 years; 51 percent were men, and 56 percent African American.

“The findings have been highly analyzed and peer-reviewed,” says Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Disease for Henry Ford Health System, who co-authored the study with Henry Ford epidemiologist Dr. Samia Arshad. “We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring. Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.”

Zervos says the potential for a surge in the fall or sooner, and infections continuing worldwide, show an urgency to identifying inexpensive and effective therapies and preventions.

“We’re glad to add to the scientific knowledge base on the role and how best to use therapies as we work around the world to provide insight,” he says. “Considered in the context of current studies on the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, our results suggest that the drug may have an important role to play in reducing COVID-19 mortality.”

State Protects Vulnerable Michigan Households from Utility Disruptions During Pandemic
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Public Service Commission have worked with energy providers and other agencies to ease the financial burdens vulnerable households are experiencing from the coronavirus pandemic by preventing utility shutoffs of senior citizens and low-income households, including those who had a sudden job or income loss because of the pandemic.

Utilities across the state agreed to suspend shutoffs, provide flexible payment plans, waive late fees, and allow a 30-day medical hold for customers exposed to, quarantined, or infected by COVID-19.

The state also ordered utilities to report the number of senior, low-income, and non-low-income households that were still disconnected from service despite the protections enacted. Utilities reported reconnecting 1,445 such meters between April 30 and June 26.

“Having reliable, affordable energy is essential to the health and well-being of Michiganders, which is why we put in place additional protections and assistance for families struggling with utility bills during this pandemic,” says Sally Talberg, chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission. “Assistance is still available, and the MPSC is reminding customers to contact their utility, 211, or other organizations if they need help managing their energy bills.”

The MPSC worked with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and social services agencies to streamline delivery of millions of dollars in energy bill payment assistance to customers and to implement new programs to leverage federal funding through the CARES Act pandemic stimulus package.

Each year, Michigan’s annual Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund (LIEAF) raises up to $50 million for the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) through a surcharge on every customer bill (92 cents a month last year). MEAP assisted 61,199 households in 2019.

The state received $162 million in Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds this fiscal year and was awarded an additional $35.1 million through the CARES Act.

The MDHHS also shepherded almost $18 million of the CARES Act funding for LIHEAP to make direct payments to assist nearly 50,000 low-income Michigan households that owed past-due amounts to DTE Energy, Consumers Energy and SEMCO Energy.  In addition, these three utilities contributed another 25 percent on top of the CARES Act Funding to help with these customers’ past due bills.

Kroger Health Receives FDA Approval for Home COVID-19 Test Collection Kit
The FDA has granted Kroger Health, the health care division of The Kroger Co., Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit. The testing solution combines the safety and convenience of at-home sample collection with the guidance of a telehealth consultation to help improve the quality of the collection process.

Kroger Health’s COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit will be available to frontline associates across Kroger’s family of companies, based on medical need, beginning this week.

Kroger Health, in partnership with Gravity Diagnostics in Kentucky, plans to rapidly expand the availability of the home collection kits to other companies and organizations in the coming weeks, with a goal of processing up to 60,000 tests per week by the end of July.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety of our associates and our customers has remained our top priority,” says Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health. “Kroger Heath remains committed to helping people live healthier lives through our multi-disciplinary team of licensed, trained, and experienced health care providers.”

With the kit, the collection is performed under the supervision of a licensed health care professional. The process is simple and is available at no cost to eligible patients who meet established clinical criteria for likely COVID-19 infection or exposure.

Patients will be provided access to a website where they will answer screening questions, input their organization’s benefit code, and an individual code, like an employee ID, and complete a clinical assessment. If a patient qualifies, a health care professional will issue a prescription and the home collection kit is shipped to their home within 24-48 hours.

The home collection kit includes a nasal swab, transport vial, instruction sheet, prepaid shipping label, and packing materials for return shipment of the sample to the laboratory.

Upon receipt of the home collection kit, a health care professional guides the home collection process via a two-way video chat. The direct observation helps to ensure the proper technique is used for sample collection.

The patient then will overnight ship their sample to the laboratory for processing, which on average will take 24-48 hours.

At the laboratory, the collection undergoes a molecular diagnostic test – a test which detects parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and can be used to diagnose active infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

If test results are negative for an active infection, results are released to the patient’s electronic medical record portal. Alternatively, patients may be called if they do not consent to use of the portal. For a patient whose test result is positive, a health care professional will contact them via phone to provide a recommended course of care.

Higher Education
The Eastern Michigan University Department of Economics in Ypsilanti will host a virtual panel discussion on Tuesday, July 7, titled “The Pandemic of the Millennium: COVID-19 and the Economic Impact.”  The event will take place from 4 to 5 p.m. and feature four members of the department discussing the current state of the economy, the fiscal and monetary policy in response to COVID-19, the economic modelling of the effects of pandemic, racial issues, and labor market response to COVID-19. Those interested in submitting questions should email emu_econ@emich.edu. To view the discussion, visit here.

Community Foundation Provides Grants to Area LGBTQ Organizations
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan announced that five LGBTQ+ organizations have received grants totaling $200,000 from the foundation’s HOPE Fund. Each organization received $40,000 to support operating needs during the COVID-19 crisis.

The organizations receiving grants included are Affirmations, Equality Michigan, LGBT Detroit,

Ruth Ellis Center, and SAGE Metro Detroit.

“2020 has been difficult and different,” says Allan Gilmour, chair of the HOPE Fund of the Community Foundation. “With multiple crises in our nation and magnified in our region, we adapted our annual grantmaking strategy to meet the current needs of organizations serving the LGBTQ+ community.”

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has been supporting these and other groups for the last 25 years through The HOPE Fund. Many of these organizations – like other nonprofits nationwide – have increased demands and at the same time have had to cancel fundraising events and rethink how to engage donors amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are doubling the annual grantmaking from the HOPE Fund,” Gilmour says. “It was particularly important in these times to be able to proactively support these groups and provide general operating support so that organizations can allocate resources the way they see fit. We are thankful for our donors and The HOPE Fund endowment funds that make this possible.”

For more information, visit here.

Forgotten Harvest Recognizes the PNC Foundation for Community Support
Forgotten Harvest has recognized the PNC Foundation, which recently provided $150,000 in critical funding to help its emergency response efforts to feed tens of thousands of children, families, and seniors throughout metro Detroit.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Forgotten Harvest is working at a significantly increased capacity to serve the additional needs of the community.

“We have received wonderful financial support from our corporate partners to help cover unexpected additional costs,” says Kirk Mayes, CEO of Forgotten Harvest. “With PNC’s critical support, we are conscientiously serving our southeast Michigan community during this crisis, providing additional nutritious food to help so many in need.”

Ric DeVore, regional president for Detroit and southeast Michigan at PNC, says, “PNC has a long history of support for Forgotten Harvest, which has been fighting hunger and waste in metro Detroit for three decades. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we come together to meet essential needs of families in the communities we serve.”

In April, The PNC Financial Services Group Inc. announced $30 million in charitable support of coronavirus relief efforts, primarily directed toward basic needs and hardship relief programs across the markets in which it operates.

Outdoor Yoga at Canterbury Village in Lake Orion
Vanterbury Village in Lake Orion is offering outdoor yoga, hosted by Pushna Wellness, every week on Thursdays at 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m.

The activity takes place in the park area within the Canterbury Village Marketplace.

Two special events will be hosted on July 16 and Aug. 2nd, that will replace the regular weekly scheduled outdoor yoga sessions.

On Thursday, July 16, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., “Make, Take and Yoga Fun” will take place in partnership with Village Marketplace shops, Palletopia By Christi, and Mi Oily Cottage. Participates will make two of their own oil creations that they can take home with them, paint a fun yoga themed sign, and close it off with a relaxing 45- to 60-minute yoga session and donuts from Yates Cider Mill. Advance ticket purchases are recommended as space is limited. The cost for this event is $50 per person.

On Sunday, Aug. 2, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., “Heart Yoga for Healing,” through Tibetan Heart Yoga, which emphasizes the meditative and spiritual aspects of yoga. This practice combines the traditional Indian postures with authentic visualizations, meditations, and breath practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Historically, when Buddhist teachings traveled from India to Tibet the Yoga Sutras and related yogic teachings were transmitted at the same time. Advance ticket purchases are recommended as space is limited. The cost for this event is $15 per person.

Information, tickets, and registration for all sessions are available here.

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