COVID-19 Update: HHH Awards $107.2M to Train Health Workforce, May Sees Employment Picture Improve Nationally and Statewide, Automakers to Resume Pre-pandemic Output by Month’s End, 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.
map of Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of June 21

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.

Federal Government – HHS Awards $107.2M to Grow and Train the Health Workforce
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, has awarded a total of $107.2 million to 310 recipients in 45 states and territories to increase the health workforce in rural and underserved communities.

“Supporting a strong health workforce is essential to improving health in rural and underserved communities,” says Alex Azar, secretary of HHS. “We’ve seen stark disparities in health and health care access contribute to the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants provide support for the training of health care workers in rural and underserved communities.”

These programs provide financial and professional support to physicians, faculty, dentists, nurses, and students as they pursue careers in health care settings. Awardees will be able to develop and retain clinicians in high-need areas to meet the vital health needs of the most disadvantaged communities.

“Access to a robust and high-quality health care workforce is essential for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases in underserved areas,” says Tom Engels, administrator of HRSA. “These awards help meet the demand for health care from individuals who urgently need it.”

These awards support the following programs:

Nurse Faculty Loan Program – ($26.7 million, 81 awards) The NFLP expands nursing faculty nationwide. Loans are provided to nursing students who receive up to 85 percent loan cancellation in exchange for full-time post-graduate employment as nurse faculty.

Postdoctoral Training in General, Pediatric, and Public Health Dentistry – ($13 million, 27 awards) This program provides funding to enhance postdoctoral dental residency training programs in rural communities. The program will improve access to oral health care services for all individuals, especially low-income and underserved populations.

Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students – ($47.8 million, 86 awards) The SDS program increases the diversity of the health workforce. It funds eligible health professions schools and programs, which make scholarships available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have financial need.

Nurse Anesthetist Traineeships – ($2.5 million, 79 awards) The NAT program provides funding to eligible institutions to cover the costs of traineeships for individuals in nurse anesthesia programs. The funding will help increase the number of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) to provide care to underserved populations.

Primary Care Training and Enhancement: Residency Training in Primary Care – ($8.8 million, 20 awards) The PCTE-RTPC program provides funding to enhance accredited residency training programs in rural and underserved communities. The funding will help address the nation’s current physician shortage by increasing the number of residency graduates practicing in areas where there is a deficiency of primary care providers.

Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention, Interprofessional Collaborative Practice Program, and Behavioral Health Integration (BHI) – ($8.3 million, 17 awards) The NEPQR-BHI program trains and educates the future nursing workforce to provide integrated behavioral health services in rural communities.

May Sees Employment Picture Improve Nationally and Statewide
During the month of May, 46 states added jobs and the unemployment rate fell in 38 states including Michigan, according to the Associated Press.

Overall, the U.S. unemployment rate ticked down from 14.7 percent in April to 13.3 percent in May.

Massachusetts (16.3 percent), Delaware (15.8 percent), Florida (14.5 percent), and Minnesota (9.9 percent) registered their highest unemployment rates since 1976 in May.

Hiring in Michigan increased 5.2 percent in May, the second-best job growth in the country. The seasonally adjusted jobless rate edged down in May to 21.2 percent, a monthly reduction of 2.8 percentage points, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget last week.

Employment in Michigan rose by a solid 256,000 in May but remained more than 1 million below February levels. The number of unemployed declined by 97,000, following almost a 900,000 increase in April. The Michigan labor force in May registered a significant gain of 159,000.

“The May job market was marked by two primary trends: a continuation of record-high unemployment and job gains resulting from initial recalls from pandemic-related layoffs,” says Jason Palmer, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. “Jobs rose in most industries in May, but these additions accounted for only about 17 percent of the jobs lost in April.”

Report: Automakers to Resume Pre-pandemic Output by Month’s End
Detroit’s automakers are gearing up for full production as they race to make up for lost output and meet stronger-than-expected demand, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said Friday they will resume pre-pandemic manufacturing schedules at their U.S. plants starting today. General Motors Co. has said it aims to be back to normal output levels by month’s end.

Ford’s move comes two weeks earlier than planned, a sign that its supply base and workforce ramp up has gone more smoothly than anticipated. Once FCA restores a second shift at its Jeep Cherokee assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill., today it will be back to its previous production, a spokeswoman said.

Since reopening after a two-month long shutdown in mid-May, U.S. automakers have been careful to pace their restart. They have faced fragile supply lines ruptured by quarantines in Mexico and a labor force still reluctant to go back to work and risk exposure to the coronavirus. At the same time, sales are recovering faster than analysts expected, with pickups and SUVs fueling demand.

Last week, FCA canceled summer shutdowns at two truck plants in Michigan, its Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, and its muscle-car factory in Canada. But it will temporarily close three other factories – including the Jeep plant in Illinois and its minivan factory in Ontario – for one or two weeks in July or August.

GM plans to resume normal production levels by the end of June.

“We’re still targeting to be at normal capacity by the end of June or sooner, if possible, but obviously it’s a very fluid situation,” Dhivya Suryadevara, chief financial officer at GM, said last week.

300 Medical in Rochester Develops Patient Education Platform for Medical Facilities
Rochester-based 300 Medical LLC has developed a patient education and symptom survey designed to expedite COVID-19 patient intake at medical facilities and provide COVID-19 patients with the ability to engage in a video chat with family, friends, caregivers, and clergy during a hospital stay.

Called the COVID-19 IDB (Interactive Digital Brochure), the product enables health care providers to inform and educate patients about medical conditions and treatment options.

  • It offers several benefits for patients, patient family members and medical facility staff:
  • Presenting content in multiple languages.
  • Updating or deleting content remotely.
  • Displaying informed consent forms that can be signed on screen with a fingertip.
  • Providing patients with digital symptom and patient surveys.
  • Sending an e-mail to family members at home with information viewed on the IDB by patients.
  • Enabling video chats between patients with family, friends, caregivers, and clergy during a hospital stay.

“The IDB platform has been selected to educate patients about treatment options,” says Fred Martino-DiCicco, CEO of 300 Medical.  “The IDB has been adopted by recognizable health care companies and major pharmaceutical companies.”

To learn more about the 300 Medical Patient Educational platform, visit here, email, or call 248-220-3232.

State Campgrounds Open Today, Top Three Q and A
Earlier this month, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that camping, overnight lodging facilities, and day-use shelters in Michigan state parks and recreation areas will reopen today. Since then, DNR parks and recreation staff have reported some repeated questions from customers. Here’s a look at the top three questions and answers:

Do I need to have the recreation passport?

Yes. The required Recreation Passport – normally needed for vehicle entry to state parks, state forest campgrounds and state-managed boating access sites – had been suspended the past three months in order to minimize face-to-face interactions and the exchange of money between visitors and staff – precautions aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

Residents can purchase the passport when renewing license plates through the Secretary of State (for $12) or when visiting a state park (for $17). Out-of-state visitors can purchase the passport online or at state parks for $34 (annual pass) or $9 (daily pass).

Are bathroom buildings and other park amenities open?

At most locations, yes. Many state park amenities initially were closed due to COVID-19 public health and safety concerns, but now have reopened or are in process of reopening by June 22. Such amenities include bathroom buildings, hand-washing stations, sanitation stations, trash services, concessions, playgrounds, viewing platforms, fishing piers, sports areas, designated dog areas, picnic tables and shelters. Drinking fountains will remain closed until further notice.

Certain amenities at a handful of locations remain closed due to delayed construction projects. For information about a certain park, call that park’s main number or visit its Facebook page (where available). More information is available on the DNR’s COVID-19 response page.

Additionally, the DNR has developed new operational and sanitation procedures to ensure the safety of visitors, volunteers and staff. Some procedures – like checking in visitors, processing transactions and cleaning facilities – will look a little different and may vary by location. For example, visitors are encouraged to pay by debit or credit card to decrease the exchange of money.

Can I change my camping and overnight reservations?

Yes. Modifications to camping, overnight lodging facilities and day-use shelter reservations can be made by contacting the reservation center online at or calling 800-447-2757 (800-44-PARKS). Please note that the modification and cancellation policy can be found online. The DNR also has waived reduced-stay fees (percentage penalty) through Oct. 31, 2020.

There are still opportunities to book a stay in nearly all DNR facilities this summer and into fall. Reservations for campsites and harbor slips can be made up to six months in advance of a planned arrival date, or 12 months in advance for overnight lodging facilities and day-use shelters.

Finally, all visitors are reminded that everyone still needs to do their part to protect themselves and others while enjoying the outdoors. Practice proper social distancing when around people who are not part of your household, and wear a face covering when in an enclosed indoor space.

NFL Star Brandon Graham to Assist NSO Deliver Produce on June 23
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end and Detroit native Brandon Graham will be assisting the Detroit-based nonprofit Neighborhood Service Organization with its weekly produce distribution on Tuesday, June 23, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Northwest Activities Center (18100 Meyers in Detroit) to offset COVID-19 financial challenges.

The Detroit Association of Black Organizations and LaGrasso Brothers Produce also will be assisting with the project.

Graham, who played on the Eagles’ Super Bown LII-winning team, says he hopes making this surprise appearance helping produce, prepare, and distribute these produce boxes will inspire others to give back to their communities and serve as an inspiration to youth and families in Detroit.

Ford to Host Two Blood Drives in Dearborn
While thousands of blood drives have been cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for life-saving blood donations is as critical as ever. Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn and the American Red Cross have two drives scheduled next week in Dearborn.

The American Red Cross and Ford Fund are working to fill the available appointments for June 23-24 at 500 Town Center Dr. between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“Ford employees have a long history of being passionate blood donors,” says Kyle Green, coordinator of Disaster Relief for the Ford Fund. “In fact, Ford and its dealerships represent, as a group, one of the top five blood donors to the Red Cross in the country.”

When the pandemic hit and stay-at-home orders resulted in closing of schools, churches, and office buildings, many blood drives were cancelled. Ford Fund and Ford Land looked at how they could use available office space to keep drives going.

“We wanted to continue our support of the Red Cross by opening one of our facilities to allow the community to safely donate,” Green says.

In May, two blood drives were held at 500 Town Center and enough blood was collected to save more than 225 hospital patients who needed blood transfusions.

Ford Fund and Red Cross are hoping for a repeat next week.

“With social distancing guidelines, there are a limited number of spaces available for each time slot,” Green explaines. “We are encouraging employees to register now to ensure their donation can be taken.”

Said Kamenna Lee, vice president of biomedical marketing at the American Red Cross: “There is no known end date in this fight against coronavirus, and the Red Cross needs the help of blood and platelet donors and blood drive hosts to maintain a sufficient blood supply for weeks to come.”

Safety protocols during blood drives have been rewritten to ensure donors and staff are protected. These include:

  • Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering the drive.
  • Providing hand sanitizer for use throughout the donation process.
  • Following social distancing practices.
  • Increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment.
  • Staff and donors wearing facemasks.
  • Make an appointment to donate blood by clicking here or call 1-800-RED Cross (1-800-733-2767).

Drivers, Insurance Agents Invited to Virtual Town Halls on Michigan’s New Auto Insurance Law
The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services will offer virtual town hall events this week about Michigan’s new auto insurance law for drivers and auto insurance agents.

The live online town hall meetings are part of a series of events that will help drivers learn and ask questions about Michigan’s new auto insurance law and the choices they will need to make for policies issued or renewed after July 1.

To attend a virtual town hall event, click the event link at its start time. Instructions for attendees are available and explain how to join an event and ask questions.

Consumer Town Halls:

Monday, June 22 at 10:30 a.m.,

Monday, June 22 at 2 p.m.

Tuesday, June 23 at 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 24 at 11:30 a.m.

Insurance Agent Town Halls:

Tuesday, June 23 at 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday, June 24 at 1:30 p.m.

Michigan’s new auto insurance law lowers average statewide costs for Michigan drivers, maintains the highest coverage options in the country, and strengthens consumer protections. For policies that renew after July 1, drivers will need to determine the amount of coverage that best suits their needs. Drivers will be able to choose a level of Personal Injury Protection Medical Coverage and determine the level of Bodily Injury Coverage that best protects their family. By participating in the town hall meetings, drivers will learn about the upcoming choices and will have the opportunity to submit questions. Learn more here.

Here to Help Launches New Program for People Exiting Criminal Justice System
The Here to Help Foundation, a Royal Oak-based private charitable foundation that provides direct support to Wayne and Oakland County residents faced with emergency situations, today announced it has launched a new program called Returning Hope to Returning Citizens for individuals exiting the criminal justice system.

The program allows local men and women to apply for a grant that provides basic necessities to enable them to live independently. The announcement was made by Here to Help Foundation Co-Founder and CEO Bob Schwartz.

“The harsh reality is that former prisoners face tremendous challenges when released from our criminal justice system, including securing housing, furnishing their residence and finding gainful employment amongst other hindrances,” says Schwartz. “With more than 650,000 prisoners being released from custody every year in the US, we must do our part as a charitable foundation to help with the basic necessities that give individuals a fighting chance to reintegrate into society and go on to live rewarding lives.”

The Returning Hope to Returning Citizens program provides basic necessities such as clothing and home furnishings, including cooking utensils, dishes, pots and pans, silverware, appliances, pillows, linens, TV and microwave, among other items. Grant applicants must meet general guidelines to qualify for the program. Returning citizens in need of assistance or those who have questions may contact Here to Help via email:

Since its inception, Here to Help has assisted more than 9,000 people by providing emergency assistance in times of crisis. For more information, please visit here.