COVID-19 Update: HHS Provides Additional $250M to Help U.S. Health Care Systems, Forbes and Rocket Mortgage Launch Under 30 Hackathon, Detroit Footware Company Making Masks, 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 showing corona virus cases
Courtesy of Bridge as of June 2

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 Provides Additional $250M to Help U.S. Health Care Systems
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing an additional $250 million to aid U.S. health care systems treating patients and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As authorized by the CARES Act, HHS now has provided a total of $350 million to health care systems for pandemic response, including $100 million released in April.

“While our country mourns those we have lost from this pandemic, we continue to support America’s hospitals and heroic frontline healthcare workers who are treating COVID-19 patients and saving American lives,” says HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “This additional funding secured from Congress by President Trump will help health care providers prepare for and treat patients with COVID-19. By supporting coordination among different healthcare facilities across a region, HHS is helping communities care for COVID-19 patients while also addressing day-to-day medical needs.”

The funds will support hospitals and other health care entities to train workforces, expand telemedicine, and the use of virtual health care, procure supplies and equipment, and coordinate effectively across regional, state, and jurisdictional, and local health care facilities to respond to COVID-19. In addition to directly supporting health care capacity for COVID-19 patient surge, this funding will advance the mission of the National Special Pathogen System to enhance national capacity and capability to respond to highly infectious diseases now and in the future.

The National Special Pathogen System uses a systems-based, national approach to the treatment of infectious diseases and includes the National Emerging Special Pathogens Training and Education Center; 10 regional Ebola and other special pathogen treatment centers; 62 HHS Hospital Preparedness Program cooperative agreement recipients and their state or jurisdiction special pathogen treatment centers; and hospital associations.

Specific funding for these awardees can be found here.

Forbes and Rocket Mortgage Launch Under 30 Detroit Hackathon
Forbes and Detroit’s Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans today announced they are marshaling the full power of Forbes’ global Under 30 community – as well as the leading minds in business, philanthropy, community organizing, arts, and sciences in Detroit, and around the world – to develop solutions to challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Under 30 Detroit Hackathon: Accelerating Change is designed to bring together the best and brightest entrepreneurs and problem-solvers to work in tandem with the city’s private and public leaders, stakeholders, and organizations to tackle systemic inequities that have been magnified by the pandemic and brought to center stage by the most recent events of racial injustice.

It is hoped that the collaboration between Forbes, Rocket Mortgage, the Under 30 community, and Detroiters will strive to ensure the city emerges stronger and more resilient than ever before.

The series kicks off Friday, June 5 and involves three weekend-long sessions facilitated by Major League Hacking. Founded by prominent Under 30 listers, Major League Hacking will help engage problem solvers and subject-matter experts across industries, venture capitalism, public policy, and more to tackle the needs articulated by Detroit stakeholders. They will be joined by mentors including Kevin Systrom, Karlie Kloss, Jay Farner, Steve Aoki, Tory Burch, and others.

Believed to be the largest entrepreneurial effort of its kind ever convened virtually, Under 30 Detroit Hackathon: Accelerating Change will encompass every aspect associated with the signature Under 30 Summit, including networking, mentoring, and ideas – with the Detroit community at the forefront leading the charge. The initiative is open-source, and the work will be available to the world so that all breakthroughs, whether a game-changing idea or a small tweak, can have a maximal global impact.

Stakeholders from Detroit will identify each week’s challenge and work collaboratively with Under 30 listers, mentors and subject-matter experts to construct positive change for the city. The teams will address the following problem areas over the month-long effort:

  • June 5-7: Reimagining how we can build more equitable and sustainable supply chains in order to rebound from record unemployment.
  • June 12-14: Sustaining and adapting small businesses, the backbone of the economy, with an emphasis on business owners and entrepreneurs of color who have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • June 19-21: Bridging the digital divide, which complements the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s “Changing the Course” multi-year campaign, committed to ensuring every resident has access to technology, the internet and digital literacy programming.
  • Late June: The month-long effort will be capped with a virtual celebration and finale, showcasing the work from the previous three weekends.

To solve each week’s challenge, the Under 30 Detroit Hackathon: Accelerating Change idea labs will draw upon the more than 10,000-strong community of Under 30 listers. Individual challenges will be based on a real-world scenario, and the ideas generated are intended to provide solutions that are realistic, thoughtful, and in collaboration with Detroiters.

“We’re elevating the 2020 Under 30 Summit from a four-day event to a four-week movement,” says Randall Lane, chief content officer for Forbes. “This virtual format is purposefully built in partnership with Detroit’s leaders to marshal the full power of our Under 30 community and the best minds in business. Together, we’re looking to solve issues exacerbated by the pandemic. Now is the time to regroup, reset and reimagine a new path forward and ensure that Detroit remains the world’s innovation laboratory and a model for entrepreneurship.”

“We are committed to employing every resource we have to enable Detroiters to solve the unique challenges they face due to the pandemic – whether they are recent hardships or systemic issues,” says Jay Farner, CEO of Rocket Mortgage, the nation’s largest mortgage lender. “By bringing together the world’s most inventive young minds, passionate Detroiters, and organizational leaders to work together toward the next chapter of progress, we will offer forward-looking solutions to the city we’re so proud to call home.”

The results, including all related articles and videos, will be are published on the Monday following each weekend session.

New COVID-19-related Green Building Credit Developed
The U.S. Green Building Council is introducing a new pilot credit in the LEED green building rating system called Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space, intended to support buildings and spaces as they work to respond to COVID-19 through sustainable, healthy practices.

The credit provides guidance on effectively cleaning and disinfecting buildings using green cleaning best practices that also meet the CDC and EPA guidelines relative to COVID-19.

These are intended to help buildings reduce levels of chemical, biological, and particulate contaminants that can compromise air quality, human health, building finishes, and systems, as well as the environment.

“Essentially USGBC is providing a roadmap to guide building owners and managers in ways to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Environmental Protection Agency cleaning and hygiene requirements to address the pandemic, while still using Green Cleaning products,” says Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, who helped develop the credit.

To earn the credit, among the things facilities must do are create a policy and implement practices that focus on a healthy indoor environment and worker safety. A team must be in place to implement the program and take the following actions:

  • Describe the approach, including a timeline outlining when new cleaning practices were put in place for COVID-19, along with a copy of the green cleaning policy or program.
  • Prepare a list of cleaning products and materials used or purchased to clean the facility, noting which are and are not compliant with green cleaning criteria.
  • Utilize cleaning equipment that has ergonomic design features to reduce worker injuries due to vibration, noise, and user fatigue.
  • Identify “high-touch points” along with frequencies for cleaning and disinfecting them.
  • Give a description of the cleaning staff training programs developed specifically to address COVID-19.
  • Include training details for the proper application of disinfectants and the use of personal protective equipment.
  • Implement quantitative testing and verification of the cleanliness of surfaces.
  • Educate occupants to ensure they understand the steps taken to disinfect and clean the facility and protect human health.

“One benefit of this program is to show that the professional cleaning industry can stop the spread of COVID-19 without resorting to conventional cleaning products that can harm the environment,” says Ashkin. “Fighting this pandemic, protecting human health, and protecting the environment are all still possible.”

USGBC is focused on leveraging LEED as a tool to help protect human health and the environment, while also restoring the economy.

“We don’t have to choose between public health and a healthy economy,” says Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the USGBC. “The future will require both to thrive. Our priority now is to build people’s trust that their spaces are healthy and have a positive impact not only on them but the economy at large.”

Detroit Footware Company Producing Masks
Detroit footware manufacturer Pingree now is producing Pingree Knit face masks to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

The Pingree Knit masks are washable and manufactured three-dimensionally as one entire piece to maximize durability, protection, and comfort. They also can be customized with a company logo.

An N-95 version also is available. However, they are made to order requiring longer lead times and the minimum order quantity is 1,000 units.

The Pingree masks sell for $21.99 with discounts for orders of three, five, or bulk/wholesale.

The company also is offering return-to-work bags that include hand sanitizer, a knit bag, and face masks.

Visit here for more information.

Ann Arbor Companies Partner on Coronavirus Research Workflows
Swift Biosciences and Arbor Biosciences, both in Ann Arbor, today jointly announced a partnership to offer a complete workflow for RNA-Seq library preparation and targeted enrichment of the SARS-CoV-2 genome.

An enabling offering for epidemiological research and public health surveillance, the partnership leverages Swift’s patented Adaptase technology within the Swift RNA Library Kits combined with myBaits technology from Arbor Biosciences for hybridization-based target enrichment of the virus for whole genome sequencing.

“We are very pleased to partner with our local colleagues in Ann Arbor, to synergize Swift’s library prep technology with Arbor’s myBaits capture technology,” says Drew McUsic, director of product management at Swift. “As research and public health labs continue to study mutation profiles of the virus across thousands of collected specimens, our collaboration puts a high performing NGS workflow in their hands to efficiently prepare samples for analysis, even when heavily degraded or otherwise incompatible with PCR-based approaches.”

Hybridization-based target enrichment can retrieve target sequences that have significant genomic rearrangements or mutations relative to the reference used for probe or primer design. This allows the Swift and Arbor workflow to be robust to structural nucleotide variants segregating within the SARS-CoV-2 population.

“We have been providing the SARS-CoV-2 panel free of charge to research labs studying the evolution of the novel coronavirus and are excited to partner with Swift Biosciences on this effort,” says Alison Devault, director of genomics at Arbor Biosciences. “Detection of viral mutations is heavily reliant on sample preparation prior to sequencing and Swift’s RNA library prep meets the sensitivity required for this virus.”

The two companies’ combined product offering includes modules for RNA fragmentation and reverse transcription, library preparation and amplification, indexed adapters, capture probes, blockers, and wash buffers for SARS-CoV-2 enrichment. No ribosomal RNA depletion or other enrichment or depletion steps are required. Customers in North America may purchase the full set of reagents directly from either Swift or from Arbor Biosciences.

U-M Study: Pandemic Worsens Food Insecurity for Low-income Adults
As states started closing schools and issuing stay-home orders in March because of the coronavirus, four out of 10 low-income Americans were already struggling to afford enough food for their households, say University of Michigan researchers in Ann Arbor. And only 18 percent of them were able to stock up enough food for two weeks.

Using data from a national survey of low-income adults in mid-March, Julia Wolfson and Cindy Leung of the U-M School of Public Health measured household food security — the lack of consistent access to food — and challenges to meeting basic needs due to COVID-19.

“Our study shows that a robust, comprehensive policy response is needed to mitigate food insecurity as the pandemic progresses, particularly expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits, robust unemployment benefits, and ensuring access to food for children eligible for free and reduced price school lunches through the summer and beyond,” says Wolfson, assistant professor of health management and policy. “Doing so will allow us to better support the needs of the population as the spread of COVID-19 continues.”

The study, published in the journal Nutrients, found that 44 percent of low-income adults in the United States are food insecure and 20 percent have marginal food security, while 36 percent are food secure. Among those with low food security, 41 percent report not having enough food to feed themselves or their family, 36 percent report not having enough money to pay rent/mortgage and half report not having enough money to pay their bills.

Individuals with low or very low food security are more likely to be black or Hispanic, to have children in the home and have less than a college education. They are also more likely to rent their homes, not have health insurance or Medicaid, and are more likely to be receiving SNAP benefits.

Social and economic policies to promote social distancing such as school closures and stay-at-home orders exacerbate food insecurity risk for low-income adults by limiting access to school meals, causing business closures and loss of jobs or income, Wolfson and Leung say.

“Food is a core determinant of health and food insecurity is associated with numerous poor health outcomes,” says Cindy Leung, assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the School of Public Health. “This study highlights the growing number of families facing food insecurity in the wake of COVID-19 who need additional support with food, finances, and child care.”

An abstract for the study can be found here.