COVID-19 Update: Michigan Leaders Sound New COVID-19 Alarm, President Approves Michigan Flood Disaster Declaration, 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 9

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.

Michigan Medical and Corporate Leaders Sound New COVID-19 Alarm
A coalition of health care and business leaders from across Michigan rang alarm bells yesterday, warning that the state is at a dangerous tipping point in its battle with COVID-19 and at risk of losing ground.

After achieving steady declines in the number of new COVID-19 cases over the two-month period between early April and early June, Michigan has seen increases in daily cases over the last month.

Just prior to the holiday, on July 2, the state recorded 543 new cases – the highest daily total since May 29, and recorded more than 1,400 new cases between July 2-4, pushing the seven-day average to the highest level in more than a month.

In addition, a new of 1,000 Michigan residents conducted by TargetPoint Consulting in Virginia found that nearly 40 percent of adults are less concerned about the virus today than they were a month ago – even as case counts are on the rise. Only 17 percent of those polled were more concerned.

“The combination of rising case counts and declining vigilance by many is placing our state at a tipping point in our battle with this disease,” says Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System. “We cannot become complacent. We’ve come too far to yield hard-fought gains now.”

The rising case levels are increasingly concentrated in younger residents, particularly those in their 20s, where daily new cases per million were nearly four times the levels seen in Michiganders in their 60s, and two-and-a-half times higher than for those in their 40s or 50s.

“While young people may feel less vulnerable themselves, they play an unfortunately critical role in spreading the virus, ultimately raising the risk for our most vulnerable,” adds Lassiter.

The health care and business leader coalition, consisting of representatives from 30 of the state’s largest hospitals and companies (including Henry Ford Health System, Spectrum Health, Beaumont Health, General Motors Co., Dow, TCF Financial, DTE Energy, Quicken Loans, and the University of Michigan), has commissioned a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to encourage Michiganders to adhere to safety best practices.

Health care leaders suggested that it was critical for the state’s citizens to remain disciplined and committed to the basics – especially wearing masks when in indoor public spaces and avoiding crowded social gatherings involving large groups. “We can return to socializing – but we need to be smart about it,” says Lassiter. “Share a drink with six close friends outdoors rather than with 60 in a shoulder-to-shoulder gathering.”

President Approves Michigan Flood Disaster Declaration
President Donald Trump today declared that a major disaster exists in the state of Michigan and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the mid-Michigan areas affected by severe storms and flooding May 16-22.

The declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Arenac, Gladwin, Iosco, Midland, and Saginaw.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and flooding in the same counties.

Finally, Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online here or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Federal Government Awards Grants Totaling $500,000 to Three State Organizations
Three Michigan organizations received a total of more than $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The awards – given to the Michigan Primary Care Association ($130,000), Catherine’s Health Center in Grand Rapids ($132,122), and Health Centers Detroit Foundation Inc. ($238,082) – support expanding capacity for COVID-19 testing.

The Michigan grants are part of more than $21 million distributed nationally to support health center COVID-19 response efforts. Some $17 million was earmarked for 78 Health Center Program look-alikes, which operate and provide services consistent with HRSA Health Center Program requirements. Catherine’s Health Center and the Health Centers Detroit Foundation fall into this category.

“We’re sending funds to a broader set of care delivery sites associated with health centers for the first time,” says Alex Azar, secretary of HHS. “These funds build on the more than $2 billion we’ve awarded to HRSA-funded health centers to combat COVID-19 and will help even more Americans have access to COVID-19 testing in their communities.”

HRSA also awarded more than $4.5 million to support the COVID-19 response of Health Center Controlled Networks, which support health centers improve quality of care and patient safety by using health information technology to reduce costs and improve care coordination. The funding will strengthen health IT support necessary for participating health centers to effectively prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. The Health Centers Detroit Foundation falls into this category.

U-M Economist: The Cure is Not Worse Than the Disease
An economist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor says the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is worth the price of recession in terms of lives saved.

Olga Yakusheva, an associate professor at the U-M’s School of Nursing and School of Public Health, has written a paper entitled, “The Cure is Not Worse than the Disease: A Humanitarian Perspective.” It concludes that social distancing and economic restrictions will save many more lives than the potential lives lost from the economic downturn.

“When you look at the lives the public health (organizations) measures saved, it could be 500,000 to 2.7 million,” says Yakusheva. “This is what virologists –– scientists who study the capacity of this new virus to infect and kill people –– predict would happen if the virus is allowed to roam free in our communities.

“This is a new virus and our immune systems are scrambling to figure out how to fight it,” she continues. “And now, it appears people who survived COVID-19 once can get it again. COVID-19 is not your regular cold or flu. If it seems like it is when you look outside, it’s because the public health measures are working.”

Unfortunately, the measures put in place in March to mitigate the spread of the virus caused significant harm to the nation’s economy, causing possibly the worst recession since the Great Depression. Losing jobs, income, and health insurance has led to depression and the inability to afford essentials like rent, mortgages, lifesaving medications, and food. These things can make us sick.

“We know that economic hardship, illness, and mortality are intertwined,” Yakusheva says. “People who will get sick or die from the economic recession will be less visible — yet they’re as real as people who die from the virus.

Rochester Company Produces Back-to-work Video
MedNetOne Health Solutions, a health care management organization in Rochester has produced a back-to-work video for safe office interactions in the COVID-19 era.

“The video was originally envisioned for use with physician practices, but it is extremely comprehensive and has broad applicability to all office environments,” says Ewa Matuszewski, CEO of MedNetOne. “As offices slowly begin to re-open, we wanted to make employers aware of this valuable resource to establish and follow best practices in the workplace.”

Coordinated by Practice Transformation Institute, the nonprofit training arm of MedNetOne, the 11-minute video was made possible by funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Value Partnership Program and can be viewed here. It was produced by Bureau, a production company based in Detroit.

Among the actions the video points out are:

  • The need to maintain individual workspaces and not share tools.
  • Frequently disinfecting office surfaces, especially in areas where COVID-19 can more easily spread.
  • Putting cleaning guidelines in place and publicizing them to reassure employees and vendors – and encourage healthy behaviors
  • Maintaining 6 feet between workers, even when mask wearing is mandated, and not holding meetings in conference rooms that don’t allow physical distancing.
  • Using protective barriers such as plexiglass if the 6-foot distance requirement can’t be met.
  • Eliminating the need for doctor’s notes to verify an employee illness.
  • Providing hand sanitizer at each employee’s desk and frequently visited workplace areas.
  • Changing walking directional patterns for one-way traffic.
  • Using touchless pay systems and consumer payment apps; when cash is used, it should be placed on the counter and not directly in an individual’s hands.
  • Do not provide vending machines.

The back-to-work video is a complement to MedNetOne’s primary care physician COVID-19 practice playbook, which was developed by Practice Transformation Institute for MedNetOne member physicians and is available online for use by other physician organizations and the health care community at large.

For more information, visit here.

Major Distance Learning Survey Underway
People interested in sharing their views on how Michigan’s K–12 schools responded during the COVID-19 pandemic — and how they should plan for the fall — are invited to participate in a major statewide survey commissioned by Launch Michigan.

The surveys are open to 9th–12th grade school leaders and teachers, kindergarten–12th grade parents, and community leaders with an interest in supporting schools.

“We believe there are important lessons to be learned from the unprecedented work our schools did during COVID-19,” says Adam Zemke, president of Launch Michigan. “They had to develop brand-new remote learning programs for all subjects, in all grade levels, within just a matter of weeks. We want to know what worked well, where there’s value, and what education can look like going forward.”

The surveys are aimed at complementing data collection efforts being undertaken by other Michigan education groups. They are being conducted by Lansing-based Public Policy Associates in collaboration with the Education Policy Innovation Center at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Interested survey respondents should click one of the links below to take part:

“We are extremely excited to learn about how our teachers, families and communities perceive the steps schools took, and how they’re viewing the future of education across our state,” says Lindsay Case-Palsrok, executive director of Launch Michigan. “We anticipate the development of important policy and practical recommendations as a result of the feedback we receive.”

Michigan Opera Theatre Receives $50,000 in CARES Act Funding Through NEA
The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded Detroit’s Michigan Opera Theatre a $50,000 grant to support artists costs during this time of closing due to the spread of COVID-19.

The grant, directed at nonprofit arts organizations, is part of the CARES Act and will support contracting ensembles of MOT’s Studio Artists, orchestra musicians and vocalists.

“Artists and arts organizations across the country are struggling with the loss of revenue due to performance cancellations,” says Wayne S. Brown, president and CEO of MOT. “Through this grant, the federal government has affirmed its commitment to the arts sector in our community. We are appreciative for the recognition and support that will be available to our performers. The health and safety of our patrons, artists, and staff remain our top priority, and we look forward to when we can safely re-convene at the Detroit Opera House.”

MOT is one of 855 organizations across the country – and one of 23 in the state of Michigan – to receive the grant, amounting to a total of $44.5 million in nonmatching funds to support staff salaries, fees for artists or contractual personnel and facilities costs.

This is the second significant grant MOT has received in recent weeks. Last month, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded MOT $175,000 to sustain its MOT at Home digital programming campaign.

Emagine Rochester Open for Carry Out Saturday Only
For one day only, Saturday July 11, Emagine Rochester will open for carry out concession and gift card sales from noon to 7 p.m.

Employees will wear masks and gloves while preparing, packaging, and delivering concessions to vehicles upon pickup to maintain the highest standards of cleanliness and safety for guests and employees.

Phone lines at 248-243-3456 will open for orders at 10 a.m. For more information, visit here.

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