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 Opens Indoor Dining on Feb. 1 With Restrictions
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released its next epidemic order today, which allows bars and restaurants to reopen on Monday, Feb. 1. The order will allow for indoor dining at restaurants with certain requirements; concessions at casinos, movie theaters and stadiums; personal services requiring mask removal; and non-residential gatherings of up to 10 people from two households. The new order will last three weeks, until Sunday, Feb. 21.
MDHHS states it has been monitoring three metrics for stabilization or declines over the past several weeks. Michigan continue to see improvements in these metrics which has allowed for additional relaxing of protocols and reopening of activities. In recent days:
- Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients has been in seven-week decline, with current capacity at 9.9 percent for beds with COVID-19 patients. Peaked at 19.6 percent on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
- Overall case rates: Currently at 225 cases per million. Peaked at 740 cases per million on Saturday, Nov. 14, plateaued after a decline to 239 on Friday, Dec. 25 and has been in decline for 11 days.
- Positivity rate: currently at 6.8 percent and declining.
Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen at 25-percent capacity with up to 100 people. Tables must be six feet apart with no more than six people per table. Outdoor tents with four sides are permitted under these same rules. Bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m. Additionally, contact information must be collected from diners for contact tracing purposes.
“We welcome the governor’s decision to reopen restaurant dining on February 1 as good, if overdue, news,” says Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association in Lansing. “It is now time for this administration to move aggressively toward a more comprehensive reintegration strategy, which includes prioritizing vaccination for the broader hospitality industry and establishing clear metrics for phased reopening to 100-percent capacity of indoor dining.
“The hospitality industry and its sizable workforce has suffered far worse than its peers from this pandemic, losing nearly 3,000 restaurants and employing 200,000 fewer workers than a year prior. It also stands to gain the most from a proficient and expedited vaccination schedule, which is why we contend that there is no more important step the governor can take to get Michigan’s economy back on track than restoring public confidence in Michiganders ability to safely dine and travel.”
The voluntary MI COVID-19 Safer Dining program allows food service establishments to become certified by having their ventilation system inspected and submitting their inspection report to the state indicating they are optimizing airflow. Once certified, businesses will be featured on the Michigan.gov/covidsaferdining website and receive a copy of their certification to post at their establishment to alert diners of their participation.
Funding is proposed for food service establishments to participate as part of the $10 million included in the recent supplemental budget request for restaurant supports administered by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Two webinars will be hosted on Monday, Jan. 25 to provide additional information about the Safer Dining certification program — one at noon for HVAC contractors interested in conducting inspections and one at 3 p.m. for food service establishments interested in becoming certified. More information will be available at Michigan.gov/covidsaferdining.
Indoor residential and non-residential gatherings are limited to 10 people and two households. MDHHS continues to urge families to avoid indoor gatherings or to pick a single other household to interact with consistent with guidance already released by the department. Families are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to maintain momentum and to protect loved ones. Families are also encouraged to Mask Up, Mask Right, using guidance for what masks to wear and how to wear them.
The epidemic order continues to temporarily pause indoor contact sports and other venues and activities where participants have close physical contacts and are not consistently masked, like water parks. However, as of Jan. 22, stadiums can allow up to 500 people at venues that seat over 10,000 people and stadiums that seat less than 10,000 are allowed to be at 20 percent capacity, up to 250 people. This will allow for additional attendance at high school football finals being hosted this weekend.
As before, employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, while employees who can work from home should continue to do so.
Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus. To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine.
Michigan Unemployment Rate Increases During December
Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by 5/10ths of a percentage point in December to 7.5 percent, according to data released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, with the state’s leisure and hospitality sector being hardest hit.
Total employment in the state fell by 154,000 in December while unemployment edged up by 14,000. Michigan’s workforce decreased by 141,000 during the month. Michigan’s leisure and hospitality industry saw a reduction of 60,000 jobs over the month. Restaurants and other firms providing entertainment services registered large pandemic-related job cuts in December.
The state’s trade, transportation, and utilities industries were the only Michigan sector with a notable job increase over the month (+8,000), primarily due to job gains in retail trade related to the holiday shopping season.
The national unemployment rate remained unchanged between November and December at 6.7 percent. The Michigan December jobless rate was 0.8 percentage points above the national rate. The U.S. unemployment rate advanced by 3.1 percentage points over the year, while the state rate increased by 3.6 percentage points since December 2019.
“Michigan’s labor market during 2020 was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. “The state’s annual unemployment rate exhibited a pronounced increase over the year, and payroll jobs plunged in 2020.”
Monthly labor force trends and highlights include:
- Since December 2019, Michigan’s total number of employed fell by 6.4 percent, 0.8 percentage points above the employment decline recorded by the nation (5.6 percent).
- Between the third and fourth quarters of 2020, the number of statewide unemployed dropped by 87,000, or nearly 21 percent.
- Michigan’s quarterly jobless rate moved down by 1.9 percentage points between the third and fourth quarters of 2020.
Michigan’s preliminary annual average unemployment rate in 2020 was 9.7 percent, a jump of 5.6 percentage points above the 2019 annual average rate of 4.1 percent. This rate reflected pandemic-related job losses in Michigan. Total employment in Michigan averaged 4,392,000 in 2020, while total unemployment jumped to 470,000. The state’s annual workforce level was 4,863,000 in 2020.
Annual trends and highlights include:
- Michigan’s jobless rate jumped in 2020 for the first time since 2009. The 2020 annual jobless rate of 9.7 percent was 4.0 percentage points below the 2009 annual rate of 13.7 percent during the Great Recession.
- The 2020 annual average unemployment rate was the highest seen by the state since 2011 (10.4 percent).
- Annual average employment in the state fell by 344,000, or 7.3 percent, over the year, while the state’s average number of unemployed moved up significantly by 269,000, or over 133 percent.
- Michigan’s annual average workforce total in 2020 decreased by 1.5 percent over the year.
The Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate advanced by 9/10ths of a percentage point to 10.2 percent during December. Employment dropped by 71,000 over the month, while unemployment edged up by 14,000, resulting in a net workforce reduction of 57,000 since November.
The Detroit metro region unemployment rate advanced by 6.2 percentage points since December 2019. Employment fell by 142,000 and unemployment rose by 133,000 over this period.
The Detroit-Warren-Dearborn MSA’s preliminary annual average jobless rate in 2020 was 11.0 percent, 6.7 percentage points above the 2019 average jobless rate of 4.3 percent. The metro area annual jobless rate during 2020 was 1.3 percentage points above the statewide annual unemployment rate.
The monthly survey of employers registered a seasonally adjusted payroll job reduction of 64,000 over the month, or 1.6 percent, resulting in an employment total of 3,963,000.
Overall trends and highlights:
- December was the second consecutive month of job declines in Michigan and had the largest job reduction since the pandemic-related plunge in jobs in April.
- After nine consecutive years of annual average payroll employment gains, jobs dropped in 2020 due to the pandemic.
- Annual average job levels fell by 424,000, or 9.6 percent, in 2020.
- Since December 2019, payroll employment fell by 487,000, or 10.9 percent.
- Over the year, all major statewide industries exhibited payroll employment declines, led on a numerical basis by leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and education and health services.
RapidBio Expands COVID-19 Testing Capacity, Partners with Wayne Health
RapidBio, a molecular diagnostics laboratory in Plymouth Township with a current focus on COVID-19 testing, Thursday announced a partnership with Wayne State University’s Wayne Health and USA Hockey Arena, also in Plymouth Township, to provide drive-through collection and rapid test results for COVID-19.
The company is using the sensitive qPCR assay combined with highly automated equipment to provide the potential to process 5,000 COVID-19 tests per day and the ability to expand further, with results delivered in 24 hours or fewer.
The partnership will help western Wayne county and surrounding communities. In addition to the USA Hockey Arena site, Wayne Health is providing community testing throughout metro Detroit with its Mobile Health Units.
“This new partnership allows us to provide results to our patients faster than ever before,” says Dr. Phillip Levy, who leads the Mobile COVID Testing program for Wayne Health. “The sooner people know their COVID status, the quicker they can take the necessary steps to keep themselves safe and stop the spread.”
RapidBio says it has optimized its process to deliver efficiencies with automation in order to meet the high demands for testing in their area as well as to serve as a reference lab for hotspots across the nation by delivering results in 12 to 48 hours from receipt of samples.
“We are proud to provide Michigan and the metro Detroit area with rapid test results during these challenging times,” says John Cunningham, CEO of RapidBio. “We hope by providing rapid results from sensitive assays that we can help businesses and schools open quickly and operate in safe environments.”
Oakland County, Automation Alley Extend PPE Resilience Grant Funding
The application deadline for Project Diamond Industry 4.0 manufacturing grants has been extended to an unspecified date. Grant recipients will receive 3-D printers to help manufacturing companies become more agile.
More than 200 companies already have signed up for the program. There also are opportunities for manufacturing adjacent companies (distributors, installers, service and support, and light fabricators) in a related program.
Working with Automation Alley, Oakland County is funding consultations, training, and equipment that can help companies change and adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Manufacturers accepted into the program will receive:
- Strategic Guidance on how to transform from legacy operations to digital manufacturing
- An Industry 4.0 Assessment outlining where your business stands today and what digital opportunities best fit your needs.
- Connections and Introductions to state-of-the art vendors and applied research that can help you along your path to Industry 4.0.
- A Financial Investment, including grant money to purchase Industry 4.0 and state-of-the art digital technologies like a production part capable 3-D printer — valued at more than $20,000, at no cost to you — or an augmented reality manufacturing system.
- Essential Business Designation for those manufacturers continuing to produce PPE.
To qualify, companies must be a small- or medium-sized manufacturer in Oakland County. To apply, visit here.
Jefferson East Inc. Receives $100K Contribution from AT&T to Launch Resource Hub
Jefferson East Inc. has received a $100,000 contribution from the AT&T and its Believe Detroit initiative to help support the launch of a new Neighborhood Resource Hub in the heart of the historic Jefferson-Chalmers district on Detroit’s east side.
Located at 14300 E. Jefferson Ave., the 3,500-square-foot facility will serve as the home office of JEI’s Housing and Neighborhood Services team. The Neighborhood Resource Hub will allow the team to serve more than 1,000 residents annually with a range of services designed to keep them in their homes and apartments.
“With the final piece of support from AT&T, we have the opportunity to move our housing team back to the neighborhood where JEI was founded, allowing us to provide an enhanced level of service for Jefferson-Chalmers residents and surrounding neighborhoods along East Jefferson,” says Josh Elling, CEO of JEI. “The Neighborhood Resource Hub will provide a home base where residents can easily access our housing services, ensuring that all Detroiters are able to benefit from and be a part of the city’s continued resurgence.”
JEI’s team members are HUD certified housing counselors, offering an array of housing, financial empowerment, and health and safety services through an integrated one-stop access model. This approach is designed to allow residents to create an individual action plan with the strategy and resources needed to ensure they can remain in their homes.
Over the past three years, JEI has helped nearly 200 homeowners avoid foreclosure through the Homeowner Property Tax Assistance Program, assisted residents in securing more than $1.6 million in 0-percent home improvement loans, and provided counseling services to more than 850 homeowners and renters.
“Investing in our communities is what Believe Detroit is all about, and we are proud to help JEI expand its critical services that help improve outcomes in Detroit,” says David Lewis, president of AT&T Michigan. “JEI is strengthening equity and development from the ground up and AT&T is lucky to help amplify their important work.”
DTE Energy Foundation awards $330K to fund scholarships for WSU Latino/a Students
The Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) at Wayne State University in Detroit has received a $330,000 grant from the DTE Energy Foundation that will fund scholarships to open doors for students from underrepresented communities through the DTE Energy Foundation/MiHC Scholarship.
This grant is the DTE Foundation’s latest commitment to CLLAS, which provides equitable access to quality university education for students interested in U.S. Latino/a and Latin-American cultural studies while enhancing diversity on campus.
“We are so grateful to the DTE Energy Foundation for this historic gift to our Center to support deserving students driven to succeed,” says Víctor Figueroa, acting director of CLLAS. “With these funds, our students can prioritize their path toward a college degree.”
CLLAS delivers opportunities for higher education to students from underrepresented communities through recruitment, advising, learning communities, and academic training — and career and graduate school preparedness.
“At the DTE Energy Foundation, we recognize the significant and unique contributions our Latino and Latina friends, family members and neighbors make not only within our organization, but in our schools and communities as well,” says Lynette Dowler, president of the DTE Foundation. “Through our $330,000 commitment to — and longstanding partnership with — CLLAS, together, we’ll empower our future leaders to achieve their dreams and continue to drive our city, state and nation forward.”
The next round of DTE/MiHC scholarships will be awarded in fall 2021.
ASE to Host Annual HR Conference Virtually March 15-19
Troy-based employer association ASE will conduct its 18th Annual HR Conference March 15-19 in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This online event will consist of one-hour, daily sessions with nationwide accredited speakers that will focus on achieving a growth mindset in 2021. Additionally, attendees qualify for continuing education credits for each session to maintain their designations, including SHRM and HRCI.
“This year’s conference is all about achieving a growth mindset,” says Mary E. Corrado, president and CEO of ASE. “Organizations have had to pivot quickly throughout this pandemic. Learning how to embrace changes to the workplace in order to achieve growth can be a challenge. Each session offers a new way to look at the challenges we’ve all been facing over the past year.”
Keynote speakers at this year’s conference feature two workplace culture experts:
- Kris Boesch, founder and CEO of Choose People.
- Tracy Stock, author and founder of Think Impact Solutions.
Boesch will present “Social Super Glue: How to Create Camaraderie in Your Workplace.” Stock will present “The One Choice Rule: Transform Your Life and Work by Transforming Your Mindset and Behavior.”
- Additional conference sessions include:
- Embracing the Challenge of Change
- Generating a Culture of Supportive Accountability
- 3 Key Skills to Thrive in Turbulent Times
- Finding the good: A Playbook for Perseverance During the Pandemic
For a complete conference agenda and registration information, please visit here.
SNAP Increases Food Assistance for Beneficiaries Through June
The more than 1.2 million people in Michigan who are eligible for food assistance benefits will receive an additional payment by the end of January that raises their monthly amount by 15 percent to help families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, part of the recently passed relief bill, is for six months ending in June.
Michigan food assistance recipients will see the 15 percent increase added to their Bridge Cards by the end of January that are in addition to benefits they received earlier in the month. Food assistance increases by $102 per month for a household of four, which will now receive $782 per month. In subsequent months, the 15 percent increase will be added to Bridge Cards from Jan. 20-30.
Eligible families do not need to re-apply to receive the additional benefits. People who receive food assistance can check their benefits balance on their Michigan Bridge Card by visiting here or by calling a customer service representative toll-free at 888-678-8914.