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 – Operation Warp Speed Aims for Vaccine in October
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and AstraZeneca are collaborating to make available at least 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine called AZD1222, with the first doses delivered as early as October 2020.
The agreement between AstraZeneca and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the HHS office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, will accelerate the development and manufacturing of the company’s investigational vaccine to begin Phase 3 clinical studies this summer with approximately 30,000 volunteers in the United States.
Under this public-private partnership, BARDA can provide up to $1.2 billion to support, in parallel, advanced clinical studies, vaccine manufacturing technology transfer, process development, scaled-up manufacturing, and other development activities. Emergency use authorization or licensure of this vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would be required to make the vaccine available. Early milestones enable BARDA and AstraZeneca to determine how the program progresses forward.
“This contract with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021,” says Alex Azar, secretary of HHS. “Getting a vaccine to the American public as soon as possible is one part of President Trump’s multi-faceted strategy for safely reopening our country and bringing life back to normal, which is essential to Americans’ physical and mental well-being in so many ways. The Trump Administration is making multiple major investments in developing and manufacturing promising vaccines long before they’re approved so that a successful vaccine will reach the American people without a day wasted.”
The AZD1222 vaccine candidate, which was developed by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and licensed to AstraZeneca, uses a vaccine platform technology that supports large-scale production. To speed vaccine development, AstraZeneca will advance its vaccine candidate into late-stage clinical studies in parallel with scaled manufacturing at BARDA’s Centers for Innovation and Advanced Development in Manufacturing in the United States. Working with the CIADMs enables development, technology transfer, and scaled-up manufacturing of the vaccine in the United States.
A Phase 1/Phase 2 clinical study has been underway using the proposed technology in the United Kingdom since the end of April.
AZD1222 is the fourth vaccine candidate to receive BARDA support for late-state development and manufacturing. BARDA continues to collaborate through Operation Warp Speed with other federal agencies and private industry to develop and make available vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests to combat COVID-19.
To date, BARDA is supporting 32 medical products for the pandemic response; in addition to the four vaccine candidates, these products include seven treatments, 17 diagnostic tests, a test to screen donated blood for the virus, and two rapidly deployable technologies to aid health providers with early detection of sepsis in COVID-19 patients.
Federal Government – Michigan Farmers Eligible for Food Assistance Program
Effective May 26, Michigan’s nearly 48,000 farmers can start enrolling for coronavirus relief payments as part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s $16 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
“Michigan is fortunate to be home to a strong, resilient, and diverse food and ag sector,” says Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “There is an army of people who grow, process, and retail our food who have also been hit hard by COVID-19. Governor Whitmer and MDARD continue to work with our partners at USDA to ensure our farmers and ag community members have access to the aid they need to weather this pandemic.”
Under the CFAP program, the aid is prorated – meaning farmers will receive 80 percent of payment in the initial distribution with the remaining 20 percent paid as funds remain available. Farmers should start receiving payment within a week of enrolling, with payments being capped at $250,000 per individual recipient.
Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local USDA Farm Service Agency office. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 28. FSA has streamlined the sign-up process by not requiring an acreage report at the time of application, and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested.
Individuals who receive less than 75 percent of their income from farming still can receive CFAP payments if their adjusted gross income does not exceed $900,000 annually. Corporations, limited liability companies, or limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits where members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation.
More information and a full list of eligible crops can be found here.
Federal Government – Michigan Receives $5.3M in AmeriCorps Funding
Michigan has received $5.3 million in AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency responsible for AmeriCorps and other national service programs.
This funding will support 562 AmeriCorps members in Michigan who will address disaster services, economic opportunity, environmental stewardship, education, healthy futures, and safer communities.
Alongside federal efforts through CNCS, the Michigan Community Service Commission, and its community partners have engaged tens of thousands of volunteers of all ages, supported hundreds of community-based projects and leveraged well over $11 million dollars annually for pressing issues around the state.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Michigan’s AmeriCorps members have adapted their service to help meet critical needs of local communities. This includes food distribution, health care support, blood donation, contact tracing, and other critical services.
“During a challenging time, Michigan’s AmeriCorps members have continued to do what they do best, serve communities in need,” says Ginna Holmes, executive director of the Michigan Community Service Commission.
CNCS will provide an additional $2.2 million in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards for the AmeriCorps members funded by these grants. After completing a full term of service, AmeriCorps members receive an award of approximately $6,000 that they can use to pay for college or to pay off student loans.
“For more than two decades, Americans have answered the call to serve by pledging to ‘get things done’ as AmeriCorps members,” says Chester Spellman, director of AmeriCorps. “Through their dedication and sacrifice, I know our nation is in good hands. We are so pleased to be supporting more AmeriCorps members in Michigan, where their service will help to create a brighter tomorrow for the communities they serve. I salute all of our AmeriCorps members – past, present, and future – and thank those who help make their service possible.”
Federal Government – U.S. Sends $4.9B to Nursing Homes
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing nearly $4.9 billion in additional relief funds to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to help them combat the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this pandemic, nursing homes have faced unique challenges as their population of high-risk seniors are more vulnerable to respiratory pathogens like COVID-19. This funding, which supplements previously announced provider relief funds, will be used to support nursing homes suffering from significant expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19.
“The Trump Administration is providing every resource we can, from funding and direct PPE shipments to regulatory flexibility and infection control consultations, to protect seniors in nursing homes and those who care for them,” says Alex Azar, secretary of HHH.
The SNF funding is part of the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that provide $175 billion in relief funds to hospitals and other health care providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response. In allocating these funds, the Administration is working, among other things, to address the economic impact of COVID-19 on providers and doing so as quickly and transparently as possible.
Since the beginning of 2020, SNFs have experienced up to a 6 percent decline in their patient population as current and potential residents choose other care settings, or as current residents pass away. In addition to nursing home residents, many SNF employees also have been diagnosed with COVID-19. These additional funds may help nursing homes address critical needs such as labor, scaling up their testing capacity, acquiring personal protective equipment, and a range of other expenses directly linked to this pandemic.
HHS will make relief fund distributions to SNFs based on both a fixed basis and variable basis. Each SNF will receive a fixed distribution of $50,000, plus a distribution of $2,500 per bed. All certified SNFs with six or more certified beds are eligible for this targeted distribution.
Nursing home recipients must attest that they will only use Provider Relief Fund payments for permissible purposes, as set forth in the terms and conditions, and agree to comply with future government audit and reporting requirements.
Henry Ford Health System is moving to resume a full slate of services in the coming weeks with new measures, reflecting the new normal in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, in place at all of its facilities to protect the health and safety of patients, visitors and team members.
As services are ramped up as part of a phasing in strategy that emphasizes safety, patients will see changes as they arrive for a radiology screening, surgery, or in-person doctor’s appointment:
- All patients, visitors and team members are being screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the building. This includes a temperature check. Those who show possible signs of illnesses are referred for proper medical care.
- Masks are always to be worn by patients, visitors, and team members. Henry Ford will provide a mask for those who need one upon entry.
- Six-foot social distancing guidelines are in place for waiting, seating and lobby areas. Elevators are limited to the number of riders that can be accommodated safely. Floor markings indicate where patients should stand in the elevators.
- Visitor restrictions continue.
- Patients scheduled for a surgery or some procedures are tested for the coronavirus.
- All facilities are undergoing rigorous disinfection and maintaining frequent cleaning schedules.
- The measures apply across Henry Ford’s vast network of hospitals, outpatient medical centers, pharmacies, dialysis locations, retail eye care centers and other services in southeast Michigan and Jackson County.
Senior leaders say the safety measures and phasing in strategy are the result of careful and deliberate planning to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus.
“The safety and well-being of our patients, visitors, and team members have always been our most important priority,” says Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System. “We have strived to do everything possible to make them feel safe when they come into our facilities to receive care or to provide care.”
As more services become available, Lassiter reassured patients that they can “expect to receive the same high-level care experience they are accustomed to.”
While the focus was on COVID-19 patients, Henry Ford continued to provide patient care services in a limited or reduced way throughout the pandemic. Most patient appointments were done remotely by video through Henry Ford’s electronic health record patient portal MyChart. Video visits soared to 10,000 a week as patients embraced the option for interacting with their doctor or specialist from the comfort of their home.
Today, patient appointments continue to be managed virtually, though arrangements are under way to prioritize in-person appointments for patients based on severity of illness. More medical centers plan to resume full operations soon, and with that will come extended hours for the convenience of patients.
All nine Henry Ford emergency departments have continuously remained open as did urgent care centers. Patients are advised not to delay seeking immediate care for life-threatening situations such as chest pain, stroke and asthma attacks.
Henry Ford Maplegrove Center, a substance abuse facility for adolescents and adults, has started providing residential and detox services for a limited number of inpatients. For social distancing, all patient rooms are now private. Four Henry Ford Optimeyes super vision centers in Dearborn, Sterling Heights, Troy and West Bloomfield remain open with additional retail eye care locations scheduled to welcome back patients in early June.
“We’re all adjusting to this new normal and it’s important for all of us not to let our guard down,” says Bob Riney, president of health care operations at HFHS. “We’ll continue to assess what’s best for our patients based on science and what keeps everyone who works or comes into our buildings the safest.”
DTE Helps Small Businesses Acquire PPE
As Detroit small businesses look to reopen, they are facing challenges sourcing PPE. DTE Energy joined the city of Detroit along with a coalition of public and private partners to launch Detroit Means Business, providing comprehensive resources to help the city’s small businesses reopen. DTE Energy tapped its worldwide supplier network to locate the masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers needed to safely reopen businesses, and its foundation has donated 5,000 personal protection equipment starter kits so Detroit can get back to business.
Businesses interested in receiving the starter kit must apply on the DetroitMeansBusiness.org website to schedule an appointment to pick up the PPE donated by the DTE Energy Foundation. Distribution is tentatively scheduled for the week of May 25. Once the businesses have been validated as having less than 50 employees and based in Detroit, they will receive an email with pick-up instructions.
Standard kits will be distributed by DTE volunteers via a touchless transaction (when possible) and the number will depend on employee count. Some 6,000 kits will be distributed, which include:
- 100 surgical masks (two boxes with 50/box).
- Two boxes of nitrile gloves (100 gloves/box).
- One 16-oz. bottle of hand sanitizer.
- One 1-gallon bottle of hand sanitizer.
The PPE resources will help Detroit’s small businesses keep their employees and customers safe as they reopen their doors to the community. Support in obtaining PPE, as well as financial, technical and other safety resources, are available at DetroitMeansBusiness.org, which will provide Detroit’s small businesses (between two and 50 employees) access to essential tools to prepare them to operate safely and successfully.
Tigers Star Donates $250,000 to Detroit Children’s Charities
Miguel Cabrera and his wife, Rosangel, have partnered with the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Ilitch Charities, to donate $250,000 to several organizations in Detroit that serve families and children.
“During these very tough times for all, my wife, Rosangel and I wanted to help the Detroit community that is very special to us,” says Cabrera. “Through our foundation, we have always focused on the well-being of children and we wanted to continue this effort in such a time of need.
“We partnered with the Detroit Tigers Foundation to make a donation that will assist with meals for children, technology for students, affordable childcare, and protective face masks for families. The people of Detroit have been so great to us over the years and we hope this brings some hope and positivity to this very strong city. We will get through this together.”
The donation is among the largest made by a professional baseball player during the pandemic and will impact numerous important causes that directly help Detroiters.
The Detroit Public Schools Community District will receive $50,000 to aid in meal distribution to students and families. Every week DPSCD provides approximately 120,000 meals across 19 Grab and Go sites. This donation will provide the logistical support needed to ensure that families continue to receive breakfast and lunch throughout the COVID-19 closure.
The Detroit Public Schools Foundation also will receive $50,000 from the Cabrera family’s donation, which will go to the Connected Future initiative to help address the digital divide that exists for DPSCD students by providing tablets, six months of sponsored internet, and IT support for all 51,000 DPSCD students. This donation contributes to making sure that all DPSCD students can access their teachers and online resources both during the COVID-19 closure and beyond.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, Detroit Police Athletic League, and Brilliant Detroit will receive $140,000 to support their collaboration to provide affordable childcare for families in Detroit. With schools closed for the remainder of the academic year, children will not be able to attend classes and camps as their parents go back to work. This donation will allow these three organizations to impact nearly 3,000 Detroit youth.
The Boys and Girls Club will increase the number of youths served daily from 200 to 1,000 by the end of June. Detroit PAL will provide summer programming in-house for an estimated 230 youth across its programs, along with virtual programming for more than 1,000 children.
This donation will allow Brilliant Detroit to provide reading tutoring to 200 children, learn at home kits to all participants, and information to families regarding books, health nutrition, parenting support classes, and ways to work with children at home.
The remaining $10,000 of the donation will support a philanthropic collaboration organized by G1 Impact to hire Detroiters to manufacture 100,000 reusable, hospital-grade masks for children and families in Detroit. Forgotten Harvest, Life Remolded, Brilliant Detroit, and The Prayer Truck will distribute the 100,000 masks. The Cabrera family donation will aid in purchasing 2,000 masks and distributing them to residents in the Durfee/Central High School area.
For more information on the Detroit Tigers Foundation, visit here.
Study: Online Grocery Shopping Explodes Amid Pandemic
Escalent, a human behavior and analytics firm in Livonia, today introduced a new study on the growth of online grocery shopping services as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 global health situation.
“Consumers Are Going Bananas for Online Groceries: But Is It a Long-Term Love?” highlights changes in consumer behavior and explores the likelihood of long-term shifts to remote ordering and delivery services.
According to the study, the number of consumers taking their grocery shopping online grew more than 400 percent in March and April of 2020 compared to 2019. Additionally, growth has not only been rapid, but broad, as online grocery shopping usage has exploded at similar rates among male and female consumers from all age groups and locations.
“Consumers are demonstrating extraordinary flexibility during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly in a space that has faced unique barriers to transitioning to the online marketplace,” says Paul Hartley, managing director of the Consumer and Retail, Technology and Telecommunications teams at Escalent. “Traditional brick-and-mortar chains – local and national alike – have shown the most growth, as they have been able to leverage significant advantages over their less established competition.”
In addition to who is buying online, the study offers a clear picture of the leaders in the space, with Walmart and local grocery chains taking the lion’s share of online grocery shopping business and sentiment thanks to loyal customers and existing infrastructure. Amazon holds the top position as the primary challenger, with shoppers naming the online retail giant the service they are most likely to try.
To review the full study, visit here.
Safe Workplace Solution
Bloomfield Hills’ Sqwirrel has developed patent-pending technology that provides a safe way to get employees back to work, keep them mindful of social distancing, and alert them to possible risks of exposure from symptomatic, positive tested and exposed employees.
Called CompanyTRAK, the technology uses a combination of enterprise mobile apps, with Bluetooth tags and scanners to helps HR and internal health professionals manage exposure to COVID-19 within their company and to isolate all exposed individuals. It follows employee interaction with other employees from the time they enter the building using Geofencing technology.
“We first announced our public solution, ViralTRAK in April,” says Varchasvi Shankar, president and CEO of CompanyTRAK. “If any of the members test positive, they simply press a button in the app. All the app members who have been in the CDC recommended safety distance in the past 14-days of that member who tested positive would be notified of possible exposure.”
CompanyTRAK uses a proprietary, advanced location services model plus technology add-ons without collecting any personal information. The solution identifies which employees have been within the CDC recommended parameters of the self-reported symptomatic or positive tested employees over a 14-day period. It identifies primary and secondary exposure, which is unique to CompanyTRAK. The Admin Portal helps company HR and other authorized personnel to manage employees with daily PPE and temperature checks that employees need to follow.
The technology currently is being tested at multiple sites and available on Apple and Android Enterprise App Stores for corporations.
For more information, visit here.
When the fall semester begins at Walsh College in Troy, students will have the choice to attend classes on ground, online (asynchronously or in real time) or a hybrid option combining online and on-ground attendance.
Academic and student services will continue to be offered virtually, with in-person access available by appointment. Student life meetings and events will continue with options for students to participate in person with limited available reservations and unlimited virtual access. Food service will be unavailable and community and corporate event rentals will remain on hold. On-ground classes will be moved into larger spaces to ensure proper social distancing. The percentage of on-ground classes that will be offered is being finalized.
All Walsh students will receive a free Zoom Pro account when they enroll in classes and have access to the Navigate app, which allows them to schedule appointments with academic advisors, form study groups with classmates, and receive reminders to help them stay on track with classes.
“Walsh is known for flexibility and this fall will be no different,” says Marsha Kelliher, president and CEO of Walsh. “We are ready to welcome new, continuing, and guest students. We will be following federal and state guidelines for safety and are poised to flip to 100 percent remote delivery within 24 hours if the need arises.”
For more information, visit here.