COVID-19 Update: Senate Passes $484B Stimulus Package, WSU Starts Virtual COVID-19 Care Clinic, CVS Opens Drive-up Testing Center in Dearborn, 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 April 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 – Stimulus
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a $484 billion package of new COVID-19 pandemic relief funds and sent it to the House. The House is expected to approve the bill tomorrow.

The legislation includes $320 billion more for the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help struggling small businesses keep their workers on the payroll. It also sets aside $30 billion of the PPP loan funds for banks and credit unions with $10 billion-$50 billion in assets and another $30 billion for even smaller institutions.

The measure also includes $60 billion in loans and grants for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and makes farms and ranches eligible for the loans. Also, there is $75 billion for hospitals, with a significant portion aimed at those in rural areas, and $25 billion for virus testing.

The testing funds include $18 billion for states, localities, territories, and tribes to conduct COVID-19 tests, $1 billion for the CDC, and $1.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health. As much as $1 billion would cover costs of testing for the uninsured.

This action comes on top of the $2 trillion package enacted last month and follows tens of billions of dollars in an earlier measure passed in response to the pandemic.

Virtual COVID-19 Care Clinic
The Wayne State University Physician Group in Detroit has launched a virtual clinic to care for people diagnosed with COVID-19 who are in isolation at home or require follow-up care after hospitalization.

Pioneered by internal medicine specialists affiliated with WSUPG and the Wayne State School of Medicine, the clinic provides quick access to a physician through a variety of telehealth platforms (telephone, digital, or audio-video), with expedited referral to WSUPG’s network of specialists, should it become necessary.

“COVID-19 patients discharged from the hospital, emergency department, or those well enough to stay home in medical isolation, have many questions on topics such as the risk of contagion amongst their families, what protective measures to take, and how and when they can ease their way back into the community,” says Dr. Aris Urbanes, chief medical officer of WSUPG. “This clinic helps to make sure their recovery is on the right path, is not deteriorating, and guides them on when to seek a more acute level of care in the hospital or with a specialist.”

The clinic also serves those who have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for test results with concerns about their health status and protective measures.

To learn more about the clinic, or to make a telehealth appointment, call 313-745-4525 and ask to schedule an appointment with the COVID Care Clinic. Most appointments are scheduled the same day or next day.

The clinic accepts both physician referral and self-referral patients. Those referred by a physician will be referred back to their primary care physician when COVID care is complete.

Testing
CVS Health, in partnership with the state government, has opened a drive-through rapid COVID-19 testing center in the parking lot of the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn.

Testing at the library, located at 16301 Michigan Ave., is available at no cost to eligible Michiganders. A doctor’s referral is not required.

The site is expected to test 500-750 residents daily who are experiencing certain COVID-19-related symptoms and risk factors as defined by the CDC.

Drive-through testing is available by appointment seven days a week. Residents are required to be pre-screened and register for a test here.

Health care providers will be on-site to oversee testing. Testing will be conducted using the new Abbot ID NOW COVID-19 test, which recently received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the fastest detection of the virus. The state also is providing security, personal protective equipment supplies for the team administering the tests, and on-the-ground logistics.

Patients are required to stay in their vehicles at the testing site. The testing process takes about 30 minutes from the collection of the swab to the delivery of results.

Relief for Auto Dealers
Automotive information provider Edmunds, which has an office in Detroit, today announced an extension of financial relief and continued investment in digital offerings and resources to support dealer partners during the coronavirus crisis.

Edmunds is offering an extension through the month of May of the 50 percent discount that it provided to its dealer partners in April. Subscription services for dealer partners will remain active and fully supported by Edmunds’ sales teams.

“Edmunds is doing everything it can to support our dealer partners as our industry continues to navigate through this crisis,” says Avi Steinlauf, CEO of Edmunds. “These are challenging times, but we’re staying true to who we are and helping dealers in the most effective way we can: by connecting dealers and their inventory directly to car shoppers online as they continue to research their next vehicle purchase from home.”

Edmunds also launched a completely redesigned industry center page today, where dealers can find all of Edmunds’ free digital product offerings and solutions that will help them better navigate the challenges of the current selling environment. These include inventory badges on the Edmunds website for stores that offer home delivery or have custom hours, and Edmunds’ Digital Retailing solution, which lives on the Edmunds website and enhances remote sales by driving car shoppers who have already built their deals online directly to dealers.

For more information, click here.

Utilities
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, with support from the Board of Water commissioners, has adopted Mayor Mike Duggan’s employee cost savings plan in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Similar to the city’s general fund, DWSD is anticipating a reduction in revenue from water and sewer bill payments as households and businesses are economically impacted by the outbreak and as businesses have used less water and sewer services during Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order.

The plan results in furloughs and workshare for 59 percent of DWSD’s workforce (336 out of 566). The projected savings for the furloughs, workshare, and salary reductions are $10.2 million.

Other measures include:

  • 212 employees will receive 10 percent of their pay every two weeks by working 10 percent of their hours and get state and federal unemployment benefits, while retaining their health and retirement benefits.
  • 124 employees will receive 80 percent of their pay every two weeks by working 80 percent of their hours and get state workshare and federal unemployment benefits, while retaining their health and retirement benefits.
  • 215 employees will receive 100 percent of their pay, work 100 percent of their hours, and retain their health and retirement benefits.
  • 12 executive officers and senior management earning more than $125,000 will take a 5 percent pay reduction until July 1, 2021.
  • All seven Board of Water commissioners will take a 5 percent reduction to their stipend through July 1, 2021.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is nothing any of us have experienced in our lifetimes, and we have to make responsible decisions, not only to protect our employees and the community from the virus, but to reduce our operational costs,” says Gary Brown, director of DWSD. “By following Mayor Duggan’s plan, the furloughed and workshare employees will be supplemented by the state and federal unemployment funds, and they will be able to retain their health and retirement benefits. For DWSD, this is an important step in making these cost reductions in order to lessen the impact on our ratepayers.”

Health Care
Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health, with offices in Westland and Southfield, and California’s Vynca, which supplies advance care planning technology, announced a partnership to assist clinicians and patients in digitally creating and sharing advance care planning documents across the Spectrum network.

In response to COVID-19, Spectrum deployed Vynca’s web portal with digital advance care planning capabilities, allowing clinicians to clarify goals of care for the most vulnerable populations. This supports Spectrum’s advance care planning efforts via telehealth, as clinicians are able to standardize goals of care discussions and capture accurate advance care planning documents remotely. These documents then will be available across all care settings throughout the health system.

“We have successfully worked with Vynca to develop a planning packet and virtual training to raise awareness for the need of proactive advance care planning,” says James Bonner, senior director of patient safety and experience at Spectrum Health. “Proactive advance care planning is vital during the COVID-19 pandemic and going forward to allow individuals to express their treatment preferences and avoid what they may consider to be unacceptable outcomes.”

Support for Restaurants
Grand Rapids-based Meijer kicked off a “Buy Local” meal program last week to show appreciation of its frontline team members while supporting local restaurants during these unprecedented times.

Beginning last week, each of the retailer’s 248 supercenters, grocery stores, and distribution facilities began partnering with a local, independent restaurant in its community to purchase meals for its team members. This community-focused initiative will continue for the next few weeks.

“Our teams are working hard every day to ensure our stores are clean and fully stocked so our customers can find what they need for their families,” says Rick Keyes, president and CEO of Meijer. “This initiative is just one of the ways we are trying to show them just how much we appreciate their dedication while also providing an opportunity to support important small businesses in the communities we serve.”

Small Business Virtual Town Hall
The Oakland County Chamber will be hosting a weekly online Zoom open forum Town Hall presented by the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center every Thursday from 1:30-3 p.m. starting April 23 and continuing through June 4.

The Town Hall is designed to provide answers to the questions small business owners have regarding issues they are experiencing with operations, cash flow, and funding and to give direction to maintain viability until the economy restarts.

Chamber member businesses are welcome to submit questions in advance to smallbusiness@oakgov.com using subject line “SB Town Hall.” Answers will be provided by One Stop Shop Business Center consultants. Members also will be able to ask questions through the chat option during the meeting, which will also be responded to by OSSBC consultants while time permits.

Members who feel they need more assistance are welcome to request the Oakland County One Stop Shop free and confidential consulting services here.

To register for the Town Halls, click here.

For further information, contact Glen Sartori at sartorid@oakgov.com or via phone at 248-452-8095.

Auto Supply Chain Webcast
The Turnaround Management Association Detroit is hosting a webcast titled “Restarting the Auto Supply Chain: Risk and Challenges” at 4 p.m. today.

Panelists include Alicia Masse of Southfield’s Alderney Advisors, Chuck Mouranie of EDSI in Dearborn, Steve Wybo of Conway MacKenzie in Birmingham, Ted Sylwestrzak of Detroit’s Dickinson Wright, and moderator John Klehm of Spectrum.

To view the webcast, click here.

Virtual Networking
The Detroit Regional Chamber is offering a way for members to connect during the Stay Home, Stay Safe phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. They can attend Coffee with the Chamber, April 23 at 9:30 a.m. via GoToMeeting. It is limited to the first 25 participants.

A confirmation email with the link to join the meeting will be sent to those who RSVP today to Kimberly Blackmon at kblackmon@detroitchamber.com.

MSU Virtual Commencement
Michigan State University in East Lansing will conduct a virtual commencement celebration on May 16 for all undergraduate and graduate students earning degrees at the end of the 2020 spring semester.

The university postponed its May 1 in-person commencement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual event does not replace an in-person ceremony, and members of the class of 2020 will be invited to participate in a future in-person commencement.

“From a public health standpoint, it simply isn’t safe to hold a traditional ceremony at this time,” says Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., president of MSU. “But the class of 2020 still deserves to celebrate graduation. It is a momentous occasion. This class has shown incredible resiliency …  It is disappointing to be unable to express that in person, but we’ve found a way to overcome this challenge. That is what Spartans do.”

The virtual ceremony will be held via MSU’s Facebook page beginning at 10 a.m. May 16. Members of the 2020 class, their friends, families, and Spartans everywhere are invited to gather online and make this the largest MSU commencement ever, as university leadership recognizes graduates and confers their degrees. The ceremony will feature remarks from Stanley and the interim provost as well as musical performances from students in the College of Music.

A recording of the virtual ceremony will be available on the MSU commencement webpage following the Facebook event.

Virtual events and ceremonies also are being planned by many individual colleges within MSU. Please check college websites for details.

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