COVID-19 Update: Small Business Revenue Hit Hard Early in Pandemic, U-M Developing Sensors to Ease N95 Mask Decontamination, Boys & Girls Clubs to Open Industry Club, 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 June 24

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.

JPMorgan Chase Research: Small Business Revenue Hit Hard Early in Pandemic
Research conducted by the JPMorgan Chase Institute shows that small business cash balances dropped 12.7 percent and revenues dropped as much as 50 percent at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but balances rebounded by the end of April.

The new research, which examined the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on U.S. small business finances, is part of a series of insights that uses near-real-time data to investigate the economic impact of COVID-19.

In addition to the early-pandemic 50 percent reduction in revenue, findings include:

  • Black- and Asian-owned businesses experienced more severe drops in cash balances and revenues relative to white-owned businesses.
  • Across 16 U.S. metro areas highlighted in the research, small businesses in Atlanta and Las Vegas experienced the steepest declines in cash balances.

Researchers leveraged daily transactions from a sample of nearly 1.3 million de-identified small businesses that hold Chase Business Banking deposit accounts, including both employer and non-employer firms, to analyze cash balances, revenues, and expenses through April 2020.

“A global pandemic and stay-at-home orders create a hard environment for any company to operate in – but it can be a death sentence for small businesses, which already operate on thin cash buffers,” says Diana Farrell, president and CEO of the JPMorgan Chase Institute. “Regardless of geography, industry, and demographics, we see that all small businesses experienced a sharp cut in their cash balance and revenue during the initial stage of the pandemic. Black-owned and Asian-owned small businesses were disproportionally hit hard by the early economic crisis and may face a longer road to recovery.”

Digging deeper into the research, small business cash balances and revenues dropped sharply at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic with significant variation across metro areas, industries, and demographic groups. Black- and Asian-owned businesses, as well as businesses in the restaurant and personal services industries, were particularly hard hit.

Small business cash balances dropped 12.7 percent and revenues dropped as much as 50 percent at the onset of COVID-19, but balances rebounded by the end of April. Balances declined across metro areas, but there was variation in the extent of the impact.

In early April, small business cash balances were down 12.7 percent and at their lowest point. They rebounded starting in mid-April.

Small business revenues declined substantially, with a 50 percent year-over-year decline at the lowest point in late March. By the end of April, revenues and expense remained materially lower than they were a year prior.

Cash balances fell the most for small businesses in Atlanta (-21 percent), Las Vegas (-20 percent), Orlando (-18 percent), Miami (-15 percent), and New York (-14 pecent), which could be due in part to decreased tourism in cities traditionally fueled by the hospitality industry. By the end of April, balances had rebounded the most in Seattle (+4 percent) and Indianapolis (+3 percent).

Black- and Asian-owned businesses had larger declines in balances and revenues than white-owned businesses. Black-owned business cash balances were down 26 percent at the end of March, whereas White-owned businesses’ cash balances were down about 10 percent.

Asian-owned businesses experienced the sharpest decline in revenues – a more than 60 percent decline – potentially due to discrimination of Asian-American businesses and concentration in certain harder-hit industries.

Black- and Hispanic-owned businesses were particularly vulnerable because of the industries in which they are concentrated (e.g. personal services) and because they already were in a weaker financial position prior to the pandemic with less cash liquidity to weather disruptions in revenues.

Restaurants and personal services businesses (e.g. salons, dry cleaners) had the largest decline in cash balances and revenues. Restaurant cash balances declined 48 percent and personal services cash balances fell nearly 40 percent.

In the service industry, revenues declined the most for personal services businesses (85 percent decline by mid-April), whereas healthcare services and high-tech services firms had declines in revenues of around 50 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Balances among high-tech manufacturers, health care service providers, real estate firms, and metal and machinery manufacturers were largely stable and even increased towards the end of April.

U-M Developing Wireless Sensors for N95 Masks Enabling Easier Decontamination
Tiny wireless sensors for recycled N95 masks that could verify, in real time, whether the respirators are being exposed to proper decontamination conditions are being developed at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor through a new National Science Foundation RAPID COVID-19 grant.

The batteryless sensors are designed to provide more accurate and less-cumbersome monitoring, ensuring sufficient heat and humidity are used during the decontamination of protective masks for medical workers. Decontamination systems are used in an effort to ensure availability of N95 masks when supplies are tight.

“Think of these wirelessly powered sensors as a turkey pop-up indicator for when decontamination is done,” says Kevin Fu, associate professor of computer science and engineering at U-M and lead on the project.

Previous studies have demonstrated that certain combinations of temperature and humidity are effective for decontaminating N95 masks adequately without damaging their performance or fit. Too much or too little intensity, however, can make a mask unsafe for continued use.

“The ovens used to decontaminate these masks can produce cold spots and dry spots, so it’s important to verify the decontamination conditions with a resolution of a few cubic inches,” Fu says.

Current methods to achieve this accuracy are both labor-intensive and damage-prone, according to Fu. The most typical setup involves installing multiple wired sensors inside each of several dozen cubby holes designed to decontaminate one mask at a time. The result is an oven with a huge coil of wires draped through a portal, and an unwieldy setup for operators to work around.

The U-M project proposes replacing this with small, wireless chips that can be sprinkled in each cubby hole once and monitored with an adjacent device. The chips make use of energy-harvesting circuits from Fu’s past research on wirelessly powered and secure RFID sensors.

“We want to remove messy spaghetti wiring from the decontamination stations,” Fu says.

Because of the wire nuisance, these sensor setups are typically used for a brief calibrating phase early in the oven’s installation and then removed. Fu’s proposed solution can remain installed to allow ongoing monitoring of the oven’s calibration, as well as enable potential future features such as real-time feedback to the oven’s temperature control.

This project plugs into a larger national effort to provide guidance to health care professionals on best practices for decontaminating their personal protective equipment. Called N95decon.org, Fu contributed to the launch of the effort along with U-M’s Nancy Love, the Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and nearly 60 other scientists, engineers, students, and clinicians around the world.

The researchers hope the sensors will prove to be a more scalable method for monitoring mask decontamination, ultimately cutting down on wasted time and resources across the country.

“We need this science and technology so health care workers can return their focus to patient care instead of worrying about masks,” says Manu Prakash, professor of biomedical engineering at Stanford University and leader of the N95decon.org team.

First Industry Club to Offer Retail Experience for Detroit youth, Accelerator Space for Women and Entrepreneurs of Color
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan announced today that it will open its first Industry Club in September, offering an immersive summer and after-school experience for young people interested in pursuing a career in retail or fashion merchandising.

The Industry Club will be co-located with the Detroit is the New Black store at 1430 Woodward Ave, and employ up to 200 Detroit youth each year, ages 14 and up.

“True equality can only be achieved through economic and social mobility and the Industry Club is designed to do just that,” says Shawn H. Wilson, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan. “Metro Detroit youth will gain the economic, cultural, and social capital needed to become college, career, and start-up ready. BGCSM is grateful that Bedrock, Ponyride, and DITNB have committed to leveraging their resources to build a blueprint that can be replicated across any industry for our youth.”

Since Detroit is the New Black opened its flagship store in 2016, the clothing brand has offered retail floor space to other Detroit-based small businesses. That accelerator concept will continue through the Industry Club project, with Ponyride offering both brick-and-mortar, and e-commerce support to local women and entrepreneurs of color. Five rotating concepts will stock their goods alongside DITNB within the sales space in the heart of Detroit’s historic Woodward Shopping District, and offer online sales through detroitisthenewblack.com.

“The Industry Club is a dream manifested for Detroit is the New Black and such a perfect example of community partners coming together to support the future of the city,” says Roslyn Karamoko, founder of Detroit is the New Black. “I’m so pleased to welcome these partners into the space, which will allow us to expand our programming and mission to uplift entrepreneurs and minorities in business.”

Bedrock, downtown Detroit’s largest real estate company, will provide the 2,400-square-foot Industry Club retail space rent free, along with a $25,000 pre-development grant. Bedrock also will work with the Industry Club partners to build a long-term skilled volunteer support program for the small businesses participating in the Ponyride accelerator.

As downtown businesses begin to reopen, Industry Club will be an important next step in Bedrock’s small business support strategy, targeted toward women and entrepreneurs of color, the company said.

“It has always been our belief that a sustainable, vibrant retail district is a place where strong local brands thrive beside big national names,” says Matt Cullen, CEO of Bedrock. “That strategy needs to expand to elevate minority-owned businesses and help strengthen pathways for their growth and contribution to Detroit’s ongoing momentum.

“The Industry Club will be an important step in that direction,” he continues. “We are excited to work with the Boys & Girls Club, Detroit is the New Black, and Ponyride to help create a pipeline for tomorrow’s retail leaders at the Industry Club while empowering Bedrock’s team members to become directly involved in building Detroit’s start-up community.”

Industry Club members will gain experience in careers representing every aspect of the retail business development cycle, including stocking merchandise, ordering wholesale and fulfilling online orders, all while earning a wage. Outcomes include 21st Century skills, industry certifications, industry access/mentorship/network and paid job placement.

The Industry Club will serve as Ponyride’s fourth location. BGCSM is the first Boys & Girls Clubs location in the nation to provide co-working and makers spaces for entrepreneurs through this partnership.

“This partnership and overall collaboration provide Ponyride with a unique opportunity to not only incubate but expand small business growth in the city through access to resources, retail space and capital,” says Phil Cooley, co-founder of Ponyride. “This is a powerful move to invest in the hard-working entrepreneurs of Detroit, and we’re excited to be at the table help ensure these opportunities are provided.”

BGCSM’s Industry Club also launched its limited edition Industry Club t-shirts sold only online here.

CVS Health to Add Eight New Drive-Thru COVID-19 Test Sites in Michigan June 26
CVS Health today expanded its COVID-19 testing program by announcing eight additional test sites at select CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations across Michigan. The opening of additional test sites on Friday, June 26 add to the 16 locations previously opened in Michigan.

In addition to the drive-thru sites, CVS Health has partnered with a number of community organizations to open eight rapid-response community testing sites across the country, including a site at the downtown campus of Wayne County Community College District in Detroit to increase access to testing for uninsured and underserved populations who are at highest risk for COVID-19.

“One of our greatest strengths as a company is our local presence in communities across the country, which enables us to uniquely expand people’s access to safe and effective COVID-19 testing options and respond to a need for increased testing capacity,” says Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health. “We continue to be grateful for the commitment of our frontline colleagues who make these testing sites possible and whose dedication has allowed us to keep our stores open for customers seeking supplies and patients who need care.”

Nearly 60 percent of the company’s 1,400 test sites across the country, including nearly half of the sites in Michigan, are in counties that serve communities with the greatest need for support, as measured by the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. The index tracks a variety of census variables including poverty, lack of access to transportation and crowded housing that may weaken a community’s ability to prepare for and recover from hazardous events like natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

Self-swab tests will be available to individuals meeting CDC criteria, in addition to state and age guidelines. Patients must register in advance here to schedule an appointment. Patients will be required to stay in their cars and will be directed to the pharmacy drive-thru window or a location in the parking lot at a few stores, where they will be provided with a test kit and given instructions, and a CVS Pharmacy team member will observe the self-swab process to ensure it is done properly. Tests will be sent to an independent, third-party lab for processing, and the results will be available in approximately three days.

The new testing sites in Michigan include CVS Pharmacy locations at:

  • 6862 N. Michigan Ave. in Detroit.
  • 15521 West Seven Mile Rd. in Detroit.
  • 111 North Main St. in Frankenmuth.
  • 14140 Woodward Ave. in Highland Park.
  • 727 28th Street SE in Grand Rapids.
  • 27050 John R. Rd. in Madison Heights.
  • 1980 East Big Beaver Rd. in Troy.
  • 5603 Byron Center Ave. SW in Wyoming (just south of Grand Rapids).

Detroit Cultural Center Announces Museums, Organizations to Reopen July 10
After a four-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museums and arts and cultural organizations of the Detroit Cultural Center are planning a collective reopening on Friday, July 10.

The Carr Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Hellenic Museum of Michigan, Michigan Science Center, and The Scarab Club have been collaborating since late April to create a plan to re-open safely and welcome visitors and employees back into their buildings under the guidance of Midtown Detroit Inc. and the National Sanitation Foundation International. Other arts and cultural institutions including the Detroit Public Library, International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit will have different re-opening dates but still participated in the process.

“We know that the long-term health and safety of our cultural institutions is currently tied to ensuring the health and safety of all visitors and staff,” says Susan Mosey, executive director of Midtown Detroit Inc. “We engaged NSF to help us create a safety culture and protocols for managing the risks associated with a communicable disease while helping institutions deliver their core missions.”

A re-opening guide and toolkit has been developed by NSF that includes practices, protocols and recommendations for safely operating, as law permits, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The multi-phase re-opening guide includes professional guidelines that are being implemented across the district and are informed by the recommendations of organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services, pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the World Health Organization, as well as strict adherence to city, state, and federal mandates. Every aspect of normal operations at each institution has undergone a thorough evaluation by NSF and where needed, modifications are in place and will be continually updated to keep staff and visitors safe.

Visitors can expect:

  • Expanded cleaning and disinfection of public spaces and work areas.
  • Frequent handwashing is encouraged and abundant hand-sanitation dispensers will be made available throughout the institutions.
  • To be required to wear masks inside each building (guests aged 3 years and older).
  • Cashless and touchless transactions will be made available wherever possible.
  • Changed entry procedures and door-access points at some of the institutions.
  • Limited hours and reduced occupancy at some of the institutions to ensure physical distancing can be maintained.
  • New wayfinding around the buildings and guidelines for physical distancing to safely navigate the institutions.
  • Visitors also are encouraged to check in with all institutional websites for the most up-to-date information while making plans to visit the Cultural Center.

The DIA also announced its new hours of operation. Opening weekend, July 10-12, will be dedicated to museum members and residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties only.

The new hours are: Monday and Tuesday (closed), Wednesday through Friday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

Tickets will be timed to control attendance levels and can be reserved online in advance here or by calling 313-833-4005. A limited number of tickets will be available for each time slot.

The DIA’s website will be updated with the latest information about reopening procedures. In addition, a full list of frequently asked questions regarding reopening and safety procedures can be found here.

Higher Education
Cleary University, which has its main campus in Howell and an Education Center in Detroit, will launch five new bachelor’s degree concentrations and three new master’s degrees when the fall semester opens Aug. 24.

The new programs were created in response to industry needs, the school says. They are:

  • MBA in E-Learning Design and Instructional Technology Management.
  • MBA in Women’s Leadership.
  • Master of Science in Human Resource Management.
  • BBA in Business Communications.
  • BBA in Business Ethics.
  • BBA in Industrial Leadership.
  • BBA in Project Management.
  • BBA in Nonprofit Management.

For more information, visit here.

Amtrak’s Grand Rapids-Chicago Pere Marquette Trains Return Next Week
Beginning June 29 and 30, Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation are restoring the daily Pere Marquette round-trip trains between Grand Rapids and Chicago in response to anticipated demand. This Amtrak Midwest service was temporarily suspended March 21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The train will originate in Chicago on June 29 and both Trains 370 and 371 will operate starting June 30. Train 370 departs Chicago at 6:30 p.m., St. Joseph/Benton Harbor at 9:14 p.m., Bangor at 9:50 p.m., Holland at 10:33 p.m., and arrives in Grand Rapids at 11:34 p.m. Train 371 departs Grand Rapids daily at 6:00 a.m., Holland at 6:49 a.m., Bangor at 7:32 a.m., St. Joseph/Benton Harbor at 8:10 a.m., arriving in Chicago at 9:08 a.m. All times are EDT, except Chicago, which is in the Central Time Zone. Business Class and café service also will be available.

Amtrak continues to take extra steps to keep train travel safe, including limiting bookings to less than half of capacity to maintain physical distancing onboard trains. Reservations are required for Amtrak trains on this route, excluding holders of Multi-Ride Tickets. Ticketing is available now on Amtrak.com, its mobile apps or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

“We are dedicated to doing everything possible to return service safely,” says Bill Flynn, president and CEO of Amtrak. “We want everyone to feel comfortable as they navigate this new normal.”

In addition to steps to disinfect stations and trains, additional Amtrak measures deliver a New Standard of Travel by including the following:

  • Employee and passenger face coverings.
  • Cashless payment.
  • Physical distancing in waiting rooms, ticket offices, base/top of escalators, and lounge entrances.
  • Clear protective barriers have been installed at stations where there were no barriers.

Emagine Royal Oak Opens for Curbside Concession Carry Out
Beginning Saturday, June 27, from noon to 7 p.m., Emagine Royal Oak will be open for curbside carry out concessions and gift card sales.

In addition to the usual movie theater concessions, Emagine is offering a party-size popcorn, the equivalent of 12 large popcorns, for $50. Phone lines to place orders (248-414-1000) will open on June 27 at 10:30 a.m.

For more information, visit here.

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