COVID-19 Update: State Expands Testing Criteria, OSHA Guidelines for Construction Workers, Pandemic Travel Tips, 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 May 26

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.

State Government – MDHHS Expands Testing Criteria
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has expanded testing criteria for COVID-19 to provide access to additional residents who do not have symptoms but are at risk.

The new criteria includes asymptomatic patients who are preparing for surgery if testing is deemed necessary by the treating health professional. It also includes asymptomatic people who have known exposure to someone who has COVID-19 or symptoms, or who work in a profession that puts them at high risk of exposure due to close contact with the public, such as dental technicians, or to COVID-19 outbreaks in certain industries like at food processing facilities.

The new testing criteria also emphasizes the need to expand options for people without symptoms who live in communities where there has been inequitable access to testing, as well as the need to increase the rate of people tested per day in these areas. For example, this includes areas with higher proportions of racial/ethnic minorities or rural communities.

Over the last week, the state has averaged about 14,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests per day. The state’s goal is reaching 15,000 diagnostic tests per day in the near term and 30,000 per day in the weeks to come.

MDHHS is encouraging anyone who meets the testing criteria to get tested. Free testing is widely available, including at federally qualified health centers and major retail pharmacies.

Anyone who wishes to be tested may call the Michigan coronavirus hotline at 1-888-535-6136 or visit here to find an appropriate testing location, including a list of sites offering testing at no cost. Michiganders can locate testing sites by inputting their address or selecting state, county, and zip code.

Federal Government – OSHA Guidelines for Construction Workers
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a webpage with coronavirus-related guidance for construction employers and workers. The guidance includes recommended actions to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Employers of workers engaged in construction (such as carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/air conditioning/ventilation, utility construction work, and earth-moving activities) should remain alert to changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability. In response to changing conditions, employers should implement coronavirus infection prevention measures accordingly.

The webpage includes information regarding:

  • Using physical barriers, such as walls, closed doors, or plastic sheeting, to separate workers from individuals experiencing signs or symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.
  • Keeping in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limiting the number of workers in attendance, and using social distancing practices.
  • Screening calls when scheduling indoor construction work to assess potential exposures and circumstances in the work environment before worker entry.
  • Requesting that shared spaces in home environments where construction activities are being performed, or other construction areas in occupied buildings, have good air flow.
  • Staggering work schedules, such as alternating workdays or extra shifts, to reduce the total number of employees on a job site at any given time and to ensure physical distancing.

State Government – New Online Dashboard Tracks Virus
A new, online dashboard launched today visually illustrates COVID-19 risks and trends in Michigan, providing residents with important information about the pandemic status where they live and work.

Developed through a collaboration between the Michigan departments of Health and Human Services and Labor and Economic Opportunity and the University of Michigan, dashboard data is divided into Michigan Economic Recovery Committee (MERC) regions.

MERC regions were developed by merging Michigan’s Emergency Preparedness Regions and Michigan’s labor sheds – the major areas of the state where people live and travel to work based on U.S. Department of Labor data – so that any outbreak resulting from a return to work could be handled effectively under public health laws.

The COVID-19 data displayed on the dashboard represents publicly available case, death, and test data analyzed to determine overall level of risk and key trends. Graphs, numbers, and trends provide a snapshot of how much virus is in a community, and whether it is increasing or decreasing.

Risk levels were developed by MDHHS and the U-M School of Public Health using guidance from the CDC, national Guidelines for Opening America, and several other leading national organizations.

“The risk levels tell us whether there is high, medium, or low risk of COVID-19 spread in a community and can help highlight areas where more social distancing may be needed, or where vulnerable individuals should be particularly careful,” says Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health.

The dashboard, designed and created by faculty at U-M School of Information and School of Public Health, presents risk and capacity indicators that inform implementation of the MI Safe Start Plan. These indicators fall into three categories: epidemic spread, health system capacity and public health capacity. Each indicator displays a level of risk. These indicators, along with other epidemiologic information, inform the overall risk level for a region. It also incorporates on-the-ground knowledge, such as whether new cases of COVID-19 are localized to a single outbreak or represent communitywide spread.

For more information, visit here.

Mobility Solutions for Michigan COVID-19 Challenges
PlanetM, the state of Michigan’s mobility initiative, is awarding a round of its technology activation grant program to companies addressing the challenges presented by the spread of COVID-19.

Five companies – GHSP , Gatik , Penske Vehicle Services , RCO Engineering,  and Pratt Miller  – received more than $280,000 in funding to aid in the development and deployment of solutions that address the mobility challenges COVID-19 presents in Michigan. This includes contactless automated delivery within the statewide retail supply chain, disinfecting technologies in west Michigan, and barriers to protect transit workers in Detroit. The funding also will enable companies to reenact jobs impacted by the pandemic as well as create new jobs through production of these solutions and expansion into the state.

“The resiliency and innovation that these companies are displaying in the face of this global pandemic will make a significant difference as our industry comes together to fight this virus,” says Charlie Tyson, technology activation manager at PlanetM. “We look forward to demonstrating the power of Michigan’s public private partnerships in supporting the state’s need for safe mobility solutions during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

The COVID-19 Mobility Solutions Grant Recipients are:

GHSP ($80,000), which has developed a first-of-its-kind mobile UV-C treatment, grēnlite. Using high-and-low dose UV-C light, the system is able to sense when there are occupants in a shared vehicle space and will disinfect the air and high-touch surfaces following their exit, reducing COVID-19 and other disease-causing germs for those on the front lines.

Gatik ($100,000), a California-based autonomous delivery company, is working with one of the state’s largest retailers to automate their on-road transportation network. The pilot involves deploying autonomous delivery vehicles on predetermined, fixed routes throughout Grand Rapids and Rochester. This partnership will help reduce human-to-human transmission channels of COVID-19 via contactless delivery, minimize personnel-based disruptions to the supply chain and transform the way groceries, health products and other everyday goods are sustainably delivered.

Penske Vehicle Services ($28,000) has started production on temporary vehicle occupant safety partitions, which are portable, clear vinyl barriers designed to increase physical separation between front seat drivers and back seat occupants of passenger vehicles.

RCO Engineering ($28,000) also will develop and pilot partitions to help offer some additional level of comfort for the drivers tasked with transporting residents to and from their destinations. The partition will not be designed to permanently alter the vehicles in any way. The city of Detroit will provide vehicles to be outfitted with RCO’s partition solution.

Pratt Miller ($50,000). Next month, Pratt Miller Mobility’s Large area autonomous Disinfecting robotic vehicle (LaaD) will be roaming Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids in an effort to combat the Covid-19 virus. LaaD, the first-of-its-kind in deployed in the U.S., is a connected, electric, and autonomous disinfecting robot that will dispense FDA-approved disinfecting materials through a multi-head electrostatic sprayer array. The electrostatic technology sprays disinfectant into the air and adheres to surfaces for maximum virus protection, while the autonomous platform monitors and guarantees coverage through the use of sensors and data analysis.

“We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to leverage our robust mobility ecosystem and manufacturing heritage to spur innovative solutions to the challenges presented by the spread of this virus,” says Kathryn Snorrason, strategic accounts director at PlanetM. “We’re proud to do our part and support Michigan communities during a time like this.”

What to Pack When Traveling During a Pandemic
An increasing number of states are easing the pandemic restrictions and travel is beginning to re-emerge. Travelers looking to get back on the road are re-examining what precautions and protections they need in the current environment. What does a travel kit look like since the pandemic?

Jeffrey Weinstein, a paramedic and a medical operations supervisor for the Global Rescue risk management company, consulted with experts and compiled suggestions to reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure.

He says there are seven essential items that are must-have on any trip in today’s COVID-19 world. They are:

  • You and your traveling party will be wearing one and you all should carry a few spares. Make certain it covers your nose and mouth.
  • Hand sanitizer. If you have to touch a surface, immediately use hand sanitizer that is 60 percent alcohol or 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. The Transportation Security Administration eased the 3-ounce limit and is allowing passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of liquid hand sanitizer in carry-on bags.
  • Disinfectant wipes. You can remove the virus from surfaces by using bleach-based cleaners or hydrogen-peroxide based cleaners. You can make your own travel packs by stacking wipes into resealable plastic bags.
  • Isopropyl wipes. You might touch your phone as much as you touch your face. The major smartphone manufacturers say you can use isopropanol alcohol wipes to clean your phone.
  • Travel laundry detergent. Soak your extra cloth mask(s) in a sink full of water and scrub with laundry detergent. Wring out excess water and hang dry.
  • COVID-19 symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, coughing, and a sore throat. A travel thermometer will help you keep tabs on your temperature.
  • Digital oximeter. If you are in the risk category for coronavirus, you’ll want a digital pulse oximeter, available at most pharmacies or online stores for less than $30. Usually, when your oxygen levels fall below 94 percent you will be symptomatic. Any saturation below 94 percent is concerning.

There are other travel tips and tricks. Most people know to open doors with an elbow, keep social distance of 6 feet from others, avoid activities with a large number of people, and to use touchless payment methods whenever possible. The following are few other tips and tricks to help make your travel safer:

  • Wash and/or sanitize hands after touching any surface.
  • Don’t touch your mask/face once it is on.
  • Disinfect your credit or debit card after use.
  • If driving or flying, plan as few stops as possible.
  • The TSA recommends placing items from your pockets into your carry-on bag before you go through the security checkpoint so you don’t have to place them in a un-sanitized bin.
  • Sign up with a medical assistance provider with a global reach that can provide you with local intel, health care resources, and telehealth access.

The pandemic has redefined how we travel. The better we are at following established protocols, and new ones that may arise as we learn more about how the virus behaves, the better we will be at minimizing exposure to the disease.

Health Insurance
Detroit-based HMO provider Total Health Care, announced plans today to provide financial relief for members and employers facing challenges amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to lowered utilization of health services, Total Health Care will offer a 15 percent premium credit for its small group partners and individual plan members for July and August. Large group employers also will have an opportunity for premium credits later in the year, once the full impact of COVID-19 is clearer.

COVID-19 has caused widespread disruption to the way consumers are accessing health care. Total Health Care set premium rates for 2020 based on expected health care costs. With many health procedures either being delayed or canceled, and consumers overall accessing less health care services, the company’s expected costs have been reduced. Based on these new projections, Total Health Care decided to return these excess funds to members and employers.

Earlier this year, Total Health Care announced a merger with Priority Health. While the two companies continue to operate independently, this offer of premium relief is an example of how they are also working together for the benefit of members of both companies. Priority Health recently announced plans to return any revenue above the company’s low, 10 percent administrative rate to employers and members. The company is offering 15 percent premium credits for Small Group and Individual members for two months immediately and also offering large, fully funded employers the opportunity for premium credits in the fourth quarter.

“We recognize that many small business owners and individual members are struggling right now across Michigan, and we are constantly looking for ways to make it more affordable for them to stay covered,” says Joan Budden, President and CEO of Priority Health and a DBusiness Powered by Women honoree. “We are excited to partner with the Total Health Care leadership team to extend premium relief to their members and employer partners. We pledge to continue working together to explore additional ways to support all of our members across Michigan.”

Community Foundation Receives $500,000 from Humana Foundation
The Detroit-based Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has received $500,000 from the Humana Foundation to aid COVID-19 pandemic response.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Foundation has connected with organizations in southeast Michigan to understand the most urgent needs,” says Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation. “We appreciate the Humana Foundation’s desire to support communities deeply impacted by the crisis.  We look forward to partnering with them to quickly get resources to organizations supporting seniors and caregivers.”

The Humana Foundation’s gift is part of its April 30 announcement to commit $50 million to coronavirus relief and recovery efforts to a select group of organizations supporting essential workers, food security, behavioral health and local communities.

“The Humana Foundation understands the far-reaching strain the pandemic has placed on many organizations working on the frontlines to provide health care, food, and employment for those disproportionality affected by the COVID-19 health crisis, and our aim is to remove barriers and help them respond, recover and rebuild,” says Walter D. Woods, CEO of the Humana Foundation. “Our intention with this commitment is to not only help provide immediate crisis relief, but also serve as a catalyst in building sustainable achievement and long-term community resilience.”

Wayne State Launches Virtual Health Programming
The Wayne State University Campus Health Center in Detroit has started a “Health Programming Gone Virtual” initiative to create new ways to reach the WSU community.

Instead of attending wellness events on campus, Wayne State students, faculty, and staff can access health resources and information from the comfort of their homes.

“While we miss having the face-to-face engagement with students and our WSU community, we are making our programming available online and in different formats to best serve the changing needs of our campus,” says Erika Blaskay, community outreach nurse at WSU.

Currently, all health care resources are available via PowerPoint presentation and handouts on CHC’s Health Programming webpage. Some programs now feature recorded webinars to provide in-depth learning about these important health topics.

The next webinar is scheduled for Thursday, June 18 at noon. It is titled “Mindfulness Techniques to Cope with the Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic.” Registration can be done here.

CHC also launched an “Ask-an-Expert” engagement form that allows the Wayne State community to ask specific questions anonymously. A qualified health care provider will respond on CHC’s social media platforms the Wednesday following the form’s submission. The goal is to create a fun way to engage with each other and the CHC in a virtual environment, but Blaskay says it is important to remember that these tools are meant to help guide conversations with health care providers, not replace them.

The CHC is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to -5:30 p.m. and can see patients for physical appointments, as well as telehealth (phone) and telemedicine (video) appointments. Contact the CHC with any questions or for more information at 313-577-5041.

Collaborative Project Helps Homeless Recover from COVID-19
Detroit’s Neighborhood Service Organization has launched a collaboration project to establish a Recuperative Housing Center to help homeless or housing insecure people recover after a COVID-19 hospital stay.

The center will provide 50 beds of temporary housing and continued care for patients who need a safe place to continue their recovery. This collaboration is the first of its kind in Michigan.

The center is funded by United Way for Southeastern Michigan and McGregor Fund, and supported by the city of Detroit. The collaborative, a 90-day pilot project, looks to promote wellness, preventing avoidable rehospitalization, and allowing for more efficient use of hospital beds, especially in light of COVID-19. Historically, housing insecure individuals are returned to shelters following discharge because they do not have a permanent residence and their recovery is disrupted.

“While this project has launched during this crisis, NSO and our collaboration partners aim to continue developing long-term solutions for the health care delivery system in the space of housing, because we believe housing is healthcare,” says Linda Little, president and CEO of Neighborhood Service Organization, which is operating the center located in Detroit.

The strength of the collaboration is the engagement of health systems and community-based agencies – all working together to address the issue of housing on the health care delivery system. The experiential knowledge and outcomes from this pilot will inform long-term, sustainable solutions for this unmet need that the collaborative intends to address in the community.

Partners in this effort include Ascension Michigan, Henry Ford Health System, Authority Health, CHASS Center, Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS), and Detroit Area Agency on Aging, with NSO serving as the lead agency.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on all of us, especially the homeless and most vulnerable in our community,” says Darienne Hudson, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “We are glad to provide support for such an important, first of its kind project.”

While at the Recuperative Housing Center, patients will receive personalized case management to safely transition to a shelter or another housing solution for which they qualify. They also will receive care coordination support to assist with follow-up care and medication management, as well as access to telehealth services. Home care also can be provided, if indicated.

ITC Michigan Provides Disaster Relief Funding
Novi-based ITC Michigan, the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company, is committing funding to support disaster relief agencies that provide mental health and substance abuse support throughout Michigan.

The relief effort is part of ITC’s two-phase funding commitment to support relief agencies throughout its seven-state footprint.

“ITC Michigan has always taken an active role in the communities we serve,” says Simon Whitelocke, president of ITC Michigan. “During this extraordinary time, there are tremendous humanitarian needs across our home state. We felt it was our company’s responsibility to step up and support organizations that are making a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of so many people.”

ITC will provide funding to support the work of the state of Michigan and its COVID-19 efforts, Protect the Heroes, Camp Liberty, Common Ground, Care of Southeastern Michigan, Arbor Circle, and Child and Family Services of Saginaw. Previous relief funds were provided by ITC earlier this year to food charities throughout Michigan’s lower peninsula, and the city of Detroit Coronavirus Testing program to help transport residents to designated COVID-19 testing sites.

Through its Charitable Giving Program, ITC awards grants to qualified nonprofit organizations that deliver charitable services in the communities it serves. Grants support programs and projects that reflect ITC’s focus on education, environmental stewardship, social services, health and wellness, and arts and culture. For more information, visit here.

PPP Loan Forgiveness Compliance Services
Southfield CPA and business advisory firm Clayton and McKervey, now is offering three new services related to loan forgiveness, compliance, and consulting for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

“From the start of the PPP program, we made a decision as a firm to become knowledgeable on the loan terms, the guidance, and the follow-up regulations that continue to emerge from the SBA,” says Jim Biehl, a firm shareholder. “That decision spawned the launch of a weekly live video series in late April on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and related COVID-19 business relief opportunities that attracts upwards of 300 participants per event. Business owners and decision makers are hungry for factual information on the guidelines of the loan and using the money appropriately.”

The Clayton and McKervey loan forgiveness services offer three levels of review:

  • Loan Tracking: Helping clients determine the best use of loan proceeds to maximize loan forgiveness. The firm will assist in gathering the supporting documentation necessary to provide a clear accounting for use of funds, allowing clients to focus on their day-t0-day financial and operational issues. This is the highest level of the three compliance service offerings.
  • Forgiveness Calculator: Assisting clients with the calculation of eligible payroll costs, other eligible costs, and forgiveness limitations needed to submit to the SBA for loan forgiveness.
  • Forgiveness Review: Designed for clients who prefer to handle documentation of loan utilization and estimation of forgiveness independently, yet want oversight of their documentation to ensure the information is SBA ready.

“The role of the CPA as business advisor has never been clearer than it is now,” Biehl says. “Our clients want loan forgiveness advice from professionals who know their business and industry; they want to be assured they are receiving proper loan guidance and responsive follow-through from a trusted source.”

Forum on Social Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic
Eastern Michigan University’s Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology Department in Ypsilanti will host a virtual public forum on the social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic today at 8 p.m. via Zoom and Facebook Live.

The virtual forum, titled “How Can We Understand the Social Effects of COVID-19 in Local and Global Contexts?” will feature EMU faculty discussing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in various industries and scenarios.

Panelist expertise areas include: the effects of COVID-19 in prisons, experiences of chronic illness during the pandemic, the effects in immigrant communities (particularly those working in meatpacking), how to understand the statistics being used to describe the pandemic, and in various regions of the world, and how the pandemic has affected different social groups.

To join the forum, visit here or the department’s Facebook page.

Pandemic Relief for Dentists, Customers, and Nonprofits
Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana will provide every licensed dentist in the three-state region a $1,000 credit for dental products and services beginning this week so they can maintain care and keep our communities healthy as patients begin seeing their dentists again.

The three areas of relief are for the following:

  • Dentists: Beginning May 26, relief is open to every licensed dentist in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana (whether they participate in the Delta Dental network or not) for $1,000 in credit toward dental products and/or services including personal protective equipment for their practice. The credit is redeemable through a national dental supply distributor.
  • Customers: Announced in early May, a one-month credit of customers’ premium or administrative fees will be provided and some customers will have their rate frozen for a one-year period upon renewal.
  • Nonprofit partners: Organizations with a health and wellness focus, those that supply emergency food assistance or provide dental services were invited to apply for emergency relief grants from the Delta Dental Foundation.

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