COVID-19 Update: State Issues Orders to Protect Nursing Homes, MEDC Awards Nearly $1M to 22 Communities for Small Businesses, 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.
map of Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of June 15

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 Issues Order to Protect Nursing Homes from COVID-19
In a long-anticipated report that Michigan officials took weeks to produce, one of every three deaths from COVID-19 was a nursing home patient, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The report, released Monday, showed there were 1,947 deaths among nursing home patients, along with 20 deaths from staff members, due to the virus.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer repeatedly signed executive orders that called for nursing home patients being treated at hospitals for COVID-19 be placed back in their nursing homes, which risked infecting other residents and workers. Even with this new list, the state has yet to provide death totals from the virus at assisted living facilities, homes for the aged, and foster care facilities.

To help protect residents and staff at nursing facilities from COVID-19, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon Monday issued an order requiring regular testing and timely and accurate reporting of cases, deaths, personal protective equipment, and staffing shortages.

“We took the time to make today’s report as accurate as possible,” Gordon says. “And now we’re doing everything in our power to protect nursing facility residents through mandatory testing, support for adequate staffing, and new efforts at infection control.”

The order requires nursing facilities to conduct the following COVID-19 testing for residents and staff:

  • Initial testing of all residents and staff.
  • Testing of all new or returning residents during intake unless tested within 72 hours of intake.
  • Testing of any resident or staff member with symptoms or suspected exposure.
  • Weekly testing of all previously negative residents and staff in facilities with any positive cases among residents or staff, until 14 days after the last new positive result.
  • Weekly testing of all staff in regions of medium or higher risk on the MI Safe Start Map.
  • Testing of all staff in Regions 1 through 5 and 7, at least once between the date of this order and July 3.

“AARP strongly supports the testing mandate in Michigan nursing homes,” says Paula D. Cunningham, state director of AARP. “The sad fate of so many older adults in long-term care facilities is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Setting up and implementing a comprehensive plan for testing of staff and residents is among the essential steps necessary to overturn this abject tragedy.”

Nursing facilities are required to submit plans for testing by June 22 and to implement those plans by June 29. Facility staff who are not permitted to come to work because they test positive for COVID-19 are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. The Unemployment Insurance Agency says it is committed to working with nursing facilities throughout the process of filing for unemployment on behalf of their employees.

MDHHS also announced several additional efforts to protect nursing facility residents:

  • Direct support for rapid response staff who can provide immediate support to long-term care facilities facing urgent staffing shortages due to COVID. Beginning in southeast and west Michigan, the Department will help to make available, for up to 14 days, registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, personal care aides, and other key staff.
  • Coordination with Doctors Without Borders to help identify long-term care facilities in need of assistance with their infection prevention and control practices. Doctors Without Borders is sending mobile teams to assess facility practices and provide tailored recommendations for improvement.
  • Improved targeting of the Infection Prevention Resource and Assessment Team, which is helping nursing facilities complete the CDC Infection Control and Assessment Response Tool.

Additional information about these efforts is available on the MDHHS website.

MDHHS also announced the results of its comprehensive effort to validate nursing facility data on COVID-related cases and deaths. As of June 14, there have been 7,163 cases and 1,947 deaths among patients in nursing facilities with 4,919 patients recovered or recovering. In addition, there have been 3,133 cases and 20 deaths among staff. This represents cumulative data recorded since Jan. 1. These numbers reflect an extensive data validation effort led by DHHS, involving outreach to each of the state’s nursing facilities to confirm key data fields, ensure that facilities were aware of state and federal reporting expectations, and troubleshoot barriers to reporting.

Gov. Whitmer also signed Executive Order 2020-123, which extends her previous order protecting staff and residents in long-term care facilities from the spread of COVID-19, including by ensuring that employees who stay home when exhibiting symptoms are protected from adverse action.

Laura Cox, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, called on Whitmer to testify before the Legislature about the decisions related to nursing homes, according to The Detroit News.

“Due to Gov. Whitmer’s failed policies regarding nursing homes, nursing home residents make up more than 34 percent of those who have lost their fight to the COVID-19 virus,” Cox said Monday. “These shocking numbers come even though nursing home residents comprise less than 1 percent of Michigan residents.”

MEDC Awards Nearly $1M in COVID-19 Recovery Grants to 22 Communities
Twenty-two communities around Michigan have been awarded a total of $993,984 in grants supporting the COVID-19 economic recovery efforts of small local businesses throughout the state, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. announced Monday.

The grants are being awarded through an expansion of MEDC’s Match on Main program. A total of 299 small businesses around Michigan are receiving assistance through the program.

“Michigan’s small businesses and traditional downtowns are the heart of our communities, and by providing communities with resources to engage in economic recovery efforts we can help ensure our downtowns not only recover, but thrive,” says Mark A. Burton, CEO of MEDC. “The Match on Main grants will help Michigan’s downtown businesses recover from the loss of revenue as a result of the COVID-19 virus and support workers they employ in these communities.”

In May, MEDC announced that its existing Match on Main program was being expanded to provide access to more communities and refocusing resources on recovery efforts of existing businesses, rather than helping open new businesses. Community-based organizations such as downtown development authorities could apply for grant funding through Match on Main to then make local grants to small businesses located within their districts that have realized a significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Match on Main COVID-19 Response program was opened up to all 286 engaged and certified Redevelopment Ready Communities across the state of Michigan, in addition to the Michigan Main Street communities that traditionally participate in the program. The expanded program also waived the matching requirement for the small business applicant which is required to receive funding under the traditional Match on Main program.

The local unit of government, downtown development authority, Main Street organization, or other economic development organization that represents a traditional commercial district including a downtown, neighborhood commercial district, or an area planned and zoned for concentrated commercial development was eligible to apply for up to $50,000. The minimum contribution that was able to be administered to any one business must be at least $2,000, with a maximum of $10,000. Applicants determined which businesses were selected for inclusion in the application for support and at what desired grant amounts. The application window was May 13 through May 29.

To see a full list of grant recipients, visit here.

Oakland County Joins MSU Study of Coronavirus Presence in Wastewater
The Oakland County Water Resources Commission is participating in a Michigan State University project to monitor the presence of viruses in wastewater as a way to evaluate and predict the presence of COVID-19 in community populations. The MSU program monitors for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus — which causes COVID-19 — in sewage from wastewater facilities.

Beginning in April, WRC began providing weekly wastewater samples to MSU from three locations in the sanitary collection system which discharges to the Clinton River Water Resource Recovery Facility in Pontiac for treatment. The Clinton River facility treats sanitary sewage for Auburn Hills, Independence Township, Lake Angelus, Lake Orion, Oakland Township, Orion Township, Oxford Township, the Village of Oxford, Pontiac, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Waterford Township, and West Bloomfield Township.

“We very much appreciate the chance to partner with Michigan State University in its monitoring program,” says Jim Nash, commissioner of the Oakland County Water Resources Commission. “This type of science-based assessment with real-time testing may someday help supply the data our area needs to make smart decisions about reopening Oakland County communities and campuses and about preparing for impending waves of COVID-19.”

By genetically examining untreated wastewater, scientists should be able to monitor the increasing or decreasing spread of COVID-19 in a community, the speed of the spread, second waves, the impact of social distancing, and the effect of reopening cities. Viruses in the sewage system do not present any threat to the public because the sewage is contained within the system’s pipes until it reaches the treatment facility.

The monitoring, which uses a form of polymerase chain reaction testing to detect genetic materials associated with the virus, may help identify hotspots, provide early warnings, and eventually help reflect the effectiveness of vaccination.

The average time between an individual’s acquiring the virus and the onset of COVID-19 symptoms is approximately two weeks. In understanding that timeline, public health officials could possibly predict impending disease spikes and better prepare for the demands on hospitals and resources that are likely to result. They could better contain potential infections from the scale of a single cruise ship to the expanse of a college campus or large city.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department also has furnished sewage samples for the study, which similarly has gathered samples from the main trunk line in the MSU sanitary sewer collection system and from various other parts of the campus to serve as pre-infection baseline samples. Further samples have been collected from communities across Michigan, as well as from New Orleans, La. The MSU researchers intend to collect new samples weekly once the campus reopens, and an advisory team will meet to discuss sampling results and next steps.

The project initially was designed to provide information on the potential infections and spread of the virus as students, faculty, and staff return to the Michigan State campus. It is based on an earlier approach toward sewage surveillance for poliovirus that was adopted by the World Health Organization.

Bank of America Announces $1B/4-Year Commitment to Support Economic Opportunity
Bank of America recently announced that it is making a $1 billion, four-year commitment of additional support to help local communities address economic and racial inequality accelerated by a global pandemic. The programs will be focused on assisting people and communities of color that have experienced a greater impact from the health crisis.

“Underlying economic and social disparities that exist have accelerated and intensified during the global pandemic,” says Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America. “The events of the past week have created a sense of true urgency that has arisen across our nation, particularly in view of the racial injustices we have seen in the communities where we work and live. We all need to do more.”

The work builds on economic mobility and workforce development programs Bank of America already supports in local markets, but will sharpen the focus of that work, accelerate the resources, and add a particular emphasis on health services during the pandemic. The announcement is aligned with the company’s commitment to responsible growth for clients, shareholders, employees, and communities.

Areas of focus will be:

  • Health
  • Jobs, training, reskilling, and upskilling
  • Support to small businesses
  • Housing

The programs will be executed through the company’s 91 local U.S. market presidents and non-U.S. country executives to help develop the opportunities to execute on these commitments in areas that include:

  • Virus testing, telemedicine, flu vaccination clinics, and other health services, with a special focus on communities of color.
  • Partnerships with historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions in the United States for hiring, research programs, and other areas of mutual opportunity.
  • Support to minority-owned small businesses, including clients and vendors.
  • Career reskilling/upskilling through partnerships with high schools and community colleges.
  • Operating support and investment for affordable housing/neighborhood revitalization, leveraging the bank’s nearly $5 billion in Community Development Banking.
  • Further recruitment and retention of teammates in low-to-moderate-income and disadvantaged communities to build on work the company has already done to serve clients locally.

This work builds on steps the company already has taken, including an additional $100 million to support its nonprofit partners across its communities, and $250 million to assist with lending to the smallest and minority-owned businesses through its support to community development financial and minority depository institutions.

$3M Scholarship Fund to Expand Access to Tech Boot Camps at 30 Universities Including MSU
2U Inc., a Maryland-based education technology company, in partnership with more than 30 top non-profit universities nationwide including the Michigan State University College of Engineering in East Lansing, have launched a $3-million scholarship fund designed to expand access to critical tech training boot camps for historically underrepresented candidates experiencing job loss or financial hardship.

Scholarships of $2,500 each will be available to Black, Latino, and Indigenous learners, as well as women, demonstrating both need and merit. These scholarships, made possible through the commitment of 2U’s partner network, can be applied to more than 100 online tech boot camps, spanning fields including coding, data analytics, cybersecurity, fintech, digital marketing, and UX/UI.

“As the economic impact of the pandemic continues to unfold, millions of people have seen their livelihoods disappear overnight, with people of color and women disproportionately affected,” says Christopher Paucek, co-founder and CEO of 2U. “Many of these jobs — especially in sectors already at risk of automation — aren’t coming back. This scholarship fund removes barriers for workers who are traditionally underrepresented in the tech industry by increasing the affordability of top university boot camps across 2U’s network. Our partners have always made supporting diverse learners central to their boot camps, and these scholarships will put life-changing tech training within even closer reach at a time when people need it most.”

In addition to the scholarship fund, 2U has begun rolling out a 24-month, no-interest payment plan option for students enrolling in select boot camps across its university partner network. The payment plan further increases the affordability of tech training programs at an urgent moment for workers across the nation.

More than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment since states across the U.S. shut down to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 95 percent of workers in low-income households experiencing job loss or a loss of income, according to Gallup. More than a third of Americans say they will need training or education to find new jobs, says the Strada Education Network. Tech jobs have been some of the most resilient roles in the current economic downturn, with many industries now accelerating their digital transformation, automation, and e-commerce efforts. Boot camps are seeing record levels of interest as workers look to both reskill and upskill to increase their employment opportunities.

Code Ninjas Macomb Launches Contest to Give Back to Deserving Families
Code Ninjas Macomb, a coding center for kids in Macomb Township, is offering a chance for free coding camp to families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a part of Code Ninjas’ national campaign that is giving a total of 100 free camps to deserving families.

The contest, which launched Monday, also will include a limited-time camp discount for all participating families.

Through the 100 Free Camps Giveaway, Code Ninjas Macomb says it hopes to provide a little relief to families during this difficult time, from essential workers and first responders to overwhelmed parents. Code Ninjas Camps, whether in-person or virtual, are a fun and engaging way for children to learn how to code and gain life-changing skills. Deserving families will get the benefit of the fun and educational value these camps provide, without the cost.

Through June 28, 2020, families can enter the 100 Free Camps Giveaway by filling out the entry form here. Participants will select Code Ninjas Macomb as their preferred location, submit their contact information and explain why their family should win a free week of camp. Participants can also nominate deserving families in their entry. Bonus points will be awarded to participants who include their Instagram handle and post about the contest using the hashtag #100FreeCamps.

By submitting the form, participants also will unlock access to a 10 percent discount off available camps at Code Ninjas Macomb for the duration of the contest period. Code Ninjas will select and notify the winners to claim their free week of coding camp around July 10.

“At Code Ninjas Macomb, we’re proud to provide fun and enriching experiences to kids in our community,” says Jason Umphrey, owner of Code Ninjas Macomb. We’ve seen how coding changes lives, and with our lives forever changed in the wake of recent events, we wanted to do our part in giving back. We hope these free camps will not only show our appreciation, but offer families and their kids the skills they’ll be able to utilize for the rest of their lives.”

Code Ninjas Camps feature engaging topics for kids to explore coding, STEM, robotics, video game building and much more. Guided by a team of Code Senseis, the camps are available both in-person and virtually. Code Ninjas Macomb is committed to the health and safety of families within the Macomb community. In accordance with local regulations, Code Ninjas Macomb is prepared to re-open by adhering to strict safety procedures including cleanliness and social distancing. Learn more here.

Code Ninjas teaches kids to code by building their own video games in a fun, safe, and inspiring environment. With a robust, nine-belt curriculum inspired by martial arts, Code Ninjas keeps kids engaged, while parents see their children gain life-changing critical thinking, teamwork and STEM skills.

JVS Human Services Offers Webinars for Job Seekers and Employees
JVS Human Services in Southfield is supporting out-of-work metro Detroiters during the pandemic, along with those faced with the challenges of working from home, with a series of twice-weekly interactive webinars called “The Road Ahead.”

The series of Facebook Live webinars was created in response to the disruption in work life that many metro Detroiters have faced and continue to experience, as well as the need for people to get rapid and practical help with employment.

Topics, dates, and times for “The Road Ahead” webinars include:

  • Mastering LinkedIn for Networking, Thursday, June 18, at 3 p.m.
  • Returning to Work after Furlough, Tuesday, June 23, at 10 a.m.
  • Gig Work for Unemployed Professionals, Thursday, June 25, at 3 p.m.
  • Rights and Responsibilities at Work, Tuesday, June 30, at 10 a.m.
  • Strategies for Working from Home, Tuesday, July 7, at 10 a.m.
  • Overcoming Age Discrimination, Tuesday, July 14, at 10 a.m.

The programs run for 30 minutes, with 10 of those minutes dedicated to answering viewers’ questions.

For more information, visit here.

U-M Medical Students Support Homeless Shelters
A student-run program at the University of Michigan Medical School’s Wolverine Street Medicine in Ann Arbor that brings medical care to the southeast Michigan homeless population has had to adapt in the face of COVID-19.

As the pandemic forced medical schools across the country to pull students from clinical settings, leaders of the Wolverine Street Medicine initiative recognized that the population served by their program would be especially vulnerable to COVID.

“It occurred to me that, if even people with means are having a hard time buying hand sanitizer right now because stores are out, what does that mean for the homeless population?” says first-year medical school student Kenzie Corbin. “Shelters are crowded spaces. Anything can spread like wildfire in there.”

Wolverine Street Medicine, a program in which Michigan Medicine students help care for southwest Michigan’s vulnerable homeless population through supervised clinic services in local shelters and sometimes on the street, is an important organization.

“You read about homelessness all you want but interacting with it hands-on gives you a different perspective,” says Claire Garpestad, a third-year medical school student and also the organization’s co-director of operations. “It makes you want to be a physician who is able to serve people from all different backgrounds and all different walks of life.”

The students turned Wolverine Street Medicine into a distribution network for donated hygiene and health supplies for the region’s homeless, including homemade hand sanitizers. Student volunteers signed up to receive kits to make sanitizer at home. Each kit includes a CDC-sanctioned sanitizer recipe along with a funnel, aloe, isopropyl alcohol, and 30-count bag of 2-ounce plastic bottles that were designed for the kitchen but are being repurposed for health care.

“They are actually for cookie frosting, but we are able to buy them in bulk online and they are the perfect size” for individual hand sanitizer bottles, Corbin says. “The students have a one-week timeframe to use the kits and return the sanitizers to us. We see this as a more sustainable way to involve more students, make more hand sanitizer, and keep the social distancing to a maximum.”

Hundreds of mini-bottles of sanitizer have been distributed to shelters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Detroit through the students’ efforts.

“It’s no secret that PPE and other health supplies have been really hard to get your hands on,” says Dan Kelly, executive director of the Washtenaw County Shelter Association. “In the middle of the crisis, we’re focused on keeping folks safe and giving them a place to social distance. You need something as simple as hand sanitizer in order to do that successfully. What Wolverine Street Medicine has been doing is incredibly appreciated.”

The students have some institutional funding but are partially reliant on product donations. In addition to sanitizer, the student groups have collected and distributed disinfectant wipes, surgical gloves, masks, and hygiene and meal kits to remain connected to the region’s homeless community through the pandemic.

Meadow Brook Hall Set to Reopen Friday
Meadow Brook Hall, on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester Hills, will open the house and grounds for public touring beginning Friday, June 19.

The National Historic Landmark will be open to the public for visitation and touring on Fridays through Tuesdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with last admittance at 3 p.m. Exclusive hours for vulnerable populations are Sundays and Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to noon.

The Hall will offer self-guided touring throughout all three levels of the house with special insight from a new visitor app. Meadow Brook will monitor self-guided touring to ensure physical distancing is maintained.

“We are excited to share our plans to reopen the house and grounds to the public — with a number of new activities and visitor experiences,” says Shannon O’Berski, director of external relations at Meadow Brook Hall. “We will continue to prioritize guest safety as we welcome the community back to Meadow Brook.”

Outside, the grounds feature 16 gardens and lawns that will be available for to picnics. Lawn games will be set up in the Rock Garden lawn that allow for physical distancing. The garages also will be open to display the Hall’s collection of vintage Dodge cars.

Admission is $10 per person and $5 for children aged 6-12. Children 5 and under are free and seniors aged 62 and over are $7. Guest safety is Meadow Brook’s top priority. In order to protect the community, guests must wear a face covering in enclosed spaces and maintain physical distancing by staying 6 feet apart from others.

For more information, visit here.

Taste of Dearborn Changes Date to Aug. 6
Taste of Dearborn, hosted by the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Jim Thorpe and Ameriprise Financial, has been rescheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6, from 6-9:30 pm.

The event allows attendees to sample menu items from several participating Dearborn eateries restaurants. General admission tickets are available for $35 and include appetizers from participating restaurants in West Downtown Dearborn. General admission and wine tasting tickets are available here or by calling 313-584-6100. Tickets are on sale now. Save $5 with the coupon code: EARLYBIRD!

Les Stanford Cadillac once again serves as the host for the Wine and Beer Tasting Reception. VIP’s begin at this location and enjoy substantial appetizers and samples provided by LaPita Mediterranean Cuisine and entertainment, 5-7:30 pm. A limited number of tickets are available for this exclusive reception for $50 per couple. Pre- registration is required to attend the reception.

Emagine Entertainment to Host Juneteenth Film Festival to Benefit UNCF
Troy-based Emagine Entertainment Inc. will host a Juneteenth Film Festival to benefit United Negro College Fund, beginning June 19, at its facility at 200 N. Main St. in Royal Oak.

All proceeds from the film festival, which will run at least a week, will go to the UNCF. Tickets will cost $10 and can be purchased here.

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated on June 19 that recognizes the end of slavery and celebrates the culture and achievements of African Americans. The Juneteenth Film Festival will feature films that honor black performers, writers, directors, and filmmakers as well as showcasing films that present compelling moral stories and educate on racism and black history.

Some of the featured films will include “Do the Right Thing,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” and “The Color Purple.” Emagine Royal Oak will be open exclusively for the Juneteenth Film Festival, and all films and showtimes will be dedicated to supporting this messaging.

“We believe in the healing power of film and the benefits it can bring to our community,” says Paul Glantz, chairman of Emagine Entertainment. “We are passionate about diversity, inclusion, film, and education. We feel that by taking action and celebrating this film festival in partnership with UNCF that we will be able to raise money and support and empower black youth in our communities.”

In preparation for opening, Emagine Royal Oak underwent a thorough cleaning and disinfecting program and instituted a variety of protocols to ensure the cleanliness of the venue for employees and guests, as well as new social distancing procedures.

Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance through Emagine’s website or app, which will allow them to select seats and provide contactless ticketing.

For a complete list of film festival showtimes, visit here.

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