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 Updates Safer Dining Program for Restaurants
As restaurants throughout Michigan reopen at limited capacity today, the state is expanding its MI COVID-19 Safer Dining Program.
Under the voluntary program, restaurants utilize a licensed HVAC contractor or engineer to inspect their ventilation systems and receive recommended changes to improve circulation within their workplace and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. The program’s parameters are based on the best guidance available from the CDC, EPA, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
The program, directed by the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), will help make restaurants operate more safely — for their workforce, diners and local communities — and help diners identify restaurants committed to safer operation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants are encouraged to have their HVAC system inspected to ensure effective ventilation. Proper and efficient HVAC systems or other ventilation changes, along with compliance with MDHHS and MIOSHA orders and guidance, can lower the probability of transmission in indoor settings.
Once restaurants successfully complete the voluntary process, they will receive a certificate to post at their establishments that verifies their participation.
“This voluntary program compliments the state’s outreach and educational efforts related to HVAC and other workplace safety programs,” says Sean Egan, director of workplace safety at LEO. “We remain committed to helping businesses implement processes and techniques to maximize safety through layered mitigation strategies, and this program is another opportunity for businesses to do just that.”
Businesses can begin the process now by visiting here to download the program participation forms to comply with the Michigan Safer Dining program and further mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in indoor dining locations.
The website also offers a variety of support resources for restaurants and other businesses, including resources to locate licensed HVAC contractors across Michigan.
In Related News, the owners of Roman Village in Dearborn, along with Antonio’s Piccolo Ristorante in Livonia, and Antonio’s Cucina Italiana (Canton Township, Dearborn Heights, and Farmington Hills) have announced a Staff Appreciation Day on Feb. 2. The Rugiero family, which owns the restaurants, will donate half of the proceeds from the day of sales (dine-in, curbside pickup, delivery) and will distribute it to the staff. The program does not include banquets, deposits, or deferred orders for a later date. For more information about the restaurants, visit https://antoniosrestaurants.com/.
Beaumont Identifies Online Vaccine Scheduling Vulnerability
The information technology team at Beaumont Health, Michigan’s largest health care system, detected and shut down unusual activity Saturday related to online COVID-19 vaccination scheduling on Beaumont’s electronic medical record system.
The Beaumont team determined a user took advantage of a scheduling tool vulnerability and shared an unauthorized scheduling pathway publicly. This allowed 2,700 people to “cut in line” and register for an unauthorized vaccine appointment. Beaumont is cancelling all the appointments that used the unauthorized pathway.
Beaumont also immediately notified the national Epic corporate office of Epic, which supplies the tool, so it could communicate with other health systems to prevent this from occurring elsewhere.
Individuals who scheduled an appointment using the unauthorized “backdoor” pathway will be notified that their appointment has been cancelled via the email they provided during the unauthorized scheduling process.
“These appointments violate the ethical distribution framework Beaumont created based upon the State of Michigan’s mandatory vaccine guidelines,” says Hans Keil, senior vice president and chief information officer at Beaumont Health. “We regret 2,700 people in our community became victims of this unfortunate incident. We remain committed to vaccinating as many people as possible who meet the State’s guidelines. We are also notifying the Michigan Hospital Association and other Michigan health systems about the issue.”
This incident did not compromise anyone’s personal medical record, nor did it allow outsiders access to any hospital records. The pathway simply allowed users to schedule an unauthorized appointment that circumvented the current Michigan mandates.
Beaumont will continue sending email invitations to people who meet the state’s criteria to schedule their COVID-19 vaccine. This incident will not interrupt ongoing vaccination operations. Anyone who has scheduled his or her vaccine appointment through Beaumont’s standard process is unaffected by this issue.
Unemployment Claimants Can Now Reopen or Certify Claims
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has completed system updates for the recently extended federal unemployment insurance programs and claimants whose claims ended when CARES Act programs were interrupted in December can now either reopen, certify, or apply for benefits available under the Continued Assistance Act.
The CAA allows Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants an additional 11 weeks of benefits payable for the week ending Jan. 2 through March 13. Payments also include the additional $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) weekly benefit.
New PUA claims can now be filed online here.
PUA claimants who exhausted their original entitlement of benefits prior to Dec. 26, 2020 also can now reopen their claim to receive an additional 11 weeks of benefits, payable retroactively, beginning with the week ending Jan. 2, 2021. Claimants have or will receive notification by email, through their MiWAM account or by mail alerting them to the availability of the additional weeks.
A new provision under the CAA requires PUA claimants to submit proof of employment or self-employment to maintain eligibility. For example, claimants need documentation showing their employment or self-employment for the tax year prior to when they filed their original claim for benefits. Individuals who filed their original PUA claim in 2020 need documentation to support employment in 2019. New PUA applications filed in 2021 should include supportive documentation of employment in 2020.
Appropriate documents can include tax documents, paycheck stubs, state or federal employer identification numbers, business licenses, business receipts, or a signed affidavit.
Claimants should not submit this documentation until they receive a notice instructing them where to upload it and the timelines for doing so.
PEUC claimants who exhausted their previous entitlement will be able to reopen their claim to receive an additional 11 weeks of benefits, payable retroactively, beginning with the week ending Jan. 2, 2021. Claimants have or will receive notification by email, through their MiWAM account or by mail alerting them to the availability of the additional weeks.
Workers on regular state UI benefits will no longer receive the PEUC extension automatically. The CAA now requires workers to submit an application. Once a worker has exhausted their state UI benefits, they will need to log into their MiWAM account and click on, “Additional Information Required – click here to file an extension.”
One final provision the agency continues to develop is the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program, which allows workers who earned at least $5,000 in self-employment income to apply for an additional $100 per week in supplemental benefits. MEUC is payable from Dec. 27, 2020 through March 13, 2021.
Claimants should continue to monitor their MiWAM account and the UIA website for updates.
Wayne State Receives $1.2M to Help Veterans Complete College
Wayne State University in Detroit has received $1.2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education to supplement student success services for military veterans over five years.
The $1.2 million Veterans — Student Support Services grant enhances services provided by the Office of Military Veterans Academic Excellence. The grant will serve 120 currently enrolled student veterans each academic year and provide intensive advising, career preparation, financial aid information, and benefits assistance.
“Given the unique needs of our undergraduate veteran population, the VET-SSS grant will provide WSU with the additional resources needed to fully actualize our vision of truly comprehensive veteran academic support services on campus,” says Matthew McLain, assistant director of OMVAE.
The grant is a collaborative effort between OMVAE and of the Office of Federal TRIO Programs’ Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program, which helps veterans transition from the classroom to the workforce.
“The VET-SSS program is designed to make a significant contribution to the student-veteran experience,” says Henry Robinson, senior director of the Office of Federal TRIO. “The Office of Military Veterans Academic Excellence and Veterans Upward Bound provide high-quality services and programs dedicated to meeting the academic support needs of this dynamic group of students.”
In addition to the services offered to student veterans through OMVAE and VUB, WSU offers a 50 percent tuition discount to active-duty military personnel, the largest tuition benefit program for currently serving personal offered by any four-year institution in Michigan.
The grant program is actively recruiting undergraduate military veterans attending Wayne State University. Interested veterans should email Matthew McLain at email@example.com or Joshua McGruther at firstname.lastname@example.org to apply or to receive more information.
Macomb Community College Awarded Grant to Support Advanced Auto Tech Education
Macomb Community College in Warren was awarded a $35,000 grant from the Margaret Dunning Foundation to purchase advanced driver assistance system service and calibration equipment.
The purchase will help expand the experience of Macomb’s automotive technology students with connected and automated vehicles.
The ADAS service and calibration equipment is used to diagnose and repair ADAS systems such as blind spot detection, cross traffic alerts, and adaptive cruise control. Macomb students studying automotive technology will use the ADAS service and calibration equipment to learn how these systems work, how to diagnose issues, how to conduct repairs, and calibrate sensors.
“This new equipment enables us to provide our automotive students with a state-of-the-art education in ADAS systems, making them better prepared for the workplace,” says Ben Cruz, director of the Center for Advanced Automotive Technology at Macomb Community College. “As the automotive industry continues the shift to connected and automated vehicles, ADAS-enabled vehicles are more and more common every day. To keep pace, employers are looking to hire technicians with hands-on experience with these systems.”
New Standard Opens Cannabis Provisioning Center in Sand Lake
A new recreational-only cannabis provisionary, operated by New Standard, is open in Sand Lake, north or Grand Rapids. It is the second New Standard cannabis dispensary in Michigan.
In addition to renovating the vacant West Michigan Snowmobile Museum building, the store will employ 15 people and bring tax revenue to the village of Sand Lake. The store carries a wide variety of cannabis products, from flower to concentrates, edibles, and tinctures.
“Our team is dedicated to the communities where our cannabis businesses are located, and you’ll find New Standard Sand Lake to be no exception,” says Greg Maki, a co-founder of New Standard Sand Lake. “I’m a firm believer that people should be able to buy cannabis close to where they live.”
New Standard Sand Lake is located at 29 E. Lake St. in Sand Lake.
“Our team brings cannabis and community together to create a thoughtful, curated, and comfortable environment where the cannabis connoisseur, the cannabis curious, and everyone in between is able to come into our store and feel like we’re here for them,” says Howard Luckoff, a co-founder and CEO of New Standard.
Michigan Doctor Launches Go Fund Me for Cancer Patient
Dr. Mark Roby, an integrative physician who works in Novi, has started a Go Fund Me for Wayne resident Ted Kaschuk, who not only has lung cancer but has had a stroke, an accident, and a pile of bills. All in the middle of a pandemic.
“Ted’s story is one that’s close to home for me,” says Roby. “As a cancer survivor myself, I know all too well the challenges that come with fighting this battle. I suffered near bankruptcy just to pay the medical bills, and I never would have made it through if it weren’t for the help of friends. Now, I want to help Ted.”
Last May, Kaschuk was admitted to the hospital with stomach trouble. There, they found that he had lung cancer that needed immediate treatment. He underwent radiation and is now undergoing a very long stretch of chemotherapy. He also suffered a stroke in August, and on Christmas he fell and broke his hand while unplugging his Christmas tree lights.
“We think we’ve got this life and that we can go on and on, and then all of a sudden you realize you might die tomorrow,” says Kaschuk. “We don’t realize how quick it can happen.”
Kaschuk works as a freight handler at Home Depot, and can’t return to work until his hand heals and he is stronger. He needs help with the considerable medical bills that are accumulating, as well as rent and living costs.
“I know he’s a survivor,” says Roby. “He is certainly an inspiration to me. It takes a village to help a cancer patient. If you haven’t had cancer, you might not know the toll it takes both financially and physically.”
To donate, visit here.