COVID-19 Update: Stocks Rise in Early Trading, Summer Olympics on Hold, New COVID-19 Test, Marelli Suspends Operations, and More

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
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COVID-19 case map of Michigan
Courtesy of Bridge, as of March 23

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Stocks Rebound in Early Trading
Stocks increased 5 percent in early Tuesday trading largely on the news Congress is on the verge of an agreement on a nearly $2 trillion rescue package to combat the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to multiple reports.

Around the world, South Korean stocks rose 8.6 percent and Germany’s market returned 7 percent. Treasury yields increased, an indication that investors are feeling less fearful. Crude oil, which has more than halved this year, also rose.

Federal Reserve
The AP reported Monday the Federal Reserve is “unleashing its boldest effort yet to protect the U.S. economy from the coronavirus by helping companies and governments pay their bills and survive a devastating crisis.” According to the AP, “With lending in Treasury and mortgage markets threatening to shut down, the Fed announced an aggressive set of programs Monday to try to smooth out those markets. To do so, it committed to buy as much government-backed debt as it deems necessary. And for the first time ever, the Fed said it plans to buy corporate debt, too.” Reuters adds that “corporate credit investors for their part welcomed the Fed’s move, sending up prices of U.S. investment-grade corporate bond exchange-traded funds.”

Defense Production Act
The Trump administration says it expects to utilize the Defense Production Act for the first time today to obtain about 60,000 coronavirus test kits to help health care workers confront the shortage of medical supplies amid the COVID-19 crisis. Officials reported their plans to FOX News and CNN.

“There’s some test kits we need to get our hands on,” FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN said, adding that the administration also would insert “DPA language” into mass contracts for 500 million masks.

The Korean War-era provision allows the president to address the shortage of medical supplies by directing private companies to expedite the production of medical equipment.

Oil
Reuters reports the Trump Administration believes Saudi Arabia’s current pattern of flooding global oil markets compounds the global economic crash at a time of a crisis caused by coronavirus and intends to send a senior official to Riyadh to boost efforts to stabilize energy markets. An Energy Department official will work closely with U.S. State Department officials and an existing energy attache for months at the least. In addition, The Wall Street Journal reports, according to its sources, that some officials in the Energy Department want the Administration to convince Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC and form an oil alliance with the U.S. instead.

Olympics Postponed Until 2021
The International Olympic Committee, facing increased pressure from athletes and others, has postponed the 2020 Summer Olympics until next year. The games were scheduled to begin July 24 in Tokyo. This is the first time an Olympics has been postponed although three (1916, 1940, 1944) were canceled due to war.

NxGen MDx Launches COVID-19 Test
Grand Rapids-based NxGen MDx says its COVID-19 test is immediately available, helping to meet a major U.S. shortfall of diagnostic capabilities that has limited the nation’s ability to track the spread of the outbreak.

“Like the CDC-built kits, ours will be conducted on QuantStudio qPCR instrumentation and will be able to process 2,000 samples per day with tests being resulted in 24-48 hours,” says Dr. Jacqueline Peacock, director of laboratory operations at NxGen MDx.

NxGen MDx also is working to validate a 40+ respiratory pathogen panel to identify the cause of respiratory symptoms in a single test. This test is slated for launch in July.

In other testing news, San Diego’s Mesa Biotech says it has received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for its Accula SARS-CoV-2 test, which gives COVID-19 diagnostic results in 30 minutes. The testing platform designed for point-of-care infectious disease diagnosis. The COVID-19 test uses this patented technology to enable near-patient testing allowing testing outside of the central laboratory.

Marelli Suspends North American Operations
Marelli, an auto supplier based in Auburn Hills, has suspended operations in many of its North American manufacturing plants and has implemented a critical visitor only policy, virtual meetings, social distancing, and work from home practices wherever possible.

Closures will happen in a staggered fashion, with the overall duration to be evaluated every few days. In some cases, operations may continue on a reduced scale to align with customer needs.

Education
Troy’s Walsh has transitioned 100 percent of all courses and student services to remote delivery in a week’s time. On March 13, Walsh moved all exams, classes, and student services to a remote delivery format. Final exams were converted and administered remotely the week of March 16. Spring semester, starting March 30, will be 100 percent remote delivery and all Walsh locations will remain closed until April 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many other high schools and colleges around the state also have moved to remote learning solutions during the crisis.

Current and prospective Walsh students can meet with an advisor by phone or virtually Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Email advising@walshcollege.edu or admissions@walshcollege.edu.

Registration for spring semester is open through April 5. Classes begin March 30.

Dow
Midland-based Dow today announced a commitment of $3 million to help fund COVID-19 relief efforts with donations going towards global relief organizations (COVID-19 Solidarity Fund and Direct Relief), as well as non-profits in communities where Dow operates. In addition, the company announced it has begun producing hand sanitizer at its manufacturing site in Stade, Germany, and is repurposing an existing facility to produce hand sanitizer in the U.S., as well. In Germany, the production includes 300 tons of hand sanitizer per month, equivalent to 600,000 standard bottles (500ml each), which will be donated to pharmacies and hospitals in Stade, Germany and other regions in Germany. The company also said it is rapidly repurposing an existing facility to produce hand sanitizer in the U.S. More information about the latter effort will be shared soon.

Employment – CVS
CVS Health is awarding bonuses to employees who are required to be at CVS facilities to assist patients and customers during the COVID-19 crisis. Bonuses will range from $150 to $500 and will be awarded to pharmacists and certain other health care professionals on the frontlines, store associates, and managers, and other site-based hourly employees.

The company also is embarking on the most ambitious hiring drive in its history, with plans to immediately fill 50,000 full-time, part-time, and temporary roles across the country. Roles include store associates, home delivery drivers, distribution center employees, and member/customer service professionals.

Medical Supplies – Karmanos
Karmanos Cancer Institute is asking the community to donate protective gear and supplies to protect health care workers and cancer patients from COVID-19. Karmanos currently has the supplies needed to care for patients and protect staff, however, as this situation evolves, it may need additional materials. COVID-19 poses an increased risk to cancer patients, making it imperative for healthcare workers and patients to be protected. Among cancer patients, people with blood malignancies are believed to be at the highest risk for coronavirus complications. Patients who are in active chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant patients are also at risk.

The center is asking for new or unused:

  • Disposable face masks
  • N95 masks, sometimes called respirators
  • Eye protection including face shields and safety goggles
  • Wipes: bleach or antimicrobial
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disposable gowns
  • Disposable gloves, especially powder-free non-latex
  • Powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR) hoods

Drop donations of supplies at the main entrance of Karmanos Cancer Institute: 4100 John R in

Detroit, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. A drop box will be located near the front entrance. For questions, contact purchasing@karmanos.org. Monetary donations also are being accepted here.

Emergency Food
With an additional 1 million school-age children, laid off workers, and a growing number needing emergency food, Michigan’s seven regional food banks continue to serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each day, they prepare for the escalating demand while facing a shortage of volunteers to sort and distribute essential food. For distribution, all food banks have adopted mobile drive-through distributions that limit personal interaction while still distributing emergency food. Pallets of boxed food are set up, team members gather necessary information, and resident receive 30-40 pounds of highly nutritional food that equates to 35-40 meals per box.

To donate, call the Food Bank Council of Michigan at 517.485.1202 or visit https://www.fbcmich.org/covid-19/.

COVID-19 Business Webinar
Detroit law firm Dykema is presenting a free webinar on Wednesday, March 25, between 1-1:45 p.m. on the ramifications of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires all public employers, and all private employers with 500 employees or fewer, to provide two weeks paid sick leave to all employees, and to provide up to 12 weeks leave (with 10 weeks paid) to employees who have to take time off to care for children who are at home because of a school or daycare closure. The new law will impose significant new requirements on all employers when it goes into effect on April 2. During the webinar, Dykema labor and employment attorneys Jim Hermon and Dan Stern will discuss the act and address many frequent questions being asked by employers. Please submit questions in advance to sminjoe@dykema.com. To register, visit https://bit.ly/2UeJEae

Education
The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) received preliminary approval over the weekend from the U.S. Department of Education to waive a number of federal requirements for statewide student testing and school accountability.

State Board of Education President Dr. Casandra Ulbrich and State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on March 17, to urge the secretary to grant a nationwide waiver of statewide student assessments in favor of focusing on the more immediate needs of children.

The U.S. Department of Education responded last Friday by offering every state the opportunity to submit expedited waiver requests for a number of federal testing and accountability requirements. MDE submitted its request late Friday afternoon.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Education heard our call to waive the federal requirement for statewide student testing,” Dr. Rice said. “We now need the Michigan legislature to amend state law that requires statewide testing and accountability.”

If the public or local school districts would like to comment on this federal assessment and accountability waiver request, they can do so through the email address: mde-essa@michigan.gov.

Charitable Activities
Southfield-based nonprofit Beyond Basics is trying to provide $250 to 100 COVID-19-impacted families it has identified through its Family Literacy Center at the Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit. The families need assistance with food, household supplies, and gas. Visit here to donate. Contact Pamela Good at 248-918-3543 for more information. Other resources include here for free meals for kids, and here for free resources for learning while schools are closed.

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