COVID-19 Update: TechTown’s Toast of the Town Benefit Goes Virtual, Michigan Health Insurers to Provide Free Virus Testing and Treatment Through 2020, 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 Sept. 19

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.

TechTown’s Toast of the Town Benefit Goes Virtual Oct. 1
TechTown Detroit’s annual Toast of the Town benefit and award ceremony honoring the city’s entrepreneurial spirit will take place virtually on Oct. 1 from 4-5 p.m. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will stream here.

Online guests will see TechTown President and CEO Ned Staebler share his vision for how everyone can come together to rebuild our economy in a way that is inclusive and equitable, while celebrating the spirit of the small business owner.

This year’s Salute Awards for TechTown clients will be presented to Mature and Detroit Maid, two Detroit-based small businesses. These local companies are being recognized for embodying the spirit of entrepreneurship and leveraging the many resources found at TechTown and in Detroit’s small business community.

Mature was founded by brothers Darryl and DeKoven Humes, who focus their work on gaining the trust of style-conscious consumers through a simple model of positivity, style, and attractive character.

Founded by Detroiter Danielle Parker Smith in 2013, Detroit Maid is a residential and commercial cleaning service for busy people. Smith enrolled in TechTown’s Start Studio to learn how to transform a traditional company into a tech company.

Pamela Lewis, director of the New Economy Initiative will become the first recipient of the Marlowe Stoudamire Small Business Champion Award. The award will be renamed at Toast of the Town in honor of the Detroit community leader, entrepreneur ,and business strategist who died earlier this year from COVID-19. The Marlowe Stoudamire Small Business Champion Award will be presented annually to an individual or organization that exemplifies Stoudamire’s entrepreneurial spirit and legacy of building community to create opportunity for all Detroiters.

During the hour-long event, TechTown also will feature the efforts of its Professional Services Network and Detroit Means Business. The PSN is a group of service providers who have stepped up to provide countless hours of low-cost professional technical assistance to Detroit’s business community. Detroit Means Business has provided Detroit’s small businesses access to essential tools to prepare them to operate safely and successfully. The initiative offers a range of financial, technical and safety resources at detroitmeansbusiness.org.

Registration is required, but there is no cost to attend the virtual Toast of the Town. Donations of any amount will be immediately put to work helping TechTown continue its work of providing resources, collaborative workspace and education to Detroit-area entrepreneurs to further accelerate inclusive economic development across the city.  Individuals who donate will be invited to join the Donor Wall for All, a crowd-sourced photo mosaic at TechTown. To register, visit here.

Michigan Health Insurers to Provide Free COVID-19 Testing, Treatment Through 2020
The state of Michigan has secured agreements from nearly all of the state’s health insurers to waive all out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment through the end of 2020.

These agreements, which include copays, deductibles, and coinsurance, cover more than 92 percent of the commercial health insurance market in Michigan.

At least through year’s end, consumers with these individual and group health plans will not be charged cost-sharing for medically appropriate COVID-19-related medical treatment, such as primary care visits, diagnostic testing, emergency room visits, ambulance services, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medications and vaccines when they become available.

The insurers who have agreed to waive cost-sharing are:

  • Aetna Better Health of Michigan
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network
  • HAP, Alliance Health
  • Humana
  • McLaren Health Plan
  • Meridian Health Plan
  • Molina Healthcare Michigan
  • Paramount Care of Michigan
  • Physicians Health Plan (PHP)
  • Priority Health, Priority Health Insurance Co.
  • Total Health Care

The waived cost-sharing applies to commercial health insurance products from the insurers named in the state agreement. Consumers seeking COVID-19 testing or treatment should contact their insurance company to find out about their coverage. Insured consumers who pay up front or receive a bill for COVID-19 testing or treatment should contact their insurance company for assistance.

Under the U.S. Families First Coronavirus Response Act, consumers with health insurance through Oscar, UnitedHealthcare, and other insurers not named in the state agreement currently have COVID-19 coverage without out-of-pocket costs during the federal public health emergency, which is currently set to expire in late October. These insurers may extend their coverage with no out-of-pocket costs so consumers should contact their agent or call the number on the back of their card to ask about their coverage before incurring costs for COVID-19 testing or treatment. In accordance with federal law, consumers with Medicaid or Medicare may also receive a no-cost COVID-19 test and related services provided by a health care provider.

DIFS can help consumers with health insurance questions and complaints. In addition, the Michigan Health Insurance Consumer Assistance Program (HICAP) can provide shopping tips and help answer questions about health insurance including Special Enrollment Periods for those experiencing job loss or an income reduction. Contact DIFS Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 877-999-6442 or DIFS-HICAP@michigan.gov.

Aquasight Launches Sewage Surveillance Partnership for Early Warning COVID-19 Detection
Troy-based Aquasight has launched CEWS, a partnership providing a full-service solution of sewage samplers, logistics, testing, and a digital platform to track the presence of viruses in sewage using biomarkers, geographical insights, community level monitoring, heat maps, and dashboards which allows county officials to track the spread of infectious diseases for both asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals.

“We are the first company to have an industrial scale turnkey sewage surveillance program with actionable insights that can provide early warning on COVID-19,” says Mahesh Lunani, founder and CEO of Aquasight. “We operate at the intersection of public health and wastewater agencies. We are implementing at the wastewater treatment plant, community sewersheds, college dorms, nursing homes, and correctional facilities. Our model is flexible to operate with any network of labs nationally.”

According to Aquasight, the service allows health care response teams to mobilize faster and resource planning can be started earlier to reduce PPE shortages and make sure area hospitals are prepared for higher caseloads. Government leaders also can develop targeted business opening plans for greater economic stability.

The partnership includes Michigan State University in East Lansing, which provides microbiology research expertise and standard testing protocols, and Oakland University in Rochester Hills, which has a sewage testing facility to serve not only communities in Michigan but throughout the country.

Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, president of Oakland University, says, “Part of our mission is to be good community partners and better the world through knowledge. As a physician-scientist, I also understand that if we can monitor infectious diseases through this process, it will give government officials and health care providers a big advantage in controlling the spread of disease.”

Meijer Expands Contactless Pharmacy Services in Face of Pandemic
Grand Rapids-based Meijer is encouraging its customers to use its new contactless pharmacy tool to manage prescriptions, schedule vaccinations, and fill out required forms on their smartphones before visiting the Meijer pharmacy.

The retailer launched its new web app technology earlier this year and has continued to expand it in the wake of the pandemic because it makes customer trips to the pharmacy safer and easier. The tool allows customers to access a personalized app-like online experience through a link in a text message sent by Meijer Pharmacists to their mobile phone. From there, customers can confirm prescription pick-up times, prepare for and schedule vaccination visits, connect their Meijer mPerks to their transaction, and check out on their mobile device.

Meijer began using the technology earlier this year in response to the pandemic. Use of the texting-based pharmacy communication platform has quickly increased among Meijer patients, with more than 600,000 new users since May.

Customers interested in signing up for the contactless Meijer Pharmacy services can sign up at their local pharmacy counter today. For more information on the Meijer Pharmacy, visit here.

Gift to U-M Establishes Professorships Aimed at Social Equality, Inclusion
A $5 million gift from Harold and Carol Kohn and the Kohn Charitable Trust to the University of Michigan will establish two new professorships at the Ford School of Public Policy. Each professorship will support a leading faculty member to establish programs through scholarship and applied policy engagement to address structural inequalities and improve social policy.

“I am grateful for Hal and Carol Kohn’s generous gift to the Ford School in support of research and action that address social and structural injustices,” says Michael Barr, dean of the Ford School. “Their philanthropy is deeply meaningful, honoring the memories and ideals of their family members to strengthen social policy that is inclusive for all.”

“We know of no better home for these professorships than the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy,” says Harold Kohn, who received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from U-M in 1966. “The University of Michigan, a public university, has stood as a beacon for the personal freedoms that define this country. It has, with dignity and respect, welcomed students and faculty of all backgrounds. It has encouraged debate of different opinions and ideas. It has supported and enabled constructive changes in our society.”

The Kohn Charitable Trust also endows the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professorship in Social Policy and Social Justice, named in honor of Harold’s grandparents who perished in the Holocaust. That professorship is currently held by Professor H. Luke Shaefer, director of poverty solutions and associate dean of research and policy engagement at the Ford School.

Free Flu Shots Available, Required for All Currently WSU Enrolled Students
Wayne State University requires that all enrolled students who intend to be on campus for any day during the fall and/or winter semesters receive a flu shot by Oct. 15.

There are two exceptions to the mandate:

  • Individuals may provide written documentation from their primary care provider stating that they have medical reasons for not receiving the vaccine.
  • Individuals may provide written documentation of a religious objection.

Students can receive their flu shot from the Campus Health Center at no out-of-pocket cost. If their insurance does not cover the flu shot or if they are uninsured, they will not receive a bill.

There are two ways to get vaccinated by the CHC on campus:

  • Book an appointment online at one of the CHC’s outreach clinics across campus.
  • Call the CHC at 313-577-5041 to book an appointment at its Anthony Wayne Drive location.
  • Students can also get their flu shot at any convenient location, including their primary care provider or most pharmacies.

How do students upload flu shot documentation to the university?

Health professional students (e.g. nursing, medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, etc.) should notify their department. Each health professional school/college will have a documented process for uploading and verifying that students have had the flu shot.

All other students will notify the Campus Health Center. To upload documents to the CHC Patient Portal, go to health.wayne.edu and click on the link at the bottom left of the page entitled, Patient Portal, under the Useful Links section. Students must create a username and password the first time they use the system. Once in the portal, go to the Messages or Ask a Question section and submit a note with an uploaded/attached file.

Madonna University Uses App for COVID-19 Safety
Administrators at Madonna University in Livonia took engaged biosecurity company ReturnSafe to screen, test, and trace COVID-19 on campus when the school re-opened.

In addition to implementing measures to keep all on campus safe, Madonna says it recognized that manual contact tracing alone, or simply waiting on a vaccine, wasn’t enough to get students back to learning.

Here’s how it works:

— Students, faculty, and staff download the ReturnSafe app on their Android or Apple Smartphone, and answer a screening questionnaire every day before coming to campus or attending class.

— Once screened, students and faculty are issued an electronic “pass” that enables them to come on to campus and attend classes.

— Madonna University’s chief health officer reviews all those who report symptoms and ensure they quarantine and are tested.

— ReturnSafe also monitors any positive tests, and allows the chief health officer to rapidly alert other students or faculty who may have been exposed to COVID-19 via contact tracing.

Madonna deployed the app before the first students moved in, and within two weeks more than 90 percent of all students, faculty, and staff were using it to self-screen.

Community Housing Network and Furniture Bank Team Up for Drive-in Movie Fundraiser
Community Housing Network and Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan have joined forces to host their first Drive-In Movie Fundraiser at Freedom Hill on Oct. 8. Proceeds from the event will benefit each organization’s mission of providing housing support and safe, adequately furnished housing for families across metro Detroit.

The event will feature the film “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” at 7:30 p.m. Gates to Freedom Hill open at 6 p.m.

Refreshments will be available for purchase the night of the event. Sponsorships and mandatory advanced tickets ($60 per vehicle) can be purchased here or by calling 248-824-7313.

“Support for those facing eviction and those in need of housing resources is more vital than ever as families continue to need to stay healthy and safe during the COVID-19 crisis,” says Marc Craig, CEO of the Community Housing Network. “As nonprofits, we are working together more than ever to ensure that no one is left without support. Furniture Bank is an amazing partner to our efforts, and we are thrilled to be offering a chance for the community to gather safely while supporting our work.”

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