COVID-19 Update: U-M Campuses in Ann Arbor and Dearborn to Offer In-person Classes this Fall, Shinola Hotel Reopens and Offers Deal to Frontline Workers, 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 22

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.

U-M Ann Arbor and Dearborn Will Offer In-person and Remote Classes this Fall
When the fall semester begins, the University of Michigan campuses in Ann Arbor and Dearborn will offer a blend of in-person and remote classes, an adjusted academic calendar, and an emphasis on the use of face coverings, social distancing, and other public health measures. U-M Dearborn will forgo its planned fall sports schedule.

The Ann Arbor campus will launch its fall semester Aug. 31.

“I am pleased to announce that the University of Michigan plans to offer a public health-informed in-residence semester this fall,” says Mark Schlissel, president of U-M. He says the plan for the fall semester reflects the university’s “commitment to promoting public health while fulfilling our fundamental mission of transformative undergraduate, graduate and professional education.”

In the meantime, all staff and faculty who can work from home will continue to do so as the university continues to gradually and carefully resume various on-campus activities.

The university has launched a “Maize and Blueprint” website with more information about the ramping up of campus this fall. It will be updated regularly as more details are finalized. Among the changes for the fall semester are these:

  • An adjusted academic calendar, with on-campus classes ending at Thanksgiving in the fall to minimize student travel home and back to campus. Winter semester will start later in January. Both the fall and winter breaks will be eliminated.​
  • A combination of in-person, remote, and hybrid classes. In general, small classes will continue to meet in person, but larger lecture classes will be delivered remotely. Class formats will be determined by individual schools, colleges, and academic units.
  • Although not all courses will be available in every format, most students will be able to choose whether to return to Ann Arbor for a hybrid learning experience or study from home in a fully remote mode.
  • Residence halls and dining facilities will be open and Michigan Housing will reserve some units to serve as quarantine housing as needed. Density in dining halls will be reduced and more boxed meals will be offered.
  • The university will purchase more hand sanitizer, masks, and other forms of personal protective equipment to keep the university community safe.
  • The university will emphasize the critical importance of all students, faculty and staff getting a seasonal flu shot, staying home when sick and closely monitoring any symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses.
  • U-M is finalizing plans and protocols for student, faculty and staff testing for infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. The university also is building capacity for additional contact tracing for those who are infected.
  • Faculty and staff will be able to perform their own health screenings by accessing a university website through their phones. This new tool, being made available this week, will make returning to work on campus smoother and safer when employees need to come to campus.

“We will protect our students, faculty and staff with a broad array of research-based public health measures and tools,” Schlissel says. “We will make full use of our longstanding excellence in teaching and learning, both in person and online, and tap our innovative spirit to deliver a world-class Michigan educational experience in these most unusual times. And we will ask all of you to join in prudent health and safety actions that will embody our commitment to caring for one another.”

UM-Dearborn also will take a hybrid approach to the fall 2020 semester when it begins on Sept. 1 with many classes held in a remote format, while also providing select in-person experiences on campus, a shift in the academic calendar, and a continued focus on remote engagement opportunities for our students.

“Throughout the duration of the global pandemic, UM-Dearborn faculty and staff have maintained a commitment to the university’s mission while keeping our community safe and healthy,” says Domenico Grasso, chancellor of the university. “Our plans to reopen some campus operations have been developed in conjunction with public health and many other professionals. Although the challenges presented by COVID-19 will make the fall semester unique from previous ones, we will continue to provide a distinguished Michigan education to our students.”

Classes, such as labs, senior design and other courses that require a high-level of student interaction or special equipment, will meet in-person on campus through Nov. 21.

Shifts to the academic calendar have been made to reduce travel to and from campus to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The semester will begin as scheduled and will continue through Nov. 21. The university will have an extended Thanksgiving break from Nov. 22-29. Students will not return to campus following the break as all courses and exams will be conducted remotely through the end of the semester.

Campus Life activities at the university will continue with a remote-first approach. All student services will be available, with most interactions, programs, and engagement handled virtually, when possible. The Mardigian Library will be open for lobby service for UM-Dearborn students, faculty and staff only on Sept. 1. The library has a phased reopening of common areas planned following strict campus guidelines for safety. The university has also decided to not participate in NAIA fall 2020 athletic competitions and The Wellness Center on campus will remain closed for the entire fall 2020 semester.

“Our region and state have made significant progress in helping to control the spread of COVID-19,” Grasso says. “UM-Dearborn is located in the center of our state’s hardest hit area. For this reason, we are taking extra measures to provide a healthy and safe learning and teaching environment for our community. We will also prioritize our obligation to the broader community to do all that we can to ensure that we don’t contribute to the community spread of COVID-19. Only by joining together and applying the best health practices can we accomplish this goal.”

UM-Dearborn also has launched a website detailing its fall plan.

In Related News: Michigan State University in East Lansing, which also will welcome students back to campus for its fall term beginning Sept. 2, is working to offset the financial disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school’s president says he estimates that MSU will lose $300 million in the next fiscal year.

“Combined with other factors, this unprecedented situation is causing MSU leadership to make many difficult budget and employment decisions that affect the campus community,” says Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., president of MSU.

To offset the losses, MSU plans the following actions:

Pause $77 million in capital expenditures.

Enforce a 3 percent budget reduction on each campus unit to save $20 million.

Pay reduction for executive managers and deans (2 percent to 8 percent).

Pay reduction for non-union faculty and staff (.5 percent to 7 percent).

Reduce retirement plan contribution from 10 percent to 5 percent of salary.

“Even with the actions outlined above, we will need to identify additional savings to address our long-term financial circumstances given the multi-year impacts of decreases in state appropriations and enrollment,” says Stanley. “We will continue to seek to engage with our unions on employment and compensation matters.”

Shinola Hotel Reopens, Offers Deal to Frontline COVID-19 Workers
Shinola Hotel on Monday reopened its doors and wants to not only welcome first-time and repeat guests, but also the frontline workers who have been the nation’s heroes during these trying times.

To show its appreciation, the hotel is launching an “Essential Stays for Essential Workers” package, offering a one-night VIP experience at an exclusive, never-before-offered, rate of $99 (normally $300+). The “thank you” is not only for health care workers, but also for firefighters, paramedics, postal workers, city transportation drivers, delivery service drivers, and others.

The VIP experience includes:

  • One-night stay in one of the luxurious and spacious Den rooms, which feature a private lounge area and bountiful natural light.
  • Breakfast for two from a menu by James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini.
  • An American-made Shinola journal with smyth-sewn binding.
  • VIP amenities and services throughout their stay to take care of any whim and ensure an unparalleled experience.

To book a VIP experience, call the reservations team directly at 1-313-356-1401.

Having just reopened its doors today, June 22, the hotel has prioritized guests’ health and safety, implementing several enhanced sanitation protocols. Upon check in, guests will receive complimentary Corona Kits with masks, gloves, individual sanitizing wipes, and Emergen-C packets. Additionally, guests can enjoy expedited mobile check in to skip the line in the lobby, an intimate setting for a drink or meal in the Living Room where maximum capacity will be 15 and a discount on parking should they choose to self-park instead of valet.

Northville Closes Downtown Streets as Part of Reopening
The Northville Downtown Development Authority has implemented the closure of Main Street (between Center and Hutton) and Center Street (between Main and Dunlap) as part of its reopening plan. The streets will remain closed through Oct. 31.

The DDA’s reopening plan is designed to allow the downtown restaurants and shops the ability to expand their footprint while adhering to social distancing and safety guidelines (including limited capacities and the wearing of masks).

With the street closures, restaurants have expanded their outdoor dining to stretch into the parking spaces and streets. Shops with reduced in-store capacity can move some inventory out in front of their storefront to provide an open-air shopping experience. Some shops are still offering curbside pickup for customers who feel more comfortable shopping this way.

Individual business hours vary, so it is suggested to call ahead. Reservations are recommended for those who wish to dine in at restaurants. Visitors to downtown Northville can find ample parking in the city’s surface lots and decks located throughout town.

“The DDA remains committed to supporting our businesses and the community,” says Lori Ward, director of the Northville Downtown Development Authority. “We worked with the businesses to implement a reopening plan for downtown Northville that provide an opportunity for all of the downtown businesses to reopen safely and with the maximum capacity allowed under the governor’s executive orders and have noticed the community is enjoying the new outdoor dining and shopping atmosphere.”

For more information on downtown Northville businesses, visit here.

Honda-GM Partnership Produces Hand Sanitizer
Honda and General Motors Co. are producing nearly 12,000 gallons of hand sanitizer through their fuel cell system manufacturing partnership. The hand sanitizer will be used by both companies at their facilities throughout the region and Honda is donating 3,750 bottles to health care facilities in Ohio and Michigan this week.

The hand sanitizer is being made at the Brownstown Township facility (south of Taylor) where the FCSM team has been working on the development of fuel-cell fuel stacks for the next generation of hydrogen-powered cars. Using an apparatus designed to manufacture the electrodes used in the fuel cells, the team developed a process to re-purpose the equipment to produce a hand sanitizer that would allow employees and health care professionals to work more safely.

Honda will donate nearly 75 percent of its allocation of the hand sanitizer, packaging the product in easy-to-use 9-ounce bottles for health care facilities. On June 22, Honda made the first such donation of 1,250 bottles each to ProMedica Toledo Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, Memorial Health in Marysville, Ohio, and the DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.

“It is inspiring to see how the automotive industry continues to find new and innovative ways to help society during this crisis,” says Cathy McEvilly, senior vice president and general counsel of Honda North America Inc. “The commitment shown by Honda associates and their counterparts at GM is a source of pride to us and we are happy to provide something to help the brave health care professionals fighting this pandemic every day.”

Packaging Corporation of America donated the packaging needed to ship the product, and the FCSM team worked with other companies to handle the bottling. In addition to donating hand sanitizer to health care facilities, Honda will provide 1,500 gallons of the product for use in its manufacturing plants, as part of the effort to provide a clean and safe environment for its associates.

All clinical services are reinstated at Beaumont Hospital, Wayne and the hospital is able to provide comprehensive care to the community. The hospital has been caring only for COVID-19 patients since March.

Beaumont Health, the state’s largest health care system, also has been reconfiguring staffing and resources across the system as COVID-19 patient volume declines and non-COVID-19 volume rises.

Services immediately returning to Beaumont, Wayne include:

  • Level 3 trauma services in the emergency center.
  • Additional inpatient and ICU beds.
  • Expanded surgical and endoscopy services.
  • Expanded cardiac catheterization lab services.
  • Expanded imaging services, including increased scan availability on weekdays and Saturday to accommodate increasing volume for PET and CT scans and MRIs.
  • Pulmonary function testing to diagnose patients with asthma, allergies, chronic bronchitis, respiratory infections, lung fibrosis, COPD, and other lung issues.

These services are in addition to the patient services already returned in the first phase of Beaumont, Wayne’s reopening.

“The Beaumont, Wayne team has been working diligently to provide diagnostic and treatment services for the Wayne community and surrounding areas,” says Carolyn Wilson, COO of Belmont Health. “We remain committed to providing safe care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. Over the past few weeks, we have seen many of our patients return to Wayne for care and we’re thrilled the local community is supporting the campus.”

In addition, like all health systems, Beaumont regularly evaluates operations and licensed beds at all hospital campuses and reports compliance with Certificate of Need guidelines to the state of Michigan. For the past six years, on average, more than half of the licensed beds at Beaumont, Wayne have not been utilized. To better match community patient need to inpatient bed number, Beaumont Wayne will transition to 99 beds as Beaumont transfers 22 beds to Royal Oak and 10 to Troy.

The change, Beaumont says, will not affect the level of service provided at the Wayne campus. Having fewer licensed beds will help improve the financial stability of the hospital and allow for a larger number of patients to have private rooms. There will continue to be observation beds available at Wayne, in addition to the 99 inpatient beds.

“We are committed to keeping our Wayne hospital open as the community knows it today and to supporting future reinvestment in the hospital,” Wilson says. “The reduction in licensed beds has nothing to do with our commitment to Wayne. It is part of an annual review across Beaumont. Beaumont, Wayne is important to our health system and the communities we serve. Reducing the number of beds will allow us to preserve the current services we offer without compromising care.”

Alliance Connection Launches Strategies Designed for Travel and Tourism Recovery
As the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean enter reopening phases, Alliance Connection, a Detroit-based provider of influencer programs and promotional partnerships for the travel and tourism industry, has launched #ACTastemaker Influencer Initiatives and Activations to connect the world again through social media influencer activations, content collaborations, and innovative integrations.

“We designed these innovative influencer products and services to be socially responsible and provide the critical consumer connection and engagement that destinations need to effectively reach their valued audience in consideration of new obstacles facing the travel industry,” says Melissa Mango, founder and president of Alliance Connection. “These original programs will incorporate content collaborations that communicate re-opening initiatives and drive consumer engagement to fuel resort and destination sales and marketing funnels.”

The #ACTastemaker Influencer Initiatives and Activations product and service offerings range from influencer stays that are curated by their followers, using social polls to vote for what they want to see, such as in “Where in the World,” “Arrange My Adventure,” and “Select My Stay,” to unique collaborations where fans see their favorite influencers in a new way as they are taken out of the comfort zone of their own platform in “Creator Crossroads” and “RV There Yet?”

Alliance Connection’s #ACTastemaker program is a community of curated influencers made up of content creators, celebrities, and lifestyle media brands that are ready and willing to re-introduce travel to their fans.

Destinations and hotels also can showcase their diverse activities and guest experiences while appealing to multiple demographics and vacationing styles with, “One Stay, Three Ways,” “Land and Sea: Come Away with Me” and “Build Your Own Bucket List.”

“Social media has never been more powerful,” Mango says. “Given its prevalence during the pandemic, it is imperative to remain creative and break through the ever-evolving landscape as consumer sentiment shifts with an increased desire for real-world experiences. Social content collaborations are a crucial part of recovery to successfully capture audiences.”

For more information, visit here.

Grand Valley Board Approves 13% Boost in Financial Aid
Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees, in Allendale near Grand Rapids, approved a 13 percent boost in financial aid at a June 22 meeting where members also heard about plans for the fall in response to the pandemic and a call to action to address racial injustice.

“We can’t guarantee the path of the virus, but we can guarantee that Grand Valley has the ability to mobilize and mount a proper response to returning safely to campus while striving for social justice and economic structures to assure access and continuation of learning,” says  Philomena V. Mantella, president of GVSU. “We have spent the year promising each other to Reach Higher Together now let’s prove we can do just that.”

The university will increase institutional financial aid by $5.6 million in 2020-2021, on top of a $2.25 million increase already made available. Trustees also approved a tuition increase of $192 per semester (3 percent), bringing the per-semester tuition to $6,622 for a full-time undergraduate Michigan resident, which places GVSU 11th among Michigan’s 15 universities for tuition rates.

With the boost in financial aid, those with financial need will see on average a reduction of costs by approximately $250 compared to 2019-2020. About 90 percent of GVSU students received at least one type of financial aid in the previous year.

Grand Valley also worked to help students stabilize their financial situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. GVSU has already distributed to students $9.1 million in federal CARES Act funds, which went to more than 6,000 recipients. In addition, students are receiving help from the Student Support Fund. Mantella pledged 10 percent of her salary and vice presidents and deans pledged 5 percent to go to the fund.

Comcast Extends Free Access to WiFi Hotspots Through 2020
As cities and towns across the country begin to open up, Comcast is continuing its efforts to help people connect to the Internet during the COVID-19 crisis. Today, the company announced it will extend free access to its 1.5 million public Xfinity WiFi hotspots to anyone who needs them, including non-customers, through the end of 2020.

The company recently announced that it has extended an offer for 60 days of free home Internet access for new eligible Internet Essentials customers, to help provide additional support to students and families in need through the end of the year. Comcast also will  continue to waive the requirement that those customers not have a past due balance with Comcast to qualify for the free offer.

“We saw a huge jump in usage after we opened up our public hotspots, and we’re excited to keep them open through the end of the year as the nation begins taking steps to reopen,” says Dana Strong, president of Xfinity Consumer Services. “We’re pleased to see so many families and individuals take advantage of our 60 days of free home Internet through Internet Essentials, and the free access to public Xfinity WiFi hotspots to get online during this time when connectivity is so important.”

Since making all of these hotspots available for free, hundreds of thousands of non-Xfinity customers have taken advantage, and overall usage by consumers of the free public WiFi hotspots has increased. Comcast’s public WiFi network is the largest of its kind in the nation, and three times larger than that of any other provider. It’s available in outdoor and business locations, all of which can be found online here.

Comcast also announced it will continue to provide 60 days of free Internet service to new, eligible Internet Essentials customers. Originally set to expire on June 30, the free offer now will be available through the end of this year. In addition, Comcast will continue to waive, through the end of the year, the requirement that customers not have a past due balance with Comcast to qualify for the free offer.

“For almost a decade, Comcast has been helping to level the playing field for families in need so they can benefit from all the Internet has to offer,” Strong says. “So, we’re happy to be able to extend these 60 days of free Internet service to new customers. Now more than ever, connectivity has become a vital tool for families to access educational resources for students, important news and information about their community and the world, telehealth applications, or to stay in touch with family and friends.”

For more information, visit here.

Meijer Donates $1.1M to Simply Give on Behalf of Meijer LPGA Classic
Despite the cancellation of the 2020 Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, Grand Rapids-based Meijer announced a donation of $1.1 million to its Simply Give hunger relief program on behalf of the tournament.

“Meijer is committed to enriching lives in the communities we serve, which is more important now than ever before,” says Cathy Cooper, executive director of the Meijer LPGA Classic. “Although this year’s tournament has been cancelled, we didn’t want our food pantry partners to feel that loss, especially given the increased need they’ve seen these past few months.”

Traditionally, proceeds from the tournament – and each of the week’s festivities – benefit the Meijer Simply Give program that stocks the shelves of food pantries across the Midwest. The 2019 tournament alone raised $1.1 million for local food pantries through Simply Give. In total, the six previous tournaments have generated more than $5.2 million for the Meijer Simply Give program.

The 2020 donation will match the 2019 donation, bringing the tournament’s total contribution to $6.3 million. The $1.1 million donation will be divided equally among more than 435 food pantry partners across the Midwest, providing each of them an additional $2,500 to feed hungry families.

The 2021 Meijer LPGA Classic will be held June 7-13 at Blythefield Country Club in Belmont, northeast of Grand Rapids.

Detroit Historical Society Receives National Diversity Award
The Detroit Historical Society has been won the 2020 Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), for its Community Gallery program at the Detroit Historical Museum. The award one of the nation’s most prestigious for recognition of achievement in state and local history.

Community Gallery displays are created by local organizations in partnership with society. The museum’s professional staff supports each project with design, interpretation, and production expertise and assistance. The resulting exhibitions are open to the public for several months at a time and often include complementary programming, like the museum’s Third Thursday Speaker Series.

The award specifically recognized the Detroit Historical Society for the diversity of its partnerships. In 2019, the Community Gallery hosted exhibitions on the Detroit Sound Conservancy; Corktown’s early history; the “Looking for America” art exhibition; the history and culture of Southwest Detroit; photographs of early 20th century Black Detroit; and Detroit’s LGBTQ+ history. The program has seen such high demand that a second gallery space was recently added to accommodate more partners annually.

“We are honored to receive such a prestigious award,” says Elana Rugh, president of the Detroit Historical Society. “To be recognized for the diversity of our partnerships and our work to lift up the stories of Detroit’s wonderful community organizations is particularly affirming during this time as we sharpen our commitment to ensure that all of Detroit’s stories are represented in our museums.”

Amazon Makes Corporate Gift to U-M Philanthropic Venture Fund
Amazon is contributing $200,000 to the Accelerate Blue Fund, a University of Michigan philanthropic venture fund in Ann Arbor — representing the first corporate gift received by the fund that aims to help develop and commercialize promising U-M technologies.

The donation brings Accelerate Blue nearly to the halfway point of its initial goal of $2 million. By the end of the year, officials expect to start evaluating potential investments in U-M technology-based startups. Accelerate Blue is an evergreen source of early-stage, risk-tolerant, high-impact capital for U-M high-tech startups. All investment returns will go back into the fund for future investment in new U-M startups.

With the gift, Amazon becomes the first corporate member of the Accelerate Blue Founders’ Circle. Other Founders Circle members include Rob Bronstein, a U-M alumnus and president of The Scion Group, as well as Don Sweeney, also a U-M alumnus and CEO of Ashling Partners, and his wife, Erica.

The fund, approved by the Regents of the University of Michigan in October, plans to make initial investments of between $25,000 and $250,000 in startups in areas such as cybersecurity, legal tech, mobility, artificial intelligence, mobility and sports, and climate technology. Accelerate Blue’s aim is to support the attraction of business leadership, speed U-M startups to commercial success and shorten the gap to securing additional venture capital.

Analysis of funding data shows that Midwest startups take nearly two years longer to secure their first $500,000 on investment capital than similar companies on the East and West coasts. Accelerate Blue will help U-M startup companies overcome this early-stage investment gap, allowing them to grow, scale and contribute to the diversification of the region’s economy.

“The support from Amazon is significant because it demonstrates the interest of corporations in learning more about the incredible high-tech startup companies spinning out of U-M’s research enterprise,” says Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research, technology transfer, and innovation partnerships at U-M. “In light of the economic uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Accelerate Blue Fund will be more important now than ever before in order to ensure that U-M’s startups have the opportunity to change the world and drive economic growth.”

The pace of innovation continues at U-M, with a record-breaking 28 new startups launched in fiscal year 2020.

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