COVID-19 Update: U-M Economic Outlook, Local Hospitals Caring for Virus Patients, Call for Medical Supplies, 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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Michigan COVID-19 map by Bridge
Courtesy of Bridge, as of March 24

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.

Economic Outlook
Economists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor expect a U.S. recession caused by the coronavirus, though a rapidly evolving, uncertain situation makes drawing firm conclusions difficult.

In an interim update to the U.S. and Michigan Economic Outlook for 2020-2022 released March 19, the economists say COVID-19 has caused “substantial economic disruptions” since the last outlook for the U.S. and Michigan economies was released in February. That report assumed “relatively limited disruption to the real economy,” but added that “fast-moving events the past few weeks have invalidated that assumption.”

The economists developed two updated scenarios: One, an “effective mitigation scenario,” and the other, a “prolonged fallout scenario.”

“We now expect an official recession to be declared in both of the scenarios we considered,” the economists wrote. “If events unfold in a more positive direction than we currently foresee and the economy does manage to avoid a recession, we will be delighted to be mistaken in our recession call.”

The U-M economists conclude that short-term policies that are economically disruptive but contain the pandemic are “justified” in the service of protecting people’s lives. They also say it’s critical for federal and state governments to lessen the pandemic’s economic damage to those most affected by it.

Local Hospitals Caring for COVID-19 Patients, Combat Spread of Virus
Beaumont Health, as of Tuesday, March 24, is caring for nearly 450 confirmed COVID-19 patients in its hospitals and another 185 admitted with test results pending. Consistent with other hospital systems in Michigan, the number of patients coming to Beaumont for COVID-19 care continues to grow each day.

Beaumont reports that it currently has some ventilator capacity, but that could change as more people become infected.

“We have been actively transferring COVID-19 patients within our system to other Beaumont hospitals, as appropriate, if one hospital has more capacity than another,” says Carolyn Wilson, COO of Beaumont Health. “However, across our system, we are facing limitations and nearing capacity with our staffing, personal protective equipment, and mechanical ventilators. We are taking steps to increase our capacity, such as converting some of our operating rooms into intensive care units.”

On the testing front, Beaumont says its labs can internally process approximately 400 tests a day and is working to increase its internal capacity to process even more COVID-19 tests.

Starting Tuesday, employees and physicians at all Beaumont Hospitals and the Beaumont Service Center were being assessed for COVID-19 symptoms prior to the start of their shift.

In related news, Pontiac General Hospital has established a designated COVID-19 unit and specialized team. The hospital’s new unit already can handle 50 cases and will increase its capacity each day as needed. The hospital also can accept patients transported by ambulance.

“We are ready to serve our community during this dire health crisis,” says Sanyam Sharma, chairman and CEO of PGH. “We have plenty of personal protective equipment and ventilators on hand, which many hospitals are running low on. We are working with the Lung, Allergy, Sleep Medicine Clinic (LASMC PC), the same pulmonology and critical care group that manages ICUs and pulmonology at the area’s largest hospital systems.”

In addition to the specialized COVID-19 unit, PGH’s 24-hour urgent care clinic will remain open to help with urgent health needs not related to COVID-19. The hospital also has its own pharmacy to fill prescriptions.

PGH is located at 461 West Huron St. in Pontiac. It can be reached by calling 248-857-7200 or visiting here.

Medical Supplies
In response to generous community outreach and in anticipation of caring for an increasing number of coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, starting today, March 25, Ascension Southeast Michigan hospitals will have a drive-through donation site for personal protective equipment open at its Corporate Services Building located at 28000 Dequindre in Warren. The donation box is located at the center building entrance facing Dequindre under the portico. Donations will be able to be accepted Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Supplies being accepted for donation include:

  • Surgical masks
  • Isolation masks
  • N-95 masks
  • Isolation gowns
  • Surgical gowns
  • Full-length plastic face shields
  • 3⁄4-length plastic face shields
  • Goggles

Testing for Health Workers and First Responders
Three Detroit-area organizations – Wayne State University in Detroit, the Wayne State Physician Group and ACCESS – have reopened drive-through coronavirus testing for symptomatic first responders and health care workers after briefly pausing to adjust staffing in the wake of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order.

The groups are providing drive-through testing for police officers, firefighters, medics, and health care workers with COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat).

Drive-through testing resumes today, March 25, at 400 Mack Ave. in Detroit from 1-6 p.m. Testing will continue five days a week from 1-6 p.m. on the following schedule until the end of March, and may be extended based on community need and resource availability:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday – WSUPG headquarters, 400 Mack Ave. in Detroit
  • Tuesday and Thursday – ACCESS Community Health and Research Center, 6450 Maple St. in Dearborn

The testing includes collecting brief background and medical histories, followed by a simple and quick nasal swab test offered at no charge to participants. Those tested are notified of the results and care instructions through a private and secure text message.

Small Business Relief Loans
Wayne County and TCF Financial Corp. today announced a $10 million partnership to provide fast relief through low-interest loans to help local small businesses impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, with $6 million of initial funding ($3 million each from the county and TCF), is targeted to small businesses in low-income census tracts that have been hardest hit. Loans up to $50,000 with interest rates between 0 – 2 percent will be made to eligible Wayne County businesses in need.

The Wayne County program is designed to help qualifying small businesses receive immediate financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic. While recent federal government programs have been enacted to help small businesses, Wayne County and TCF say they realized such funds may not be dispersed quick enough to provide needed relief and ensure small businesses are able to pay wages, rent, utilities, and stay operational.

Loan application and a list of banking centers located in Wayne County can be found here.

In related news, Comerica Bank and Comerica Charitable Foundation today announced they will collectively invest $4 million in community programming support and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

The funds will be primarily deployed to Community Development Financial Institutions to support strategic programs designed to meet the needs of small and micro businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19.

Community service organizations that provide services to youth, seniors, and other vulnerable populations also will receive funds as part of this effort, particularly those organizations addressing food insecurities and access to health care. The bank also is expediting $500,000 of planned funding to several local United Way organizations in its markets.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the nonprofit organizations that care for and provide critical services to our communities is extraordinary,” says Curt Farmer, chairman and CEO of Comerica Inc. and Comerica Bank. “Serving and supporting our communities during this unique time in history is of critical importance.”

In addition, Comerica is discussing various loan payment deferral and fee waiver options with its business customers who have been impacted by COVID-19. The bank’s consumer customers impacted by COVID-19 are asked to call 888-444-9876 to discuss fee and penalty waivers, loan deferrals, and other considerations that best meet their circumstances.

Vehicle Sales Drop
Automobile sales analysts at Edmunds say March will be a down month for the auto industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forecasting that 1,044,805 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. for an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 11.9 million. This reflects a 35.5 percent decrease in sales from March 2019 and a 23.4 percent decrease from February 2019.

Edmunds notes that the March downturn also will lead to a drop in quarterly sales, forecasting that 3,546,415 new cars and trucks will be sold in the first quarter of 2020, which reflects an 11.8 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2019.

“The first two months of the year started off at a healthy sales pace, but the market took a dramatic turn in mid-March as more cities and states began to implement stay-at-home policies due to the coronavirus crisis, and consumers understandably shifted their focus to other things,” says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. “The whole world is turned upside down right now, and the auto industry is unfortunately not immune to the wide-ranging economic impacts of this unprecedented pandemic.”

Automotive Webinar
Butzel Long, a large law firm in Detroit, will offer a free webinar on Thursday, March 26, (2-3:30 p.m.) that offers an Automotive Industry Outlook and Workforce Issues Related to the Coronavirus. The webinar includes:

  • Mike Wall — Director of Automotive Analysis, IHS Markit, will be presenting an outlook on the industry focusing on sales and production, as well as powertrain/technology trends. He will also provide an update on the impact the Coronavirus has had on the industry.
  • Rebecca Davies — Shareholder, Butzel Long, will be highlighting employee accommodations due to COVID-19 fears, attendance policy issues including paid sick and FMLA, anti-discrimination and harassment considerations, and potential employer liability for exposure to COVID-19 during her presentation.
  • Beth Gotthelf — Shareholder, Butzel Long, will moderate the session.

The webinar will include an interactive Q&A session. Registration is available here.

Hand Sanitizer
Wayne State University Chemists and pharmacists have teamed up to produce more than 45 gallons of hand sanitizer, which was distributed to the Wayne State and Detroit Police Departments on Tuesday, March 24.

Steve Lanier, vice president for research at WSU, aware of the nationwide hand sanitizer shortage, recently called on the campus community to help, and a network of chemists and pharmacy faculty stepped up immediately.

Using ingredients from the science stores within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the team mixed the batches under the supervision of Practice Brittany Stewart, assistant clinical professor of pharmacy.

“Wayne State is my home away from home,” Stewart says. “We’re proud to provide Detroit and Wayne State police officers with hand sanitizer to keep them safe, so they can continue to keep our communities safe. It’s very important for all of us to pull together during this extremely tough time, and to do things we may not know how to do for the greater good.”

Food Supply
Atlas Wholesale Food Co., which supplies Detroit-area restaurants and other establishments, has opened its restaurant inventory to the public for the first time in the company’s history.

Anyone can visit here to order any of 3,000 items — from hot dogs to chicken to spray bottles of sanitizer. There is a minimum order of $100 and orders in excess of $450 can be delivered. Orders must be received by 2 p.m. for next-day pickup or delivery. Call 313-921-1251 for more information.

Employment
Madison Heights-based pizza chain Hungry Howie’s is now hiring delivery drivers across all its 550 locations in 21 states. The legendary pizza chain, known as the originator of the flavor crust pizza, is doing its part to help get more Americans in jobs during this difficult time. Interested job applicants should contact their local Hungry Howie’s location for more information.

In other news, Powerhome Solar in Troy on Tuesday announced it is currently hiring energy consultants and installers in metro Detroit and Grand Rapids to fill the solar energy demand needs for customers. Founded in 2015, Powerhome Solar, which Jayson Waller founded with a partner in 2015, is one of the fastest-growing American companies specializing in solar energy and roofing services. The company designs, finances, sells, installs, maintains, and monitors solar energy systems and panels for residential, commercial, utility, and government applications, including at the parking garage next to Ford Field and at the team’s practice facility in Allen Park. For more information, click here.

Charity
Focus: HOPE, a nonprofit organization in Detroit (1400 Oakman Blvd.) that works to overcome poverty, racism, and injustice, on Tuesday announced it made additional adjustments to its programming. Food for seniors will continue, with adjusted pick-up and delivery options. The group provides 41,000 older adults with food every month. In addition, students and families in the Early Learning and Youth Development programs are being offered remote educational and wraparound support services, as well as food access. Focus: HOPE says it is in need of donations and volunteer support to help meet demand.

All Focus: HOPE food distribution centers are offering pre-packaged food boxes via drive-up distribution. Delivery to seniors will continue with staff following social distancing and health guidelines. All other services at food centers are suspended through April 13.

Hours for drive-up food distribution: Monday-Thursday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Friday 8:00 AM – Noon Food center locations:

  • Westside Food Center: 1300 Oakman Blvd., Detroit
  • Inkster Food Center: 759 Inkster Road, Inkster
  • Eastside Food Center: 9151 Chalmers, Detroit

Requirements:

  1. Provide proof of age 60+ (e.g. state ID card)
  2. Provide # of people in household
  3. Reside in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, or Washtenaw counties
  4. Income limits:
    1. 1-person household: $16,588 or below
    2. 2-person household: $22,412 or below
    3. 3-person household: $28,236 or below
    4. 4-person household: $34,060 or below
    5. 5+ person household: $5,824 or below per additional household member

For more information, visit www.focushope.edu, email stephanie.maurice@focushope.edu, or call 313-494-4600.

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