COVID-19 Update: U.S. Sends Michigan $352.9M for Testing, Expands Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, State Eases Liquor License Restrictions, 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 May 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.

Federal Government – HHS Delivers $352.9M to Michigan for Testing
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is delivering $352.9 million to Michigan, $11 billion across the country, in new funding to support testing for COVID-19.

The CDC will provide $10.25 billion to states, territories, and local jurisdictions through its existing Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases cooperative agreement.

The Indian Health Service will provide $750 million to IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health programs to expand testing capacity and testing-related activities. This funding is part of the Trump Administration’s broader effort to ensure that states, territories, and tribes have the resources necessary to meet their testing goals as they begin to reopen.

This funding from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act will provide critical support to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, conduct surveillance, trace contacts, and related activities. These funds, along with the previous funding support CDC and IHS provided, will help states, tribes, and territories with their efforts to re-open America.

Each governor or designee of each state, locality, territory, tribe, or tribal organization receiving funds shall submit to HHS its plan for COVID-19 testing, including goals for the remainder of calendar year 2020, to include:

  • Number of tests needed, month-by-month to include diagnostic, serological, and other tests, as appropriate.
  • Month-by-month estimates of laboratory and testing capacity, including related to workforce, equipment and supplies, and available tests.
  • Description of how the resources will be used for testing, including easing any COVID-19 community mitigation policies.

Jurisdictions will use the funding they receive to meet the testing goals laid out in their COVID-19 testing plans, including purchasing supplies (such as test kits and other testing supplies, as necessary).

To view the list of funding recipients, visit here.

Federal Government – Expanding Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it will work with a team of private industry partners led by Phlow Corp. of Richmond, Va., to expand pharmaceutical manufacturing in the United States for use in producing medicines needed during the COVID-19 response and future public health emergencies.

The Phlow-led team will provide immediate, U.S.-based capacity to produce the active pharmaceutical ingredients and the chemical compounds for those ingredients to make critical medicines to help alleviate or prevent drug shortages, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us how health threats or other sources of instability can threaten America’s medical supply chains, potentially endangering Americans’ health,” says HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “America has the capabilities, resources, and expertise to secure our medical supply chains. Working with the private sector, HHS is taking a significant step to rebuild our domestic ability to protect ourselves from health threats by utilizing American-made ingredients and creating new American jobs in the process.”

The drug ingredients will be manufactured at facilities in the United States, including a new facility to be built in Virginia.

The U.S. government and Phlow are developing a prioritized list of APIs and finished medicines critically needed by health care systems for the COVID-19 response.

To lower production costs, reduce waste and improve yields of these ingredients, the team will use advanced manufacturing processes, including continuous manufacturing. The team also will complete a technology transfer of novel continuous manufacturing process to organizations or businesses designated by the U.S. government.

Currently, a majority of APIs or their precursor chemical ingredients for critical medicines are manufactured outside the United States. They are typically manufactured using slower, less efficient processes. Shipping the ingredients or finished drugs to the U.S. also adds time that is not available during pandemics or other public health emergencies. The U.S. national medical supply also is placed at risk during a global health emergency when individual countries can close borders and potentially eliminate access to these critical materials.

In addition to producing the active pharmaceutical ingredients, the team will expand advanced manufacturing capability in the U.S. to provide further capacity for producing finished generic drugs. The pandemic has created a surge in the number of hospitalized patients which may create a shortage of supplies of critical medicines. The team will be able to rapidly provide U.S. health care systems with finished, sterile, injectable generic medicines at risk of shortage.

Under the four-year, $354 million agreement with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS, the Phlow-led team will manufacture the supplies for medicines for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The contract can be extended for up to a total of $812 million over a total of 10 years to maintain the system and supplies.

State Government – Easing Liquor License Restrictions
To help boost the safe reopening of bars and restaurants across the state, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) has streamlined licensing for outdoor services and additional bar permits, and launched a new webpage with reopening guidelines and resources for liquor licensees.

“At the governor’s direction, we are pleased to join her in helping liquor licensees get back to business in a safe and profitable way. This is our top priority right now,” says Pat Gagliardi, chair of the MLCC. “Licensees brought their needs to the table through a reopening workgroup and the commission took action.”

The MLCC now is streamlining the application process for:

  • Outdoor service expansions or new requests for the 2020 summer season
  • Adding a Specially Designated Merchant license to an existing Class C license, allowing for unopened beer and wine to be taken off-premises for consumption, and additional bar permits.

Liquor licensees can go to the new Reopening Resources webpage here.

for these applications and much more information, including:

  • Reopening Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Reopening guidelines from trade associations, and
  • survey results of Michigan residents’ perceptions and expectations after the stay-at-home order ends.

These steps are the latest measures taken by the MLCC to assist liquor licensees whose businesses have been impacted by executive orders issued during this COVID-19 health crisis. Over the last several weeks, the MLCC has by Administrative Order:

  • Bought back almost $3.4 million in spirits from 673 on-premises liquor licensees.
  • Extended the application deadline for the buyback program to allow more licensees to participate.
  • Extended the annual license renewal date from April 30 to May 31, 2020 for 22,000 licensees.
  • Extended due dates for licensees to file monthly and quarterly tax reports to July 15; and
  • modified the requirement for licensees to place their license in escrow if inactive for more than 30 days.

Upon reopening, licensees have a responsibility to take all necessary steps to minimize the risk and combat the spread of the coronavirus in their hospitality establishments and communities all across Michigan.

State Government – Flood Emergency in Midland
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency after heavy rains in mid-Michigan caused two dams (Edenville and Sanford) to breach in the Midland area.

Shelters have opened across Midland County and are available to residents who need a place to go. Shelters remain open until further notice at:

  • Midland High School at 1301 Eastlawn.
  • Meridian Junior High School at 3475 N. Meridian Rd.,
  • Bullock Creek High School at 1420 S. Badour.
  • and the West Midland Family Center at 4011 W Isabella.

Those seeking more information on shelters, road closures, and updates, can visit here. A number of street closures remain in effect throughout Midland County and the city of Midland. Residents are advised to obey all road closure signs and to stay clear of standing water, flooded areas, and floating debris. Residents should not attempt to drive or walk through any standing water and should take extra precaution where electrical items may be submerged.

To view the full emergency declaration, visit here.

Basic Health Care During Pandemic
The Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and the Michigan Association of Osteopathic Family Physicians, Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Michigan Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Michigan Psychiatric Society are urging Michiganders not to ignore their health care needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heart attacks, broken bones, and other medical emergencies requiring immediate attention are still happening every day. Children still need vaccinations to protect against life-threatening contagious illnesses like measles and whooping cough. Pregnant mothers still need prenatal care to protect their and their babies’ health. People suffering from depression and anxiety still need behavioral healthcare. Adults and children with diabetes and asthma still need help managing their chronic illnesses.

“These and other acute and chronic conditions haven’t disappeared because COVID-19 is here,” says DR. Keerthy Krishnamani, a family physician at Henry Ford Health System and president of MAFP. “Seeking necessary health care is just as important today as it was before,”

Sharon Swindell, MD, FAAP, president of the Michigan Chapter of the AAP, says, “Health is too important to avoid seeking care. People should call their primary care physician if they have a concern. Your doctor will help you determine if you need to be seen in person, or if you can be treated over the phone or by video. We are here to take care of you and your family, as always. How we do that just might look a little different than in the past.”

Anyone experiencing life-threatening symptoms, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, slurred speech, or abdominal pain, should call 911 or seek immediate care at the emergency room.

Care that should not be postponed includes:

Treatment for chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Treatment for acute conditions, such as symptoms of heart attack and stroke.

Treatment for severe injuries, such as broken bones and deep cuts.

Mental health needs, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Pediatric immunizations that protect children from communicable diseases.

Prenatal care for pregnant mothers.

“Not seeking necessary health care out of fear of getting COVID-19 is actually more dangerous than the virus itself,” says Kristen Sumners, DO, president of the MAOP and a family physician with Lakeshore Health Partners in Zeeland. “By adhering to the CDC’s recommendations, physicians’ offices and hospitals are safe places to be. We are continually sanitizing and disinfecting even the smallest surfaces, like doorknobs and light switches. Our health care teams wear personal protective equipment and require patients to wear masks as well. Staff and patients are screened for COVID-19. Patients no longer wait for their appointment in the waiting room and social distancing is practiced. The health care community is taking every step to protect the health and safety of patients and health care workers.”

Practice Safe Six
Ideation Orange, an experiential graphic design and sign company in Hazel Park, is launching a campaign to fight COVID-19 by encouraging everyone to practice social distancing with three simple words: “Practice Safe Six.”

The Safe Six brand was created over the last 60 days by Ideation Orange with the mission to provide large and small businesses with social distancing tools in either Safe Six kits or custom-made branded signage.

The signage is meant to be a light-hearted way to remind employees and customers about the importance of 6-foot distancing.

For more information, visit here.

Energy Assistance for Households
Consumers Energy, headquartered in Jackson, has announced a partnership with Google and Uplight to provide Google Nest thermostats to up to 100,000 households, helping Michigan residents through the COVID-19 pandemic by saving energy and money.

“Consumers Energy is committed to Michigan’s success, and we’re excited to help so many of our friends and neighbors during these challenging times by putting this powerful technology into their hands at no cost,” says Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy. “We want to give our customers more control to manage their energy use, helping reduce their bills while protecting the environment.”

This offer is part of Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan, which will eliminate coal and achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Google and Uplight are helping Consumers Energy provide the Google Nest Thermostat E to customers through July 31.

Consumers Energy is making energy-saving benefits available to all of its residential customers:

  • Electric customers who receive smart thermostats will be enrolled in the Smart Thermostat Program, which shifts energy usage to off-peak hours — while also keeping households comfortable – on a few days each year.
  • Natural gas-only customers also can receive the thermostats.
  • Households that aren’t eligible for a Google Nest Thermostat E can receive a free Consumers Energy Care Package, which includes four LED bulbs and three night lights, and are enrolled in the Peak Time Rewards program, which provides payments for shifting energy use away from late afternoons in the summer.

Consumers Energy customers can learn more and receive thermostats by visiting here.

New Emergency Power Source Retrofit Solution for Emergency Egress Lighting Systems
Muskegon-based EarthTronics, a supplier of energy-saving lighting products, has introduced TBEM10 as an emergency back-up power source designed to drive LED T8, T5 and PL-L Type B UL tubes in the event of a power failure in offices, health care, institutional, commercial, and industrial facilities.

Specifically designed for retrofitting existing fluorescent fixtures that have integral emergency back-up systems, the TBEM10 provides 10 watts of constant power to a single LED Type B UL tube for a minimum of 90 minutes, meeting NEC and NFPA requirements for emergency lighting.

The TBEM10 ships complete with installation instructions and test switch. The charging system and lithium-ion battery have a design life of more than 100 deep cycles. The solid-state circuitry uses 10 watts during the recharge cycle and consumes just 1.0 watts in stand-by operation. When properly applied with EarthTronics LED T8 Type B has a constant 10-watt output for over 90 minutes, which meets and exceeds NEC and NFPA requirements.

For more information, visit here.

Michigan Vehicle Fatality Rate Drops 12% in First Quarter 2020
Michigan’s vehicle fatality rate dropped 12 percent during the first quarter of 2020, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council.

The state’s decreased traffic death rate, attributed to people driving less during the COVID-19 pandemic, bucks the national fatality rate, which jumped 14 percent in March despite an 18.6-percent drop in miles driven in the first month of stay-home orders.

Other states with notable decreases during the first three months of the year include Arizona (-4%), Hawaii (-32%), Idaho (-28%), Iowa (-13%), Maryland (-13%), Oregon (-24%) and South Carolina (-12%).

States that have experienced notable increases in the number of roadway deaths: Arkansas (16%), California (8%), Connecticut (42%), Illinois (11%), Louisiana (23%), Nevada (10%), New York (17%), North Carolina (10%), Oklahoma (9%), Tennessee (6%), and Texas (6%).

Jet Manufacturers Try to Quell Fears Over Cabin Air
Jet manufacturers and airlines are launching an initiative to convince nervous travelers that the air they breathe on planes is safe, believing this is critical to rebuilding a travel industry floored by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by Reuters.

Boeing has appointed former engineering and development chief Mike Delaney to head wider efforts to build confidence, and Airbus leaders say the industry is moving from an initial crisis phase to securing public trust.

That has triggered, among other things, a concerted effort to explain how cabin air filtration works in a bid to stop the myth that the pressurized fuselage contains only static or recycled air.

Health officials still are quantifying various sources of transmission for COVID-19 disease caused by the virus, but attention focuses on the risk of catching it from airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing passengers as well as from touching infected surfaces.

“It’s about explaining what we do for the safety of passengers in the large sense: aircraft safety but also sanitary safety,” says Jean-Brice Dumont, head of engineering at Airbus.

In an office building, air is exchanged about four times every hour. On a modern jet aircraft, that rises to 20 to 30 times.

“The air system on an airplane is as good as anything you will be exposed to,” Delaney says. Air circulation is only one of several techniques for reducing potential for the virus to spread on board including rigorous cleaning of the plane and screening passengers for signs of illness, he adds.

In most cases compressed air is fed from the clean part of an engine – untainted by fuel which is added later – to air conditioning packs and from there to fans in the cabin ceiling.

Both plane makers say cabin air pours downwards not lengthways through the fuselage, reducing risks of infection.

Half that air is then recycled through hospital-grade HEPA filters designed to remove some 99.97 percent of contaminants including viruses. The other half is flushed outside through valves.

Plane makers say cabin air is renewed every two to three minutes, though scientists caution that in reality, air is always a blend. But the quicker the rate, the faster old air is diluted.

“The air turns over very, very quickly in the aircraft in terms of air-exchange rate. From that point of view the aircraft systems are very good,” says Byron Jones, a professor at Kansas State University, who has helped recommend air standards.

WSU Students, Auntie Na’s House, Ford Fund Create Emergency Food Pantry
A $15,000 grant from the Ford Motor Co. Fund is helping a group of Wayne State University medical students and Auntie Na’s House, a nonprofit community organization on Detroit’s west side, serve more than 300 families each week during the COVID-19 pandemic with the help of donations of food and supplies, in addition to food boxes from FEMA.

The grant came from the Ford College Community Challenge, a global grant competition that empowers college students to envision and lead change in their communities. The creation of an urban garden to provide food security and promote healthy eating habits was the winning combination for the WSU students.

“Our main point of utilizing the Ford grant is about creating a self-sustaining nutrition neighborhood, and we thought that the avenue to do that was to create a garden,” says Dhruvil Patel, president of the Auntie Na’s Student Organization at WSU in Detroit. “This will be a great way to educate community members about how to plant their own garden and will be used as an opportunity to promote our already existing Corner Store Program, that creates a symbiotic relationship between both that is self-sustaining.”

Zaid Mohsen, founder of the Auntie Na’s Student Organization, says, “When the state of emergency was declared and universities began shutting down, everyone at the Auntie Na’s Village and Auntie Na’s Student Organization were prepared to hunker down. But the people we serve did not wait for a press release, and those who needed food started calling.”

Lakshman Mulpuri, vice president of the Auntie Na Student Organization, says, “In response to this pandemic and to meet the needs of the families and community we serve, we have converted all of our available space into a COVID-19 pandemic food delivery program over the past month and a half.”

The Auntie Na’s Student Organization hopes to expand the number of FEMA food boxes, provide additional help for access to transportation and implement a potential “drive-through” option for those able to pick up any necessities they need.

Aramco Americas Supports Gleaners
Novi-based energy company Aramco Americas is helping put food on the tables for families in southeast Michigan with a $100,000 donation to the Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Because of Gleaners’ distribution efficiencies, every dollar is able to provide three meals to the community. Aramco’s donation will provide 300,000 meals to children, families, seniors, and other vulnerable populations in sudden need.

“As a company, we are committed to the communities our employees call home and to being active through donations and volunteerism,” says Mohammad S. Alshammari, president and CEO of Aramco Americas. “Supporting food banks and their vital role in the community is a longtime tradition with us, and we are pleased we can again help provide support in these unprecedented and challenging times.”

Gleaners staff estimate the number of people to be food insecure in the region was more than 610,000 prior to the COVID-19 crisis, but with more than 175,000 residents in southeast Michigan considered unemployed, that number has increased.

“Food security, having access to enough food, is a concept that doesn’t just benefit the individuals and families who receive the support, it benefits an entire community — business included,” says Gerry Brisson, president and CEO Gleaners Community Food Bank. “Corporate support during important times like these, from companies like Aramco, help us ensure our hungry neighbors have one less worry, as they know where their next meals will come from.”

Aramco also has made donations to food banks and a community kitchen in other areas it operates including its headquarters city of Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

To make a donation to the Gleaners Community Food Bank, visit here.

Pope Francis Center Raises $635,000
Detroit’s Pope Francis Center, which serves the city’s homeless community, has raised $635,000 during its “Hope in Harrowing Times” community matching campaign. The funds raised allow Pope Francis Center to continue providing critical and lifesaving services to hundreds of guests each day during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally announced as a $250,000 match thanks to $75,000 donations from the Ford Motor Co. Fund and Magna International, as well as a $50,000 gift from the J. Addison Bartush and Marion M. Bartush Family Foundation, the match eventually was raised to $270,000 with additional gifts from Frank and Gail Migliazzo, along with Jeanne and Gene LoVasco. More than 1,000 people from all over the country donated to the cause.

For more information about and to donate to the Pope Francis Center, visit here, call 313-963-5134, send a check to 438 St. Antoine St., Detroit, MI 48226, or visit the center’s Amazon Wish List.

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