COVID-19 Update: Whirlpool, Dow, Reynolds Collaborate to Produce Respirators, Detroit Announces $4M in Small Business Grants, 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 13

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.

Whirlpool, Dow, and Reynolds Collaborate to Manufacture and Donate Respirators
Benton Harbor’s Whirlpool Corp., Midland’s Dow, and Reynolds Consumer Products of Illinois announced they are collaborating to provide respirators to those health care workers on the frontlines in the battle to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The joint project is a protective piece of headgear and respirator system that will be manufactured and sold through Whirlpool subsidiary WIN Health Labs, LLC, in addition to an initial donation to hospitals.

The personal protective equipment created by the joint effort is a powered, air-purifying respirator, or PAPR, which takes the place of a traditional medical mask and visor and features a replaceable polyethylene hood. The clear hoods are both flexible, comfortable, and can quickly be replaced between patients.

“Volunteers within each of the companies began reaching out to local health care providers to inquire how they could be helpful,” say Christian Gianni, president of WIN Health Labs and vice president of technology. “In order to accelerate the design process, we created a virtual, agile team that was able to go from paper to approved product in just seven weeks. Through this unique relationship and a huge amount of effort by a very talented group of people, we are now manufacturing respirators and are in a position to help our frontline health care providers.”

Whirlpool Corporation designed, manufactured, and assembled the headset. Dow provided the polyethylene resin for the hoods, and Reynolds Consumer Products, designed and produced the disposable hood. Volkswagen of America brokered connections with materials and supply chain partners to source critical components.

“This collaboration is a testament to the private sector’s continued commitment and quick actions to work across industries to innovate health care solutions at a time of unprecedented need,” says Jim Fitterling, chairman and CEO of Dow. “Team Dow is proud to be a part of this effort, and to continue to contribute our time, talent, and material science expertise in the fight against COVID-19.”

Two thousand units are being produced in the first phase for donation to hospitals located in regions where Whirlpool and Dow have operations, as well as other hospitals in need of PPE. To get the needed PPE to as many health care providers as possible, Reynolds is donating the first 1 million hoods.

City of Detroit Announces Small Business Grant Recipients
A total of 754 small businesses in Detroit are receiving $2,500 to $10,000 shares of a $4 million relief fund administered by the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and the city of Detroit.

More than 1,700 applications were submitted, according to Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of DEGC. To qualify, businesses had to be Detroit based, in operation for at least a year, have fewer than 50 employees, and show proof of financial hardship as a direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DEGC continues to process applications to ensure all funds are dispersed to business owners by the end of the month.

For a complete list of recipients, visit here.

Relief for 60 Dearborn Small Businesses
Sixty small businesses in the city of Dearborn have been selected to receive stimulus grants to help provide working capital amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Grants, which can be as much as $5,000, will be distributed by ACCESS this week and are aimed to support those businesses most often left out of major city, state, and federal relief efforts, due to lack of federal funding and eligibility restrictions on micro-businesses.

The Dearborn Small Business Relief Grant – funded by the New Economy Initiative and coordinated through a partnership with ACCESS, the city of Dearborn, the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce, the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, the Yemeni American Chamber of Commerce, East and West Dearborn Downtown Development Authorities, and Warren and Dix/Vernor Business District Improvement Authorities – is focused on making available access to capital for locally owned retailers, service business, and restaurateurs, as well as home-based businesses, freelancers, and creative industries.

Award recipients were selected from 675 applications based on a blind, automated logic model. Grants were awarded to both brick-and-mortar and home-based businesses that included the following types of businesses: retail, transportation, auto repair, salons, real estate, restaurant/food/hospitality, home care, education/tutoring, bakeries, shoe and leather repair, cell phone retailers, architecture and design, immigration and tax services, medical, travel agencies, computer repair, and catering.

Grant funds may be used for day-to-day operating expenses of the awarded business, including payroll, rent/mortgage, inventory, and utilities; restocking inventory in preparation of re-opening to the public; and transitioning to e-commerce, curb-side pick-up, and delivery integrations.

“The support for 60 small businesses in Dearborn by the partners of the Relief Fund is a testament to the cooperative spirit that the City has become known for,” says Pamela Lewis, director of NEI. “There is more to be done to help small businesses in this time of crisis and the New Economy Initiative looks forward to continuing its work with all members of the community.”

In Related News: As many as 100 small businesses in Pontiac will receive COVID-19 relief grants up to $5,000 from a $200,000 Small Business Capital Relief Fund created by the Pontiac Funders Collaborative made up of area foundations and funders. The application process begins May 18.

The fund focuses on helping Pontiac small businesses with 10 employees or less. Grants up to $2,500 will be given for home-based businesses and up to $5,000 for brick-and-mortar businesses.

The first round of applications will close on May 26 and grantees will be notified by June 4, with payment immediately following. A second round of applications will be accepted on June 8.  For more information about the Small Business Capital Relief, visit here.

The Pontiac Funders Collaborative includes Ballmer Group, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation, Flagstar Bank Foundation, General Motors Co., New Economy Initiative, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Tauber Family Foundation, and the William Davidson Foundation.

Beginning today, any Detroit resident 60 years or older can get a free COVID-19 test at the State Fairgrounds, Mayor Mike Duggan announced Wednesday.

Residents will need to make an appointment and have identification when they arrive for the test. They won’t need a doctor’s prescription. Testing is being expanded based on data showing that individuals 60 and older make up 84 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Detroit.

Residents should call 313-230-0505 to schedule an appointment.  For Identification, residents can use: a driver’s license, state or city ID, or documents showing their address in last 30 days, such as a utility bill, pay stub, lease agreement, or credit card statement.

The mayor indicated that free testing will be extended to individuals in other age groups in the future. He also said that city employees who test positive for COVID-19 now can have members of their household tested for the virus for free.

In Related News: A COVID-19 drive-thru testing site will open Friday, May 15, in the parking lot of the Walmart store located 26090 Ingersol Dr. in Novi, MI. The site is supported by Walmart, Quest Diagnostics, and state and local officials. The site will test adults who meet CDC, state, and local guidelines on who should be tested, including first responders, health care providers, those with symptoms of COVID-19, and those in high risk groups without symptoms.

The site will be open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays weekly from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., weather permitting. Testing will require an appointment through Quest’s MyQuest online portal and app, which will screen and schedule appointments for those individuals that meet medical eligibility for the testing site.

BrightStar Care and Franworth Join Forces to Help Franchises with PPE
To ensure the safety of BrightStar Care clients and franchise employees to continue providing quality in-home care during the pandemic, CEO and founder Shelly Sun and her Ann Arbor-based team secured $2 million in PPE and enlisted the help of Pittsfield Township’s Franworth to distribute the equipment its 340 locations.

With PPE supplies in high demand, many businesses are struggling to determine how to prepare for reopening while maintaining the safety of staff and customers and items remain scarce. So, BrightStar Care and Franworth now are offering access to the PPE inventory to the entire franchise community at cost to help more franchisors gain access to the materials they need.

Since the launch of this initiative, BrightStar Care and Franworth have fulfilled PPE orders for more than 100 International Franchise Association member companies, providing them with the resources they need to reopen their business while following the health and safety guidelines of their local community.

“It’s been a long journey, but we wanted to support the entire franchise community in the fight against this pandemic by making PPE available for everyone regardless of who they are caring for during these times,” says Shelly Sun, founder and CEO of BrightStar Care. “Partnering with Franworth has made this all possible.

“Our goal is to protect BrightStar Care clients and ensure that our offices’ employees can continue providing the highest quality of in-home care during the pandemic. We also want to empower the entire franchise industry to truly make a difference in their local communities and taking the workload away from them when it comes to sourcing PPE frees them up to do what they do best.”

Support for Students
LIFT, the Detroit-based national manufacturing innovation institute, announced that it is distributing kits to local students to keep them learning and engaged in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities as schools remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The kits, made available with the support of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, are being sent to students who were actively learning at the LIFT Learning Lab during the 2019-20 school year from UPrep Science and Math High School, Detroit Edison Public Schools Academy, and Western International High School.

Teachers from the three schools are able to select from three available kits for their students:

  • Arduino Starter Kit: Students will learn the basics of Arduino including basic electronics, electronic circuits, and software. They will also build projects on a breadboard to connect to an Arduino.
  • Paper Circuit Starter Kit: Students will learn about electricity creating simple, series, and parallel circuits and then building models of traffic lights, electrical grids, doorbells, etc. while learning about electricity.
  • Newton’s Laws Kit: Students will learn about Newton’s laws of motion. By building different models including a catapult, a collision car, balloon powered plan, and others, students will study the effects of kinetic and potential energy, forces, motion, acceleration, momentum, and the properties of energy.

“Helping engage students while schools and the Learning Lab remain closed is crucial, and may make the difference between keeping students motivated to pursue STEM careers,” says Kevin Kerrigan, vice president of business development at LIFT. “We know all of our schools are adapting to remote learning and these kits will help them in making that change.”

Higher Education
Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti has announced that it will open for in-person classes for the fall semester. EMU President James Smith has published a “Fall Semester Planning Process” document detailing the university’s plans, which are being guided by an experienced team of medical, health faculty and administration experts, and building/facility specialists, according to Smith.

“While some factors may not be in our control, we are planning for university operations to be held in person on campus this fall including, wherever possible, classroom instruction, housing, dining, and similar activities,” Smith says.

In Related News: Albion College in Albion (west of Jackson) has extended the deadline for its Michigan 2020 Promise scholarship initiative until Monday, June 1. The scholarship will cover 100 percent of tuition and fees for Michigan students’ whose families make less than $65,000 annually, after the Michigan Tuition and Federal Pell grants are applied. Families making more than $65,000 at minimum will receive $92,000, or as high as $136,000 in Albion College scholarships over the course of four years. For more information, visit here.

Back in Business
Bakehouse46 in Birmingham (136 N. Old Woodward Ave.) announces that it is once again open for business.

After being closed for several weeks as a precautionary measure, Bakehouse46 will begin opening Friday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for online pre-orders, curbside pick-up and delivery through Grubhub. For more information, call 248-759-1903 or visit here.

In addition, Bakehouse46 partner, Cupcake Station, which has locations in Ferndale, Rochester, and Plymouth, will re-open on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m.

Both Bakehouse46 and Cupcake Station will be donating a half dozen donuts to area hospital staff for every half dozen purchased in the stores. Also, frontline workers will receive a free Blake’s 8 oz hand sanitizer, available while supplies last, no purchase necessary.

Crystal Mountain Launches Crystal Clean
Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville (south of Traverse City) has introduced Crystal Clean, a commitment to an enhanced standard of health and safety protocols designed to prepare the resort to safely welcome back employees and guests as the Michigan economy reopens. The resort plans to open the hotel on May 29.

Crystal Clean is the top priority for the resort for the health and safety of employees and guests, according to John Melcher, COO at Crystal Mountain.

“Crystal Clean was developed specifically to ensure enhanced safety, cleaning, and disinfection measures for our employees and our guests,” says Melcher. “While Crystal Mountain has always employed demanding cleaning standards, this new initiative will instill greater confidence and trust throughout the entire resort experience. The resort’s enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace behavior protocols will continue to evolve to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.”

The view the resort’s Crystal Clean policy, visit here.

Prescription Assistance
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Detroit-based Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation awarded World Medical Relief emergency funding to assist newly unemployed low-income people with their prescription drug needs. United Way and Ford Motor Co. Fund also contributed emergency funding to help World Medical Relief keep its local programs going. The foundation recently committed to a three-year grant to the same program to give low-income people access to affordable prescriptions.

People in need of assistance may call 313-866-5333 or email

Butzel Long Donates $5,000 to Gleaners
Detroit’s Butzel Long has donated $5,000 to Gleaners to help meet the needs of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation, made through the Butzel Long Charitable Trust, will provide 15,000 meals to neighbors in need.

“The current health and economic crisis has been devastating to our community,” says Paul M. Mersino, attorney and shareholder at Butzel Long and a trustee of its Charitable Trust. “A growing number of families are looking to Gleaners to secure nourishing food that they may not otherwise be able to obtain elsewhere right now. Gleaners is a vital link in our community especially during these unprecedented times. Butzel Long is proud to be able to assist Gleaners and those in need.”