DBusiness Daily Update: Beaumont Health Launches Two-year COVID-19 Immunity Study, Oakland County Allocates $27M+ of ARP Funds, and More

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Beaumont Health has launched a two-year study designed to better understand how a person develops vaccine-induced COVID-19 antibodies and how long they last. // Stock photo
Beaumont Health has launched a two-year study designed to better understand how a person develops vaccine-induced COVID-19 antibodies and how long they last. // Stock photo

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Beaumont Health Launches Two-year COVID-19 Immunity Study

Beaumont Health, based in Southfield, has launched a two-year study — COVID-19 Vaccination Elicited Response or “COVER” — designed to better understand how a person develops vaccine-induced COVID-19 antibodies and how long they last.

“The more people know about their vaccine response, the better they’re able to protect themselves from COVID-19,” says Gabriel Maine, an immunologist at Beaumont Health and the study’s principal investigator. “We’re particularly interested in people who are immune-compromised because they are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19.”

Compensation for time and travel is available. The study is open to the first 1,000 people ages 18 or older to apply: 500 who are immune-compromised and 500 people who are not immune-compromised and just wish to monitor their antibody levels. Participants are required to be within 30 days of receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or plan to receive the vaccine within seven days of enrolling in the study. Vaccines can be administered at any location.

The study entails seven or eight visits by participants to a Beaumont location in Royal Oak or Troy. Through a series of blood draws approximately every three months during the first year, and at 18 and 24 months in the second year, participants will have the opportunity to follow their antibody response to COVID-19 vaccination.  All antibody test results will be directly shared with each study participant through their myBeaumontChart account.

“Participants will be able understand how their immune system responded to vaccination, and how long those antibodies are sustained over a two-year follow-up period,” says Dr. Maine. “This study will help further understand the short and long-term benefits of COVID-19 vaccination, along with any potential limitations. We just need people to take that first step and volunteer.”

For more information or to volunteer, visit here.

Oakland County Allocates $27M+ of ARP Funds

Oakland County has allocated more than $27 million of its initial share of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to address mental health, workforce development, small business recovery, and legal aid for residents experiencing crisis housing and utility needs related to COVID-19.

County Executive Dave Coulter and the County Board of Commissioners will infuse $16 million of those funds into post-pandemic mental health resources and services.

“I’m so pleased that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners took swift and unanimous action on my administration’s proposals for continued COVID-relief funding through the American Rescue Plan,” says Coulter. “Despite encouraging numbers on the COVID-19 front, with declining case numbers and increasing vaccination rates, there still are acute needs that need to be addressed as we emerge from the pandemic.

“So, the millions that will be set aside for mental health treatment, workforce initiatives, housing assistance and services for businesses will go a long way to ensuring that our residents and businesses recover from this public health crisis.”

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the Coulter administration’s recommendation for use of the ARP funds Wednesday night.

The first $10 million in ARP funds will establish the Oakland Together Mental Health and Wellbeing Nonprofit Grant Program to offer grants to nonprofit organizations delivering mental or behavioral health services and associated support services with a goal of increasing the capacity of these organizations to meet the growing demand for their services.

The county will designate another $4 million for the Oakland Together Mental Health and Wellbeing Emergency Room Services Grant Program to support health care providers experiencing an increase in patients visiting emergency rooms seeking mental or behavioral health care.

Next, $2 million will go toward the Oakland Together Mental Health and Wellbeing School Partnership Grant Program to increase availability of mental and behavioral services in Oakland County public schools. Program funding may be utilized for a one-to-one matching grant with Oakland County school districts to assist with costs associated with expanding access to behavioral health professionals, including social workers, psychologists or psychiatrists, and behavior analysts. Program funding may also be utilized to support Oakland County Youth Assistance and other initiatives that support mental and behavioral health and overall wellbeing of at-risk students.

Oakland County is utilizing more than $9.6 million of ARP funds to support small businesses and residents getting back to work, $6.6 million of which is committed to the Oakland Together Skilled & Educated Workforce Program. Here are the program details:

  • More than $2.8 million to fund the Oakland80 Career Navigators project.
  • More than $1 million to build on a partnership with Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency (OLHSA).
  • $1.5 million to assist individuals facing financial barriers to accessing career credential and higher education programs.
  • $1.2 million to provide an equitable recovery-related childcare for disproportionately impacted individuals and families seeking a return to work.

The county is putting $3 million toward the needs of Oakland County businesses impacted by the pandemic.

The $2.5 million Oakland Together Small Business Recovery and Resilience Business Professional Services Assistance Grant Program will assist businesses and non-profits facing economic challenges due to COVID-19 obtain professional support services. Another $500,000 will enable Oakland County’s Economic Development Department to obtain the services of business community navigators to provide counseling and technical assistance to businesses and organizations in obtaining federal, state, and local relief resources.

Finally, Oakland County’s Neighborhood Housing and Development Division will leverage $2 million to work with qualified legal aid and assistance organizations such as Legal Aid & Defender Association, Lakeshore Legal Aid, and Oakland County Mediation Center Legal Aid, to help residents experiencing crisis housing needs related to the pandemic, including eviction, foreclosure, and rent and utility bills, among other issues.

Additional information on how to apply for grants will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

State Launches Career Explorer Resource for Job Seekers

Job seekers in the state now have access to Career Explorer, a new career exploration resource on Pure Michigan Talent Connect (PMTC). Any individual who has a free account on PMTC can utilize this new feature, which helps them create a customized career plan based on their goals and experiences.

PMTC is the state’s system for connecting job seekers and employers. Career Explorer is available when logging into job seeker accounts at MiTalent.org.

“This resource was created with the intention of helping residents access better jobs, as well as education and training opportunities,” says Stephanie Beckhorn, director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Employment and Training. “The tool provides recommendations tailored to individuals’ needs, aimed at setting them up for success in the labor market.”

Case managers within the Michigan Works! network also have access to Career Explorer and are available to support job seekers enrolled in workforce programs further access the tool and support individuals in implementing their customized career plans.

“Training and education help people obtain better jobs,” says Ben Damerow, director of Michigan Works! Southwest. “Pure Michigan Talent Connect’s Career Explorer customizes this journey for our clients, so we can help them reach their professional goals more quickly.”

Another benefit of career and educational advancement is information to move towards increased earnings. There is often a strong connection between postsecondary education and earnings increase for many Americans. PMTC’s Career Explorer is effective for those pursuing their first job or those interested in making a career change. It can help users pinpoint certifications and/or degrees they may want to pursue to advance their career.

To start using PMTC’s Career Explorer, visit here. Individuals also may contact their local Michigan Works! Office.

Lawrence Tech Revises Interior Design Program, Offers New Degree

Lawrence Technological University in Southfield has revised its interior design program, and this fall will begin offering a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design degree.

The new degree is a reorganization of an interior architecture program LTU has offered for nearly 40 years, according to Philip Plowright, chair and professor of the university’s Department of Art and Design.

“We needed to revision the program because we understood the changes going on in the industry and how to align our students to those needs,” Plowright says.

The focus of the interior design profession has expanded in recent years to move into diverse niches within the built environment, to encompass different aspects of how people use and occupy interior spaces, from furniture to materials, and spatial design.

“As a fundamental aspect of sustainability, interior design as a practice engages the existing building stock that we have as a primary focus,” Plowright says. “We have billions of square footage in this country that we are looking to keep current with how we live and work and occupy space, now and in the future.”

The new program is directed by Jenna Walker, who joined the university in 2019 after a 15-year career in the interior design industry.

Walker says interior design often is perceived as mere decorating. The practice of interior design, however, goes far beyond this, applying scientific study of what makes interior spaces pleasant, efficient, and healthy for people, using ergonomics, advanced technology, and data analysis.

“We also study how buildings impact human health,” she says. “People spend so much time inside, and many of the building materials we currently use are not good for people’s health.”

The program’s new curriculum starts first-year students with introductory design courses, along with foundational courses in writing, mathematics, and physics. Sophomore courses include design history, ergonomics, graphic design, and fabrication. Junior year courses include sustainability, furniture, human comfort, and a multidisciplinary studio. The senior year is capped by a design project. Students benefit from dedicated studio space and access to material, lighting, digital, and wood and metal fabrication labs. Internship opportunities are widely available.