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Wayne State launches virtual health programming

The Wayne State University Campus Health Center (CHC) has started a “Health Programming Gone Virtual” initiative to create new ways to reach the WSU community. Instead of attending wellness events on campus, Wayne State students, faculty, and staff can access health resources and information from the comfort of their homes. “While we miss having the face-to-face engagement with students and our WSU community, we are making our programming available online and in different formats to best serve the changing needs of our campus,” says Erika Blaskay, community outreach nurse at WSU. Currently, all health care resources are available via PowerPoint presentation and handouts on CHC’s Health Programming webpage. Some programs now feature recorded webinars to provide in-depth learning about these important health topics. CHC also launched an “Ask-an-Expert” engagement form that allows the Wayne State community to ask specific questions anonymously. A qualified health care provider will respond on CHC’s social media platforms the Wednesday following the form’s submission. The goal is to create a fun way to engage with each other and the CHC in a virtual environment, but Blaskay says it is important to remember that these tools are meant to help guide conversations with health care providers, not replace them.
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Michigan colleges make changes to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t move in

Michigan colleges and universities are preparing numerous scenarios to educate students in the fall during a time of unpredictability. There's limited testing as well as no vaccine for the coronavirus. The planning comes as higher education institutions also are grappling with gaping holes in their budgets as a result of a slowing economy. Already, some at universities have lost their jobs. It also comes as opinion differs as to how colleges should continue in their missions: face-to-face with safety measures or online courses only? At Wayne State University, the campus might look more different. Two WSU students succumbed to the novel coronavirus and the campus is located in Detroit, the state's epicenter for the virus. Though a final decision hasn't been made, WSU President M. Roy Wilson recently said he didn't know how the campus could open in the fall, though it is preparing for all scenarios. Wilson noted last week during a virtual town hall meeting that there is still a lot of time before the fall semester begins. "We don't have all the answers to that yet," Wilson said. "When you really think about it, that's three months away. I always try to remind people that three months ago, it was a very different situation here." A lot can change in three months, Wilson said. "We really want to be guided by the science, guided by the public health realities at that time," he said.
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A bleak picture for international enrollment

As colleges try to plan their fall operations and shape their classes, they face a big question that will largely be answered by forces outside their control: If they do resume in-person classes, will international students be able to join them? The global pandemic is causing widespread uncertainty: routine visa processing is suspended at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. International travel restrictions are in place in many countries. Commercial flight options are limited at best. College administrators say they have little choice but to plan for sizable declines in international students and the tuition revenue they bring. “It’s going to be predicated on two things -- first what we do here on campus, face-to-face versus remote and online, but also the more important part is what’s happening outside of the U.S. with consulates reopening and students being able to get access to visa appointments and being able to make it to the U.S. once things open up,” said Ahmad M. Ezzeddine, associate vice president for educational outreach and international programs and senior associate to the president for special initiatives at Wayne State University. “From everything that we’re seeing, the likelihood of having new international students physically here in August and September, I don’t see how that is possible.”
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Wayne State developing plans, protocols to reopen

Wayne State University officials said Thursday they are deep into planning for reopening the campus, possibly when a state of emergency order ends May 28, and with medical, public health advice and government guidelines in mind. The officials said the situation is subject to change, and they are remaining vigilant and active. They'll follow the governor's lead: If the state of emergency declared by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ends May 28, the campus will reopen, officials said. Some general guidelines are already clear, President M. Roy Wilson said during a video conference viewed and heard by a few thousand people. People will be asked to continue to work from home, if they can, Wilson said. Remaining to oneself and at a safe distance will continue as primary concerns. “We have an open campus,” he said. “It's very important that we make sure that everybody follows the guidelines to protect everyone else. “It's not just a nuisance. This is, you know, peoples’ lives at stake.”

Together Detroit: Companies extend a helping hand

While everyone is under stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there's no question that first responders and front-line workers are among those most affected. To that end, the Wayne State University School of Social Work and the College of Nursing, in collaboration with other Wayne State departments, have launched a crisis hotline for those first responders and health care professionals working on the front lines to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak. The crisis hotline will be staffed six days a week by professionally licensed social workers, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners and psychologists. They will offer critical emotional support for health professionals and law enforcement personnel working under extremely stressful conditions. "The motivating premise behind this collaboration is simple: We all need to contribute what support we can to those who occupy the front lines of this battle," Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the School of Social Work, said in a statement. "Considering the unique nature of this pandemic, we have to do everything we can to take care of them so that they can continue trying to save lives."
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In the coronavirus era, death is difficult. But so is being a mourner

These days, the sick go to the hospital alone — family isn't allowed inside because of the contagious nature of the coronavirus — and many end up dying alone without so much as a comforting word or caress from those who love them most. Family members and friends, devastated at the suddenness of it all feel guilty for not being there, for not helping with their loved one's transition. Funerals are spare, socially distanced occasions. Visitations are minimal; no more than 10 masked people in a room at a time, though many funeral homes offer live-streaming. There's no hugging or holding hands, no reassuring touch to soothe the grieving and remind them that even though they may feel alone, they are not. Large religious services are forbidden. There are no graveside vigils. No repast luncheons. Those familiar rites and traditions, those services "help us all kind of acknowledge the loss and kind of come to understand this loss is profound and permanent," said Peter Lichtenberg, a Wayne State University psychology professor who serves as director of the school's Institute of Gerontology. "When people aren't able to adjust to the environment in which the deceased is missing after a period of time, and the grief is as fresh as it was, it can be very difficult," Lichtenberg said. "People really start to have, not just the grief, but they have deeper depression and deeper traumatic reactions, almost like post-traumatic stress."
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Preparing for an uncertain job market

It's a tough time to be entering the job market, as Michigan faces historic jobless numbers, along with the rest of the country. “A lot of students’ job offers have been postponed or rescinded. In some cases with the internships, some of them have been converted from paid to unpaid," said Wayne State's Student Employment Coordinator Arlinda Pringle. She said students and recent grads alike need to prepare for a different kind of job search right now -- one that's going to take longer. “You may have to volunteer if it’s an option. You may have to start off with a part-time job. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting a foot in the door," she said. Pringle also advises students to regularly update their resumes, and cast a wider job net by applying to any job they could be qualified for, not just their dream job. She said networking is more important than ever and students need to treat a virtual interview just like an in-person one in terms of how they dress and conduct themselves.
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Our college presidents face unprecedented challenges

There's the same vibe every August at college campuses across the country. Young adults, filled with unwavering excitement about their futures, unpacking their belongings with the help of family and friends into dorms and apartments, ready to begin (or continue) their higher education journeys. But that was then, and this is now. Across America, college presidents and chancellors are faced with undoubtedly the biggest challenge of their careers: not just educating the children they become (in a very real sense) custodians of, but now, keeping them physically healthy and safe in a country ravaged by COVID-19, the biggest public health crisis of our lives. In Michigan, the Big Three research universities — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — are led by medical doctors (Samuel Stanley, Mark Schlissel and M. Roy Wilson, respectively). And at Oakland University, President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, a pediatrician, served as executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of U-M’s Health system earlier in her career. Stanley and Wilson — both epidemiologists — attended Harvard’s medical school at the same time (this week was to be their 40th reunion). Wilson, who estimates WSU has lost about $10 million so far and projects losses could grow to $50 million, said not having a hospital has been a silver lining. “There have been times we wished we had a hospital,” said Wilson. “This is one of the times we’re glad we don’t. We have partnerships but we aren’t financially responsible for those hospitals.” The COVID-19 crisis and its extraordinarily debilitating impact won’t be here forever. Nor will this way of life continue for all of us forever. As for Schlissel, Stanley, Pescovitz and Wilson they remain determined that when it ends, students will once again enjoy the benefit of a full experience on their campuses.

People are being tested post-mortem for coronavirus, but death count may be underestimated

Health officials say they're ramping up testing for COVID-19, leading to a clearer picture of the disease's spread. But, absent more robust testing of both the living and the dead, experts warn the true death toll has been underestimated. The CDC hasn't advised widespread post-mortem testing but urges medical examiners to "use professional judgement to determine if a decedent had signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 during life and whether post-mortem testing is necessary." From a public health perspective, post-mortem testing could lead to a better understanding of the disease's fatality rate — a key data point as leaders weigh whether to re-open sections of the economy. The deaths of the elderly and infirm might be chalked up to factors other than coronavirus, Kilgore said, adding that it's unclear how many COVID-19 deaths in Michigan are going uncounted. "We need a study done to look at out-of-hospital deaths," Kilgore said. "The in-hospital deaths are mostly going to be captured."
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Opinion | How Michigan universities are collaborating to continue K-12 learning

Anita G. Welch, Wayne State University College of Education dean, cowrote an opinion piece with Robert Floden, Michigan State University College of Education dean and Elizabeth Birr Moje, University of Michigan College of Education dean. "In Michigan and throughout the country, COVID-19 and the school closings that have resulted to help contain the virus have left parents and educators scrambling to help children learn from home. Our university students who were student teaching now are unable to be in the classroom, and our research and outreach to school districts around the state in many cases have been curtailed. But here at the Michigan State University College of Education, the University of Michigan School of Education and the Wayne State University College of Education, we still know how to help children succeed. Our educators and researchers are redoubling our efforts to assist school districts, parents and children deal with the challenges posed to education during a global pandemic.” “One example is Wayne State University’s #HealthyKidsQuarantined website, which provides activities, resources and fun challenges through weekly calendars for elementary and middle school children.
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WSU Launches Four Engineering Programs, Offers Free Mental Health Assistance to First Responders

Detroit’s Wayne State University College of Engineering is launching four academic programs in time for the fall semester: Bachelor of Science in information technology; Bachelor of Science in welding and metallurgical engineering technology; Master of Science in robotics; and Master of Science in environmental and sustainability engineering. For the bachelor’s in information technology, WSU is realigning curricula that was split between three programs in the College of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the latter previously offered Bachelor of Arts in computer science and information systems technology. The new streamlined program housed within the College of Engineering’s department of computer science will offer an updated and improved degree to more than 900 students with majors across the three programs. “Adding these programs allows us to diversify our curricula and remain on the forefront of industrial and societal trends,” says Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering. “Students at Wayne State will greatly benefit from new educational and research opportunities that will ensure relevancy of their skills when they graduate.”
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What the coronavirus crisis reveals about vulnerable populations behind bars and on the streets

Stephanie Hartwell, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean, Sheryl Kubiak, School of Social Work dean, and Ijeoma Nnodim-Opara, assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics, wrote an article for The Conversation about how COVID-19 has disproportionately hit lower-income areas and communities of color. “Nowhere is this discrepancy more evident than in prisons, jails and homeless shelters – made up disproportionately of poorer, black and Latino men and women. Here, COVID-19 cases have mushroomed due to dormitory-style living conditions and the inability of people, often with underlying health issues, to practice social distancing. As the virus rages on, comprehensive COVID-19 testing for these populations remains elusive. As experts on jails, health disparities and how to help former prisoners reintegrate into society, we believe that missteps in how we transition incarcerated individuals back to the community would only put this vulnerable populace at greater risk of getting and transmitting COVID-19.”
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Wayne State study offers guide to reopening businesses safely

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has introduced a 6-step plan to re-start businesses that have been shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. It aims to balance the desire to revive the economy against the need to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19. A new study says states can do both if they prioritize industries where workers can keep their distance from each other or work remotely. Wayne State University researchers Shooshan Danagoulian, Zhe Zhu and Philip D. Levy wrote the report. Danagoulian, an assistant professor of economics, says professional services such as accounting are best-suited to resume safe operation. “Accountants work in separate offices, which precludes the spread of the virus, but they can also do their work from home fairly effectively,” Danagoulian says. By contrast, factory workers can’t do their jobs from home. But manufacturers can take steps to help workers maintain their distance. “We suggest giving priority to industries where — if people can’t work from home — they can operate effectively while minimizing the spread of the virus,” Danagoulian says. “It would provide a bigger boost to the economy should production resume in those industries.”
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Walter Reuther's family says of the UAW icon: 'He never sold out.'

Walter Reuther is known as the man who gave birth to the UAW, helped create the middle class and fought for civil rights. He introduced the notion of profit-sharing to factory workers and he was a noted civil rights leader, even standing alongside Martin Luther King Jr. during the famous 1963 "I have a dream" speech in Washington, D.C. "He's no doubt iconic," said Marick Masters, a professor at Wayne State University who specializes in labor. "He provided progressive leadership that showed the union not only as a bargaining organization, but a leader of social change too." Right up to his death, Reuther was critical of the AFL-CIO for not organizing minorities and workers in the South, Masters said. At the time that Reuther passed away, the union was at the height of its power, Masters said. But there were the early signs of challenges. "You saw the very beginnings of foreign auto companies, they were gaining some traction and he saw that as a call for alarm," Masters said. "I think if he'd have been alive, the way the unions and the companies responded to that threat would have been different."
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Why Gov. Whitmer is likely to win the GOP lawsuit over her emergency powers

The lawsuit Republican lawmakers filed Wednesday over Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's use of emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic appears to be a loser, according to three Michigan law professors. The lawsuit argues that Whitmer's emergency orders, including the stay-at-home order that runs through May 28, should be declared invalid because of lack of statutory authority. The suit argues one law Whitmer relies on applies only to local emergencies, rather than a statewide emergency, and the other one requires legislative approval — which Whitmer does not have — when it extends beyond 28 days. "Courts have routinely upheld very broad and vague delegations of power from the Legislature to the executive. I don't think that the Emergency Powers of Governor Act or the governor's interpretation of it violate any constitutional limits on delegation," said Lance Gable, associate professor at Wayne State University Law School who specializes in public health law. Gable said although the two emergency statutes give the governor broad powers to work autonomously, it will become increasingly important as the public health crisis continues for the executive and legislative branches to work cooperatively. Doing so will allow Michigan to ramp up testing and contact tracing and eventually impose much more targeted and intermittent orders that will allow many Michiganders to return to work, Gable said.
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To protect crime victims, support jail reform | Opinion

Sheryl Kubiak, School of Social Work dean, wrote an op-ed supporting jail reform. “Before the Michigan Jails Task Force released its report earlier this year, it wasn’t well known that tens of thousands of people were jailed in our state for driving on a suspended license or for unpaid tickets, fees, and child support. It wasn’t well known that rural counties in our state were outpacing Wayne and Kent Counties in jail population and seeing extremely high rates of serious mental illness among those jailed. Somewhere along the way, as Michigan’s jails tripled in size, their purpose got muddled. They became a tool for debt collection. A tool for responding to homelessness, mental illness, and addiction. To address this problem, we have to sharpen our focus on public safety. At each point in our justice system — from issuing warrants, to making arrests, to deciding who should be released pending trial, and how those found guilty should be punished — our laws should focus police, judges, and other decision-makers on immediate safety threats rather than money, addiction, and nuisances.”
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Opinion | Lessons from India help us fight coronavirus in Detroit, Seattle

Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University and in charge of infection control at Detroit Medical Center, and Dr. Anita Chopra, board-certified in internal medicine and sees patients at the University of Washington Neighborhood Shoreline Clinic in Seattle, wrote an op-ed for Bridge. “As front-line medical workers, our battle with COVID-19 is personal. We are physicians and sisters, waging war against an enemy that caught us defenseless. As we helped our communities plan for battle in two U.S. hotspots, we’ve drawn strength from reminiscences of our childhoods. We are inspiring each other to relentlessly protect the well-being of our patients and communities. One in Seattle, which saw the first COVID-19 case in the United States in a situation that escalated quickly, and the other in Detroit, which has faced a tsunami of cases and become one of the nation’s epicenters.”
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WSU researchers study industry characteristics to guide openings in face of COVID-19

Researchers at Wayne State University have completed an analysis that studied specific industry characteristics to guide industry openings in a way that lowers contagion risks and maximizes economic benefits until broader COVID-19 testing becomes available and immunity testing becomes efficient and reliable enough. “With protective gear and testing still in limited supply, there is a need to find the safest way to open and operate businesses to avoid a resurgence of the virus,” says Dr. Phillip Levy, professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president for translational science and clinical research innovation at WSU, and chief innovation officer for the WSU Physician Group. “It is critical that we look at alternatives to lower contagion risks and maximize economic benefits. Using specific industry characteristics to guide industries in their reopening efforts will be key to lowering the further spread of the virus.” Shooshan Danagoulian, assistant professor of economics, led the research. Levy and Zhe Zhu, assistant professor of economics, also worked on it. The scope for physical distancing and remote work will vary by industry and region. The team focused on Michigan and metro Detroit.
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Michigan got a crash course in treating COVID. Here's what doctors learned

Just when you think you understand COVID, it changes. It's a very deceptive virus; to keep up with it, it is a challenge,” says Dr. Teena Chopra, corporate medical director for Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control at Detroit Medical Center and a Wayne State University professor. “And particularly, it is manifesting differently by age, by race, by sex. Very early on, we were able to understand that, particularly in the city of Detroit.” One set of her COVID patients, especially the younger ones, are developing pulmonary embolisms – blood clots that get stuck in the lungs and can be deadly. “They are manifesting as sudden onset shortness of breath,” Dr. Chopra says. “And some of them are showing higher mortalities than others.”  Meanwhile, patients coming from nursing homes (a big part of DMC’s patient population) may not even appear to have COVID during a first examination, says Dr. Chopra. They may not have a fever or chills. “These older patients do not have the same symptoms,” she says. “They don't mount up the same immune response.” Yet many of them are testing positive for the virus. “We are beginning to test every patient coming from a nursing home, whether they have symptoms or not, because we want to assume they have it.”