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St. Clair Shores native who helped develop technology for COVID-19 vaccine honored

As a child in St. Clair Shores, Jason McLellan, Ph.D., knew he wanted to help people. McLellan said he had always thought he’d be a doctor because he wanted to help people. At Wayne State University, he excelled at chemistry and organic chemistry, which aren’t subjects many gravitate toward, he said. “The professors took notice and asked me to work in their lab performing research in organic chemistry,” he said. “I loved it, working in the lab.” He enjoyed it so much that, after publishing his first paper in organic chemistry, he switched his major from pre-med. Taking a graduate-level biochemistry class, he realized that subject fascinated him, as well. In 2003, McLellan graduated from Wayne State University and headed to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for graduate school, where he joined a structural biology laboratory that determines three-dimensional structures of proteins and other biological molecules. It was that path that eventually led him to have an impact on the COVID-19 vaccines now being administered around the world. “I was trained in a technique called X-ray crystallography,” he said. He likened it to growing rock candy, but with crystalized proteins instead. Doing so enabled him and the other researchers to be able to three-dimensional print a protein to see what it looks like and learn how it functions. The design McLellan helped to develop was used in the vaccines created by Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax. He said they also worked with Eli Lilly to create the antibody treatment to treat COVID-19. His mother, Karen McLellan, said, “He always wanted to be a pediatrician, for as long as I can remember. It changed when he went to Wayne State. Some of the professors took him under his wing, got him into his labs there. That started him on his trajectory.”
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Critical race theory: politics enters the classroom

According to experts, critical race theory is really an academic and legal theory first developed in the 1970s in response to the civil rights movement. According to those railing against it, it will teach young students they are racists and White supremacists, and rewrite Black History and those of “others,” including indigenous people. “The goal of critical race theory is that people existed besides the typical European narrative that we see in text books,” said Truman Hudson, Jr., EdD, instructor, College of Education, Wayne State University. “We don’t need to have separate narratives; we’re the United States, yet we’re not united. We’re teaching separateness. It’s looking through a multicultural lens. It does not look at Black, White, Arab, Jew – it lifts up everyone’s story. As long as we continue to look at education and race through a separate lens, we’ll end up with separate and unequal, which is what happened. It hurts all kids when we don’t look at race through a culturally sustaining pedagogy. We’re missing all these stories, the richness by all these people that don’t look like the people in these textbooks. The richness adds to all of our lives when we build on this space. It shouldn’t be us versus them. Our future generations need to know. It’s okay to say the country is an experiment that we’re still trying to figure out – it’s okay to make people feel uncomfortable talking about it. The amendments to the Constitution show growth. They helped establish justice, of where we want to go. Education helps us grow, and the more we learn, we can continue to grow.”
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Product developed by Wayne State professor touted to be safer for marine life

After spending weeks and months in the water, the bottom of a boat can become a slimy mess, as algae and other marine organisms coat the hull. Biofouling, the accumulation of algae, barnacles and other marine organisms on underwater surfaces like the hulls of boats and ships, can slow down vessels and increase fuel consumption by as much as 40%, at a cost of $36 billion for the global shipping industry. It costs recreational boaters more in fuel, as well, because of the drag added to the boat. That’s why many boaters — recreational owners and commercial shippers — use a bottom paint containing an anti-foulant. More than 90% of current anti-foulants in the market rely on copper as a biocide, however. The heavy metal is designed to leach out of the paint while it is in the water, creating a toxic environment to deter wildlife from attaching to the hull, but it is also an endocrine disrupter that affects the life cycles of fish, according to Sheu-Jane Gallagher, one of the three co-founders and general manager of Repela Tech, a startup out of Wayne State University. A new technology developed in a lab at Wayne State University is being used in an attempt to change that, however. “Repela is all about sustainability, and what we are developing is a sustainable technology for boaters,” Gallagher said. Zhiqiang Cao, Ph.D., a professor of chemical engineering and materials science in Wayne State University’s College of Engineering, invented the underlying technology for the product and approached Gallagher and Edward Kim, the third co-founder of the company, about promoting and marketing marine applications for the technology.
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Historic floods fuel misery, rage in Detroit

City officials have repeatedly pointed to climate change as the main culprit in last month’s flood, when Detroit was overwhelmed by as much as 8 inches of rain in less than 19 hours. Weather stations in and around Detroit set records for the most amount of rainfall within a 24-hour period during the storm, according to the National Weather Service. Thousands of basements were flooded, causing widespread damage and prompting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of emergency. The White House has since issued a disaster declaration, freeing up federal funds. The storms offer a foreboding glimpse of Detroit’s new reality in a warming world: flooding intensified by high water levels on Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes. And the floods have also churned up debate about the management of Detroit’s aging flood-control system and whether officials are taking steps to harden the system against what’s becoming a regular drumbeat of record-setting storms. Lyke Thompson, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University, agreed. “The people in the city that are better off live in neighborhoods that have better infrastructure for removing the water from the neighborhood,” Thompson said. “And whites left the city in droves decades ago, so most of the city of Detroit is occupied by people of color. So, if the city has a problem, they have a problem. And the city has a problem.” Detroit’s outer suburbs, he said, are on higher ground with newer infrastructure, while lower-lying neighborhoods experience flooding and leaks on a regular basis. Those same houses, he said, are getting “whammy after whammy because we’re having repeated 100-year floods, and the residents can’t cope with it.” Thompson and other researchers have documented those trends in a study that found recurrent residential flooding in Detroit is far more prevalent than previously thought, disproportionately affects Black residents and may contribute to a greater incidence of asthma. Of the 6,000 homes in Detroit surveyed, researchers found almost 43% had experienced flooding, and neighborhoods like Jefferson Chalmers are especially vulnerable.
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WSU to require COVID-19 vaccines for students living in dorms

Less than five weeks before students move back to Wayne State University, officials said Monday that residents of its dorms will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19. WSU President M. Roy Wilson made the announcement in an email that accompanied results from an online survey showing 86% of respondents reported being vaccinated. Those who responded included 9,106 people, a 29.5% response rate out of the 30,853 members of the campus community. There were 23,052 students enrolled during winter semester. "We are mindful of the particular risks of congregate living," Wilson wrote. "Therefore, we are implementing a targeted mandate for students living in university housing for the fall 2021 semester ... This targeted mandate — which is similar to those implemented by several Michigan universities — will help protect those who live in close proximity to each other. It will also help us prevent spread of the virus on our campus while allowing students to interact and engage face to face — a vital part of the college experience," Wilson added. Wilson wrote Monday that more information, including how to provide proof of vaccination, would be forthcoming "in the near future." WSU has told students they would make a decision by July about whether a vaccine would be required for students living in the dorms based on case trends, said Laurie Lauzon Clabo, WSU's campus chief health and wellness officer. "We felt we couldn't wait any longer," said Clabo, who is also dean of the College of Nursing. "The timing is always tough. We believe we acted responsibility." WSU is following COVID case numbers in the city and state, and two surveys were done to assess the percentage of those vaccinated. While the number of people in the WSU community who have gotten the vaccine is good, Clabo said, the lowest level of uptake is among undergraduate students. Another survey of those living in WSU residence halls showed "overwhelming" support for a mandate, Clabo added. WSU, she said, will work with students if they are not fully vaccinated by move-in, which begins Aug. 26.
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Great Lakes algae threaten air quality

Toxins from harmful algal blooms, such as those looming in Lake Erie off Monroe County shores, are well-known as water polluters, but now researchers are looking at how they harm Great Lakes air. And that could have implications for human health, they say. Algae blooms occur because of a warming climate and nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from activities like agriculture, said Judy Westrick, a chemistry professor at Wayne State University. In the Great Lakes region, algal blooms occur in inland lakes and the western basin of Lake Erie, primarily in shallow water, Westrick said. Research focuses on water quality because of observations, Westrick said. When people became sick after swimming in toxic water, scientists began researching it. However, now that water quality is better understood, scientists are branching out into understanding algae toxins and air, Westrick said. “You’re probably going to see, in probably the next year, like 100 studies on aerosol,” Westrick said. “Aerosol has become a big thing because of a couple of factors.” Those factors are part of climate change, she said. For example, heavy rainfall can cause waves and break up harmful algae, releasing particles that could be toxic in the air. The expert consensus is algae blooms will get worse as climate change and runoff worsen, Westrick said. Algae essentially eat nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients from agricultural runoff. “If you take care of the nutrients and you don’t have the nutrient load, then then they won’t get worse, but if everything stayed the same, the nutrient load, and it just gets warmer, we expect them to go longer,” Westrick said.

Wayne State University and Corvias announce recipients of 2021 Scholarship Award

Corvias and Wayne State University  today announced the two recipients of the 2021-2022 Wayne State Corvias Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship program is made possible by an endowment established by Corvias to help students overcome financial obstacles and achieve their academic aspirations. Students who are awarded the scholarship will receive $6,250 per semester, for a total of $12,500 for the academic year. This year’s scholarship recipients are Jennifer Gonzalez and Nicole Wallace. A luncheon in their honor will be held in the spring of 2022 when WSU returns to full post-COVID operations. “We appreciate our partnership with Corvias and their continuing commitment to our students,” said Mark Lawrence Kornbluh, PhD, Wayne State’s Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We look forward to Jennifer and Nicole joining the WSU community this fall and to the contributions we are confident they will make as Corvias Scholars on campus in the coming year.”
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10 things – from beef to dresses – seeing the biggest price hikes

As shoppers dust the pandemic cobwebs off their wallets, they’re noticing prices aren’t the same as they were in 2020. The inflated prices are hitting some products more than others. The federal government tracks monthly price changes for more than 300 consumer products, ranging from cars and college textbooks to bananas and pet food. “Inflation is one of those things people know just enough about to be afraid of,” said Matthew Roling, adjunct finance professor at Wayne State University. “So it’s really easy for people to use it as a wedge to drive agendas that might be unrelated to the core issue.” There’s a litany of reasons for why prices are higher for various products, but it all comes down to supply and demand, Roling said. While it may seem like inflation is running rampant, Roling said he expects this to be temporary. “It’s a lot easier to turn off the global economy than to turn it back on,” Roling said. “Demand is returning to normal at a faster rate than supply is. So everyone is going back to buying all the food and the vacations and the clothes and the gas in the cars – they’re returning to the same behavior they had a year-and-a-half ago.” Roling expects prices to settle in the next couple months. “If it’s still here nine months from now, then it’s a problem,” Roling said.
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Three with Dearborn ties named to Arab America Foundation’s 40 Under 40

With more than 100 people being nominated for the Arab America Foundation’s annual 40 Under 40 initiative, the field was packed for 2021. The program spotlights Arab American professionals in all fields and business sectors, including education, law, public service/politics, non-profit, business leaders, entrepreneurs, engineers, medical professionals, artists, entertainers, writers, and media representatives. All awardees are under the age of 40, excel in their professions, and are engaged in promoting their heritage and culture to empower their communities and make a difference. Adeeb Mozip is a Yemeni American who has served as the director of business affairs at Wayne State University Law School since February 2017. He has served in a number of capacities at Wayne State University including manager for financial affairs in the office of the dean of the WSU Library System. Prior to that, he was a budget analyst with the WSU Library System and an accountant with WSU’s Sponsored Program Administration. He is a member of the WSU Higher Learning Commission accreditation team. In this role, he ensures university-wide conformity to the HLC and federal reporting and compliance requirements.
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Parent loans 'fraught with peril' as default rates hit 20, 30 percent at many colleges

One out of every four federal dollars lent for undergraduate education last year went to parents and a stunning 22 percent of that $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt, $336 billion in all, is held by people 50 and older, who typically borrowed to help pay for a child's or grandchild's higher education. There's no way of knowing how many institutions put pressure on parents to borrow. Some schools, as a matter of policy, do not mention PLUS loans unless a student has exhausted other means of paying for their education and is still coming up short. Case in point: At Wayne State University, where just 7 percent of the school's more than 1,000 parent borrowers defaulted in 2017-19, PLUS loans are regarded as a last resort. We found that parents don't always understand the implications of borrowing," says Catherine Kay, Wayne State's senior director of financial aid. "If you offer these loans from the front end, people sometimes borrow more than they need to. A parent could potentially borrow every year and the debt really adds up."
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Safety panel: Government conflict on pay rules hurts driver retention

A long-standing gap between how the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Labor view driver wages must be bridged before the trucking industry will have a shot at curing its chronic driver retention problem, according to a university researcher. Speaking at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Council (MCSAC) meeting on Monday, Michael Belzer, an economics professor at Wayne State University, told attendees that wage requirements under the DOL-enforced Fair Labor Standards Act conflict with FMCSA hours-of-service regulations that allow drivers to be unpaid while they wait to load and unload at a shipper or receiver facility. “The Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor requires that employers pay for all work time, and covers the entire labor market,” said Belzer, a former Teamsters driver. “But FMCSA allows employers to declare drivers off duty while keeping them on the job. That’s a very different definition. Drivers’ time does not belong to them.” Belzer contends that DOT and DOL have to “bridge the gap together” to fix the problem. “DOL and DOT can rebuild the truck driver labor market and solve this problem. Through interagency cooperation they can fix the driver shortage and create a workforce development solution that is stable.” MCSAC took up the discussion because driver pay and retention can have a direct effect on driver safety. At a low pay rate, drivers work as many hours as necessary to reach target earnings that allow them to pay their bills, Belzer said. Drivers earning higher pay will rest rather than work extra hours that damage their health, risk their safety or keep them away from their families, he pointed out.
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Levin Center expert takes part in panel on insurance oversight

State legislators from across the country learned about the importance of insurance oversight from a National Conference of Insurance Legislators panel entitled, “The Delicate Balance of Legislative Oversight.” One panelist was the Levin Center’s Ben Eikey, an expert on state legislative oversight. “Oversight can play a critical role in state legislatures seeking to promote a healthy insurance sector and so that families and businesses can obtain effective insurance at a fair price,” said Eikey. “Legislative oversight can help identify and analyze problems, encourage best practices, and help make sure financial help is there if disaster strikes.” The Levin Center at Wayne Law is named in honor of former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator who retired in 2015 after 36 years in the Senate conducting fact-based, bipartisan oversight investigations. Levin serves as the chair of the center which is headquartered at Wayne State University Law School. The center’s mission is to promote high quality oversight in Congress and the 50 state legislatures through oversight workshops, research, events, and other activities.
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Did COVID fuel drug overdoses? Michigan deaths surged last year

COVID-19 overshadowed the opioid crisis in Michigan last year, but newly released data suggests the pandemic may have helped fuel an increase in drug deaths. Drug overdose deaths in 2020 climbed 16 percent in Michigan over the previous year — reaching an all-time high of 2,743 deaths, according to preliminary data released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, there were more than 93,000 drug deaths last year, a 30-percent jump. Experts attribute the spike to the isolation and strangeness of a pandemic that ground down the mental health of so many, but especially those who fought addiction. “Isolation, loss of job insecurity — all of those things are big-time stressors for anybody,” said Dr. Andrew King, an addiction specialist with the Wayne State University’s physicians group and an emergency room doctor at Detroit Medical Center’s Receiving Hospital. “People with substance use disorder in particular, might be at a higher risk of returning to use, potentially overdosing,” he said. The synthetic opioid (fentanyl), which is 50 times or more powerful than morphine, was found in 72 percent of the drug-overdose cases, or 208 cases. In the previous two years, it was present in about half of the overdose cases. “Any hit of heroin is like playing Russian roulette. It's potentially deadly,” said King, the Detroit emergency room doctor. “It's very rare now for me to see any patient who has not been exposed to fentanyl. Fentanyl is almost ubiquitous.” And because people were less likely to be with loved ones or friends during the pandemic, they were less likely to have someone close when they overdosed to administer naloxone, an emergency medication that’s used to reverse opioid overdoses. King tells patients that, if they’re going to use, be with someone with naloxone. “But in the case of the pandemic, if people are more isolated and not socializing, then sometimes it can be too late,” he said.
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Will standardized testing for college admissions disappear? Michigan schools offer clues

More than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country made it optional for prospective students to provide standardized test scores for admission after testing centers closed amid COVID-19 in 2020, according to a list compiled by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, an organization that has lobbied to end standardized testing for college admissions. More than 1,700 schools have extended the policy into admissions for this fall. In Michigan, that includes 30 colleges and universities this fall. The list includes many private colleges and public universities, including Michigan State, Central, Northern, Western, Eastern and Michigan Technological universities as well as the University of Michigan. Other universities are trying to make the temporary policy permanent even as the pandemic policies relax and standardized testing becomes easier. Wayne State University, for instance, launched the discussion months ago but will discuss it more formally in the months ahead, said Michael Busuito, a member of the school's Board of Governors. "We all want the same thing: what is best for our kids to advance their lives," Busuito said. 
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Has the pandemic put an end to the SAT and ACT?

Many students never made it through the test-center door; the pandemic left much of the high school class of 2021 without an SAT or ACT score to submit. Liberal arts colleges, technical institutes, historically black institutions, Ivies — more than 600 schools switched to test-optional for the 2020-21 application season, and dozens refused to consider test scores at all. To choose among all those college hopefuls, many institutions took a holistic approach — looking at factors such as rigor of high school curriculum, extracurriculars, essays and special circumstances — to fill in the gaps left by missing test scores. Take the case of Wayne State University in Detroit, where before Covid, high school GPA and standardized test scores were used as a cutoff to hack 18,000 applications down to a number the university’s eight admissions counselors could manage. “It was just easier,” says senior director of admissions Ericka M. Jackson. In 2020, Jackson’s team changed tack. They made test scores optional and asked applicants for more materials, including short essays, lists of activities and evaluation by a high school guidance counselor. Assessing the extra material required assistance from temporary staff and other departments, but it was an eye-opening experience, Jackson says. “I literally am sometimes in tears reading the essays from students, what they’ve overcome … the GPA can’t tell you that.”
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Understanding why Detroit floods and why it keeps happening

Thousands of Detroit residents, businesses, churches, nonprofits, libraries and others will likely need months to recover from the disastrous flooding caused by record rainfall two weeks ago and aging water infrastructure. It was the second time a so-called 100-year rain event occurred in the past decade. “We clearly can’t go on like this,” said William Shuster, chair of Wayne State University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. “The infrastructure was built for a different time and place, and that’s changed. We are not keeping up.” This survey, which should be released by the end of July by Wayne State University and the University of Michigan-Dearborn, shows which parts of the city — from Jefferson Chalmers, on the east side, to Aviation Subdivision on the west — have dealt with recurrent flooding since 2012. Among 4,667 Detroit households surveyed between 2012 and 2020, 46 percent have dealt with flooding. There is a map showing which areas are more at risk of flooding — and it is strikingly similar to the current maps released by the City showing the hardest hit areas in the current disaster. The map doesn’t name neighborhoods, but shows clusters of streets on the west side, the northeast and lower east side that are prone to flooding. The report describes the physical and emotional impact many residents deal with long after the water recedes. There’s also a resource guide for various agencies that can provide assistance. “It’s nobody’s fault in particular; we have a huge and expanding service area,” said Wayne State’s Shuster. “Regional cooperation is the way forward. Let’s focus on that opportunity. “This is an equal opportunity disruptor, destroyer of health, property and morale.”
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How small businesses in metro Detroit navigated pandemic aid

All week long on The Rebound Detroit, we're shining a light on metro Detroit's small businesses and the people who work tirelessly to make them successful. It's been more than three weeks since our state's remaining COVID-related restrictions lifted, so we're exploring the hit small businesses have taken during the pandemic, what recovery is looking like now, and the road ahead. For many metro Detroit small businesses, government aid during the pandemic has been a vital lifeline. Where payroll wasn't a business' largest expense other federal programs sought to fill the gaps, like the Shuttered Venue Grant and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund; we saw locally a major hiccup with the latter, when funds ran out before all those approved could get their cash. "Big businesses have continuity plans," said Prof. Bertie Greer, associate dean at Wayne State's Mike Ilitch School of Business. "They have already put together some thoughts and done risk management," she said. On top of generally having less cash on hand, makes smaller businesses especially vulnerable during a period of uncertainty like a pandemic, Greer said.
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Big Tech is trying to disarm the FTC by going after its biggest weapon: Lina Khan

Amazon and Facebook have filed petitions seeking Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan’s recusal in antitrust cases involving their companies. Khan’s confirmation to the FTC and appointment to lead the agency presents one of the clearest threats of major regulatory action in the tech sector in years. By seeking to recuse Khan, the companies are going after one of the biggest antitrust weapons the FTC has and, whether Khan is recused or not, the decision could muck up the antitrust charges against either company. Experts told CNBC that it makes sense for Facebook and Amazon to try to get Khan removed from the suits. Experts interviewed by CNBC said petitions for recusal of FTC commissioners happen but aren’t common. That makes the two petitions in a matter of weeks seem like an outlier. But, the experts said, it makes sense the companies would pull out all the stops given their opportunity to do so. “The last thing a party would want to do would be to sleep on its rights, so it’s not surprising that they would go ahead and raise the issue now,” said Stephen Calkins, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former FTC general counsel. “And raising it could serve a purpose even if all it does is to provide an argument the parties could make if any matter ever goes forward and ends up in a court.”
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How fear of government surveillance influences our behavior

People steer away from talking about policy issues publicly or even among family and friends when they think their attitudes aren’t widely shared. This inclination is known as the spiral of silence. Knowledge of government monitoring influences online expression, especially if users think their opinions conflict with that of the majority, according to a study by journalism professor Elizabeth Stoycheff at Wayne state University. Stoycheff asked 225 participants to fill out a survey about how they get their news, and about their views on surveillance. She showed them a fake Facebook page that reported on renewed U.S. airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Iraq. Its tone was neutral. Participants were asked if they’d be willing to express their opinion on the airstrikes, by liking, forwarding, or commenting on the page. Half received several reminders that although the answers were confidential, there was no guarantee that the NSA would not be monitoring them. Afterward, participants were questioned about their opinions of airstrikes and what they believed most Americans thought about them. They were also asked questions about the legitimacy of online surveillance by government agencies. Their answers were consistent with the spiral-of-silence effect. The more their personal opinions diverged from perceived mainstream opinion, the less participants were willing to express their views. The effect was strongest in participants who believed that they might be monitored and that online surveillance was taking place: they answered in a more conformist way and engaged in self-censorship.
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Is your office safe from COVID?

As COVID cases drop in the U.S. and vaccinations increase, many companies are bringing their employees back to office buildings. And lots of those workers are worried: Will shared spaces remain safe as restrictions are lifted and viral variants spread? Can businesses require all employees to be vaccinated? What office and building features best minimize risk? If you’re vaccinated, you can return to work as normal (mostly). The most effective way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus at work is to make sure that everyone in the shared space is vaccinated. Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specify that fully vaccinated people (those who are two weeks past their final vaccine dose) no longer need to wear a mask or practice physical distancing in most situations, including most office workplaces. COVID vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection and illness, so once you are fully vaccinated, “it doesn’t really matter what the vaccine status is of those around you,” says Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an infectious disease physician at Wayne State University. If you’re returning to a workplace where some of your co-workers are unwilling or unable to get vaccinated or to wear a mask, the best protection you have is getting immunized yourself, she says.