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Michigan officials: Blacks contracting, dying of virus at same rate as whites

African Americans in Michigan are contracting the coronavirus at the same rate as whites, according to state data released Monday, reducing the disproportionate impact of cases and deaths the minority suffered during the early stages of the pandemic. State officials released data Monday showing that Michigan has seen "significant progress" in reducing COVID-19 on communities of color in the past two weeks and created a program in hopes of continuing the trend. The development comes after Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said last week the gap has been eliminated. State health officials highlighted that Black residents account for 8.2% of cases and 9.9% of deaths in the past two weeks. By contrast, white residents comprised 88.7% of cases and 88%. Earlier in the pandemic. Blacks represented 29.4% of cases and 40.7% of deaths. The pandemic began in March. Black residents make up 14% of Michigan’s population, while whites comprise 79%, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. Wayne State's Wilson said last week this issue was not being talked about and that the progress is critical. Nearly four decades have passed since U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Margaret Heckler’s report on Black and Minority Health reported 60,000 excess deaths annually in black and minority populations due to health disparities. "This health gap persists to this day," said Wilson, who previously served in the U.S. National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. "The experience here in Michigan with COVID-19 provides hope that progress can be made in addressing persistent racial health disparities if we focus deeply and work together."
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After decriminalization of 'magic' mushrooms in Ann Arbor, medical professionals issue warnings

One week after the Ann Arbor City Council voted to decriminalize psychedelic substances like magic mushrooms some medical professionals want users to not be tricked into thinking there's no danger. "I think the public needs more education or at least awareness and that is where the poison center comes in," said Dr. Varaun Vorhra, Wayne State University Poison Control Center. Some advocates tout psychedelic substances as having therapeutic benefits in the treatment of mental illness and other medical problems. But medical professionals are sounding the alarm because of how these substances can interact with medications and even the foods you eat. "You will see a lot of different side effects like racing heart rate, nausea, vomiting, sweating, hallucinations, possible psychosis," Vohra said. "What we would call 'a bad trip.'" Medical experts believe if you are going to use these substances, you should do under certain conditions. "We recommend at least, if you are with a group of people, people who will be able to monitor you, or supervise you in that setting," Vohra said. "Sort of a chaperone in a way." You can also contact the Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine to learn more about the substance before using.
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Michigan's racial disparity disappears in new virus cases

The disproportionate number of African Americans among newly reported COVID-19 cases has largely disappeared in Michigan over recent weeks, data suggests. Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, confirmed the reduction in COVID-19 cases among African Americans in a text message late Thursday night. She said more on this issue will be coming next week. Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson referenced the turnaround during a presentation Thursday to the Lansing Economic Club. Wilson, who sits on a gubernatorial task force created to examine racial disparities, appeared with the presidents of Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. "One thing that is not being talked about enough is this huge racial disparity that we saw at the beginning has now been completely eliminated," Wilson said. The university presidents attributed the lowered toll on African Americans to a variety of interventions, although other factors might also be at work. But Wilson warned the African American community should not get complacent and must continue wearing masks, maintain social distancing and avoid large gatherings. "It is still worth pointing out the remarkable turnaround," said Wilson, adding he has worked in the field of racial disparities for a long time, and it's unusual to see efforts have an impact so quickly. "It allowed targeted intervention to make a big difference." Wilson attributed the close to many efforts created as a result of Whitmer creating the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities in April, the group on which he sits. The group has been reviewing weekly COVID-19 reports prepared for the Michigan Economic Recovery Council, he said.
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Spotlight on Hispanic Heritage Month on Inside MI's African American Vote series

Spotlight on the News: Inside Michigan's African American Vote series celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month and examined the impact and influence of the largest minority group in America. How are leaders of Michigan's Hispanic and Latino/a community using their power and voice to increase the cultural diversity of the U.S.? Among the guests was Jorge Chinea, History professor  and Director, Center for Latino/a & Latin American Studies.
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MSU, U-M, Wayne State presidents: In-person classes likely won't resume until fall 2021

The presidents of Michigan's top three research universities said it’s likely it will be another year before their students return to classrooms full-time. Most students at Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University are taking their courses remotely this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each university's president expects online classes to continue through the academic year, with students returning in person in the fall of 2021. "The truth of the matter is that this is going to be with us for a while," said Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, who spoke with the MSU President Samuel Stanley and U-M President Mark Schlissel during a Lansing Economic Club panel on Thursday. "I anticipate that the winter semester will be basically the same as it is this semester."
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Wayne State opening of STEM Innovation Learning Center Oct. 1

Wayne State University will open its new STEM Innovation Learning Center on Thursday, Oct. 1, and host virtual pop-up mini events throughout the day from 9:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Students, faculty, staff, and the community are invited to join the celebration. The virtual event will include remarks from university and state leadership, a tour of the building, a drone flyover, and more. Construction on the project, which was made possible by a $14.75 million commitment from the state of Michigan as well as bond proceeds to WSU, began in March 2019. “Now more than ever is a time for innovation and optimism, and this facility will help further a culture of collaboration and creativity across disciplines,” says Tonya Matthews, associate provost for inclusive workforce development and director of the STEM Innovation Learning Center. “Students, faculty and the city of Detroit will benefit from the ideas and opportunities generated within this cutting-edge, state-of-the-art learning space for years to come.” This fall, the building will soft open with limited access while equipment is moved in and final systems are tested. The STEM Innovation Learning Center, however, has already begun to play a role in achieving Wayne State’s vision for STEM education and research for current and future Warriors through various community partnerships that could build upon the spirit of inclusive, collaborative STEM.
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Off-campus students remain a challenge in Detroit’s census response

According to the city census data map, Midtown and the Wayne State University area — neighborhoods that have plenty of traditional and campus housing— still have some of the lowest census responses in the city, about 28 percent, while the city itself has pushed past the halfway mark with a response rate of 50.1, as of Wednesday. Wayne State officials said that they had been working with Victoria Kovari, who is leading Detroit’s Census initiative, for the past 1.5 years to encourage residents and students to respond to the 2020 Census. Wayne State ran volunteer events and education campaigns to help students understand that they could participate in the census for their campus address. “We just wanted to let students know that the Census was coming up and talked about the areas in which it effected funding, roads, Pell education, healthcare and trying to find things that would matter to students,” said Carolyn Berry, WSU associate vice president of marketing and communications. 

New article shows how science could reveal racism's real impact on the body and brain

A novel publication in the Nature journal Neuropsychopharmacology asserts that the stress of racism produces an increased risk for mental health disorders like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Black community, especially in the current climate brought on by COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, leading to a critical need to utilize science to understand racism's true biological impact. Wayne State University School of Medicine Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences and the David and Patricia Barron Endowed Chair in PTSD and Trauma Neurobiology Tanja Jovanovic, Ph.D., wrote "The critical importance in identifying the biological mechanisms underlying the effects of racism on mental health" with Tracy Bale, Ph.D., a professor of Pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Jovanovic has studied the impact of trauma on the brain and behavior in primarily African American urban communities for more than 15 years. The focus of her work has been in exposure to neighborhood and domestic violence, and post-traumatic stress disorder. She is now investigating the impact of racial discrimination "above and beyond that of other types of trauma." "It is clear that the impact of racism is chronic, pervasive, and for many, unavoidable. Moreover it leaves the brain and body vulnerable to many disorders, including PTSD and many physical diseases," she said.
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Mental health expert: Limit news intake, check in on friends

Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Stress, Trauma and Anxiety Research Clinic at Wayne State University, was a guest on Detroit Today hosted by Stephen Henderson. Javanbakht says there are multiple factors that contribute to stress, all of which are present in the COVID-19 pandemic. He says the rapid transition and change in lifestyle has made the already traumatic situation more stressful for many and adds that all the unknowns around the virus can also create stress. “There’s also a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty always makes any difficult situation even more difficult.” Javanbakht says limiting negative news intake and checking in on friends can really help mental health. He says that friends can learn coping skills together, easing stress. “If I am happy, if I am doing well, share it with others. Call a friend and be encouraging, even lend some money if someone needs it. If I don’t have happiness, I can’t share it with others.”
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Reasons online students should be able to keep webcam off

Child psychology researchers don’t know yet what the effects of this school year will be on children, said Erika Bocknek, a Wayne State University associate professor of educational psychology. “We’re building the boat as we sail it,” Bocknek said. Unlike in a traditional classroom, children are viewing themselves and staring at the faces of their classmates, which can make them self-conscious about their own appearance, said Bocknek, who teaches courses on child psychology. “We don’t have good data on this yet, but a lot of people are in fact speculating that there may be impacts on self-esteem, on a positive sense of identity,” Bocknek said. Increased screen time during virtual school is another unknown for researchers, Bocknek said. But experts know this school year may exacerbate already existing mental and behavioral issues, she said. “I think we are going to have some positive and negative lessons learned from this time period,” Bocknek said. "We really don’t know yet for sure what the impacts are going to be. However, we hypothesize that there are children with different learning styles who might really benefit from being able to turn the camera off and focus on listening auditorily to the lesson.”
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Wayne State posts guidelines for action if COVID-19 spreads

As the majority of public universities begin fall semester classes this week amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayne State University has developed a plan with specific benchmarks about when to take action to contain any potential spread of the virus. The university would take its most drastic step and depopulate the campus if testing shows positive cases within the university community to exceed 15%, or three or more clusters appear in seven days or if fewer than 15% of hospital beds and fewer than 15% of intensive care unit beds are available. The "tipping point metrics," posted online Monday, include thresholds that will trigger and guide Wayne State officials in their decision-making in the event of numerous COVID-19 cases. While many universities have a plan of when to take action, the Detroit university is among a small number of universities nationwide that are publishing specific numerical thresholds to trigger actions if coronavirus infections escalate. Wayne State made the move after watching other universities that have returned to campus and grappled with numerous coronavirus cases. It also wanted to be transparent and clear about what will happen if necessary, President M. Roy Wilson said. "I don't think the time to make a decision is ... when everything is getting worse," said Wilson, who is an epidemiologist. "You have to have some things already worked out so you are not wasting time. We know the science, and we know when things reach a certain level, it’s bad." 
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Pandemic raises anxiety for expectant mothers amid higher intensive care risk

For women who are pregnant, the pandemic can be particularly fraught with anxiety as they worry about the effects of COVID-19 on themselves and their babies, all while coping with potential job loss, child care issues and economic uncertainty. An evolving body of research — including a recent study by investigators at the Wayne State University Medical School and the National Institutes of Health Perinatology Research Branch in Detroit — has shown it's unlikely for the virus to pass from a pregnant woman to her fetus. A data analysis of U.S. cases, published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July, concluded that pregnant women are at no greater risk of dying from the virus than non-pregnant women, though they are more likely to end up in intensive care and require a ventilator. With 24 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including about 6 million in the United States and more than 100,000 in Michigan, there has been no consistent evidence of pregnant mothers passing the infection to their newborns, what's called vertical transmission. While other viral infections such as Zika, cytomegalovirus and rubella can be passed from mother to fetus, researchers led by Dr. Roberto Romero, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at Wayne State, investigated why the same isn't true of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. "The rate of vertical transmission is extremely low," Romero said. "The best estimates that we have are less than 2%, or less than 1%. There have been some reports of neonates testing positive after birth, but there is always the question: Was that virus acquired in utero, or was it acquired from a mother who is sick?" 
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Medical experts warn that mental health of college athletes, and especially Black athletes, is being overlooked

As colleges grapple with the decision of when to resume athletic competition, the NCAA’s chief medical officer suggested mental health issues — especially among Black athletes — are getting insufficient attention. Mental health concerns were highest among respondents of color, those whose families are facing economic hardship and those living alone, according to an NCAA news release about the findings of the survey, which was conducted April 10-May 1. Greater financial pressures and more instability at home among Black athletes make separation from their teammates an even bigger issue, said M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University and a panelist. “We have to deal with those aspects with the same rigor and concentration as we do social distancing, wearing masks, sanitation of facilities,’’ Wilson said. “All those things are good. But we’ve got to look at the well-being of our student athletes also, because they’re not going to be able to come back if they don’t."
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The 19th Amendment was ratified 100 years ago — these 10 women changed politics since

The women who made up the suffrage movement a century ago were dismissed, degraded, even jailed. Yet they persisted. But even after women secured the right to vote (for most women – many women of color, especially Black women, notably remained disenfranchised even after ratification of the 19th Amendment), the fight to be elected to office was long and fraught. After helping secure the right for women to vote in her home state of Montana in 1914, social worker, pacifist and suffragette Jeannette Rankin set a new goal. Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress in 1916, four years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment and as the U.S. was debating whether to enter World War I. "She was an ardent suffragist,” said Liette Gidlow, an associate professor of history at Wayne State University and a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. “And it's not necessarily remembered this way these days, but Americans' feelings about being involved in the first World War were very mixed."
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As teachers brace for student learning losses, many worry about the impact on Michigan’s most vulnerable students

As schools across Michigan begin an unpredictable new year, teachers are facing what may seem like an insurmountable task: Helping students, particularly the most vulnerable, who’ve experienced learning loss because of the pandemic. There is little doubt that the disruption caused by COVID-19, marked by an unheard-of shift from physical to remote learning, will leave many students struggling academically. That concern runs especially deep in cities like Detroit, home to long-existing inequities and students whose communities have borne the brunt of the virus’s damage. Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, an assistant professor at Wayne State University, says schools offering choices between in-person and remote instruction should have considered the needs of students who may have suffered the greatest losses. Most district leaders left it up to parents to decide between the two. “Parents choose what’s best for them,” Lenhoff said. “But that really leaves it up to chance whether the students who would benefit the most from face to face are the ones who are going to sign up for it.” Lenhoff said it’s “scary, frankly,” to think about the long-term consequences for students from low-income families and students of color who attend economically segregated schools who will “are likely bearing the brunt of the learning loss.” 
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The psychology behind why some college students break COVID-19 rules

Going off to college is, for many young adults, their first real plunge into freedom and adulthood. It’s where they’re encouraged to take risks and find new connections in dining halls and laundry rooms. But those collegiate rites of passage aren’t possible if they’re largely confined to an extra-long twin bed in a stuffy dorm room, peering out at the world through barred windows. The fall 2020 semester looks a lot like that for some undergraduates who’ve returned to campus during the pandemic. And as anticipated, some of those undergrads have already started to rebel. CNN spoke with experts about the drivers behind these risky decisions, including Hannah Schacter, assistant professor and developmental psychologist at Wayne State University. Teens are also particularly sensitive to the potential rewards of risky decisions at this stage in their life. It’s not that they don’t understand the negative consequences, but they struggle to regulate those impulses that lead them to take risks because the potential reward is too great, said Schacter, who leads a lab at Wayne State University on adolescent relationships. “It’s this combination of being restricted from social contact for a while at an age where spending time with peers is so essential to development, to making teenagers feel good, and so, there’s some sort of calculation going on where the perceived benefit — ‘I get to spend time with friends’ — seems to be outweighing the potential costs,” Schacter said. When you plop students back on campus after a spring and summer spent cooped up in their childhood bedrooms, many of them will take those opportunities to connect with their friends and strangers. Their fear of the virus may be overtaken by their eagerness to connect, she said. “No one’s going back to college because they want to sit in their dorm all weekend by themselves,” Schacter said. “Peers are so essential that it’s no coincidence that we’re seeing these behaviors more and that they’re particularly peer-oriented,” Schacter said.
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Schools caught in a ‘no win’ reopening situation

“School 2020 is going to be radically different than school 2019. No educator, administrator or parent has a model, and there is no one model that will work for all schools,” said Roland Coloma, professor and assistant dean, Division of Teacher Education, at Wayne State University. “The lack of universal internet access, for us to implement a fully online teaching and learning format, is one issue, as is full speed broadband. If they're using Zoom or Google classroom with 20 to 25 students – that's a lot of internet and broadband. We will also need to insure that every family will have enough computers, tablets, devices, as well as for parents or caregivers. We are also assuming that these homes will have an adult present who can supervise these children, and are not working outside the home.” Lauren Mangus, PhD, assistant professor for educational psychology at Wayne State University, offers a sobering consideration faced by all educators this year: “We're trying to cram education into a crisis. This is an ongoing tornado. This virus is not detectable to the naked eye. When students are stressed, it can manifest in different ways and can impede learning. School is important, but it is very difficult when students are stressed.”
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Has the Detroit Institute of Arts lost touch with its home town?

The Detroit Institute of Arts had just avoided selling off parts of its collection to help pay the debts of the city that owned it. It had a new, independent ownership structure, new revenue streams and a new standing as a museum that tried to replace the foreboding demeanor of many art institutions with a more welcoming, visitor-centered experience. And it had a new director, Salvador Salort-Pons, who had come from its ranks, a charismatic curator and Spanish-born scholar of Velázquez, who seemed to understand its struggles and its future and who took office to a rousing ovation at a board meeting in 2015. But five years later, at a time when museum leaders across the country are being challenged on whether their institutions are systemically racist, few are confronting as many thorny issues as Salort-Pons. “There has been discontent,” said Jeffrey Abt, professor emeritus at Wayne State University who has written about the history of the institute. “I can see how it is potentially perilous. On one side are the unhappy staff members who are objecting to Salvador’s administration,” he added. “On the other side are the friends outside the museum he has made over the years who think that, here, they have someone who is championing their cause.” Bill Harris, a writer and emeritus professor of English at Wayne State University, said he visited the institute as a young boy even though he didn’t feel welcome. “It has evolved from that, but it’s still a white institution,” he said. Melba Joyce Boyd, a professor in American Studies at Wayne State University, said that she respects much of what Mr. Salort-Pons has done but because of its location and audience, she said the institute has special responsibilities. “The D.I.A. should be the number one place for African-Americans in the whole country,” she said. “Detroit should be taking a lead on a lot of these issues.”