COVID-19 in the news

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Kellogg’s, John Deere strikes signal ‘volatile time’ for economy, supply chains

Workers at Kellogg’s cereal plants in cities that include Battle Creek, and thousands of John Deere workers have walked away from their jobs to strike. "There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of pent-up frustration in the workforce," said Marick Masters. Masters, a professor of business at Wayne State University, believes contract disputes over items which include low wages, are driving this worker stoppage. "We could see a growing militancy on the part of some workers because they are tired of the cumulative effects of declining wages, they see inflation on the rise, and they see the devastating effects of the pandemic, in terms of lost businesses and jobs," he said. 
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Long COVID now has a formal definition from the WHO: What to know 

Long COVID now has a formal definition from the WHO: What to know  On Oct. 6, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the first official definition of what constitutes long COVID. The medical community has been aware that while most people recover from COVID-19 within a matter of weeks, some will experience lingering symptoms for four or more weeks after developing COVID-19.  Until now, there has not been a formal definition for this condition. Referring to it as “post COVID-19 condition,” the document says that long COVID “occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19, with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.” The definition further states that common symptoms may include fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and several others that can impact daily functioning. Joseph A. Roche, BPT, Dip. Rehab. PT, PhD, associate professor in the Physical Therapy Program at Wayne State University and member of the American Physiological Society who has performed research into the effects of long COVID, said the case had been made that long COVID may resemble a condition known as “myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS),” which can affect some individuals after other viral illnesses.  “What makes post COVID-19 condition more concerning than ME/CFS,” said Roche, “is that there is not just physical and mental fatigue, but also persistent and recurrent problems that affect the lungs, heart, blood vessels, and other organs and tissues.”  
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Studies show Covid-19 worsens pregnancy complication risk

BY Jen Christensen  Pregnant women who develop Covid-19 symptoms risk emergency complications and other problems with their pregnancies, according to two new studies. The disease also puts their children at risk. Dr. Gil Mor, a reproductive immunologist who did not work on the study but reviewed the work, said it's also possible that the problems could be related to chronic inflammation caused by Covid-19. "Inflammation is extremely dangerous for both the mother and the development of the fetus. A chronic inflammation is now a fight for the survival of the mother and the fetus, and in every fight, they pay they pay a price," said Mor, who leads a research lab at Wayne State University that studies the immune system during pregnancy and the impact of pathogens. "We need to do everything in our hands in order to prevent the chronic inflammation." 
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Metro Detroit parents prep for COVID-19 vaccine approval in kids 5-11; here's when it could happen

Metro Detroit parents prep for COVID-19 vaccine approval in kids 5-11; here's when it could happen  Pfizer and BioNTech requested emergency use authorization of its vaccine for kids 5-11. Currently, the shot is approved for kids 12 and up. In Michigan, more than 36% of kids ages 12-15 are fully vaccinated, with 40% receiving at least one dose. Cyerra Byse, a mom in metro Detroit, said she and her kids always mask up, and now, they could be one step closer to another layer of protection with the COVID-19 vaccine. "I can't control where everybody else goes I can just protect my household," Byse said. Dr. Paul Kilgore, the director of research in the department of pharmacy at Wayne State University said so far, the results "look very good." In terms of timing, an FDA panel will meet to review the data on Oct. 26. For context, in adults, it was about three weeks in between the application for emergency use authorization until shots when into arms. The dosage will also be different. It's only about a third of what adults receive. "It's going to be a lower antigen content. In other words, the adult version of the vaccine is 30 micrograms, the pediatric dosage for the 5 to 12 years-olds is going to be about 10 micrograms," Kilgore said. 
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COVID-19 infection increases risk for preeclampsia reported by WSU and PBR investigators

A newly published study found that women who contract COVID-19 during pregnancy are at significantly higher risk of developing preeclampsia, the leading cause of maternal and infant death worldwide. The research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, shows that women with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy had 62% higher odds of developing preeclampsia than those without the infection during pregnancy. The research was led by Roberto Romero, M.D., DMedSci, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch and professor of molecular obstetrics and genetics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and Agustin Conde-Agudelo, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., adjunct professor of obstetrics and gynecology. “This association was remarkably consistent across all predefined subgroups. Moreover, SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy was associated with a significant increase in the odds of preeclampsia with severe features, eclampsia and HELLP syndrome,” said Dr. Romero.
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Managing conversations around COVID-19 when scheduling playdates for your kids

By Keenan Smith  With school back in session and kids making new friends, there will no doubt be requests for playdates. But, the pandemic is hitting kids harder than ever with infections and hospitalizations on the rise. Parents are left to balance the social and emotional health of their children and protecting them from the virus. We went to get guidance to help you manage the awkward situations and uncomfortable conversations you'll have to manage with kids back in school, the weather turning colder and the request for playdates heating up. Dr. Lucy McGoron, a developmental psychologist at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute at Wayne State, says unless you know someone is vaccinated or they wear masks, you should ask. "It's really not that different from other really tough conversations that we have to have as parents and doing playdates," she said. Those include who will be at the home during a play date or will the kids be wearing helmets when riding their bikes. McGoron says start by making the questions universal. "Say, hey, I asked everybody this, or it's just my policy to ask everybody about this, to preface that before digging into these questions about vaccines and masks," McGoron said. Or, you can start by sharing your practices as a way to get the ball rolling. McGoron says it's important to let your child see you navigate these issues in the pandemic and in life. 
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Michigan colleges took financial battering in first months of COVID-19, new documents show

By David Jesse  The first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 took a sledgehammer to the revenues of Michigan's public and private colleges and universities, causing losses of more than $250 million collectively. The majority of the losses — more than $140 million — came from the school's auxiliary enterprises like dorms, dining and facility rentals. A Free Press review of audited financial numbers in each school's annual financial statement for the 2019-20 school year, which ended at the end of July 2020 for nearly all the schools, shows the extent of the wreckage. Full financials for the 2020-21 school year, when schools spent the entire session in the grip of the pandemic, are not yet complete. When it became clear in the spring of 2020 COVID-19 was unlike other diseases, college officials across the state warned it could have devastating effects on budgets. In early 2020, university administrators across Michigan could see the end of the school year drawing quickly closer. Plans had been made and projects started. It was time to start working on next year's budget. A few folks — including the presidents of the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Oakland University, all medical doctors by training — were aware of COVID-19, but many people weren't. 
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Hospitals innovate amid dire nursing shortages

By Patrick Boyle  At Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, doctors have been stepping up for duties normally done by nurses and medical assistants, such as turning and bathing patients. At UAMS Medical Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, administrators have been recruiting new nurses with signing bonuses of up to $25,000. And at UAB Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama, nursing school faculty have been leading teams of students in turning critically ill COVID-19 patients from their backs onto their stomachs (knowns as proning) so they can breathe better. “I’ve never seen such teamwork. It’s been a mind-blowing experience,” says Summer Powers, DNP, CRNP, an assistant professor at UAB School of Nursing who helped to organize the faculty/student teams. Also never seen before are the staffing shortages that are plaguing hospitals in the latest COVID-19 hot spots, forcing them to offer eye-popping employment bonuses and draft everyone — from students to administrators to physicians — to fill in the gaps as best they can. While shortages abound across front-line jobs, nowhere is the need greater than in nursing, as hospitals hit by the current surge report unprecedented vacancies in nursing slots: 470 out of 3,800 positions at Parkland; 240 out of 1,400 at UAMS; and 760 out of 4,000 at UAB. COVID-19 has intensified some of those conditions. The first surges last year compelled many nurses and other health care workers to leave their jobs, but the vast majority battled through the exhaustion, despair, and fear out of a sense of duty and with faith that medical researchers would find ways to combat the disease. They just had to hang on until then. “When we were able to jump in with vaccinations in January [2021], there was a sense of great hope,” recalls Tricia Thomas, PhD, RN, associate dean for faculty affairs at Wayne State University College of Nursing in Detroit.  https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/hospitals-innovate-amid-dire-nursing-shortages 
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And a giant corporation will lead them: Why rely on business to help end the pandemic?

By Nancy Derringer  When the Detroit Regional Chamber convenes its Covid-delayed Mackinac Policy Conference later this month, it will require attendees to produce proof of vaccination to register. The usual suspects are balking, but the Chamber is standing firm. Its CEO, Sandy Baruah, had a kidney transplant in 2019, and is no doubt on anti-rejection drugs, i.e. immunosuppressants. He probably has a dim view of the trust-me-I-have-natural-immunity sermon preached by Covid survivors. Corporations like these – large, multinational, customer-facing – have advocated for a variety of social causes that some conservatives have dug in their heels on. Same-sex marriage and civil rights for LGBT individuals are only one example. Climate change and environmental impact are driving the auto industry in the direction of electric vehicles and renewable energy. Expect worker safety and security to be a higher priority, not only in company policy, but in their lobbying, too; tax-supported universal preschool isn’t just good for children, but for working parents. And good talent is hard enough to come by as it is. But Matthew Roling, an instructor at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business, warns the rest of us not to get too complacent with these apparent good deeds. “Businesses never do things for altruistic reasons,” Roling said. “It just so happens that the intersection of customers and talent align themselves (with business’ bottom line). Because the moment those issues diverge, they won’t be there to save us.” 
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Don’t take animal dewormer to treat COVID-19, warns Michigan poison, drug information center

By Danielle Salisbury  Farm stores are hanging safety alerts and health authorities are warning ivermectin, approved for use in humans with parasitic worms and also given to large animals, is not proven to treat or prevent COVID-19, despite some seemingly continually circulating information to the contrary. “It hasn’t been shown to be safe or effective for that specific indication,” said Dr. Varun Vohra, director of the Michigan Poison & Drug Information Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, which has been fielding some calls on the drug and issued a warning statement on Tuesday. Taking formulations intended for livestock, to prevent heartworm disease and certain internal and external parasites, is especially concerning. Horses and cows are much larger than average humans, he said. “So the dose is going to be consistent with that. They’re going to be a lot more concentrated. So, the threshold for toxicity can be a lot lower.” 
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Changing minds: What moves the needle for the unvaccinated?

By Karen Doheny  Not so long ago, Heather Simpson of Dallas was known as the anti-vaccine mom who dressed as "the measles" for Halloween. She painted red spots on her face and posted her photo on Facebook, joking: "Was trying to think of the least scary thing I could be for Halloween … so I became the measles." It went viral with the anti-vaccine crowd. But between that Halloween and today, a series of “aha” moments transformed Simpson's attitudes toward vaccines. In January 2021, one of those moments involved her daughter, now 4, who was scratched by a feral cat, raising concerns about tetanus. Her daughter had been bitten by a dog when she was just 1, and Simpson turned down advice then to get a tetanus shot. "I was convinced the tetanus shot would kill her faster than the tetanus." After the cat incident, the anxiety was so exhausting, she listened to the nurse practitioner at the clinic, whom she trusted. The nurse gently reassured Simpson that the shot was less risky than the possibility of tetanus -- but did not bombard her with statistics -- and that won over Simpson and triggered an overall rethinking of her vaccine stance. "People develop negative attitudes [about vaccines] by accessing alternative sources of information, anecdotes, and personal stories," says Matthew Seeger, PhD, dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts and co-director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Wayne State University in Detroit. 
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CDC warns against the misuse of ivermectin to treat COVID-19

Overdosing on the drug ivermectin can be scary, with symptoms that can include everything from nausea and vomiting to hallucinations and even death. While ivermectin has been used to treat people with certain conditions, like head lice and rosacea, the FDA and the CDC have seen an uptick of reports of misuse and overdose. “If they’re using the veterinary formulations, you have to realize that these medications, or these formulations, specifically, are designed for animal use. And these are animals that are significantly larger than the average human if we’re talking about horses and cows,” said Dr. Varun Vohra with the Michigan Poison & Drug Information Center at Wayne State University.  
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Pandemic pivot: New supports for students who enter college lacking basic skills

The year before the pandemic, 23 percent of Michigan’s high school class of 2019 took at least one remedial course when they enrolled in a four-year university or community college. It’s too early to know the statewide remedial enrollment rate for the pandemic classes of 2020 and 2021, but some colleges in Southeast Michigan reported lower remedial enrollment during the pandemic. The enrollment rate for Wayne State University’s remedial math course dropped slightly from 7.7 percent of first-time students in the fall of 2019 to 7.2 percent in 2020. In addition to its remedial math course, Wayne State offers an introductory English course, which still counts for college credit; after changing its English placement process going into the 2020-21 academic year, the enrollment rate for introductory English dropped from 19.1 percent in 2019 to 11.9 percent. WSU has offered an alternative admissions program called Academic Pathways to Excellence (APEX) for students who show academic promise but do not meet the university’s standard admissions requirements. “It’s easy to think that we have two groups of students: those who need bridge programs and summer supports, and those who don’t need that at all,” said Monica Brockmeyer, senior associate provost for student success. “And I think we’re seeing the impact of the pandemic to be so pervasive that pretty much every student might benefit from a more intensive level of support or more granular supports that are specific to their academic needs.”  
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TechTown Toast of the Town goes virtual for second year in a row

TechTown will once again host its annual Toast of the Town virtually on Sept. 30. This year, Toast of the Town presented by Bank of America will broadcast live from two locations to showcase TechTown’s impact and reach, including Wayne State University’s Industry Innovation Center and the Detroit Southwest Ford Resource and Engagement Center. Online guests will learn more about how TechTown continues to move forward to a more inclusive economy, witness the live announcement of the TechTown Startup Fund grantees and celebrate the Wayne State Office of Economic Development’s tenth anniversary. “The team at TechTown has been busy reimagining our economy, and we’re looking forward to celebrating the creativity and ingenuity of our clients, alumni and the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem at Toast of the Town,” said TechTown President and CEO Ned Staebler. 
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What’s working at Michigan colleges in remedial education

The pandemic has forced community colleges and universities to rethink their approach to remedial education, as they’re unable to rely on the usual in-person placement tests and students’ needs have changed in the new virtual learning environment. Innovations in approach have included changes in screening, academic supports, and more. Wayne State University experimented with self-guided selection for introductory English courses, summer bridge programs for incoming freshmen, and more to help adapt to changing student needs.  
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President Wilson joins OU President Ora Hersch Pescovitz on Spotlight on the News to discuss the fall semester

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson discusses the start of the fall semester on campus, and the steps taken to keep campus safe, including a vaccine mandate and indoor mask requirement.  “We’ve prioritized health and safety in all of our decision making, so if it came to the point where the Delta variant was really overtaking us and it became dangerous on campus, we would not hesitate to go back to a virtual environment…I’m hoping that because of the vaccination mandate, we won’t get there,” said Wilson. 
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Michigan colleges hope raffles boost COVID-19 vaccinations in time for fall

At Wayne State University in Detroit, administrators announced the school’s second vaccination incentive program on July 22. It allows individuals with at least one dose to sign up until Sunday. During the first program in April, students that received at least their first dose of the vaccination received a $10 credit on their university payment card, OneCard. “There was nobody on campus (because) we were virtual learning at that point,” David Strauss, dean of students at Wayne State University, said. “To get (around) 2,700 students to sign up for the incentive program - we think that is a great success.” Enrollment for WSU was 26,251 students for the fall 2020 semester. The stakes in the second round got higher: Prizes for students range from $100 vouchers to a free semester of tuition. Faculty and staff can win prizes ranging from $25 Grubhub gift cards to one year of paid parking. The university will be mandating vaccines in the fall and is not sure if it will have an incentive program during fall. In a report from July 23, WSU found 84.3 percent of students and 91.5 percent of employees received their full dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.  
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Detroit Public Schools to require masks for students, staff in new school year

Detroit Public Schools Community District will require masks be worn by all students and staff inside its buildings for the school year beginning Sept. 7. DPSCD had previously adopted a mask policy that would allow those fully vaccinated to not wear masks in classrooms but pushed for a change after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendations that all people, including those vaccinated against COVID-19, should return to wearing masks at crowded indoor locations including schools. Teena Chopra, chief of infectious diseases at Wayne State School of Medicine and a Detroit Medical Center physician, said schools, particularly those in areas with elevated community spread of the coronavirus, should be mandating mask wearing given the rising delta variant. "I think it is deadly and dangerous behavior to not require masks," Chopra said. "This virus is extremely unforgiving and elementary age children, they are completely unprotected. Mask mandates have to be there until community transmission goes down. That can happen as soon as people get vaccinated. This is not the time to dwell on breakthrough infections, but to increase vaccinations across the nation," Chopra said. "Our children are going to suffer the most. We are seeing severe infections in children. There are children that are in ICUs (intensive care units) and (on ventilators). The breakthrough infections are there. Vaccines are not there to prevent breakthrough infections. They are there to prevent severe illness and hospitalization and death."
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Wayne State establishes infectious disease research center to aid in future pandemics

Wayne State University announced Monday the opening of a new center focused on the study of infectious diseases and strategies to combat future pandemics. The Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases will enhance training and research in the field of public health. The center is not a physical building but a collection of doctors, researchers and professors at the Detroit-based university. "The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered local, state and national mindsets toward infectious disease threats, including pandemic diseases," Dr. Mark Schweitzer, dean of Wayne State's School of Medicine and vice president of health affairs for the university, said in a news release. "The pandemic revealed deep and broad gaps in our clinical and public health infrastructure that responds to pandemics. "In line with the mission of WSU to support urban communities at risk for health disparities, the center will have the expertise and capacity to support and collaborate with neighborhoods, hospitals and public health agencies to deliver state-of-the-art diagnostics, treatments and preventive strategies for the benefit of all residents in Detroit and other communities." Work done at the center will focus on vaccine development, clinical vaccine evaluational, deployment strategies for the vaccine in underserved populations and research on pandemic mitigation efforts. Directors of the new center include: Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases; Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Marcus Zervos, head of infectious diseases division for Henry Ford Health System, professor of medicine and assistant dean of WSU Global Affairs. Key faculty include Dr. Phillip Levy, professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president of translational science and clinical research at WSU, and Matthew Seeger, professor of communication.