COVID-19 in the news

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Metro Detroit seniors are dying at twice the rate of older adults in Michigan, study shows

In parts of Wayne County, including Detroit and eight surrounding suburbs, older adults are dying at twice the rate of those who live elsewhere in Michigan, according to a report, “Dying Before their Time,” a 19-year analysis between the Detroit Area Agency on Aging and Wayne State University Medical School. The agency attributed much of the cause to be a "result of deep-rooted negative social and economic policies and significant inequities in resource distribution." Chronic illnesses, living conditions, accessibility to health care and lack of health insurance, food and transportation are specifically cited as reasons for the shortened lifespans, the study found. Study co-author Dr. Herbert Smitherman Jr. of Wayne State University School of Medicine and Detroit Medical Center said it was shocking to discover how many people aren’t making it to 60 years old. “I’m a physician but also a scientist, so when they approached me, my first recommendation was that an analysis needed to be done since there was never data collected by the state,” Smitherman said. “To see we lost not 1 or 2%, but 23% of the entire population, it seemed unrealistic. The Detroit region had 1.3 million people and lost more than 150,000 people, that’s just what the (nation) lost with coronavirus. “That’s when we realized something was happening to seniors that wasn’t happening with any other population, and it got my full attention. Next, we realized if they’re dying before age 60, what’s happening before?" Smitherman worries the trend will continue without a coordinated push to reverse it. "What we’ve seen over 19 years is that it’s the same," Smitherman said. "Unless we have some sustained effort where they allocate funding and collaboratively work to improve health and reverse centuries of racial poverty, this trend will persist over many decades to come. "If we do nothing, nothing’s going to change."
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Can a building truly be COVID-proof? A look at the latest virus-busting technology

Some of the new COVID-19-blocking technology is techy and futuristic – like ultraviolet light wands that look like lightsabers. Some pieces are unflashy, like HVAC filters and ventilation tweaks. There’s no way to fully COVID-proof a building – at least not as long as humans are allowed inside. But there are pieces of technology, old and new, that are likely to chop down on the risk. A new trend is the fogger, which disperses disinfectant across a given area. They can stand on their own or be sprayed manually and be worn like a backpack, said Rob Davenport, associate vice president of facilities, planning and management at Wayne State University. Wayne State bought eight electrostatic fogging devices in preparation for the school year. They’ll be used twice per day in any of the weight rooms and fitness centers on campus that might be allowed to open for students or athletes. It will also be used in any potential exposure areas if the school has a positive COVID-19 case, Davenport said. Another suggested method is circulating air in buildings. “The worst thing you can do is not move air,” said Davenport. “We have a better chance at controlling the pandemic in a building when we are moving air.” With the tap of a touchscreen, building managers can adjust how much fresh air is coming inside. It's a concept many large commercial buildings like universities and hospitals already utilize, Davenport said. Hospital operating rooms, for example, often require as many as 20 full air exchanges per hour and have close to 100% outdoor air, Davenport said. At Wayne State, they’re upping the percentage this fall from 10-15% new air to at least 20%. As MLive interviewed experts about emerging technology to kill COVID-19 particles, there was a common, unprompted theme. “Wear a mask. That's the best thing you can do," said Davenport.
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Timeouts improve kids’ behavior if you do them the right way

Lucy (Kathleen) McGoron, assistant professor of child and family development, wrote an article for The Conversation. “With parents spending more time with their children than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their need for discipline that works is greater than ever. Fortunately, there are some proven techniques. As a developmental psychologist, I believe that anyone raising little kids could learn how to better use timeouts. This disciplinary technique is among the best ways to stop frustrating child behavior, like not listening, breaking family rules or being overly aggressive. Following all the required steps is essential.

How will the NFL’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing work?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of somebody who has COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days. On the field, football players are continually within six feet of each other, especially at the line of scrimmage. Even if distancing six feet during football games and practices were possible, it might not be enough. Studies on superspreading events suggest that heavy breathing may spread droplets as far as 12 feet, or four yards, according to Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an assistant professor of Infectious Disease at Wayne State University. “For football players on the field while they’re playing, the linemen are really your most at-risk people [to become infected]. Athletes are professional droplet producers.” Also, some conclude that professional athletes in peak physical fitness would be minimally affected by contracting the virus. Snoeyenbos Newman says that isn’t the case. There is increasing evidence that COVID-19 can damage the lungs, heart, and even the brain. Snoeyenbos Newman says that while the average person who contracts and recovers from COVID-19 may not notice if they lose 2 percent of their lung capacity, elite athletes will absolutely notice, and long-lasting lung or heart problems could be career-ending. “Getting really, really sick but not dying can also have very negative life-long consequences,” Snoeyenbos Newman says. “You don’t have to die in order for it to be really bad.”
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Michigan COVID-19 labs are again seeing delays as more people are tested

Michigan isn't unique in experiencing delays in test results, it’s happening around the country as more people seek tests and as cases (and to a lesser extent, deaths)again grow. On Tuesday, Thomas Frieden, former chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, criticized delays in COVID-19 test results. He also cited an analysis by the New York-based nonprofit that he leads, Resolve to Save Lives, that found not a single state tracks test turnaround times. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of tests are conducted each day in a given state. If labs can’t turn test results within a day or two, so that those who test positive can be isolated and others warned, “we really have done very little good,” Frieden told the Washington Post. On Wednesday, Wayne State University announced that it would test students moving onto campus this fall. The test is a point-in-time snapshot of an infection, Laurie Clabo, dean of its nursing school, acknowledged. But it also provides another layer of protection at the outset of the school year. “We wouldn’t move someone into a shared space if they’re COVID-positive,” she said. 
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Wayne State announces mixed plan for fall return of classes

Wayne State University announced Wednesday that classes for fall will look very different amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter emailed to students, WSU President M. Roy Wilson detailed the plans saying 20 percent of courses will take place traditionally on campus and about 46 percent will be remote or online. About 2 percent will be a hybrid combination of online and in-person. As many as 32 percent of classes may be individually arranged. Wilson said the university is preparing to adjust if necessary. Campus housing has remained open during the pandemic and will be open for the fall semester. "Campus life and learning will look different than they did in February, and we have new guidelines and procedures in place … to accommodate physical distancing and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus," said Wilson. "Although things have changed, we remain firmly committed to our academic mission." Wilson said he will hold a town hall meeting 3 to 4 p.m. Thursday where students may pose questions and comments to the restart committee and him. He also highlighted that the WSU Board of Governors approved a 0% tuition increase "to allow our students to focus on their studies without added financial stress." "The university will also continue to develop new and innovative ways to make an education affordable for everyone," Wilson said.
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Study explains why fetuses and newborns are mostly spared by COVID-19

Why are newborns born to mothers with COVID-19 rarely infected? Researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Perinatology Research Branch of National Institute of Child Health and Human Development/National Institutes of Health in Detroit have found that placental cells minimally express the instructions, or mRNA, to generate the cell entry receptor and protease required by the virus that causes COVID-19 to invade human cells. The pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than 10 million people worldwide, including pregnant women, yet to date there is no consistent evidence that pregnant mothers pass the virus to their newborns. “The findings of this study help to understand why mother-to-fetus transmission is so rare (less than 2% of cases),” said Roberto Romero, M.D., D.Med.Sci, chief of the PRB. “The most likely explanation is that the cellular instructions for the production of the main receptor for SARS-CoV-2 are not expressed in the human placenta. In contrast, the receptors for other viruses known to cause fetal infection such as Zika and cytomegalovirus were found in placental cells.” Roger Pique-Regi, Ph.D., assistant professor of the WSU Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, and of Obstetrics and Gynecology, first author of the study, explained that the single-cell genomics technology the researchers employed allows them to study the transcriptome of individual cells isolated in tiny oil droplets using microfluidics.  
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Opinion: Don’t let other health care issues slide during pandemic

Dr. Mark Schweitzer, dean of the School of Medicine and vice president of health affairs at Wayne State University, co-wrote an op-ed about the need to address personal health issues that may have been neglected during the pandemic. “As we’ve watched our state battle to reduce the toll of COVID-19 on Michigan residents, we’ve understood — and supported — the sense of caution that has kept people home rather than visiting their doctors or going to the hospital if they think they need medical help. But as health care specialists trained as medical doctors, we also know the risks of getting medical attention too late. Strokes, heart attacks, diabetes and cancer don’t take a break just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. The danger of hospitals being overwhelmed by the need to treat COVID-19 patients required us to limit access this spring so patients could receive the treatment they needed and caregivers could get the personal protection equipment critical to protecting their health. But the situation today is much different. The doctors affiliated with our three universities that make up Michigan’s University Research Corridor — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — along with our clinics and Michigan Medicine, UM’s medical center, are taking the steps to help their patients through telemedicine, where appropriate.”
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Until teachers feel safe, widespread in-person K-12 schooling may prove impossible in US

Michael Addonizio, professor of educational leadership and policy studies, wrote an article for The Conversation about the challenges of reopening in-person K-12 schooling in the U.S. “Safely resuming in-person instruction at U.S. public schools is important for the academic, physical, emotional and social well-being of children and their families. It’s also a key factor for the nation’s economic recovery. But in mid-July, despite considerable pressure from the Trump administration, many school systems around the nation had announced that they didn’t yet believe that anything close to resembling a traditional schedule would be feasible before the 2020-21 school year starts. Many school districts, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston, three of the nation’s largest, were planning to be fully online.”
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Wayne State University to announce plans for fall semester amid pandemic

Wayne State University is set to announce Wednesday exact plans for the fall semester. The university is one of the last such schools to announce return plans amid the coronavirus pandemic. “I said from the very beginning that we weren’t going to make any definitive decisions until as late as possible, based on the science and based on the public health at the time,” said President M. Roy Wilson. We do know a couple of the university’s plans already. For one, masks will be nonnegotiable. “That’s going to be mandatory for us,” said Wilson. “If you’re in a closed environment, in any of our buildings, you’re going to have to a wear a mask, period.” Here’s what else we know: There will be in-person, online and remote classes. Students will have to take a mandatory campus health and safety online course. There will be daily screenings and barcodes giving access to campus. Students living on campus will receive a COVID-19 test. The full plan will be sent via email to students and community members.
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Wayne State University responds to new ICE policy

Wayne State University is responding to new guidelines put in place by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for international students. The new policy, according to the university, would "impose restrictions that put undue burdens on students and institutions as we continue to deal with uncertainties caused by the pandemic." This would require international students to be enrolled in at least one in-person class (which can be a hybrid) to maintain their visa status during the fall semester. The decision was made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. WSU has about 1,500 international students. "We have joined higher education institutions and associations from across the country who are calling for changes to these unfair and impractical policies and are mobilizing to advocate on behalf of our international students," associate vice president of educational outreach and international programs Ahmad M. Ezzeddine,  said in a press release. "As these efforts continue, we are also reviewing the specifics of these guidelines to identify areas that will require changes in our fall plans to ensure compliance with the new rules. The planned hybrid model (a combination of on-campus and remote/online classes) we were already considering for the fall term should provide some flexibility in that regard."
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Michigan universities trying to prevent deportation of international students

Wayne State University and Oakland University will join the likes of Harvard, MIT and the University of Michigan in a fight to keep international students from being deported. The White House said if colleges don’t reopen, international students will have to finish their studies online from their home countries. The universities are now creating in-person courses to keep talent in the U.S. Rather than letting their international students be deported if schools go to a 100 percent online learning model -- they are figuring out how to make courses with the minimum bar of accommodation to keep those students’ visas safe.
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The kid next door: Neighborhood friendships on a comeback amid the coronavirus pandemic

Julie Wargo Aikins, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute, wrote this piece earlier for The Conversation. “Children's social worlds have been upended by the suspension of school and extracurricular activities due to the pandemic. Many older children and adolescents have been able to maintain their friendships over social media. But, for younger children, this approach is less likely to be available to them and less likely to meet their social needs. In some places, a silver lining of Covid-19 may well be the resurgence of childhood friendships in American neighborhoods.”
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Feeling anxious about wearing a mask? Here are 5 ways to overcome it

Feeling anxious about wearing a mask is actually a normal physiologic reaction. Jennifer M. Gómez, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development at Wayne State University says our bodies detect when we are not getting the resources we need to survive and one of those resources is air. Even though wearing a mask does not put a person in danger of actually suffocating, Gómez says the mask will tell our body, “Hey! I think there’s something bad here that’s interrupting breathing! Danger is afoot!” Our body will then respond by hyperventilating, becoming anxious, or panicking to alert us that there could be a problem, in this case trouble breathing, to cause us to do something about it. Our reaction is intended to save our lives and is actually what our body is supposed to do. Gómez notes, however, that the problem lies with the fact that the mask is tricking our body and we aren’t actually in danger of getting less oxygen by wearing a mask. This is only worsened by the fact that we actually can easily remove the mask to breathe in all of the air we want. In other words, Gómez says, “your body is responding like your fire alarm in your house does when the kitchen gets too smokey but there's no fire. It's a false alarm.”
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Students at Michigan universities turn to summer classes

Students at Michigan's public universities are registering for summer courses online at record rates, marking an unexpected windfall for several schools strapped for cash due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nine of the 10 institutions that shared data with the Detroit Free Press projected a year-over-year growth in summer enrollment, with two-thirds of these schools anticipating a boost of at least 4% for one or more of their summer periods. At Wayne State University, only about a third of spring/summer credit hours are normally taken online. With nearly all instruction shifting virtually in light of social-distancing guidelines, participation is up nearly 6%.
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Excessive hand-washing. Tech addiction. Behaviors once considered extreme are now crucial to protect us amid a dangerous pandemic.

David Rosenberg, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, wrote an article for The Conversation. “One of the hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder is contamination fears and excessive hand-washing. Years ago, a patient with severe OCD came to my office wearing gloves and a mask and refused to sit on any of the “contaminated” chairs. Now, these same behaviors are accepted and even encouraged to keep everyone healthy. This new normal in the face of a deadly pandemic has permeated our culture and will continue to influence it.