COVID-19 in the news

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Opinion: COVID-19 vaccine is a game-changer that can stop the pandemic

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, Michigan State President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.,  and University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel wrote an op-ed regarding the COVID-19 vaccine as a means to stop the pandemic. “As presidents of the three major public research universities that make up Michigan’s University Research Corridor — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — we’ve been on the front lines of battling the COVID-19 pandemic. URC researchers have worked to develop tests, treat the virus and create vaccines. We’re training thousands of physicians, nurses and other health care workers in dealing with the virus. We’re helping educators, business owners and government officials deal with the challenges of COVID-19. As COVID-19 case counts continue to rise across the United States, getting everyone possible vaccinated as soon as enough doses are available is vital to stopping this pandemic, reviving our national economy and getting children and college students back to in-person school. The alternative is what we have now: high caseloads that are overwhelming our hospitals and health care workers, and millions of students able to attend classes only online. Our economy will continue to falter and layoffs will increase as the coronavirus makes it unsafe to shop and dine as we normally do. Family gatherings and large meetings will remain off limits or, if held, become potential superspreader events.”
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What it’s like to get the COVID-19 vaccine

Mustapha Al-shorbaji is a nursing student at Wayne State University. He sits in the lobby of the Campus Health Center with a black mask on, waiting to get a COVID-19 vaccine. “As soon as I was presented the opportunity, I took the first appointment I could get to come here,” says Al-shorbaji. Wayne State University began offering the vaccine to medical students and faculty with clinical rotations on January 7. That’s how Al-shorbaji found himself among the first people in the country to be given the chance to be inoculated against the coronavirus. In addition to frontline health care workers, vaccinations throughout Michigan have been given to some people in long-term care facilities, police officers, bus drivers, K-12 teachers, postal workers, people over the age of 65 and others. Eligibility varies depending on where people live, work, or go to the doctor. As of January 19, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, about 75,800 people in Michigan have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. In a state that’s estimated to have roughly 8 million people age 16 and up (according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey), that means less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated.
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Opinion | I’m a Black doctor. Here’s why we all should take the COVID vaccine

Dr. Herbert C. Smitherman Jr., vice dean of diversity and community affairs and a professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine, wrote an opinion piece discussing why we all should take the COVID vaccine. “The pace at which African Americans are dying has transformed this national health crisis into an abject lesson on racial and class inequality. African-Americans are more likely to die of COVID-19 than any other ethnic group in the nation. That’s why Black Americans — and all Americans — must be vaccinated against COVID. As an African-American male, I all too well understand the current mistreatment and the historic abuse of Black people in the United States. However, we as Americans, including all communities of color need to separate science from the recent political administration’s antics and society’s construct of race. There is only one race, the human race. Coronavirus is disproportionately killing people of color, not because of race but because of centuries of negative, oppressive and disparate social, economic, political, and health policies that result in disparate and inequitable living conditions in our society.”
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Michigan grapples with COVID-19's disproportionate impact on people of color's mental health

COVID-19 has taken a toll on mental health in Michigan and across the world, but new Wayne State University research shows that burden has been heaviest for people of color. WSU researchers Peter Lichtenberg and Wassim Tarraf are examining how race, employment, and socioeconomic status intersect with pandemic-related stress, depression and anxiety. They've used U.S. census data to identify individuals to poll every two weeks about how their mental health has changed throughout the pandemic. "The findings that we have are pretty concerning," Tarraf says. "What we see through the data is a large percent of individuals who do report that they have mental health issues. What’s also concerning is these rates of mental health issues have remained stable over time. … People are not adapting and there are not enough tools for helping them reduce that level of stress. It is worth mentioning that rates are higher for people of color than those reported among whites." Lichtenberg and Tarraf also took stock of the social determinants of health that are affecting their subjects' mental health. "Food insecurity and job loss really stood out to us," Lichtenberg says. "65% of people with food insecurity had mental health issues. The numbers were similar for job loss in the household during the time of COVID-19."
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Vaccinations begin at Wayne State University

Wayne State University has begun issuing COVID-19 vaccines to medical students and faculty who work on the frontlines. The plan is to inoculate 120 people per day with Moderna and Pfizer vaccines which are being supplied by the Detroit Health Department. “Right now we have people who have been categorized as essential. Those are individuals who are actually touching patients in the hospital,” says Dr. Toni Grant, the Chief Nursing Officer at the Wayne State University Campus Health Center, where the vaccinations are taking place. Grant says these essential workers were emailed a survey to see if they were interested in receiving the vaccination. Those who said they wanted the shot and are eligible for it are being emailed specific instructions on how to schedule an appointment. These emails are coming out in batches, so some may not be able to make their appointment for a couple of weeks. Bill Fulson is a clinical nursing instructor with Wayne State who came into the Health Center to get the vaccine. He says he doesn’t feel any anxiety about receiving the vaccine. “I have no reason to feel not confident,” says Fulson. “I’ve been nursing for 40-something years. So you know when to do things and when not to do things. And this is a must-do for a medical professional.” Grant says the vaccinations are a great opportunity for the Wayne State community. “We’re in the midst of a pandemic but this is also something that none of us have ever gone through before,” she says. ”And to actually see what research and science can do in order to get us through to this particular point, it’s exciting because it’s students, faculty and staff together and able to experience it firsthand.”
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Wayne State hospital students, faculty get COVID-19 vaccines

Vaccine distribution continues to slowly trickle down the ranks as Wayne State University's students and faculty in front-line health professions got their turn Thursday to begin getting inoculating against COVID-19. Wayne State began administering the first dose of the Moderna vaccine to faculty and students who are in active clinical practice and rotations with patients. "We were able to invite individuals to let us know if they were interested in receiving the vaccine. Those that were interested in receiving the vaccine received an invitation to continue to the process," said Toni Grant, chief nursing officer at Wayne State's Campus Health Center. Approximately 2,000 people were identified by Wayne State as having first priority to the vaccine due to constant exposure working in hospitals. Wayne State is able to administer the vaccine in phases under a memorandum of understanding with the Detroit Health Department. "Wayne State is not mandating that anyone received the vaccine, but it is being highly encouraged that they receive it," said Grant. "One of the things that we wanted to make sure is that everyone was well-informed before they even scheduled their appointment, so all the information was actually made available electronically."
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Health experts answer your questions about COVID-19 vaccines

To date, tens of thousands of Michigan residents have received the new COVID-19 vaccines, an inoculation rate far below the original projected goal of elected officials. The slow rollout has concerned citizens and public health experts alike, and speed isn’t the only issue facing distribution efforts: Vaccine hesitancy is proving to be a major hurdle as well. Concerns about vaccine safety are coming from various groups, including anti-vaxxers who view this moment as an opportunity to promote their anti-science agenda. While others simply don’t trust the development process, Black Americans have expressed legitimate skepticism of the vaccine based on the fact that the Black community has been historically taken advantage of when it comes to the medical system, as evidenced by the Tuskegee syphilis study among other things. Dr. M Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State University, and Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor & director of research at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the principal investigator at Henry Ford Health System’s testing of Moderna’s vaccine trial, participated in a discussion and responded to listener’s questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
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School budgets have held up better than expected in some states, but looming cuts will hurt learning long after pandemic ends

Michael Addonizio, professor of educational leadership and policy studies, wrote a piece for The Conversation on the budget challenges facing school budgets. “The year 2020 may prove to be pivotal in the history of U.S. public education. Many children have gone missing from school completely since March, and millions more are struggling with wholly inadequate online learning experiences. Lower-income and minority children are particularly hard-hit. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated deep inequities across our public schools. Merely restoring school budgets to their prepandemic levels will not be enough to address them after this long period of limited learning. So far, most states have avoided deep education budget cuts this school year. However, they project revenue shortfalls for the 2021-22 school year.”
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How kids can benefit from mindfulness training

Hilary Marusak, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, wrote an article for The Conversation on the benefit of mindfulness training., ”Now that 2021 is here, many are looking for new ways to manage stress. Although mindfulness and meditation are not new – there is evidence suggesting that humans have been practicing meditation for more than 5,000 years – many are turning to these techniques to improve overall well-being. Mindfulness is a technique that involves paying attention to what’s happening now in the present moment, in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner. There are mindfulness apps for managing stress, anxiety, chronic pain, weight loss, better sleep and quitting smoking.”
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Wayne State president: Black people must overcome fear of COVID-19 vaccine

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson wrote an op-ed regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. “As a physician, epidemiologist and scientific researcher, I plan to take one of the coronavirus vaccines as soon as my turn comes.  I am confident that the vaccines are safe and effective, because I am confident in the years of scientific work and care behind their development. As a Black man and a member of Governor Whitmer’s Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, I plan to encourage all Black men and women to take the vaccine. I know there is a lot of distrust and reluctance to get the vaccine born out of historical inequities and mistreatment. Despite the fact that Black people are almost three times more likely than white people to die of COVID-19, according to a Pew Research survey, only 42% of African Americans say they will get the vaccine, compared to 61% of white people. Frankly, neither number is high enough. I encourage everyone — I implore everyone — to get the vaccine as soon as they can. Especially members of the African American community.
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What effect will holiday travel have on the pandemic?

Please don't travel. That was the advice many public health officials urged Americans to follow this holiday pandemic season. And yet, travel over Christmas surged as millions of people left their homes and cities to spend it with family. All the while, hospitals are overflowing, still dealing with a surge of infections from travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease specialist at Wayne State University School of Medicine, participated in a Q&A with NPR host Sarah McCammon.
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How the NBA's pandemic success created an 'unrealistic expectation' for sports leagues

When the NBA, the NHL and MLB started their playoffs this year, they observed strict rules about whom their players could interact with — "bubbles" meant to make sure outbreaks were limited and contained. The NFL is instituting no such bubble for its coming playoffs, according to an internal league memo obtained by NBC News. The league informed teams this week that they can't require players or staff members to stay in isolation in hotel rooms beyond the night before a game. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging across the country, outpacing the outbreaks early in the year that suspended organized sports across the United States. Since then, most leagues have restarted play even as players have tested positive, games have been delayed and the broader national situation has worsened. "I think a lot of what happened with sport was what happened in the rest of the country," said Dr. Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an infectious disease expert and assistant professor at Wayne State University. "We weren't getting clear messaging from the top. Without that coordinated national response, it was left up to individual leagues, players, communities about what they were going to do, which is no way to run a pandemic." The implications outside of sports have become even more salient now that Covid-19 vaccines have started to roll out, with more widespread availability expected in 2021. "This is the fourth quarter. The sports metaphor is completely apt here. It is time to lock it down," Newman said. "Just make it through until the summer. The end is in sight. Let's not blow it now. We should be being as cautious as possible, because we know it's time-limited."
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Flashpoint 12/20/20: Michigan health leaders discuss managing limited supply of COVID vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine arrives. But so does a logistics puzzle for the ages. How do you manage a limited supply of a medicine everyone needs? And what about those who do not trust that medicine? Are they right to wait? Or do they need to be convinced to jump in? Featured on segment two of Flashpoint are Dr. M. Roy Wilson, President of Wayne State University and an epidemiologist; Christina Zilke, a registered nurse and the nursing supervisor at the Washtenaw County Health Department; and Portia Roberson, CEO of Focus: HOPE.
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Beginning the ‘long climb’ toward economic and social stability

Nonprofits were among the most visible organizations to shift strategies and processes to both endure the pandemic and support those suffering through job and other losses. By April, many colleges and universities began seeing decreases in fall enrollment—16 percent around the country—and drops in residence hall renewals. Consequently, they initiated layoffs and other budget cuts to help stave off hundreds of millions of dollars in predicted losses while also trying to mitigate the financial pain many students were experiencing. Yet, Wayne State University is bucking the trend and has seen increases in some enrollment figures. “We actually had a 5 percent increase in our first-year students,” said university President M. Roy Wilson, M.D., a trained epidemiologist. The university also hasn’t taken the financial losses most universities have so far experienced this year because of shifting strategies a few years ago that included turning to a public-private partnership for housing and food services, Wilson said. Still, with decreased consumer spending in 2020, property taxes left unpaid or deferred, high rates of unemployment and other hits to state budgets, college and university administrators expect state and federal budget cuts to affect their bottom lines in the near term. “We’ve been fortunate, but we are going to be impacted financially,” Wilson said. Wilson added that there’s also the issue of children missing out on the social and educational development they get from in-person learning. “As an epidemiologist, I’m worried about the pandemic and think we have to be very cautious,” he said. “So, I just urge everyone to think in terms of being as aggressive as we can be in driving the numbers down so that we can open up schools earlier.”
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Wayne State mobile COVID-19 testing units win praise, servicing most vulnerable

Wayne State University is expanding its mobile COVID-19 testing unit. "This new model of taking care to the people and delivering it on their terms, is really a bright spot that's come of this," said Dr. Phillip Levy. With a fleet of vans Wayne State brought the tests to the community. Now the mobile program visits churches, nursing homes and more mostly across metro Detroit. This is part of the first COVID-19 mobile testing program in the country, by Wayne State University and its physician group Wayne Health. "The population in Detroit - particularly the African-American population was suffering disproportionately from Covid both with caseload and mortality and we realized a lot of the population was under social circumstances that would make it challenging for them to easily get a test,:" said Levy, chief innovation officer, Wayne Health. Nearly 30,000 tests later -  it caught the attention of Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services. Now the program is expanding and the mobile health units will get a big boost. "The real nice thing with these vehicles they have dual sliding doors so when the awnings are down the side wraps are on there and the sliding doors are open," he said. "You get to create this whole contained environment to be heated and air-conditioned whatever it is and it creates a comfortable environment to continue to do the type of testing we've been doing." The new mobile health units will start to roll out on Saturday with Wayne State having a fleet of five by early 2021. Meanwhile, there is a lot more than Covid testing. "We pivoted very quickly to add HIV screening, blood pressure measurement, we do blood bass lab work in the field, we draw blood through windows of cars," Levy said. 
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Mobile COVID-19 testing from Wayne State University

On a snowy Saturday, people drove and walked up to the parking lot at Oak Grove AME Church on Detroit's west side for free coronavirus testing. For Pastor Cindy Rudolph, this hits close to home  because she's seen the devastation COVID-19 can cause firsthand. "We have had loss, but we thank God that most of our members who have had COVID, came through healed," Rudolph said. Rudolph wanted to help, so she partnered with Wayne State University and its physician group, Wayne Health, to bring their mobile COVID testing program to her community. "To be in the community is critical," said Chief Innovation Officer with Wayne Health, Dr. Phillip Levy. "People may not have transportation; they may not have the ability to get to a location where testing is being done. In addition, they may not be able to get into a doctor's office." Since April, Wayne State Healthcare workers have traveled to churches, nursing homes and more. Most of the facilities have been in Metro Detroit. They originally used vans that were borrowed from Ford Motor Company, but now their vehicles are getting a major upgrade - becoming full-fledged mobile health units developed by Ford. "These vehicles are updated with all the equipment we need to run a testing operation and more," Dr. Levy said. "So, we are here doing COVID testing and nasal swabs. We have the refrigeration capacity to put the swabs that are ready for storage and shipment." Since the program started, healthcare workers have done nearly 30,000 tests along with additional screenings. Their efforts caught the attention of Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services. Now, the program is expanding. Come January Wayne State will have a fleet of five of these new mobile health units paid for by the state and Oscar Willing Film Director, Steven Soderbergh. "We need to still do COVID testing and people need to get tested," Dr. Levy said. "So anything we can do to facilitate that and keep our neighbors safe, it what we are here for."
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Flashpoint 12/13/20: How pandemic could change future of the business community

The vaccines ride in hoping to rescue a weary world from the pandemic. But it’s more than this current crisis. Are we looking at the future of medicine? It has been a mad dash scramble -- and yet it has also been a studied, cool-headed study in solving a problem through science. The vaccines are coming and in just about a year since the appearance of the coronavirus we’ve come to know as COVID-19. Dr. Teena Chopra, a professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University and also the corporate medical director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center, joined a discussion.
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The problem with your pandemic “Pod”

Many Americans are creating “pods,” or small exclusive groups of people, to socialize with indoors as the pandemic rages on. However, these pods that many people have come to rely on aren’t foolproof and take a lot of intention and planning to pull off safely. Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor & director of research at the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, suggests people read state guidelines about forming pods at Michigan.gov before starting their own bubble. He says when a pod is created it’s important to have conversations about behavior within the pod and expectations for when members leave the pod as well as the health risks involved. “Another key point is really talking about, within your pod, how vulnerable is each individual member,” says Kilgore on the importance of transparency in maintaining social bubbles. The general recommendation, Kilgore says, is to keep pods under ten people. In addition to keeping your pod small, one of the most important things to keep you safe, he says, is to keep wearing a mask when in public. According to Kilgore, it’s important the mask cover both the mouth and nose as the virus is particularly attracted to receptors in your nasal cavity.
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Vaccine politics, skewed by Trump’s polarizing approach, will complicate Biden’s path to a unified pandemic response

Cold, hard science powered the race that produced the first coronavirus vaccine, expected to win clearance imminently after gaining a positive vote from a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee Thursday night. The challenge next moves to more-fraught terrain — getting impatient Americans to understand that, while a vaccine is here, most will have to wait. Gallup’s most recent polling in November found that 37 percent of Americans would not agree to get a coronavirus vaccine, an improvement from the 50 percent who would not agree in September. Overcoming that hesitancy will require a broad-based education campaign from federal, state and local governments, featuring corporate and religious leaders, celebrities, sports stars and influencers, say experts. They will be up against an explosion of disinformation. “Unfortunately we have done a very good job of creating distorted and misleading narratives around this pandemic, and I still know individuals who say it’s just the bad flu, it’s a hoax,” said Matthew W. Seeger, a professor and dean at Wayne State University and co-author of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manual on pandemic leadership and communication. “We now have these wildly competing narratives, and we need to do a much better job of telling the truth about covid 19,” he said.
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How promising is the vaccine news if people won't take it? | Opinion

Kristin Taylor, associate professor in Wayne State’s Department of Political Science, co-authored an op-ed about the forthcoming vaccine and prospects for serious public participation. “The last few weeks have brought a key tool in the fight against coronavirus: Moderna recently announced that a vaccine in Phase 3 trials was nearly 95 percent effective, exceeding even the most optimistic projections. Pfizer and BioNTech have also made similar announcements. But excitement about a forthcoming vaccine has been tempered by the reality that more and more Americans report having serious reservations about getting vaccinated. Alongside further vaccine development, the incoming Biden administration will need a strategic communication and public outreach plan aimed at fighting what public health experts call vaccine hesitancy.”