COVID-19 in the news

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With inflation going up, are companies working to raise salary budgets in 2022?

By Jenn Schanz   If you’ve bought gas or walked into a grocery store in the last several months, you already know that inflation is impacting our daily lives. The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows consumer prices jumped 7% in December, a near-40-year high. It was up 6.8% for November, and all of this is happening while annual pay increases range from 3-5%. Inflation may move the dial for raises in 2022, but how much will likely depend on your role and your specific company. “The inflation that we’re experiencing right now is a residual effect of the decision that the central banks around the world made last year to flood our economy with money,” said Matthew Roling, an adjunct finance professor at the Wayne state University Mike Ilitch School of Business. Roling said that the move has helped avoid a deep depression from the pandemic, although the increasing costs haves brought employer raises into question. “Employees have a lot more bargaining power with their employers right now than I think we’ve seen in years.”   

MI universities get funding to sequence COVID, other infectious disease

By Lily Bohlke  A new grant will increase the capacity for infectious-disease sequencing and research in Michigan to improve the state’s ability to respond to health crises. Four universities, including Wayne State, are receiving a total of $18.5 million for the work. Dr. Teena Chopra, co-director of Wayne State University’s Detroit-based Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases, said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of upping the ante on researching and preparing for this and future pandemics. “The work under the grant involves looking at emerging infections, not only SARS CoV 2 which causes COVID, but also other multi-drug-resistant organisms that have plagued the city of Detroit for years and now are even worse after the pandemic,” Chopra said. Dr. Marcus Zervos, who also co-directs WSU’s Center, said the collaboration between the universities is important. He emphasized efforts to understand the spread and reach of viruses such as COVID require national and international cooperation. “We weren’t able to rapidly respond to a pandemic because we didn’t have mechanisms for testing and contact tracing and outbreak investigation and control,” Zervos said. “If it’s COVID, or if it’s a new strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it’s critical to have the public health infrastructure in place.” 
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Flurona symptoms and protections

The first case of Flurona has been reported in the United States. Doctors say the co-infections are a mix between Influenza and Covid, where patients will show positive results for both viruses. Health care professionals say the best defense is the vaccine, in addition to wearing masks and social distancing. Doctors recommend surgical masks, like an N-95, which provides the best protection, unlike cloth masks that don’t guard against the transmission of respiratory fluids. Flurona symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, runny nose, body aches and sore throat. “Every year we get the annual Flu shot and it is still important this year, especially when we know that we have a very super-infectious variant circulating and we don’t want to get co-infections with Flu and Omicron,” said Wayne State University professor of infectious diseases Dr. Teena Chopra, MD, MPH. “Respiratory viruses have a very similar way of transmission. You know influenza transmission is through droplet infections, whereas Omicron, which is coronavirus, we know to be airborne and highly infectious.”  
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State awards WSU $4.3M to increase readiness to fight infectious diseases

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $4.3 million to the Wayne State University Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases. The funds will increase lab facilities to collect and analyze genomic data to address emerging infectious disease threats and enhance the state’s ability to respond to those threats. The funding, part of $18.5 million provided to WSU, Michigan Tech University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, will increase infectious disease sequencing capacity in the state, beginning with the COVID-19 virus. “COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that we need more lab capacity in the state, and specifically in southeast Michigan,” said Marcus Zervos, M.D., co-director of the WSU Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases and COVID-19 advisor to the City of Detroit. “We must be prepared for the next mutation or the next disease.” 

Supply chain and inflation issues in the meat industry

Kevin Ketels, assistant professor of teaching in global supply chain management at Wayne State University, shares his insights about the ongoing supply chain and inflation issues. As ongoing supply chain problems impact nearly every industry, some have accused the meat industry of unnecessarily raising prices to increase profit. Ketels says understanding the issue depends greatly on perspective. “If you’re asking the president, he’s saying there’s too much consolidation within the meat processors: they’ve cornered the market. In 1977, we had four firms that controlled 25% of meat processing – it’s about 80% today. That allows them to, perhaps, dictate price and so they have more control,” he said. “If you ask them, they would say that all costs are up: Costs for fertilizer, packaging, transportation, storage, labor. All of those expenses are up, and they’re driving prices up. Plus, demand is up.” Ketels said that he suspects many factors are contributing to the increase in prices, and most of those factors originate with the pandemic and subsequent conditions.   
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4 Michigan universities to receive $18.5M in funding to expand infectious disease research

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that four universities in the state will be receiving $18.5 million in federal funding over the next two years to expand sequencing for COVID and other infectious diseases. Funding will be distributed to Wayne State University, Michigan Tech University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. The funding will be used to collect and analyze genomic data to address emerging infectious disease threats and enhance the state’s ability to respond to those threats.  
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New workplace needs to be more attuned to employees’ total needs

By Paul Vachon  Lars Johnson, assistant professor of psychology at Wayne State University, participated in an interview about the future of the workplace. He said the most effective way for employers to address the current labor circumstances is to listen closely to the personal concerns of workers and potential hires. In his view, the post-pandemic economy presents an opportunity for employers to rewrite the traditional social contract between management and worker. These include concerns over workplace safety, flexible scheduling, adequate compensation, and greater respect for employee work-life balance. “The pandemic forced people into their homes and out of their normal work routines, due to either remote work, layoff, or termination, so people had to find alternate modes of work,” he said. “The pandemic shifted the labor market in ways we couldn’t account for. People realized the conditions in which they worked were problematic.”  
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‘It’s not letting up’: Omicron fuels the number of Michigan hospitalizations

As omicron COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Michigan, hospitalizations are increasing as well – although at a far slower rate – and prompting concerns about capacity. Even though the variant is mild for most, the wave has increased hospital admissions statewide by 400 in one week, a 10% rise, while forcing hundreds of critical health care workers to quarantine. Just a few weeks after hospitalizations dropped from a peak of nearly 4,800 patients, the health care system is girding again for another COVID-19 crunch, which may be less lethal but could tax its ability to provide care. On Monday the state reported 61,235 new infections for the past five days, an average of 12,247. For the past week, the daily average of 12,442 is up 65% from the previous week’s average of 7,533 daily cases. Dr. Teena Chopra, director of the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases and a professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine works with local hospitals and said that although a smaller fraction of those who get infected are requiring hospital care, the previously unseen scale of infections is still leading to hundreds of people sick enough to require a hospital visit, especially in Detroit which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state. “The sheer numbers are so huge, the hospitals are getting overwhelmed,” Dr. Chopra said.
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Where have all the truck drivers gone?

The United States is experiencing a shortage of more than 80,000 truck drivers, according to an estimate from the American Trucking Associations. The ATA also estimates that 72% of America’s freight transport moves by trucks, which shows just how dependent consumers are on the drivers who deliver turkeys to sores or gas to pumps or the Christmas presents you order to your doorstep. This is not just an American problem. Truck haul comparable amounts of freight in places like the European Union and China, and countries and regions around the world, are experiencing driver shortages. This is also not a new problem. Analysts and industry groups have warned of truck driver shortages for years, around the globe. But supply chain disruptions during the pandemic and surges in demand have made this slow-rolling crisis much more acute. The first thing to know about the truck driver shortage, experts say, is that it’s not exactly a shortage. “It’s a recruitment and retention problem,” said Michael Belzer, a trucking industry expert and professor at Wayne State University. “There are in fact millions of truck drivers – people who have commercial driver’s licenses – who are not driving trucks and are not using those commercial driving licenses, more than we would even need,” Belzer said. “That’s because people have gotten recruited into this job, maybe paid to get trained in this job, and realize, ‘This is not for me. This is not adequate for what I’m doing.’”  
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More research needed on omicron and how it affects Americans, experts say

By Darren Cunningham  The interest in keeping up with COVID and its variants varies from person to person. Some opt to just follow the protocols; others want to know the science behind the severity and transmissibility. Scientists say the newest strain, omicron, spreads quicker than delta but is less severe. Doctors, including Dr. Phillip Levy, a professor of emergency medicine and researcher at Wayne State University, said it's important to keep in mind most of the studies on omicron so far have been conducted in South Africa, a different population with younger people being infected. “So, when you say, ‘could it be more severe?’ It wouldn’t be more severe because omicron itself becomes something different. I mean that could happen, and it may create a new severe variant which would have a new Greek alphabet naming structure. But omicron itself, we still just don’t know what it’s going to do when it hits our population,” said Dr. Levy.
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Wayne State students positive about booster mandate for winter semester

Wayne State University officials announced that boosters will be required for all students, faculty and staff beginning Jan. 3. In a letter to the campus community, school officials said the decision was prompted by the alarming spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant. Recently, both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University made similar decisions. The Campus Health Center is offering all vaccines and boosters, with several booster clinics scheduled in the near future. 
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Michigan can’t meet demand for COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments

Wayne Health has been hosting drive-through clinics on Mack Avenue to provide monoclonal antibody treatments, which can be the difference between life and death for those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. But amid Michigan’s worst-yet coronavirus surge, there’s not enough supply of monoclonal antibodies nor are there enough health care workers to administer them. “COVID testing and vaccinations remain our pillar, but we’re also very heavily engaged in monoclonal antibody infusions, which are a great way to prevent people who do contract COVID – particularly high-risk individuals – from getting sick to the point where they require hospitalization or at risk for dying,” said Dr. Phillip Levy, professor of emergency at Wayne State University, chief innovation officer for Wayne Health, and assistant vice president for research. Levy said when the virus attacks the body, it’s like an internal war in which coronavirus particles are the invaders pitted against the antibody soldiers a person’s immune system has called to defend it. “The monoclonal antibodies basically are a pharmaceutical version of the antibodies your body would produce anyway to fight off the virus. And by taking these antibodies and sort of bolstering your natural immune system, you get more soldiers, more fighters against the virus,” said Dr. Levy.  
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How public health shifted away from the public, and why it might be shifting back

These days, public health crises are common. The Flint water crisis made global news, highlighting how attempts to cut costs on basic services like clean water led to high levels of led in the water. Crisis lead levels in water, breathing unclean air and not having access to safe areas to play are a daily reality for many. And when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, many public officials were caught off guard. According to some recent scholarship, public health programs once focused more on public infrastructure and the health of the most vulnerable in society. Tricia Miranda-Hartsuff, a public health associate professor at Wayne State University, says the public health field is now changing to focus on larger structural issues, including institutional racism and poverty that can help create trauma. “What we saw with COVID was this exaggeration of health disparities that had already been prevalent,” she said. “We already knew that certain populations had less access to care, had poorer quality of care.”
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Everything you need to know about newly available COVID-19 vaccines for kids

Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor and director of research in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Wayne State University, joins Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today in a conversation about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for school-age children. "The availability of the vaccine for children is really, really good news. It's definitely a game-changer...Parents have been patient and now is the time that they can actually go in to get their kids vaccinated...the reactions we see include things like soreness after the injection, systemic signs like headache, malaise, and joint and muscle aches - that resolve relatively quickly. Kids are very resilient. In fact, we see very, very few kids needing to follow up at a pediatrician as a result of any adverse events..." said Dr. Kilgore. "I always weigh the risks and benefits of anything, including vaccinations. One of the things we can tell parents is that overall, over the last several months, we've had a relatively conservative rollout of the vaccines. We started with the older adults, working our way down to younger adults and teenagers. And through that experience, we've been able to learn that the mRNA vaccines and the J&J vaccine have been safe for adults, and now we have a lot of additional real-world experience with hundreds of thousands of older children who have been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. What this is all telling us is that we haven't seen any unusual signals that would make us worry as we start to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11. The risks of not getting vaccinated are substantial." 
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“Buy it when you see it.” Retailers dread holiday shortages

By Mae Anderson  As the holiday season approaches, many businesses are concerned about inventory. This year, store shelves at businesses may be a little sparse because of bottlenecks in the global supply chain. The global supply chain has been impacted by a multitude of problems, from factories having to close due to COVID-19 surges, lack of containers to ship items in, backups at ports and warehouses, and a shortage of truckers. While bigger retailers like Walmart and Target have the power to buy their own containers, use air freight, and take other steps to make sure they get inventory, smaller retailers are at the mercy of vendors, who are increasingly suspending delivery guarantees and sometimes not communicating at all. In addition to a surge in shipping costs, vendors have reported delays because of backed up shipping ports. Kevin Ketels, a lecturer in global supply chain management at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University said that normally, there’s no wait for container ships to unload and that such delays are major.  
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'It's like a haunting.' Many COVID-19 patients deal with PTSD, depression & more after recovery

By Alex Bozarjian  Researchers are learning more about how severe cases of COVID-19 can impact a person's mental health in the long term. A study conducted in Italy found that 30% of patients who recovered from COVID-19 developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "This brain goes to fight or flight mode, and people have nightmares, people have flashbacks, and these flashbacks are as if I am there, I see things, I hear things--I feel the touches," Dr. Arash Javanbakht said. He researches stress, trauma and anxiety at Wayne State University. He said there are a lot of layers to recovery after COVID-19. It can either be mental or physical. 
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Labor shortage: Why it’s happening and what can be done

You’ve heard time and time again that the coronavirus pandemic triggered the shortage of workers we are seeing today -- but it may not be for the reason that you think. Matt Piszczek, a business professor at Wayne State University, says that the assumption that unemployment checks kept people home during the pandemic is incorrect. Instead, a lot of people began to rethink their careers, priorities and life goals after the health crisis hit. “The pandemic gave them an opportunity to reflect on what’s important,” Piszczek said. “So, things like flexibility became more important than an extra dollar an hour.” 
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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.