Health 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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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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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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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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New antidepressants can lift depression and suicidal thoughts fast, but don’t expect magic cures

Nicholas Mischel, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences; wrote an article for The Conversation. “Depression is the most common cause of disability in the world. Chances are high that you or someone you know will experience a period when depression gets in the way of work, social life or family life. Nearly two in three people with depression will experience severe effects. As a psychiatrist specializing in behavioral neuroscience, I help patients who suffer from mood disorders. Many have “treatment-resistant” depression and are on a nearly constant search for relief. There have been some exciting developments in treating depression recently, particularly new rapid-acting antidepressants. But it’s important to understand that these medications aren’t cure-alls.”
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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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Michigan Racial Disparities Task Force releases interim COVID-19 report

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, released an interim report detailing the significant progress Michigan has made in protecting communities of color from the spread of COVID-19. As of Nov. 16, more than 24,000 tests have been administered in previously underserved communities across 21 neighborhood testing sites, according to the governor’s office. These state-operated sites provide COVID-19 testing on a consistent schedule, several days per week. All sites offer free testing, and a prescription is not required for someone to be tested, nor is any form of ID required. From March and April to September and October, the average cases per million per day for Black Michiganders dropped from 176 to 59. In the same period, the number of probable deaths per million per day among Black Michiganders dropped significantly — from 21.7 to 1. “As a member of the Michigan Task Force on Racial Disparities, I am proud of the hard work we have done to protect communities of color from the spread of COVID-19,” said M. Roy Wilson, Task Force Member and president of Wayne State University. “I want to thank Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist for their leadership as we have fought to eliminate this virus. Our work on the task force is far from over, but the data is clear – we have taken swift, meaningful action to protect Michigan’s most vulnerable communities and save lives, and we will continue to do so until this fight is over.”
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Ford donates 50,000 face masks to Wayne State University

A donation of 50,000 medical-grade, disposable face masks from the Ford Motor Co. Fund provides a critical stockpile at Wayne State University that will help protect students and the campus community throughout the pandemic. “We are immensely grateful for this generous gift of face masks from the Ford Motor Co. Fund,” says David Strauss, dean of students at WSU. “Having medical-grade PPE on hand for students will help keep us all Warrior Safe and Warrior Strong.” The disposable masks are a welcome addition to the cloth masks Wayne State distributes to all students and will be available throughout the year for health science programs and at units across campus that primarily serve students, such as the Student Center and the libraries. All students can use them as needed.
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Wayne State University and Karmanos Cancer Institute to host two-day symposium focused on advancing health equity and the impact of COVID-19

Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute will host the “Community-Engaged Research Symposium to Advance Health Equity: The Impact of Coronavirus Now and in the Future,” on Dec. 1 and 2. The virtual symposium is free and open to the public; registration is required and can be completed online. “This is our third annual symposium, and we are honored to take on the challenge of adapting it to the pandemic,” said Rhonda Dailey, M.D., assistant professor of family medicine and public health sciences, and scientific director of the Office of Community Engaged Research at Wayne State University. “The virtual platform is a convenient way for academicians, community organizations and community members involved in community-based research to present their hard-earned work related to COVID-19. We hope that attendees will use the symposium to form new, lasting connections and partnerships.” Community-academic research partnerships are more important than ever, according to Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., professor of oncology in the Wayne State School of Medicine and associate center director for community outreach and engagement at Karmanos Cancer Institute. “Just like cancer, heart disease and a host of other conditions, the burden of COVID-19 is greater in communities of color, in under-resourced areas and among groups who are marginalized in other ways,” said Thompson. “If we want to generate data and knowledge that can make a difference, meaningful collaboration between these groups and academic researchers is essential. This symposium is one step toward real collaboration.”
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The do’s and don’ts to celebrating Thanksgiving safely in 2020

COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing across the country, including here in Michigan. The healthcare system is once again overwhelmed, with some hospitals nearing capacity. This fact is complicated by the impending holiday season. Families are assessing the safety of their typical celebratory gatherings and discussing how to adapt. Public health officials say these small gatherings are dangerous at this stage in the pandemic. Dr. Paul Kilgore is an associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He is also the principal investigator at Henry Ford Health System’s novel coronavirus vaccine trial. Kilgore spoke with Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today about how to keep safe during the holidays. “With more extended family gatherings, there’s always a risk of transmission…there is a chance that there could be someone there who is asymptomatic who could spread (COVID-19).” Do keep in mind that the virus travels differently indoors and in cooler air. “We know as people come indoors and as the proximity of individuals becomes closer, it’s much easier for the droplets… to move from one person to another,” says Kilgore. He adds, “In the wintertime with the lower humidity… the respiratory droplets can travel farther than they would in the warmer summer months when there is higher humidity.”
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Trials underway in Detroit for potential Covid antibody treatment

With the recent uptick in cases of COVID-19 in Michigan and throughout much of the country, Detroit Today’s coverage about this moment of the pandemic is a top priority. There’s reason to be at least cautiously hopeful about the recent news of potential vaccines for the virus, but there’s still a real need for continued research for alternative treatments. One such effort involves the use of convalescent blood plasma through trials being led locally by Wayne State University and Johns Hopkins researchers. Dr. James Paxton is the leader of the Detroit branch of the trial. He’s also the Director of Clinical Research for Detroit Receiving Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine, and Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. He explains that convalescent blood plasma therapy is really just using antibodies found in the blood of people who have previously had COVID-19. ”Antibodies are essential to fighting any infection… and your body retains the antibodies so that it can remember how it defeated [the virus] before in case it needs to defeat it again in the future.” Paxton says that his work at the Detroit trial site involves matching processed plasma with those who need to receive it. “We think it will work,” he says of the plasma transfusion pointing to the history of this kind of medical intervention.
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CBD sales soaring, but evidence still slim that the cannabis derivative makes a difference for anxiety or pain

Hilary A. Murasak, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, wrote an article for The Conversation on the rise of CBD usage during the pandemic. “Many people have turned to cannabis and its derivatives as they search for pandemic relief, and one of the most widely available ones is CBD. It is also legal and readily available. You can buy oils, tinctures, capsules, gummies, cosmetics and even toilet paper said to contain the molecule. Martha Stewart has a line of CBD products, and some companies are marketing CBD products for holiday gifts. And, you can even buy CBD products for your pet. An investment bank has estimated that this market will be worth $16 billion by 2025, even though many of the products that allegedly contain CBD may not contain any CBD all. And, if they do, the amount often is far less than the amount stated on the product bottle or box.”
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Want a COVID test for your Michigan Thanksgiving? Expect… to… wait

Michiganders trying to get tested for COVID before seeing loved ones at Thanksgiving might find that a collective rush on testing labs will make that impossible. And if you are lucky enough to get tested, well, expect… to … wait for your results. Though Michigan doesn’t track turnaround times, it appears that roughly two weeks before the holiday it’s already taking three to five days for test results, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The state’s testing capacity is being overwhelmed as the virus spreads “out of control,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and deputy director of MDHHS, noted at a media briefing Thursday. Testing demand has soared as the number of coronavirus cases in the state has spiked and the percentage of tests coming back positive has risen to roughly 14 percent. Testing also has increased in recent weeks at Wayne State University, as cases surged around the state — “and that’s a good thing,” said Laurie Lauzon Clabo, dean of the college of nursing. The school, which does 750 to 800 tests weekly now, is largely a commuter university, so it doesn’t face the same pressure as other universities to step up testing before Thanksgiving break since many of those students already live at home or are with their families, she said. But it will be important for the 1,350 or so students living on campus or who, for example, perform lab work, to be tested after the holiday. “There are tough days ahead,” she said.
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Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is promising, but experts urge patience

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced this week that their vaccine trial is more than 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, based on early data. That’s far above the standard set by the Food and Drug Administration, which set the bar at 50% effectiveness for emergency use. This is the first vaccine for the novel coronavirus to exceed the mark, raising hopes that a return to relative normality could be on the horizon. Experts, while optimistic about the development, urge caution as COVID-19 cases surge across the county, and widespread distribution of any vaccine is still months away. Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of internal medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Wayne State University School of Medicine says the new development in the quest for a vaccine is very encouraging. “It’s a testament to how quickly research is moving,” says Chopra of Pfizer’s vaccine trial. Manufacturing a potential vaccine will be another hurdle, something Chopra says Pfizer is already tackling. “Pfizer applied for an emergency use authorization… and claims they have started manufacturing millions of doses.” After manufacturing comes the widespread distribution of a vaccine, another challenge for pharmaceutical companies. This particular vaccine needs to be refrigerated and stored at a very cold temperature, complicating the task. According to Chopra, distribution will rely on collaboration. “We don’t just need one kind of vaccine… that’s not enough to be distributed globally. We need tons, we will look at all the vaccines… there should be heavy emphasis on the data.”
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HUD awards WSU nearly $700,000 for study on preventing lead exposure in children

Wayne State University has been awarded nearly $700,000 in federal funding to study protecting children from lead exposure in their homes, officials said. The grant is part of $9.4 million the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has given to 13 universities to research ways to reduce housing-related health hazards, such as pests, injury hazards and asthma triggers. HUD officials said WSU will be given $699,171 to partner with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, CLEARCorps Detroit and the Detroit Health Department to study the cost effectiveness of protecting children from lead exposure through improved temporary emergency relocations and new permanent voluntary relocations. The goal of the study is to establish whether the policies are effective in reducing blood lead levels in children and then to compare the costs of relocation to the costs of current approaches.