In the news

News outlet logo for favicons/wxyz.com.png

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.
News outlet logo for favicons/mlive.com.png

Critical race theory isn’t taught in Michigan but does play a role in how teachers think about equity

By Malachi Barrett  Culture war controversy surrounding critical race theory gained new ammunition when a Detroit superintendent acknowledged the concept’s influence on anti-racist efforts in his school district. Conservative activists in Michigan and across the country packed school board meetings this year to denounce the teaching of critical race theory – a graduate-level academic framework that examines how racial groups are affected differently by legal systems and institutions. School officials assert CRT is not part of any curriculum in Michigan, but educators are making commitments to understand their own biases and provide students with a wider view of history. Truman Hudson, a professor of teacher education at Wayne State University, said conversations around CRT have become messy because the term is applied too broadly. Critical race theory is a way of thinking about history, Hudson said, and examining the role of race, class, and gender. Hudson said some of the confusion stems from educators themselves, who also conflate CRT with course material. “This is one lens that we can take to explore historic events in this country,” Hudson said. “The unfortunate part is when you start talking about race, it gets misconstrued that it’s CRT, but it doesn’t have to be. The reality is that race is a concern in this country with or without the framework of CRT.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/chalkbeat.org.png

Report: COVID, finances helped drive absenteeism in Detroit district

By Ethan Bakuli  Chronic absenteeism rose significantly for Detroit district students last year as families continued to deal with financial, logistical, and health ramifications of the COVID pandemic. A new Wayne State report shows that 70% of Detroit students were chronically absent – missing 10% or last school year – compared with 62% in 2018-2019. About 54% were described as severely chronically absent, meaning they missed 20% or more of the year. The report comes from a representative survey of more than 800 Detroit families as well as student attendance records and administrative data provided by the Detroit school district. At the core of the study’s results, according to Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, an assistant professor of education at Wayne State, are the ongoing social and economic barriers that chronically absent students face, particularly the difficult choices that families are forced to make in order to meet the expectation of good attendance without an adequate kind of social support structure. “We talked to families who had to quit their jobs to make sure their kids are in schools,” Lenhoff said. “Maybe their child’s attendance is better, but then they’re unemployed, and they’re not making any money.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/fox2detroit.com.png

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. 
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

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.  
News outlet logo for favicons/theconversation.com.png

The ‘runner’s high’ may result from molecules called cannabinoids – the body’s own version of THC and CBD

Hilary Marusak, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University, wrote an article sharing an explanation of the impact exercise has on the body’s natural cannabinoids and the associated benefits for mental health and stress relief. The “runner’s high” has long been attributed to endorphins, but research from Marusak’s lab found that exercise reliably increases levels of the body’s endocannabinoids – which are molecules that work to maintain balance in the brain and body – in a process called “homeostasis.” This natural chemical boost may better explain some of the beneficial effects of exercise on brain and body.  
News outlet logo for favicons/wdet.org.png

Report says some 2020 Census undercounted Detroit by 8%, costing city millions in funding

City leaders in Detroit say they’ve got proof that the city was severely undercounted in the 2020 Census, meaning Detroit likely missed out on tens of millions of dollars in future federal funding. Mayor Mike Duggan and researchers with Wayne State University and the University of Michigan outlined evidence during a press conference Thursday suggesting the city may have been undercounted by about 8%. The report used data from the United States Postal Service and a Wayne State audit of 10 block groups in the city shows the census may have missed about 964 residents in those areas alone.  
News outlet logo for favicons/ajc.com.png

Rivian confirms EV factory, thousands of jobs for Georgia

Electric vehicle maker Rivian confirmed its plans to build a $5 billion assembly plant and battery factory in Georgia, which Governor Brian Kemp called the largest single economic development project in the state’s history. Rivian plans to employ 7,500 workers at its factory, a jobs tally state officials have said could grow to 10,000. The plant will be built about an hour east of Atlanta, with construction slated to begin next summer and production at the factory expected to begin in 2024. Georgia beat out Texas and several other states for the factory. While Rivian might be well-financed and valued highly by Wall Street, the company faces several challenges to meet its goals. The company first must deliver quality vehicles, build its capacity to services the vehicles it sells and fend off EV competition from rivals such as Tesla, GM, Ford and Volkswagen, said John C. Taylor, a professor of supply chain management at Wayne State University. “Whether Rivian will get a significant share of (the future EV market), the jury is still out,” Taylor said.  
News outlet logo for favicons/detroitnews.com.png

Youth-led groups reach out to Oxford students to ‘grieve, heal, grow’

By Hani Barghouthi  Gun violence survivors, educators and students gathered on Sunday at a community healing event in downtown Oxford. The event, which was focused on offering mental health resources and resources to the Oxford community and others who were affected by the shooting, was organized by the Michigan chapter of March for Our Lives, a youth-led organization dedicated to gun violence prevention, and the Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan, a youth-led social and economic justice organization. Some the support comes from the Mental Health and Wellness Center and the Family and Mental Wellness Lab at Wayne State University, which has been providing in-person and telehealth therapeutic services to people in Metro Detroit who have been affected by the Oxford High shooting. “The kids we’ve spoken to are having a very wide range of feelings, and their feelings are changing all the time,” said Dr. Erika Bockneck, a professor of educational psychology at Wayne State University. “They’re experiencing grief and loss, then the next day they might be feeling really angry. And then there are some days where they’re kids, and I think they’re just not sure what to feel.” In addition to direct counseling, Bocknek and other counselors at the center are working with the Mala Child and Family Institute in Plymouth to develop a free text service where they send out messages of support and information about trauma response.  
News outlet logo for favicons/bridgemi.com.png

10 years of strict teacher evaluations haven’t boosted learning in Michigan

In 2011, Michigan implemented a tough new teacher evaluation system in which educators’ annual job reviews were based partly on the standardized test scores of their students. The plan seemed straight-forward: Reward good teachers, weed out bad ones and Michigan’s moribund learning would improve. A decade later, that experiment is generally considered a failure by educators, policymakers and researchers, and there’s an effort now to change the state’s teacher evaluation system, or at least pause it, until schools return to normal after the pandemic. Before the reform, determining which teachers were superstars was nearly impossible, because virtually all teachers were rated as effective. The teacher accountability measures were seen as a way to allow schools – and families – to distinguish great teachers from the average ones. “It was seen as a potential reform that could make a big difference and improve equitable outcomes,” said Sarah Lenhoff, associate professor of educational leadership at Wayne State University. “It was bipartisan, and had broad support from the education advocacy community.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/yahoo.com.png

Ghislaine Maxwell and what research says about women accused of sexual abuse

Poco Kernsmith, a professor in Wayne State University’s School of Social Work, conducts research around sexual violence prevention and shares her view on the nature and prevalence of female sexual abusers as the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell continues for her alleged role in the sexual abuse and trafficking of young girls with Jeffrey Epstein. Kernsmith says that crime statistics show that the majority of sexual abusers are male, but that national surveys of victimization show rates of female perpetration are six to ten times higher than reports to law enforcement would indicate. Arrest and conviction rates likely underrepresent the number of female sex offenders, because those who have been assaulted by a woman are less likely to report the abuse, and when abuse is reported, women are less likely to be arrested and convicted. When women are accused of sexual offenses, they are frequently accused of participating in abuse with a male co-offender, like the case involving Maxwell and Epstein.
News outlet logo for favicons/fox2detroit.com.png

The doctor is in: Children and trauma

Dr. Sarah Kiperman, assistant professor of educational psychology and a child psychologist at Beaumont Health, shares advice on how families can help children deal with trauma and talk about tragedies such as the Oxford High School shooting. “The first thing, and the easiest thing, we can do is check in with them – ask your kids directly how they’re doing and if they want to talk about anything…When we do notice changes in their behavior, their appearance or how they’re eating and sleeping – those are things to be looking out for.” 

Trucker shortage? It’s a point of debate amid supply chain jam

As Congress seeks solutions to a supply chain crisis that’s keeping shelves empty and consumers frustrated this holiday season, one suggestion keeps recurring: Address the trucker shortage. The American Trucking Association says there’s a need to fill 80,000 trucker jobs to satisfy America’s demand to move freight. The association asserts the jobs pay well, but that there have not been enough quality candidates. That theory stands in stark contrast to the views of an organization representing independent drivers, as well as those of at least four academics who study the industry, who say there isn’t really a shortage at all. Michael Belzer, a professor of economics at Wayne State University, said the issue is a direct outgrowth of the 1980 decision to deregulate interstate trucking. He said deregulation and the resulting collapse of Teamster representation of most truckers led to declining wages and poor job conditions that have effectively pushed drivers out of the industry. “It’s true, they can’t get drivers,” he said. “That’s not a shortage. If you don’t pay minimum wage, you shouldn’t be shocked that you can’t hire drivers.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/cnbc.com.png

Federal corruption probe leads to first major overhaul of UAW elections in 70 years

A federal corruption probe into the United Auto Workers has led to an overhaul of the union’s elections, potentially bringing an end to a more than 70-year leadership dynasty under which recent leaders accepted bribes and embezzled millions in members’ dues and fees. UAW members and retirees voted to change the union’s process of electing leaders from a weight, delegate-based system to a direct, or “one member, one vote,” election, according to preliminary results published be a court-appointed UAW monitor. Both the monitor and vote, which still needs to be certified, were results of a settlement between the U.S. Justice Department and union to end a corruption investigation that sent 15 people to prison, including two recent UAW presidents and three Fiat Chrysler executives. Officials say it’s unclear how the new voting system will impact companies with workers represented by the UAW, specifically the Detroit automakers. The impact of the new election system on UAW members as well as companies depends on how the new process is implemented, according to Frank Goeddeke, a senior lecturer in management at Wayne State University. “The devil is always in the details, so that can affect how this is going to play out,” he said. “I do think that with the one member, one vote, that the officers will be more cognizant of how the membership is going to feel about certain things that they do.”  
News outlet logo for favicons/freep.com.png

What adults need to know, and how they can help after shootings like Oxford High School

Dr. Arash Javanbakht, a psychiatrist and director of the Stress, Trauma and Anxiety Research clinic at Wayne State University, and Stephanie Hartwell, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Wayne State, spoke to the Detroit Free Press in the tragic wake of the Oxford High School shooting. Dr. Javanbakht and others stressed It is essential, after a school shooting, that parents and other adults control their emotions around their children to restore a feeling of calm and safety and limit anxiety. "In general, children, especially younger ones, do not have a good ability of threat detection or appraising the level of the danger. The most important thing is to control our own fear or negative emotions around kids — all kids," said Javanbakht. "Parents must show they're in control. For parents to create an atmosphere of safety is very important." Dean Hartwell, who is a medical sociologist, has researched gun violence. On Tuesday, her daughter texted news of the shooting to her. "My kids were 8 and 5 when the Sandy Hook school shooting happened. And that was first graders. I was completely traumatized. It changes your perception of how safe the world is. So you start to question everything."
News outlet logo for favicons/clickondetroit.com.png

Child psychiatrist shares advice for talking to children about Oxford High School shooting

As the investigation continues and those involved process what happened, most everyone else must grapple with another difficult task: How should we talk to children about school shootings, especially when they take place in our community? Dr. Tehmina Shakir, a clinical child psychiatrist with Wayne State Health, says that parents and caregivers should approach the difficult subject in different ways depending on the child’s age. She says that children respond differently to traumatic events, especially events like the Oxford High School shooting. For instance, Dr. Shakir says that younger, elementary-aged children may respond to traumatic events by becoming clingy and anxious, and/or they may regress and have trouble sleeping or eating properly.
News outlet logo for favicons/wxyz.com.png

22 federal workers coming to help fight COVID-19 surge at Beaumont Dearborn

Late Monday night, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release that the newly discovered COVID-19 omicron variant has not yet been detected in Michigan, however the department is now actively monitoring for it. Doctors in metro Detroit say when it's here, it will be known. “It is not going to be a huge challenge to discover this variant," said Dr. Teena Chopra, the director of the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases at Wayne State University. "When we see it, we will know it right away.” The center is sending in samples and monitoring for signs of omicron in metro Detroit.
News outlet logo for favicons/crainsdetroit.com.png

FAQ: What we know and don't know about the omicron COVID variant

Dr. Teena Chopra, director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at Detroit Medical Center and the director of the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases at Wayne State University, discusses the omicron variant and warns early evidence isn't enough to say the variant isn't as deadly. "We still need to look at real world data on severity, because most of the cases in South Africa were among young people," Chopra said. "We need to wait a few weeks for clinical data. I'm not yet comfortable saying it's less dangerous." Chopra expects better data on the dangers of the variant to emerge from South Africa next week.