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Wayne State University Press slashes prices, offers free shipping

Trapped at home by the coronavirus scare, tired of the TV and longing for something constructive to do? Wayne State University Press is eager to help. Through May 1, they're slashing prices 40% on all their titles, and will ship for free. Think of this as your opportunity to bone up on Detroit history and lore, one of the Press' strengths. Books you might consider include architectural titles like "Yamasaki in Detroit: The Search for Serenity," "Designing Detroit: Wirt Rowland and the Rise of American Architecture," or "Guardians of Detroit," a close study of the city's impressive architectural sculpture. Alternately, you might look at "Greetings from Detroit: Historic Postcards from the Motor City" or "A People's Atlas of Detroit," a study of social movements in the city.
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Wayne State University postpones spring commencements due to coronavirus concerns

Wayne State University has postponed spring commencements amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) scare. As Michigan government officials increase measures to enforce social distancing, WSU officials say they had to postpone the event due to the large crowds that attend. “We understand that commencement is an important milestone, one worthy of the traditional pomp and circumstance,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Keith Whitfield. “You have worked long hours to earn a degree and we, like you, looked forward to celebrating this day with you and your family and friends. Know that this news [is] as disappointing to us as it is you.” Students that have met their requirements will still receive their degrees, however, according to officials. WSU students can learn more about how COVID-19 affects them here
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Disease expert: Michigan life won’t return to normal for months

Schools are closed, bars and restaurants shut down, and many temporarily laid off or working from home. Disruptions to daily life are growing more severe in Michigan, where 54 cases of coronavirus were confirmed late Monday. And if other parts of the country and globe should serve as an indication, a weeks-long lockdown curtailing travel outside the home could be next. As Michiganders face a new reality, the question many are asking is “how long will it last?” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has closed schools through April 5 and activity centers — including gyms and libraries — through March 30, but a local infectious disease specialist says it could be months before life returns to normal in Michigan. Chopra’s assessment of what’s in store for Michigan dovetails with recent comments from President Trump, who said in a Monday news conference that the outbreak may not end in the U.S. until July or August at the earliest. He added that he may advocate for quarantine or curfew in local “hot spots.” The San Francisco Bay Area on Monday announced a near-lockdown to last through April 7. Once things are under control, Chopra warns there will likely be a second wave of the virus as people resume social activity. That could be less severe and limited to local clusters, however, as the country will presumably be better prepared. A vaccine will still take up to 18 months to produce, she said.
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How 3 Michigan university presidents who are doctors prepared for coronavirus

In late February, Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson was preparing to send a message to his Detroit campus about the coronavirus. The message's main goal was to suspend study abroad programs. But he also wanted to offer some guidance, including not having people shake hands. But not all his advisers were sold on the idea that Wilson should tell the campus to bump elbows or nod as a greeting. Wilson, however, was insistent about including the message in his letter, so he made it personal. "I also have decided to forgo shaking hands as much as possible," his message reads. "While socially awkward, my training in epidemiology and public health makes me believe this is the right approach to reduce the risk of spreading infection." 
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Trump is breaking every rule in the CDC’s 450-page playbook for health crisis

Amid an outbreak where vaccines, drug treatments and even sufficient testing don’t yet exist, communication that is delivered early, accurately and credibly is the strongest medicine in the government’s arsenal. But the Trump administration’s zigzagging, defensive, inconsistent messages about the novel coronavirus continued Friday, breaking almost every rule in the book and eroding the most powerful weapon officials possess: Public trust.  “For those of us in this field, this is profoundly and deeply distressing,” said Matthew Seeger, a risk communication expert at Wayne State University who developed the CDC guidebook alongside many top doctors, public health researchers, scientists, consultants and behavioral psychologists. “It’s creating higher levels of anxiety, higher levels of uncertainty and higher levels of social disruption. … We spent decades training people and investing in developing this competency. We know how to do this.” Since taking office, Trump has ousted scientists, muzzled researchers and suppressed basic information on climate change. Public health officials worry that his erosion of public trust of science, coupled with the ongoing conflicting messaging between experts and politicians, is making it unclear whom the public should listen to. “I’m fearful we’ve continued to undermine our belief that subject matter experts are people we should listen to,” said Seeger. “We’ve done a good job over the last couple decades of undermining science and telling people scientists aren’t to be believed.”
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This math professor serves up 1,200 digits of pi

Since it was first defined more than 2,000 years ago, mathematicians have tried to find pi’s exact value. Pi has many fans, who celebrate National Pi Day on March 14 (3/14). The U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution recognizing Pi Day in 2009. In recent years, Raskind says Wayne State has ramped up its efforts to spread awareness and appreciation of pi. “We have a STEM day,” Raskind says. “I did a session on everything you always wanted to know about pi. I had about 35 students or so, and they loved it.” Raskind says he hopes promoting pi day will help people appreciate math more, and break stereotypes about those who are interested in mathematics.
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Indian Country leaders urge Native people to be counted in 2020 Census

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article for The Conversation about the 2020 Census and the challenge of counting Native Americans living on reservations and in traditional villages, the most undercounted people in the 2010 U.S. Census. The Census Bureau estimates that it undercounted American Indians living on reservations and Alaska Natives in villages by approximately 4.9% in 2010. “This year, tribal leaders throughout the U.S. are urging American Indians and Alaska Natives to be seen and counted in the 2020 U.S. Census,” Carlson wrote. “Native leaders across the U.S. have been working to educate Native people about the importance of being counted in the 2020 U.S. Census. The National Congress of the American Indian, the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization, has undertaken a public education campaign and designed a toolkit to help tribes and native people participate in the Census. Tribes have devoted considerable energy and resources to preventing another undercount. Beginning in 2015, they have consulted with the Census Bureau on how to build collaborative relationships to overcome the barriers to counting people in Indian Country. Tribal leaders are using their expertise in reaching their own communities by developing outreach plans to encourage tribal participation and hiring tribal citizens to collect Census data. For tribes, an accurate count will enhance their ability to exercise sovereignty over their lands and people.
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Crisis communication researcher shares 5 key principles that officials should use in coronavirus

Matthew Seeger, professor of communication and dean, College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, wrote an article for The Conversation discussing key principles that officials should use in coronavirus. “Infectious disease outbreaks have killed more people than hurricanes, wildfires or earthquakes. The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history, with death estimates ranging as high as 50 million worldwide. Almost 700,000 deaths occurred in the U.S.; in some cases, entire families died. Because these events are so outside our understanding of what is normal, they create high levels of uncertainty. We don’t know what is happening. And we don’t know what to do to avoid and mitigate the harm. Crises are also time-sensitive events that require quick decisions and actions to reduce and contain the harm. Delayed evacuations for hurricanes, for example, can lead to more deaths. Failure to issue advisories to boil water can result in disease outbreaks. Telling people what to do during a crisis - boil water, evacuate, shelter in place - is critical to limiting and containing the harm.”
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Data deficit: Oversight of jails fragmented

Who is incarcerated in Michigan’s county jails, their length of sentence, and how many die there is unknown — and it has been that way for decades. Policymakers say they're taking steps to fix this broken system, but with little data to go by, responding to the mental health needs of those in county jails is like working in the dark. Sheryl Kubiak, dean of Wayne State’s School of Social Work, has spent her career researching the intersection of criminal justice and heath care. She served on the Task Force with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack. Improving outcomes for inmates, connecting them with services and giving corrections officers the information they need requires an intake system that asks the right questions, Kubiak said. There are a variety of jail management software programs available to purchase, with little uniformity from county to county, Kubiak said. The software is expensive and takes training to learn how to use, making it difficult for jail administrators to justify changing even if their current system is not as effective as they’d like. “In the best case scenario, there would be a uniform system that all the jails would use,” Kubiak said, in a telephone interview. “But to require that, the state would have to fund it. And that would be a big ticket item.” Some jails, such as Kalamazoo County, are paper and pencil, Kubiak said, with no jail management information software at all. Nor is there a robust oversight mechanism to make sure county jails are operating as they should.

Democrats gear up for brutal 2020 fight with Trump in Michigan

Democrats in Michigan have been mobilizing for months for a fierce general election fight against President Trump, determined not to lose this Midwest battleground as they did in 2016. Even before they know who their nominee will be, Democratic groups are pouring millions of dollars into anti-Trump ads here, portraying the Republican president as an unstable leader who threatens Americans’ healthcare and the nation’s security. A network of progressive groups across Michigan has already identified voters susceptible to voting against Trump and started reaching out to them on issues they care about most. Michigan’s presidential primary — the biggest of six Democratic contests Tuesday — will test the appeal of former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in a state likely to play an outsize role in deciding whether Trump wins a second term. Ken Jackson, an English professor at Wayne State University, grew up in Macomb County. He sees Trump’s swagger as a big part of his appeal to white working-class voters here, including many whose families fled Detroit for the suburbs in the “white flight” that began amid the racial tensions and riots of the 1960s. “A lot of that aggressive banter is very deeply connected to the cultural habits and speech patterns of these folks,” Jackson said. “That’s something they’re quite comfortable with. They associate that with authenticity and truth-telling.”
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Paid sick leave limits can lead to coronavirus outbreak in nursing homes: Union leader

As Michigan health professionals prepare for the worst, other states and Michigan institutions are eyeing the downfalls of perfect attendance, too. In Michigan, some universities are canceling study abroad programs and urging students not to travel to countries in which the virus is prevalent. In a letter to Wayne State University faculty sent Wednesday, Provost Keith Whitfield asks professors to "consider reviewing your attendance policies so as to strongly encourage sick students to stay home and recover." "We also recommend that you begin to consider ways to continue your teaching responsibilities should the spread of COVID-19 necessitate limits to people meeting in large groups (or) even the possibility of closure of the campus," the letter said.
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Wayne State team receives $1.98 million NIH award to develop diagnostic tests for sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease of unknown causes that affects multiple organs in the body. It occurs in patients around the world and is highly prevalent in Detroit and Michigan. It is characterized by abnormal masses or nodules – granuloma formations – in various organs, including lungs and lymph glands, brains and heart. Sarcoidosis has been described for more than 150 years, but there are no specific and simple tests developed to diagnose this disease. A team of researchers led by Lobelia Samavati, M.D., associate professor in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics and Department of Internal Medicine at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, has been working for more than 10 years to discover specific serological biomarkers of sarcoidosis and tuberculosis. With the help of a recent $1.98-million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Samavati’s research team aims to advance their work of developing biomarker technology for identification of biomarkers of sarcoidosis. “We believe that our technology will be able to harness the diversity of antibodies and can aid to identify protective antibodies in various diseases in humans, including viral respiratory infections such as the corona virus,” said Samavati. “We believe that this study is the beginning of new era to identify protective immunity in form of antibodies.” Sorin Draghici, the Robert J. Sokol, M.D. Endowed Chair in Systems Biology in Reproduction and professor of computer science in Wayne State’s College of Engineering, is collaborating with Samavati. He contributed to the design of the study and will supervise the data analysis.
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Cow dung won’t stop coronavirus and you can open Amazon boxes from China

Spreading as fast as the new coronavirus are half-truths, innuendo and downright dangerous lies around it, putting Michiganders’ health — as well as their wallets — at risk. One Michigan school district fought rumors that it shut down because of coronavirus. (It was a power outage.) A county health department faced accusations of hiding 800 potentially sick people in gypsum mines. (They weren’t.) And a hospital system was thought to confirm it had a patient with coronavirus. (It was a scam.) Meanwhile, the state health department is fielding calls from panicked residents, including one who wanted to know if he should destroy the Amazon package containing an office chair made in China. Matt Seeger, dean of Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, said he received this mail this week: Dr. Seeger, we would like you to participate in our efforts to prepare for coronavirus. Please click on this link. That email likely was designed to lure recipients into clicking the link, spreading malware into the computers or seeking personal information, he said. Seeger, a crisis communications specialist, said rumors can go beyond misleading or confusing; they can be downright dangerous. Some of the most harmful flimflam involves bogus preventative measures. There’s the dangerous claim, for example, that drinking bleach will prevent coronavirus. “If you drink bleach, you're going to the hospital,” Seeger said. “Maybe you won’t get coronavirus, but you’re going to be really, really sick.”
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A coronavirus guide for older adults (and their family advocates)

A late February study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children 10 and under accounted for just 1% of all COVID-19 cases, for example, while adults in the 30-79 age groups represented a whopping 87%. The World Health Organization (WHO) found something similar in China, with 78% of patients falling between the ages of 30 and 69. “Older people are more likely to be infected, especially older people with underlying lung disease,” says Dr. Teena Chopra, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at Wayne State University. “For this population, mortality rates for COVID-19 are about 15%.” In this sense, COVID-19 behaves a lot like seasonal flu. From 70% to 85% of all flu deaths and 50% to 70% of flu-related hospitalizations occur among people in the 65-plus age group, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2002-2003 SARS outbreak similarly proved lethal for more than 50% of people over 60 who contracted the disease. “People living in long care facilities have common meetings, they share common rooms,” says Chopra. Common meetings and common rooms can too often mean common pathogens. The health system itself may be playing a significant role in putting seniors at risk. People with multiple medical conditions typically visit multiple specialists, and every such visit means entering a health care environment that can be teeming with viruses and bacteria. For now, Chopra advises older patients to postpone doctor visits that aren’t absolutely essential, like “their annual eye visit. Dental cleaning can be avoided too.” Telemedicine—conducting doctor visits that don’t require hands-on treatment online—can be helpful too, as can e-prescribing, with drugs being delivered straight to patients, sparing them exposure to pharmacies.
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Trump makes room for experts, but still takes a leading role on coronavirus

At a campaign rally this week in North Carolina, President Trump reassured the crowd that he had jawboned the nation’s pharmaceutical companies into quickly tackling the coronavirus. “They’re going to have vaccines, I think, relatively soon,” he said. But “soon” was correct only if it meant 12 to 18 months from now. Both health officials and drug industry executives have repeatedly told Trump that a vaccine was still a long way off. Yet by promising a vaccine “soon,” the president almost certainly misled at least some of the public into thinking a solution to the outbreak was just around the corner. In confronting the first major health crisis of his presidency, Trump has made himself the primary source of information to the public with mixed results. Appearing before cameras sometimes multiple times a day to talk about the coronavirus, he has offered a consistently rosier assessment of the situation than health experts and has put forth unproven or even false assertions. “I think it’s fair to say that President Trump has struggled, and that’s not surprising,” said Matthew Seeger, a dean at Wayne State University who has written extensively on crisis communications. “One of the real challenges we’ve seen is a tendency to over-reassure. There is a tendency for us to say, ‘Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine, don’t panic.’”
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How the Wall Street roller coaster affects your finances

It’s been a wild roller coaster ride on Wall Street this past week. Last week saw one of the biggest drops in the Dow’s history. Yesterday, the market saw its biggest single-day jump in history. Matthew Roling is the Interim Chair for the Department of Accounting at Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business. Roling told Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson that “the market rewards patience, diversification and low fees.” He says the large drop last week in stocks was undeniably a reflection of the interconnection between the U.S. and Chinese economies, adding that the consensus cause of the dip by economists was the coronavirus outbreak in China. “It was a realization by the market that what’s going on with this virus might seriously wreak havoc on our economy.”
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These Detroit researchers are studying the cosmos, seeking answers

We’re entering a new era of space exploration in the United States. Private firms are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology and innovation. And the Trump Administration wants to get us back to the moon for the first time since 1972 as part of a longer strategy to put a human on Mars. Wayne State University has its own robotic dark sky observatory in New Mexico that can be operated remotely. “The Dan Zowada Memorial Observatory is a state-of-the-art 20-inch robotically-controlled remote observatory in the high desert of Rodeo, New Mexico, at an altitude of 4,128 feet,” according to the observatory’s page on WSU’s website. “This location has some of the darkest skies in the nation!” Edward Cackett is a Wayne State University astrophysicist. His research looks at trying to understand how material falls into black holes — a process called ‘accretion’ — as well as trying to understand the structure of extremely dense stars called neutron stars. “If we learn about how the black hole grows, how things fall into the black hole, it helps us understand better how galaxies form, how galaxies evolve, and that, of course, tells us eventually about how we come about — how we form solar systems and how everything evolves.”
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4 ways to protect yourself from disinformation

Elizabeth Stoycheff, associate professor of communication, wrote an article for The Conversation. “You might have fallen for someone’s attempt to disinform you about current events. But it’s not your fault. Even the most well-intentioned news consumers can find today’s avalanche of political information difficult to navigate. With so much news available, many people consume media in an automatic, unconscious state – similar to knowing you drove home but not being able to recall the trip. And that makes you more susceptible to accepting false claims. But, as the 2020 elections near, you can develop habits to exert more conscious control over your news intake. Teach these strategies to students in a course on media literacy, helping people become more savvy news consumers in four simple steps.”
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An astrophysicist answers your questions about black holes, supernovae and neutron stars

Learn the secrets of some of the most mysterious phenomena in space this Thursday, February 27, at Hopcat in Detroit. Wayne State Astrophysicist Ed Cackett will help you explore the university’s latest research on the physics of black holes and neutron stars, both some of the most compact objects in the universe. Neutron stars, for example, says Cackett, are some of the densest. “The material inside [a neutron star] is denser than an atomic nucleus. The equivalent is crushing down the entirety of humanity into the size of a sugar cube.” Cackett also studies black holes, one of the most misunderstood physical phenomena in popular culture. He says, with Wayne State’s Dan Zowada Memorial Observatory in New Mexico, he and other researchers can look at how objects fall into black holes, specifically, by measuring the light that’s emitted as they fall past the event horizon.