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Mich. House pushes plan to slash UM, Wayne State funding

Michigan's 15 public universities are bracing for a potential change that would severely alter how state aid is divided up among them, with most schools expected to see increases at the expense of two of the state's top research institutions. The Michigan House of Representatives this month passed controversial legislation that would tie the annual appropriation for the state's public universities to the number of full-time Michigan students enrolled. The House plan does not include an increase in funding for higher education — unlike the 2% increase passed by the Senate and recommended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Instead, it would keep the appropriation around $1.3 billion but shuffle how much each college gets while phasing the changes in over three years. Under the House plan, UM's Ann Arbor campus stands to lose the most: $39.5 million, or 12% of its state funding, in the first year and nearly $125 million over the first three years. Wayne State would lose $8.2 million, or 4% of its state aid, in the first year and nearly $29 million in three years. Both universities, respectively, educate a larger percentage of non-resident students. Michigan would become the only state in the nation to use resident enrollment as the sole basis for state funding, said Britany Affolter-Caine, executive director of the University Research Corridor, an alliance of UM, WSU and MSU that promotes research as a driver of the state's economy. Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said a cut of $28.6 million over three years would dramatically impact tuition and services at the urban research institution where 2,135 of the 24,155 enrolled students are not from Michigan. The proposed funding change is a similar mechanism that is used to fund K-12 education in Michigan, which pays a set amount per student to schools each year, but it costs more to educate graduate and professional students, Wilson said. Some universities can put 300 undergraduate students into one lecture hall whereas a medical school class may not have that many. "There is a difference of scale here," Wilson said. "There needs to be a more sophisticated mechanism that better recognizes the unique missions of the 15 public universities in Michigan." Wilson added there is an underappreciation of research universities' contributions to the state's economy and residents' health and wellbeing. "Michigan has not historically appreciated the value of research," Wilson said. "There is a huge (investment) return on research. ... Research has a multiplier effect. The kind of technologies that come out of research universities: the life-saving discoveries and the improved quality of life is also really important. It's not just the financial benefit."
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'More like a story than a song': How Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On' remains relevant 50 years later

Fifty years ago, vibrating with agitation and energy, Marvin Gaye headed down the wood steps into a Detroit studio and made his anthem for the ages. “What’s Going On,” a poignant musical masterpiece crafted in a season of unease, persists as a timely backdrop to another heated time, half a century later, when the world feels upside down. Racial tensions, police controversy, environmental anxieties, a globe on edge — they were the topics on the front burner when Gaye rebooted his musical career and took control of his creative vision inside Motown. “People always talk about various influences out of Detroit. This really was a hometown effort that went worldwide. It captured that community sensibility and coming-together during a challenging time,” said Chris Collins, a music professor and director of jazz studies at Wayne State University. “The production — the openness of the music involved — was a pretty spectacular example of what can come out of that.” Collins said his 20-something son is enamored with the song and album. “It's in his musical life as a young person,” said Collins, also director of the Detroit Jazz Festival. “I think that speaks to the power and sincerity of that recording. It spans generation and communities.” At Wayne State, ethnomusicologist Josh Duchan’s course on 20th century popular music zeroes in on “The Message,” the pioneering 1982 rap hit by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. “A song like that — which is much more explicit in its lyrics — is kind of the extension of what Marvin Gaye and ‘What’s Going On’ did years earlier,” he said. “It’s looking around at the world and saying: These are not the conditions we all hoped for.” 
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Brighton mother, daughter share experiences caring for COVID-19 patients in ICU, hospice

When Michigan went into coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, Madison and Darlene Wiljanen went to work. Madison, 23, was working as a nursing assistant at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Her mother, Darlene, is a hospice nurse. "It was absolutely insane... people would transition so quickly," Madison said. "They would come in, I’d talk to them; they wouldn’t be on a ventilator yet. They would be on high-flow oxygen being monitored very closely. The next day I would come back and they would be ventilated, so nonverbal, sedated. Then two days later, they would be gone." Madison spent three weeks working with patients in the ICU who had COVID-19. It was a drastic change from the cardiac telemetry floor she worked on for months previously. She said "there was no light at the end of the tunnel" when she was working on that unit. This year Madison participated in a vaccine initiative in Detroit through the Detroit Public Health Department. Together with a group of doctors and nurses, Madison and several of her classmates in Wayne State's nursing program visited group homes in Detroit. Many of those living in the group homes had special needs, Madison said. "It’s a matter of life or death for these people," she said. "For me it was, yeah, I want the vaccine so I can have things go back to normal, but these people need it to keep them out of the hospital."
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An end in sight? Michigan experts say COVID finally ‘winding down’

Maybe — probably, but not definitely — the COVID-19 pandemic is finally coming to a close, according to those on the front lines of Michigan’s greatest public health battle in more than a century. In Ingham County health officer Linda Vail’s view, the virus linked to 18,815 deaths in Michigan and more than 3.4 million worldwide or more appears to be “winding down.” Effective vaccines have brought about an early end to the pandemic, said Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease doctor in Detroit. She was in “utter disbelief” at the third wave that hit the state earlier this year, and it’s only been in recent weeks that she has felt able to breathe again, she said. “You know, it depends how we define an end” to the pandemic, Chopra said. “I define the end as the uncoupling of case rates and the mortality rates.” In other words, both deaths and case rates are falling as vaccine coverage increases. But death rates are on a far steeper decline — indicating that “break-through” cases among the vaccinated are far less severe. “I think we can hope now, because the vaccines are so very, very effective,” she said. Chopra and other medical professionals have repeatedly noted in recent weeks that the lion’s share of hospitalized patients are those who have not been vaccinated. That the vaccines “work like a charm” has brought around a quicker end to the pandemic, she said.
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Basically everyone is mad at the CDC for being so confusing about masks

Don’t wear a mask. Wear a mask. In fact, wear two masks. Now take your masks off (once you get your shots). Keep the mask on, though, if you're in stores — well, some of them. The CDC’s latest change in guidelines, announcing that vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most places, has governors complaining, scientists unhappy, and people confused. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, has defended the new guidelines, saying the agency was simply “following the science.” The goal, she said, was to clearly declare that vaccines were effective and, amid declining vaccination rates, convince more people to get their shots. But health communication experts who spoke with BuzzFeed News said that, even armed with new data, the sudden switches in advice simply cross people’s wires without warning, said Matthew Seeger, a health and risk communication scholar at Wayne State University. You have to lay the ground carefully before you change guidance so people can understand where it is coming from. “We spent a year trying very hard to get people to wear masks,” Seeger said. “This kind of sudden, abrupt change, without any kind of signaling that it’s coming, will leave people feeling blindsided.”
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Prom send-offs celebrate Black girls and their communities

Aja D. Reynolds, assistant professor of education, wrote a piece for The Conversation. “As a researcher of Black girlhood, I interviewed and attended prom send-offs for both Danielle Nolen, 20, who attended prom in 2019, and Tonayvia Turner, 19, who attended prom in 2020 amid COVID-19 restrictions. My purpose was to learn more about what these occasions represent – both for the girls and for their communities. In my research, I didn’t find much – if anything – that discussed the kinds of prom send-offs that I observed in Chicago.
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Israeli-Palestinian conflict: What is fueling the escalating violence?

For many in metro Detroit with ties to Israel or Gaza, videos and images of the recent violence have been hard to bear. Wayne State University Associate Professor of History Howard Lupovitch and Saeed Khan, Senior Lecturer of near East Studies, agree that it is not all about religion. They have together tried to help people understand the politics. "The Israeli government was on the cusp of taking a really remarkable step forward. They were in the process of starting a new government sans Netanyahu which was going to bring together left wing and right wing. And also more importantly was going to include and Israeli Arab party," said Lupovitch. Khan says there are three things that contributed to this current crisis: tensions over the expected forced evictions of families in East Jerusalem, an Israeli Police incident that turned violent at one of Islam's holiest mosques. And then the bombings and rocket attacks in Tel Aviv and Gaza by Hamas and Israel. Israel has said it is working to destroy the militant group Hamas, but these professors said in the end Hamas and extremist parties in Israel could become stronger. "One has to wonder then was this partially orchestrated," said Lupovitch. They said this conflict is about the potential future of democracies when there is extreme political divide exacerbated by social media. It comes after for the first time there were representatives elected in Israel who want to expel Arabs. "It became a couple notches less marginalized in Israeli society even though most Israelis find it appalling," said Lupovitch. Khan added, "I think these kind of issues hold up a mirror to America, and America has to decide what is reflective of its own values."
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Wayne State University requiring masks to be worn indoors

Despite CDC recommendations, one Michigan University is mandating masks to be worn inside. Wayne State University says the school has no practical way of differentiating vaccinated and unvaccinated people. WSU also says it will not require masks to be worn outside of campus buildings. “We need to operate in a manner that protects the safety of every member of our campus community. Therefore, masks will still be required indoors on Wayne State’s campus. Mask wearing outdoors, regardless of vaccination status, will no longer be required. We do ask that people continue to exercise caution and avoid large outdoor gatherings if the vaccination status of all participants is uncertain,” said Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson. 
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Wayne State to require masks inside campus buildings

Wayne State University will require masks to be worn indoors in spite of recently-released guidelines from the federal government and state health department, President M. Roy Wilson announced Monday. Wilson wrote in a letter to the campus community that he supports the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which announced last week that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask unless required by local laws or workplace requirements. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration lifted mask mandates for fully vaccinated residents as of Saturday. "However, the practical limitation in the CDC guidelines is that we do not have the ability to differentiate those who have been vaccinated from those who have not," Wilson wrote. "This information is important, particularly if everyone is unmasked indoors. We need to operate in a manner that protects the safety of every member of our campus community. Therefore, masks will still be required indoors on Wayne State’s campus." Relaxing the CDC guidelines on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated residents is a hopeful, and pivotal moment in the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson said. "The key to a fully open and healthy campus is the degree to which our campus community is vaccinated," Wilson said. "If you have not yet been vaccinated, I urge you to do so as soon as possible."  Wayne State's on-campus mandate also comes after the university offered a $10 incentive to students if they provide proof that they have been vaccinated by May 7. Of Wayne State's 27,000 enrolled students, 2,659 students participated, or about 10%. WSU spokesman Matt Lockwood said others likely have been vaccinated and did not take advantage of the incentive. Wilson will host a town hall meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss fall plans. He urged students to get the vaccine and said that the university Campus Health Center offers the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Said Wilson: "I look forward to seeing you all on campus soon – unmasked."
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Business, education leaders blast House cuts to big universities

Business leaders from across the state and the University Research Corridor (URC) of Wayne State University, Michigan State University and University of Michigan say that the House budget plan for higher education “picks winners and losers.” House Republicans passed House Bill 4400 last week that would better fund universities with more in-state students for Fiscal Year 2022 using a per-resident student formula, leaving two of the state’s larger research universities with budget cuts. U of M-Ann Arbor would see a 12.2% budget cut, $39.5 million less, and Wayne State University would see a 4% budget cut, or $8.2 million less, from the FY ‘21 budget. MSU would see a 1.2% increase. The three universities in the Upper Peninsula will not see any change to their state funding and the other nine universities will see an increase in funding ranging from 1.2% to 10%. The funding will largely be redistributed among universities, as the total House Higher Education budget will not see an increase. During a press conference Monday, business leaders and the URC shared support for the GOP Senate-passed plan, which mirrors Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive budget recommendation, to increase one-time funding by 2% for all of Michigan’s state universities. “It’s a budget under which all students at all 15 universities benefit and would set up businesses and our state to benefit. Unfortunately, the budget passed by the House is very different. It picks winners and losers and will have a negative effect on students, businesses and Michigan’s economic future,” URC Executive Director Britany Affolter-Caine said. 
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CDC mask guidance is premature, Wayne State medical researcher says

If you’re fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask in most situations inside or outside. That’s the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which surprised regular folks and public health experts alike with the announcement last Thursday. Michigan followed suit, lifting the mask requirement for fully vaccinated people and said unvaccinated people do not need to wear one outdoors. The CDC notes people should continue to follow regulations from local governments and private entities. While some public health experts say the CDC is making the right decision, others are concerned that relaxing guidance is premature at this stage of the pandemic. Dr. Paul Kilgore is an associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He says the new guidelines are premature. Kilgore cites Michigan’s current vaccination numbers. He says about 50% of the population has had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 42% are fully vaccinated. “When you look around the community or an environment — shopping, restaurant, wherever you are — you can’t assume that everyone is vaccinated,” says Kilgore. He says he has not changed his personal behaviors despite the new CDC guidelines. “Personally, I’m wearing a mask still inside the gym or if I go out shopping or to a restaurant, a grocery store, that kind of thing,” he says. Kilgore also recommends people who are either immunocompromised or around people who are immunocompromised should continue wearing masks, even if vaccinated.
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West Michigan experiencing spike in fentanyl-related overdoses

There has been a spike in fentanyl-related overdoses in two counties on the west side of the state, according to the Michigan Poison Center at Wayne State University. Cass and Van Buren counties are experiencing more overdoses related to the drug that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. So far, Southwest Michigan has had five overdoses this year, which is more than last year. Dr. Varun Vohra, a clinical toxicologist with the poison center, said Southeast Michigan, especially the Detroit area, has seen a lot of fentanyl in cocaine and heroin. "People are being exposed to potentially especially lethal concentrations of drugs, specifically fentanyl, which can be coproduced or co-formulated with other opioids or other drugs unbeknownst to the users," Vohra said. "If they get this highly potent spike of fentanyl in there it causes them to stop breathing and die." Vohra said that while all people cannot be stopped from using drugs, people who are using them should make sure they have a drug reversal medication, such as Narcan, nearby. "We know people will use these products and illicit recreational drugs, and they need to know the risks associated with that and have an antidote on hand or with them," Vohra said. "It would be a huge boom to mitigate these overdoses."
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Mask mandate over for vaccinated in Michigan. Confusion for everyone else?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration on Friday dropped Michigan’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated people, easing a restriction that could have remained well into summer but creating a host of questions in the process. The order, which takes effect Saturday at 9 a.m., came one day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance saying fully vaccinated people could safely go indoors without masks. That made mask mandates nationwide almost impossible to enforce, and many states have already dropped them since the CDC announcement. The new CDC guidance shows the national vaccination effort has been successful so far and could encourage other residents to seek inoculation, said Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease specialist with Wayne Health and Wayne State University. "We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," said Chopra, who works in Detroit. "I see a lot of hesitancy here, and I hope this will incentivize Detroiters to get vaccinated."
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Michigan businesses must decide to keep or drop their mask mandate

As more businesses announce new policies on vaccinations and masks, business owners have to decide whether to keep a mandate in place and how to enforce it. For some, a relaxation on mask recommendations is, as Bay City commissioner Kerice Basmadjiam says, “a light at the end of the tunnel.” But Lance Gable, a law professor at Wayne State University, says it could be problematic. “If everyone just stops wearing masks and just stops taking precautions, including people who are unvaccinated, that’s going to result in a lot more spread of the disease,” Gable said. The problem is the unknown. “A lot of people now are going to be going around without masks and you’re not going to be able to tell who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t been,” Gable said. But are separate businesses and entities allowed to require proof of vaccination? “They certainly could request that information, but if a person refuses, there’s nothing the business can necessarily do to force them. You can’t force someone to divulge their private medical information,” Gable said. “It’s not only going to be confusing, but I think it’s going to be unsettling for a lot of people,” Gable said.
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Wayne State researchers find statins might help COVID-19 patients live

Wayne State University researchers have found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients who took statins regularly before they got sick were less likely to die from the disease or have severe infections. Statins, such as Lipitor, are most commonly prescribed to treat high cholesterol. But they have other roles, too. “They have anti-inflammatory properties and control the immune system at various levels,” said Dr. Prateek Lohia, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Wayne State. Lohia says clinicians had very little knowledge about COVID-19 when patients started filling hospitals in 2020, or how to treat it. He began reading scientific literature to see if any medications might help treat the novel coronavirus. He says studies had already been done on how statins might help people with other viral infections. “We found some observational studies that noted a significant decrease in mortality from influenza and community-acquired pneumonia,” Lohia says. The Wayne State team began its own observational study to see how statins might help COVID-19 patients in Detroit. They observed more than 1,000 patients at Detroit Receiving and Harper University hospitals. Lohia says about 45% of those observed had been taking statins at home. Their mean age was 65, most were Black and many had comorbidities known to increase the risk of severe infection and death from COVID-19. The researchers noticed that those who had been taking statins at home before they were admitted had a lower mortality rate and were less likely to suffer severe infections than those who had not. Lohia says dosage also made a difference. “Moderate and high doses did have an effect compared to patients who are taking low doses,” he says. The early results of the study are promising, but Lohia warns that more research is needed. “Ours was just an observational study, which shows association but does not point toward causation,” he says. “What is needed is a randomized controlled trial to provide the next level of evidence.”
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UAW willing to fight GM to unionize 2 new battery plants

The UAW is prepared to battle General Motors at two new battery cell factories if the automaker won't allow a simplified process to organize workers there. At issue in the new plants, which are under construction and are joint-ventures that aren’t automatically UAW represented, is a process that would allow workers to check a box on cards to allow them to organize, versus a drawn-out, traditional vote process. The outcome of organizing the plants will carry far-reaching consequences for future electric vehicle workers, a point fueling the UAW's sense of urgency for this upcoming battle. The union leadership knows organizing these two plants is "a critical event for the UAW and they know the importance of it," said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University. Industry experts say it is inevitable that there will be more future EV battery cell plants across the auto industry, so the unionization at these two GM plants could be precedent-setting for workers down the road. It is critical the union's local leaders prepare an organizing campaign as soon as possible, Masters said.
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Budget plan would cut funding at UM, WSU, reward colleges with more in-state students

The University of Michigan and Wayne State University would see deep cuts in state aid under a House Republican-authored plan that seeks to tilt taxpayer support of public universities in favor of schools with more in-state undergraduate students. The fiscal year 2022 spending plan passed by the GOP-run House Appropriations Committee would cut UM-Ann Arbor by $39.5 million — a 12.2 percent cut for one of the state's flagship research universities — and slash Wayne State's taxpayer support by $8.2 million, or 4 percent. In return, the House Republican plan would award a 10.1 percent or $5.4 million increase in funding for Oakland University through a formula that would favor universities where the majority of students are Michigan residents. Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University and UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint would all see their state funding rise by 10 percent next school year if the House Republican plan becomes law, according to the House Fiscal Agency analysis. Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson warned Monday the House budget plan would lead to "several painful actions" for the Detroit-based university. "Like many of our higher education counterparts, the pandemic has hit Wayne State hard," Wilson said Monday in a statement. "We are currently operating at a deficit but managing through the use of our rainy-day fund and all-around belt tightening. However, if this iteration of a higher education budget is passed, we would be forced to take several painful actions." Wayne State has fought state funding formulas in the past that penalized the school for having more emphasis on research, as well as a high percentage of graduate students and non-traditional part-time undergraduates who take longer than six years to complete a bachelor's degree. The funding formula calls for additional reductions in 2023 and 2024, though there was no analysis from the House Fiscal Agency of how that would impact the bottom line of UM, Wayne State and others in future years.
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COVID is fading, but racial gap in deaths is back with force in Michigan

African Americans again are dying at a disproportionate rate from COVID-19 in Michigan, as the gap widens between Black and white residents who have been vaccinated. In the past four weeks, African-American residents have comprised 19 percent — 295 of 1,560 deaths — of all COVID-19 deaths, despite making up 13.8 percent of the state population. The uptick comes as demand for the vaccines decreases. Statewide, some 27 percent of African Americans have at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 40 percent for white residents, according to state data. And Detroit, where 78 percent of residents are African American, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state: About 33 percent among adults compared to 55 percent statewide. Experts say the return of the death disparities underscores that the vaccine saves lives. Detroit has gone to senior housing apartments and run clinics at churches and neighborhood centers in an attempt to get as many people as possible vaccinated. “If you make it easy for people they’re more likely to do what is needed to keep them healthy,” said Phillip Levy, an emergency room physician who heads the Population Health Outcomes and Information Exchange (Phoenix) program at Wayne State University. As a physician at Detroit Receiving Hospital, Levy said he saw the rising number of COVID-19 cases pour into the emergency room in recent months. “It’s very worrisome,” said Levy, who is also chief innovation officer for Wayne Health. And he’s aware of the low vaccination rate in Detroit. “That’s really scary. We’ve got to continue to press and press hard.” To help, Levy’s group has been taking its mobile health unit across the region, to neighborhoods in Detroit, Eastpointe and Pontiac and elsewhere to bring basic care as well as vaccines to areas where “social vulnerability” — higher poverty, more seniors, less health care access — is highest. He lauded efforts at local churches to bring the vaccines closer to where people live, to have it offered in settings where people may be more comfortable.
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From lumber to labor, are we now in a ‘shortage economy’?

Welcome to the shortage economy. After four decades where optimized and increasingly global supply chains made goods available at rock-bottom prices – where even scarce energy suddenly became cheap and abundant because of new drilling technologies – America has suddenly run smack into scarcities for everything from lumber to copper, computer chips to rental cars, truckers to restaurant workers, ammunition for guns to chlorine tablets for swimming pools. Americans can expect more such shortages and price increases, economists say, as eager-to-spend consumers contemplate a post-pandemic economy and as record government stimulus boosts demand. The silver lining in this is that most of these shortages are expected to be temporary. Another bottleneck is a decades-old shortage of truck drivers. The problem is magnified when goods are in such big demand. But the problem isn’t really the supply of potential drivers, but the extremely poor pay for long-haul work, says Michael Belzer, a former truck driver and now professor of economics at Wayne State University. Adjusting for inflation, “we’re probably at about 50% on average today of the overall annual compensation of where we were back then [in the 1970s]. So it shouldn’t be a big shock that we have a hard time getting drivers.”