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Moving forward in 2021: A guide to depolarizing America

Arash Javanbakht, M.D., director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC) at Wayne State University, wrote an article for Psychology Today. “In 2020, divisions ran deep in America. A new Pew poll found that rarely before have Americans been more polarized than today. Journalists, scholars, and political leaders are increasingly taking note of the hyper-polarization of our political climate. Public figures like President-elect Biden, for instance, have vouched to unite the country and end “this grim era of demonization.” But the task of reconciliation is daunting: Some who try to overcome polarization often concede all too quickly that it is “a waste of time” to engage the other side. We cannot afford to embrace defeatism and retreat into our political tribes if we want to keep this Republic.”
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Wayne State president: Black people must overcome fear of COVID-19 vaccine

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson wrote an op-ed regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. “As a physician, epidemiologist and scientific researcher, I plan to take one of the coronavirus vaccines as soon as my turn comes.  I am confident that the vaccines are safe and effective, because I am confident in the years of scientific work and care behind their development. As a Black man and a member of Governor Whitmer’s Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, I plan to encourage all Black men and women to take the vaccine. I know there is a lot of distrust and reluctance to get the vaccine born out of historical inequities and mistreatment. Despite the fact that Black people are almost three times more likely than white people to die of COVID-19, according to a Pew Research survey, only 42% of African Americans say they will get the vaccine, compared to 61% of white people. Frankly, neither number is high enough. I encourage everyone — I implore everyone — to get the vaccine as soon as they can. Especially members of the African American community.
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Detroit’s Cultural Center Set to Install Free, Outdoor Public Wi-Fi in 2021

In a partnership with Wayne State University’s [WSU] Computing and Information Technology Department [WSU C&IT] and rootoftwo, free outdoor wireless will be offered in Detroit’s Cultural Center—an area that includes CCPI stakeholder institutions: The Carr Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, College for Creative Studies, Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Public Library, Hellenic Museum of Michigan, International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan Science Center, The Scarab Club, University of Michigan and Wayne State University, the press release added.
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What effect will holiday travel have on the pandemic?

Please don't travel. That was the advice many public health officials urged Americans to follow this holiday pandemic season. And yet, travel over Christmas surged as millions of people left their homes and cities to spend it with family. All the while, hospitals are overflowing, still dealing with a surge of infections from travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease specialist at Wayne State University School of Medicine, participated in a Q&A with NPR host Sarah McCammon.
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How does your brain wake up from sleep?

Hilary A. Marusak, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences, and Aneesh Hehr, Wayne State University medical student, wrote an article for The Conversation’s “Curious Kids” series. “When you’re asleep, you can seem completely dead to the world. But when you wake up, in an instant you can be up and at ‘em. How does the brain turn on awareness or consciousness? This question has puzzled scientists for centuries – and continues to do so. While scientists don’t have the full answer yet, they are finding clues by studying people’s brains as they shift between sleeping and waking.”
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It’s time to invest on Main Street

Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development and TechTown CEO, wrote an opinion piece for the Oakland Press (subscribers only), which also appeared in Michigan Future, about the need to invest “on Main Street” in order to see real economic development across Michigan. Staebler wrote: “We need to support our existing small businesses and to help create new ones. It’s absolutely imperative that we have another stimulus package either at the state level, as Governor Whitmer has called for in the lame-duck legislative session, or from the incoming Biden administration. It’s equally imperative that the stimulus is focused on the mom-and-pop small businesses that employ more than half of America’s workers. In other words, if we want to see real economic development across Michigan, it requires us to invest on Main Street.”
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How the NBA's pandemic success created an 'unrealistic expectation' for sports leagues

When the NBA, the NHL and MLB started their playoffs this year, they observed strict rules about whom their players could interact with — "bubbles" meant to make sure outbreaks were limited and contained. The NFL is instituting no such bubble for its coming playoffs, according to an internal league memo obtained by NBC News. The league informed teams this week that they can't require players or staff members to stay in isolation in hotel rooms beyond the night before a game. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging across the country, outpacing the outbreaks early in the year that suspended organized sports across the United States. Since then, most leagues have restarted play even as players have tested positive, games have been delayed and the broader national situation has worsened. "I think a lot of what happened with sport was what happened in the rest of the country," said Dr. Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an infectious disease expert and assistant professor at Wayne State University. "We weren't getting clear messaging from the top. Without that coordinated national response, it was left up to individual leagues, players, communities about what they were going to do, which is no way to run a pandemic." The implications outside of sports have become even more salient now that Covid-19 vaccines have started to roll out, with more widespread availability expected in 2021. "This is the fourth quarter. The sports metaphor is completely apt here. It is time to lock it down," Newman said. "Just make it through until the summer. The end is in sight. Let's not blow it now. We should be being as cautious as possible, because we know it's time-limited."
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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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Beginning the ‘long climb’ toward economic and social stability

Nonprofits were among the most visible organizations to shift strategies and processes to both endure the pandemic and support those suffering through job and other losses. By April, many colleges and universities began seeing decreases in fall enrollment—16 percent around the country—and drops in residence hall renewals. Consequently, they initiated layoffs and other budget cuts to help stave off hundreds of millions of dollars in predicted losses while also trying to mitigate the financial pain many students were experiencing. Yet, Wayne State University is bucking the trend and has seen increases in some enrollment figures. “We actually had a 5 percent increase in our first-year students,” said university President M. Roy Wilson, M.D., a trained epidemiologist. The university also hasn’t taken the financial losses most universities have so far experienced this year because of shifting strategies a few years ago that included turning to a public-private partnership for housing and food services, Wilson said. Still, with decreased consumer spending in 2020, property taxes left unpaid or deferred, high rates of unemployment and other hits to state budgets, college and university administrators expect state and federal budget cuts to affect their bottom lines in the near term. “We’ve been fortunate, but we are going to be impacted financially,” Wilson said. Wilson added that there’s also the issue of children missing out on the social and educational development they get from in-person learning. “As an epidemiologist, I’m worried about the pandemic and think we have to be very cautious,” he said. “So, I just urge everyone to think in terms of being as aggressive as we can be in driving the numbers down so that we can open up schools earlier.”
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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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Most of Michigan's 24,000 contaminated sites await cleanup that might never come

Michigan environmental law assigns responsibility for contamination not to the owners of the land, but to those who caused the pollution, however long ago, provided current property owners take some protective steps. Some 14,000 of the state's contaminated sites have no responsible party that can be identified — either it's unclear who caused it or those responsible no longer are around. That means the sites will fall to Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EGLE or the EPA — taxpayers — to deal with as needed. And that number isn't likely to get reduced much anytime soon. Of those 14,000 sites, EGLE this year funded remediation activities at about 450. "Something is broken" in how Michigan handles its contaminated lands, said Carol Miller, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State University, a co-director of the university's Center for Leadership in Environmental Awareness and Research, or CLEAR. "There are more contaminated sites being left open than should be the case. The problem is dollars, and the problem is many, if not all, of these sites are legacy sites. Regulations against use of the sites, that doesn't solve the problem."
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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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Wayne State to launch diversity and inclusion fellowship for local companies

Wayne State University plans to begin a new fellowship program this February designed to promote diversity, equity and inclusion among tech companies in Southeast Michigan. The program is being rolled out by the university's STEM Innovation Learning Center and OurOffice, a California-based business services firm focused on workplace culture. The program will place or train participants in local companies to "create transformative diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in their respective workplaces," according to a university news release. The university is looking to include eight to 15 fellows from various companies for the first iteration of the program, according to Tonya Matthews, associate provost for inclusive workforce development and director of the STEM learning center at Wayne State. "Students and professionals trained in traditional STEM fields are rarely exposed to rigorous DEI practice, and often those trained as DEI experts are not immersed in the cultures peculiar to tech and heavily tech-enabled companies," Matthews said in the release. "This fellowship aims to close those gaps."

EPA awards $50,000 to student teams in Michigan for innovative technology projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  announced $50,000 in funding to two student teams in Michigan through its People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grants program. The teams from University of Michigan and Wayne State University will receive funding to develop and demonstrate projects that help address environmental and public health challenges. The Phase I teams will receive grants of up to $25,000 each which serve as their proof of concept. Across the nation, this year's winners are addressing a variety of research topics including efforts to reduce microplastics waste and food waste, creating innovative and solar-driven nanomaterials, building a stand-alone water treatment system that can provide potable water for indoor use in single family homes, and removing PFAS from water using liquid extractions. These teams are also eligible to compete for a Phase II grant of up to $100,000 to further implement their design in a real-world setting. A student team from Wayne State University will research how green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) affects urban groundwater quality and flow by piloting a network of community-based groundwater monitoring stations surrounding GSI sites in Detroit.
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Michigan Health Endowment Fund grants support older adults

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund awarded more than $370,000 to a pair of Wayne State University programs aimed at improving the well-being of older adults in the area. Rosanne DiZazzo-Miller, associate professor of occupational therapy in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, received a two-year, $221,992 grant for her project, “Supporting African American Older Adults Who Care for Family Members with Dementia.” Peter Lichtenberg, Distinguished University Service Professor of Psychology and director of the Institute of Gerontology, received an 18-month, $152,231 grant for his project, “Integrating Financial Vulnerability Tools into Geriatric Medical Settings.” DiZazzo-Miller’s project will design and implement web-based, real-time support and training to African American caregivers, addressing this population’s historical lack of access to culturally relevant information. The goal is that this training will increase caregivers’ knowledge and confidence about providing safe and compassionate care. Lichtenberg’s project aims to integrate financial vulnerability and capacity tools into geriatric medical care. The program will help protect older adults from financial exploitation through early detection in medical settings. Both program grants were part of the Health Fund’s Healthy Aging initiative, which supports projects that improve access to care, allow Michigan residents to age in place, and help communities build a culture of emotional support for older adults.
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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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Tens of thousands of Michigan students are missing this fall. The state doesn’t have a plan to find them.

Michigan does not have the ability to find thousands of students who are likely “not being educated” during the pandemic, much less a unified plan to do so. As COVID-19 deaths rise in Michigan and more schools move to online instruction, districts have shouldered the responsibility for finding missing students, making phone calls, and in some cases knocking on doors. But many of those students remain unaccounted for three months into the school year, and state leaders have done little more than encourage local superintendents to find them. Many students “are not attending online classes and they’re not attending in-person classes — they’re just kind of lost,” said Jennifer Lewis, an associate professor of math education at Wayne State University. That means students are missing out on concepts that they’ll need to understand next year’s work. Not to mention they’re missing out on the emotional and social support that they receive at school. Educators are concerned about the well-being — academic, emotional, and physical — of students who simply aren’t attending school. Reports of child abuse have declined sharply during the pandemic, in part because teachers are among the people most likely to notice the signs of abuse. Adding to the urgency of the situation, these students were already at greater risk of falling behind, she added. “The kids who will suffer the most will be the kids who were already suffering,” she said. “The achievement gaps will only grow. We’ve already struggled with, ‘How do we help kids catch up?’ Now it’s going to be a stronger concern.”
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The problem with your pandemic “Pod”

Many Americans are creating “pods,” or small exclusive groups of people, to socialize with indoors as the pandemic rages on. However, these pods that many people have come to rely on aren’t foolproof and take a lot of intention and planning to pull off safely. Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor & director of research at the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, suggests people read state guidelines about forming pods at Michigan.gov before starting their own bubble. He says when a pod is created it’s important to have conversations about behavior within the pod and expectations for when members leave the pod as well as the health risks involved. “Another key point is really talking about, within your pod, how vulnerable is each individual member,” says Kilgore on the importance of transparency in maintaining social bubbles. The general recommendation, Kilgore says, is to keep pods under ten people. In addition to keeping your pod small, one of the most important things to keep you safe, he says, is to keep wearing a mask when in public. According to Kilgore, it’s important the mask cover both the mouth and nose as the virus is particularly attracted to receptors in your nasal cavity.
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Vaccine politics, skewed by Trump’s polarizing approach, will complicate Biden’s path to a unified pandemic response

Cold, hard science powered the race that produced the first coronavirus vaccine, expected to win clearance imminently after gaining a positive vote from a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee Thursday night. The challenge next moves to more-fraught terrain — getting impatient Americans to understand that, while a vaccine is here, most will have to wait. Gallup’s most recent polling in November found that 37 percent of Americans would not agree to get a coronavirus vaccine, an improvement from the 50 percent who would not agree in September. Overcoming that hesitancy will require a broad-based education campaign from federal, state and local governments, featuring corporate and religious leaders, celebrities, sports stars and influencers, say experts. They will be up against an explosion of disinformation. “Unfortunately we have done a very good job of creating distorted and misleading narratives around this pandemic, and I still know individuals who say it’s just the bad flu, it’s a hoax,” said Matthew W. Seeger, a professor and dean at Wayne State University and co-author of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manual on pandemic leadership and communication. “We now have these wildly competing narratives, and we need to do a much better job of telling the truth about covid 19,” he said.