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Isolating together is challenging – and relationship stresses can affect biological functioning

As the COVID-19 pandemic moves into high gear in Michigan, thousands of frontline hospital workers are facing increasing stress, fatigue and frustration going into the second month of the public health crisis that is projected to kill more than 2,000 in the state over the next several weeks. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed flaws and vulnerabilities in how government responds to pandemics and how hospitals staff, supply and deliver health care to populations they serve. Some medical experts fear once the current emergency is over, political leaders and hospital executives will go back to bickering over holding down budget deficits and rising health care costs instead of focusing on real solutions. They say permanent changes in health care delivery and financing should be made because future killer outbreaks should be expected. "Inertia is a powerful force. (After a crisis is over), people tend to step back to their baseline position," said Mark Schweitzer, M.D., incoming dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine. "I hope we learn from this and change." Teena Chopra, M.D., DMC's corporate director of epidemiology, said COVID-19 has exposed Detroit's broken public health system and fragile health care infrastructure. She said high incidence of chronic disease, poverty, low literacy rates and lack of trust in the medical system of many inner-city residents contributes to the high numbers of cases and hospitalizations in Detroit. "We will see even worse than what we are seeing today (last Thursday). We haven't peaked yet. We are going to see a lot of cases; we are going to see a lot more deaths. We are on the exponential phase of the epidemic curve," said Chopra, who also is a professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
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Blood of the recovered could give weapon against COVID-19 as Mich. institutions join effort to mine plasma

A growing number of influential physicians and scientists are getting behind an effort to use the blood of those who have recovered from COVID-19 to help others battle the deadly disease. For more than 100 years, health care providers have used the liquid part of the blood, known as plasma, from those who have recovered from illnesses to help those stricken with the Spanish Flu, H1N1, SARS and more. That's why a group of physicians and scientists from 57 institutions in 46 states including Michigan are hoping plasma will help prevent and treat COVID-19 — especially since there have been 1.8 million confirmed cases and more than 113,000 deaths around the world as of Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center are considering a clinical trial involving plasma that is part of the project, said Dr. Robert Sherwin, director of ResearchOne at WSU's School of Medicine. This is exciting to Sherwin, who is also an emergency room physician at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, because he is taking care of patients in a world he likens to a war zone at a hospital that has been among the most overwhelmed. “There is essentially no specific proven therapies right now, and we really have nothing to offer these patients with any definitive confidence that it will improve their outcome," Sherwin said. "It's frustrating and heartbreaking. Everyone is an emotional wreck because of this right now. Not because of lack of efforts, but out of pure frustration. The disease is winning."
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Michigan doctors seeing glimmers of hope as more coronavirus patients sent home

Some physicians, but not all, are reporting that hospitals are now discharging more patients with the coronavirus to recover at home than seeing new patients in emergency rooms. These reports might be a hopeful sign that the surge in COVID-19 cases may be nearing its peak. While some hospitals say they’re starting to see signs of the virus letting up, Dr. Teena Chopra, a professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University who is also in charge of infection control for the Detroit Medical Center, said its hospital admissions for COVID-19 are still on the upswing. She cautioned against drawing early conclusions about flattening the curve and creating “false hope” that could prompt people to stop observing social distancing, ultimately leading to more lives lost. “We won’t be out of the woods until we have a vaccine,” she said.
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Q&A: Incoming Wayne State medical school dean Mark Schweitzer views Detroit, pandemic from New York

Incoming Wayne State University medical school dean and vice president of health affairs Mark Schweitzer, M.D., has a unique perspective on how Michigan is coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, as he is living in New York City, the nation’s number one hot spot for coronavirus. Schweitzer, who plans to arrive in Detroit the week of April 23, was hired earlier this year after a national search to replace Jack Sobel, M.D., who is stepping down to resume patient are and research duties after five years of helping to turn around the WSU School of Medicine.
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$6 billion will go to colleges to aid low-income students during crisis

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that more than $6 billion will be distributed immediately to colleges and universities nationwide to provide direct emergency cash grants to low-income students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The funding is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The money can pay for expenses like course material, technology, food, health care, child care, and housing. Under the program, Michigan State University will get a minimum of $14.9 million in emergency funds, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor at least $12.6 million, and Wayne State University at least $9.6 million. “We have seen huge needs in our student population, from housing to food to all sorts of things,” said Dawn Medley, Wayne State University’s associate vice president for enrollment management. “We have a student emergency fund, but that fund has run dry…To have this money and especially the first part of the money to go to student aid is imperative.”
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Videoconferencing keeps people connected while the coronavirus keeps them inside – but privacy and security are far from perfect

Elizabeth Stoycheff, associate professor of communication at Wayne State University, addresses privacy and security issues that have increased during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many to stay connected virtually. As a researcher who investigates how these issues affect the use of online platforms, Stoycheff outlines the differences between privacy and security and the different consequences for using videoconferencing platforms.
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‘We need help’: Coronavirus ‘devastating’ black cities in outstate Michigan

One month since Michigan’s first case of coronavirus, the pandemic is taking a far heavier toll on African American communities statewide, from metro Detroit to Ypsilanti and Flint to Lansing. An analysis of available public health data shows the disproportionate impact on African Americans has spread from southeast Michigan – a national hotspot for COVID-19 – to outstate. While data are limited, current statewide totals show 40% of Michigan’s nearly 1,000 coronavirus deaths are black. But the toll is likely higher since race is listed as “unknown” on 25% of all deaths; 14% of the state population is African American. Dr. M. Roy Wilson, an ophthalmologist and president of Wayne State University who worked on strategic planning on minority health and health disparities at the National Institutes for Health, said poverty and lower levels of education have left more minorities exposed to the virus through jobs that can’t be done from home. African Americans also are more likely to have a harder time with the virus because of underlying health conditions, Wilson said, noting that those underlying conditions create a quicker cadence from mobility to mortality. “During a pandemic, that cadence is going to be greatly accelerated and so whatever health care and health issues existed in normal times, whether it was on the lack of access to health care because of insurance or high prevalence of comorbid disease, all of that is going to be greatly magnified.”

How kids will remember the pandemic

For better or worse, we revisit our childhoods and the stories we tell about ourselves are rooted in childhood experience. Memories come out of experience, and so experiences shape the person we will become. There are concerns about the memories today’s children will be left with in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. To understand how to inoculate children against or cure bad memories, it’s helpful to understand when and how memory is developed, but children’s brains do not work like adult brains. “We’re learning concepts, but we may not have any conscious access to experiences we had maybe up to age three,” said Noa Ofen, memory researcher and associate professor of psychology at Wayne State University. “Very young children tend to remember a lot, but those memories tend to not be available readily when they’re older. There’s a very real phenomenon called childhood amnesia that’s well documented.”  
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Wayne County morgues brings in refrigerated trucks for surge in coronavirus deaths

As COVID-19 deaths continue to rise, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office is gearing up for the inevitable: more bodies than it can hold. To prepare for the surge, the morgue brought in two refrigerated trucks, another is expected this week, and a fourth arrives next week. The morgue can hold 300 bodies, and already has 200; the refrigerated trucks can hold about 35-40 bodies each. Mark Evely, director of the mortuary science program at Wayne State University, said the medical examiner’s office is properly planning for anticipated capacity issues, and addressed the additional precautions taken by funeral directors and funeral homes. “We as funeral directors, we believe very much in the value of having a funeral. We sympathize with the families who need that support of having people attend the funeral,” he said. “Not only have families lost a loved one, they’ve also lost the in-person support that they would have normally had from families and friends.” “
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Uber wants to redefine unemployment. More than 50 labor groups are fighting back.

A coalition of about 50 labor groups is asking congressional leaders to reject Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s proposal for a new legal category that would allow the company to keep treating its workers as independent contractors while affording them partial employee benefits. Labor advocates have argued Uber does not provide as flexible a source of income as the company maintains. In a letter to Congress, Sanjukta Paul, an assistant law professor at Wayne State University, and Marshall Steinbaum, an assistant economics professor at the University of Utah, wrote that if the federal government pays for Uber and Lyft drivers’ unemployment insurance it should incentivize “states to side with the platforms on employment status, since doing so unlocks funds they would otherwise have to collect from the platforms.” The letter said that if the companies are not mandated to pay into a state’s unemployment funds as part of the stimulus act, they should be required to commit to reclassifying the workers as employees in exchange for the federal support.

Detroit’s nursing homes are the next coronavirus hot spot

A spike in the number of coronavirus cases in Detroit’s nursing homes is straining the region’s hospitals and is partially responsible for an uptick in the state’s already-high mortality rate. Now, public health officials are working to head off the kind of facility-based outbreak that has killed hundred of elderly nursing home residents in Seattle, New York and elsewhere. Dr. Teena Chopra, a professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and a DMC epidemiologist, called the growing mortality rate among the region’s nursing home population “astonishing.” She estimated that about 60% of coronavirus-infected residents who are admitted to metro Detroit hospitals die, and that the population accounts for at least 25% of the region’s overall coronavirus deaths. The Detroit Health Department and Wayne State University are heading up a new citywide testing effort, with a goal of testing the entire resident population at one nursing home per day.
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Michigan reports another 114 deaths of COVID-19; Whitmer to extend stay-at-home order

Governor Gretchen Whitmer plans to announce an extension of her stay-at-home order as public health officials recorded another 114 deaths from the coronavirus in Michigan in the past day. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported another 1,376 confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 20,346 and total deaths to 959 on April 8. Detroit has become a hot spot for the virus, and has continued to ramp up testing efforts. The city was set to start using its Abbott Laboratories rapid COVID-19 testing on residents and workers in nursing homes. For resident who can’t go to a test site, Wayne State University School of Medicine students will visit nursing homes to take samples, and then run the tests at night.
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9 ways stress messes with your body – and what you can do about it

Stress isn’t just something that happens in your head – the effects reach almost every other part of your body. In simple terms, stress is the way your body responds to potential dangers. Stress is not inherently evil or bad for you, and is a biological response designed to help us successfully escape threats. In an ideal world, your body responds to stress and returns to its normal state – but in a less-than-ideal world, stress can become chronic and start to negatively impact your health. “People that are stressed may use food as a comfort,” said Dr. Joel Kahn, clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. “You don’t usually eat much broccoli when you’re stressed. You’re usually grabbing for a doughnut and chips.”
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Michigan Poison Center getting calls regarding accidental misuse of hand sanitizer

Since many common household disinfection products are in short supply, some have been substituting products not meant for use in the home. The Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine has received more than 80 calls regarding accidental misuse of automotive products, household industrial cleaning products and disinfectants. “We’ve had a few instances of people ingesting it (hand sanitizer),” said Denise Kolakowski, an educator with the center. “We’re not shocked because we understand that people are scared.” The center has recently issued a reminder about disinfection products.
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COVID-19 is disproportionately taking black lives

As of Tuesday, black people made up 33% of cases in Michigan and 40% of deaths, despite being just 14% of the state’s population. This racial disparity is also reflected in other states, although some states have not released data broken down by race, including New York, deemed to be the country’s epicenter. Years of slavery, racism, and discrimination have compounded to deliver poor health and economic outcomes for blacks, including heart disease, diabetes, and poverty, that are only being magnified under the lens of the coronavirus pandemic. “What we are seeing is that because of the way COVID-19 attacks the body, in terms of what it does to the lungs and how it interacts with the part of the body that controls the blood system, people with hypertension are more susceptible to the illness itself,” said Phillip Levy, a professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president of translational science and clinical research innovation at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
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Detroit’s WSU Physician Group purchases devices for on-site COVID-19 testing

Supported by a grant from Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, the WSU Physician Group has purchased four new devices that will provide rapid, on-site processing of COVID-19 test samples in Detroit. Th units are now in place in Detroit Medical Center hospitals. The units allow the hospitals to perform tests on high-risk patients in-house to avoid the delays of sending the tests to commercial laboratories. The devices provide results in less than an hour. “Rapid identification to facilitate appropriate isolation of COVID-19 patients is mission-critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the hospital environment and the community,” said Dr. Charles Shanley, president and CEO of the physician group and vice dean of clinical affairs for the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
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Q&A: Why pandemic modeling is an imperfect, but important, tool

The nearly minute-by-minute onslaught of COIVD-19 related news is enough to leave most crestfallen. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is using a model that shows deaths and cases per day peaking in early May, while the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model says Michigan will level off mid-April. Those are very different projections with very different outcomes – so, who’s right? Crain’s interviewed Hengguang Li, chair of Wayne State University’s mathematics department, to discuss the flaws of mathematical modeling.