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COVID vaccine for kids edges closer to reality, as cases surge in Michigan

In the race against COVID’s spread, a vaccine for adolescents might offer an opportunity to sprint toward herd immunity — especially as COVID cases surge among the youngest Michiganders. In a little more than five weeks, cases involving Michigan residents 19 and younger jumped from 1,526 on Feb. 20 to 6,783 on March 27, a more than four-fold increase, according to state data. Michiganders 10 to 19 years old now make up nearly 16 percent of state COVID cases, up from 8.5 percent before January, the data shows. It’s not just the more contagious B.1.17. variant that’s causing problems, experts told Bridge Michigan. Prep sports have resumed. And there’s some evidence teens and young adults are less likely to follow safety protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing as those who feel more at risk, experts said.  Pfizer also has begun a vaccine trial among children 6 months to 11 years old. Moderna, too, is testing vaccines among adolescents and teens and children, too. Johnson & Johnson has similar plans. From the get-go, the state has set a goal of vaccinating at least 70 percent of Michiganders 16 and older, even as it’s not precisely clear what amount will bring herd immunity. The state has not yet announced whether that goal will be adjusted as vaccines for children and adolescents become available. A vaccine for children and adolescents will also help ensure a safe return to the classroom, said pediatrician Dr. Lynn Smitherman, an associate professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine in Detroit. A vaccine for children will help Michigan return students to classrooms and move the state toward herd immunity, said Smitherman. She said she is getting an increasing number of questions from patients and their parents. “Parents are anxious to get their kids back to school. The kids are anxious to go back to school. I can’t imagine being home for a year with teenagers,” Smitherman said. 
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Wayne State broadens Warrior TechSource online learning platform

Amesite Inc., a Detroit-based artificial intelligence software company, is making Warrior TechSource, a dedicated online learning platform for Wayne State University engineering alumni, available to other professionals in the automotive engineering and tech industries. The Amesite platform provides 24/7 access to fully online, on-demand courses with live instructors. The courses include the latest findings on every topic that professionals in the automotive engineering industry train on, including automation, robotics, and electromechanical engineering. Farshad Fotouhi, dean of engineering at Wayne State, says he believes there are three key needs in the auto industry, manufacturing, and other industries: electrification, autonomous technology, and connectivity. “In working with Amesite, we have access to the best technology with a partner that we trust,” says Fotouhi. “They customized to our needs and to our market. Artificial intelligence is critical in creating engagement and is important for us not only to build programs – but to build programs that people complete.”
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America gets a D+ for school infrastructure - but federal COVID relief could pay for many repairs

Many kids are attending public schools this spring with the use of COVID-19 safety protocols, including more desk spacing, more frequent cleaning and mandates to wear masks. But far too many of the school buildings themselves remain dilapidated, toxic and in desperate need of structural improvements. On average, U.S. public schools are more than 50 years old – and by and large they are not being properly maintained, updated or replaced. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded America’s public K-12 infrastructure a D+ in their 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, the same abysmal grade as in their prior 2017 report. But help may finally be on the way. 
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What you need to know as Michigan enters third wave of COVID-19 pandemic

More of Michigan’s population is getting vaccinated as the rollout picks up steam in Detroit and across the state. Despite this, COVID-19 cases are once again climbing. “There is definitely a perception that we are through the worst of it, and we can let down our guard. I would seriously caution people against that,” says Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor and director of research at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He says the U.K. strain is partly to blame for the spread of COVID-19 cases in Michigan. “This is definitely one reason we’re seeing a surge in cases now.”  This strain of COVID-19 can spread more rapidly and needs fewer virus particles to establish an infection in the body. For this reason, he encourages people to continue to wear a mask, even after vaccination. Mask wearing, Kilgore says, will protect the individual until the vaccination takes full effect and will also protect others who have yet to be vaccinated. Pandemic fatigue has left many eager to resume life as normal, but experts say fully reopening too soon could compromise the progress made against the virus. “There is definitely a perception that we are through the worst of it, and we can let down our guard. I would seriously caution people against that,” says Kilgore.
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Mass shootings leave emotional and mental scars on survivors, first responders and millions of others

Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry, wrote a piece for The Conversation. “The deadly shootings of eight people in Atlanta on March 16 and 10 people in Boulder, Colorado, on March 22 brought heartache and grief to the families and friends of the victims. These events also take a toll on others, including those who witnessed the shooting, first responders, people who were nearby – and even those who heard about the shooting in the media. I am a trauma and anxiety researcher and clinician, and I know that the effects of such violence reach millions. While the immediate survivors are most affected, the rest of society suffers, too.”
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Women not getting the healthcare they need during Covid-19, new survey shows

Just as women have borne the brunt of economic damage from the pandemic, a new report makes clear that Covid-19 has also disproportionately taken a toll on women’s health and access to care. According to a national survey, conducted late in 2020 by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than one-third (38%) of women had skipped preventive services, such as checkups or routine tests, during the pandemic. Nearly one-quarter (23%) had forgone a recommended test or treatment. In comparison, only 26% and 15% of men had missed preventive or recommended care, respectively. “The fact that women are more likely than men to delay their healthcare services is not surprising, as women have been disproportionately burdened with child and household care, home schooling and, in many cases, an inability to maintain employment due to the many obligations placed upon them,” said Dr. Sonia S. Hassan, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and associate vice president in the Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University. 
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Activists, state authorities and lawsuits filed by survivors are putting pressure on the ‘troubled teens’ industry to change its ways

Heather E. Mooney, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, wrote an article for The Conversation. “Many Americans who spent time as teenagers in residential facilities that rely on “tough love” treatments to change behaviors are becoming more vocal in denouncing what they say are institutional abuses. Their call for cracking down on the previously lightly regulated “troubled teen industry is getting amplified by movements like Breaking Code Silence and the National Youth Rights Association, and by celebrities who were sent to these programs as teens, such as Paris Hilton and Paris Jackson. 
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Teen suicides rising, then came the pandemic

In 2019, according to a CDC study, almost 19 percent of students reported having seriously considered suicide. “The age group 14 to 24 years are particularly vulnerable,” noted professor Douglas Barnett, director of Wayne State University Psychology Training Clinic. “There are a lot of theories, notably that at that age biologically, socially and psychologically, they're seeing the world in new ways, their bodies are changing and the way they're interacting with the world, and the way the world is interacting with them, is changing. But they're still kids. All of the stresses add up. They can't always imagine improvements that in their world can change, that their parents can change – that it can all be temporary. However, the numbers are indicating they are more suicidal in the last several years. It's a very serious problem for all walks of life – not just the poor, inner city kid. It's the wealthy suburban kids too. It's an international problem from communities around the world.” Barnett said there have always been suicides among teenagers, but often it was something people hid from others. Today, there is a greater awareness of mental illness and the need, and availability, of help. “Thirty years ago if a teen made a suicide attempt, they were brought to a hospital for several days or weeks. That was in the '80s or '90s, and they were getting thorough assessments of what they needed,” Barnett said. “Now, they are often released within 24 hours, with the hospital pretending nothing happened, or depending upon the parents to find the resources. One of the challenges of this age group is the need for parental support as well as the teen has to want to get help. You need both to have cooperation. Good therapists know how to work with that.”
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Wayne State joins parade of universities headed back to near normal in fall

Wayne State University has joined the parade of Michigan universities and colleges planning on a fall that will look almost like a normal fall on the Midtown Detroit campus. "With COVID-19 vaccines more readily available — and all Michigan residents age 16 and older eligible for vaccines beginning April 5 — I believe this fall will see a return to many of our beloved campus activities, events and traditions," school president M. Roy Wilson said in a message to the campus community on Tuesday. "All students, faculty and staff will be expected to follow on-campus health procedures and guidelines. We will continue to monitor and adapt these guidelines based on emerging scientific evidence and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials." Wayne State joins the bulk of Michigan universities and colleges who have made similar announcements, including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Oakland University. The announcement said: Classes will largely return to face-to-face instruction. As allowed by the state, fans will be allowed back at sporting events. Campus events will start running again, but still may be modified based on requirements in place this fall. More Wayne State employees will be coming back to work on campus to provide services to students. That matches the announcements made by other universities as well, all of whom are optimistic their campuses will return to somewhat normal life.
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Wayne State announces plan for fall classes

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson announced Tuesday that the majority of classes will resume in-person in the fall, on-campus housing will open and athletics will resume with spectators in the stands in compliance with state guidelines. The university also will offer more virtual learning options as a result of lessons learned from the year-long COVID-19 pandemic. "We are excited to return to more of our classrooms," Wilson wrote in a letter to the campus community. "With COVID-19 vaccines more readily available — and all Michigan residents age 16 and older eligible for vaccines beginning April 5 — I believe this fall will see a return to many of our beloved campus activities, events and traditions." Wilson encouraged the Wayne State community to get a COVID-19 vaccine. "This will play a major role in allowing us to offer a more open campus this September," Wilson said. He said many parts of campus will resume with health and safety measures in place including campus dining, retail, student activities and celebrations. More employees will also be returning to work and the Campus Health Center will continue its Campus Daily Screener program to monitor campus cases of the virus.
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Has the pandemic changed urban landscapes for the better?

A lot has changed in how we relate to the public spaces around us this year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some main streets have closed to cars and opened to pedestrians, to give passersby more room. Restaurants — those that survived — got creative with outdoor seating. And people stuck at home suddenly found themselves seeking local outdoor spaces — where they're available — for recreation and physically distanced socializing. All these shifts in how we use our spaces got us thinking: What does a “return to normal” look like for cities? Robert Boyle, a professor emeritus of urban planning at Wayne State University, says the pandemic has given people the chance to consider alternative forms of infrastructure. “There could be, quote, a ‘return to normal,’ but there is an opportunity for more of a change,” Boyle said. “There is a chance that instead of just reverting to what we've been used to doing, there could be an opportunity to see things differently.”
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Is cold water swimming good for you?

Vaibhav Diwadkar, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine, studies the effects of cold exposure. In a 2019 study published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, he and his collegue Otto Muzik, a professor of pediatrics and radiology also at Wayne State University, summarized a large collection of evidence to suggest that there's a relationship between stressing your body with cold exposure and your brain's response to stress. According to Diwadkar, while science has long focused on the destructive nature of stress, more emerging research shows that willfully stressing your mind and body in a controlled way helps train your system to better handle stress. He believes exposure to controlled stress releases neurochemicals in the brain that may be beneficial.
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'Race against the vaccine' as some states see uptick in Covid-19 cases

Covid-19 rates are trending in the wrong direction in several states, including Michigan, which is reporting an uptick in new infections over the last month as other states see new cases plateau, prompting warnings about a possible surge. Health experts say it’s too soon to celebrate victory over the coronavirus pandemic despite an increase in vaccine access and re-openings across the country. Over the past four weeks, confirmed Covid-19 cases have trended upward for much of the state. According to hospitalization data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 74 percent of Michigan's in-patient beds are currently in use, and 72 percent of the beds in intensive care units are filled. The percentage of positive tests has also increased over the last four weeks and is now at 6.2 percent, public health officials said during a Friday news briefing. “We are back to where we were,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease expert and Wayne State University professor. “This is our third surge. It is a cause for concern for all those places where people have let down their guard.”
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For thousands of Michigan students, the barriers to getting to school are steep

Of the 50,000 students who attend Detroit Public Schools, more than 29,000 counted as chronically absent — missing 10% or more days in a school year — in the 2019-2020 school year. Statewide, nearly 300,000 students counted as chronically absent that year, according to state data. A new report from Wayne State University's College of Education finds the reasons for chronic absences for Detroit students are complicated. The report illustrates the lengths parents often have to go to get their child to school, in the face of unreliable transportation options and precarious financial circumstances. "We have the highest chronic absence in the country of any large city by a lot," Sarah Lenhoff, a Wayne State researcher and professor, said. The findings from the study mirror what other education leaders around the state have anecdotally noticed about chronically absent students. A lack of transportation plays a role in student absences, Lenhoff said, but just blaming absences on transportation leaves out more nuanced factors. Systemic problems like unemployment, financial insecurity and crime all contribute to a school district's chronic absenteeism rate. In interviews with families for the Wayne State report, researchers found those systemic, societal issues collided with a family's circumstances.  "It was rarely as simple as, 'I just have no way of getting my child physically to school,' " she said. "Most families are not going to enroll in a school that they physically can never get to."  
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Michiganders mental health affected by COVID

The Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Sciences has teamed with the State of Michigan to develop a comprehensive behavioral and mental health training and support program for the state’s first responders and their families to address the stress they face in their duties protecting residents. They created a program, Frontline Strong Together, and it will be available electronically and in-person to first responders and their families in nearly all 83 counties this year. The program is being developed and implemented with representatives of the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Department of Corrections, paramedics and dispatchers, according to Wayne State University. David Rosenberg, M.D and the Chair of The WSU hair of the WSU Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. “Frontline Strong Together distinguishes Wayne State University in that the research we do is not in some ivory tower. This is right in the trenches with the community, in real time, to develop evidence-based approaches to help as many people as possible,” said Rosenberg.
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Can cities plan for equity? These southeast Michigan communities are leading the way

Municipal master plans set the tone for how communities handle many important issues like land use, transportation, housing, and recreation. But some municipal planners are just beginning to figure out how to use the city master plan work to set meaningful goals for advancing social equity in their communities. That's according to "Are We Planning for Equity?" a study published in November in the Journal of the American Planning Association by Wayne State University researchers Carolyn Loh and Rose Kim. Loh and Kim developed a plan equity evaluation tool and used it to analyze 48 comprehensive plans from communities across Michigan, measuring the degree to which they incorporated practices and recommendations to advance equity. Loh says a master plan can incorporate equity into its goals in many different ways. Housing goals can stipulate a wide range of housing sizes, price points, and types that appeal to people of diverse income levels. Transportation goals can emphasize the importance of public transit, particularly adjacent to new housing developments, for those who can't afford a car. Plans can establish goals for climate resiliency, taking steps to ensure that marginalized residents aren't disproportionately exposed to flooding or heat vulnerability. Economic development goals can seek to ensure that development benefits lower-income neighborhoods instead of just favoring high-rent downtowns. "Are you recommending accessible housing for a variety of folks, that's in a safe place, that's connected to a transportation system that's going to let them access the things they need?" Loh says. "If you had it in one sentence ... that's what you're looking for."  
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City of Detroit program aims to employ returning citizens coming out of jail

The city of Detroit is cleaning up one alley at a time while giving a second chance to the people who are coming out of jail or prison. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, "returning citizens" face unemployment at a rate of over 27% higher than the rest of the population. Delvin Wallace is a returning citizen, a free man since January 2020. He takes advantage of work opportunities like at the COVID-19 testing site at the former State Fairgrounds through "Detroit At Work." The program then got him connected to the city's alley cleanup project in August. Sheryl Kubiak, dean of the School of Social Work at Wayne State University, used to run a re-entry program in the city for women. She said going from a regimented life behind bars to a free society full of choices can be overwhelming. "Having employment that provides you with a regular schedule, that provides you with socialization to others who are doing, kind of, the work of life is really a helpful support benefit. But the more meaningful the employment is and the higher the wages, the most likely people aren't going to go back into criminal behavior," Kubiak said.
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Despite COVID spike, Whitmer mulls allowing more fans for Detroit Tigers

Schools have reopened, restaurants are back in business and thousands of baseball fans could soon get to enjoy an annual spring tradition: Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day. One year and a week after Michigan confirmed its first case of COVID-19, a massive vaccination effort is driving the state toward something approaching normal. But health experts warn the promise of herd immunity is still months away. And after a precipitous decline in December, January and February, Michigan is now seeing one of the fastest increases in daily coronavirus cases in the nation. “It’s a very dangerous time, because ... (more) people are vaccinated, but people are letting their guard down and not masking and not social distancing,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease specialist with Wayne Health and Wayne State University. “There is a lot of pandemic fatigue.” 
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Mobile Wayne Health vaccination clinic to take shots to the neighborhoods

There is plenty of excitement from people who are taking advantage of free COVID-19 vaccines offered through Wayne Health from Wayne State University and their mobile medical units. On Monday people pulled up to the New Bethel Baptist Church and they didn't even have to leave the driver's seat to get their first Covid shot. Others will get a chance to get theirs as Wayne Health visits neighborhoods as part of a new pilot program. "This is what is needed for us to get beyond on the pandemic," said Dr. Phillip Levy, Wayne Health. "We have to wear masks we have to continue to social distance. But the more people that can get vaccinated the sooner we can reach herd immunity." For months Wayne State University and its physician group Wayne Health, have taken vehicles across Detroit where they've done Covid tests and other health screenings. Now they are part of a statewide pilot program to make sure everyone has access to the vaccine. Levy, the chief innovation officer, says it's especially important to meet Detroiters where they're at. because while most drove up to Monday's clinic- not everyone has a car. "There's a lot of transportation challenges despite it being 'The Motor City,'" he said. "A lot of people don't have cars and a lot of people can't get ready access to public transportation. And they have to rely on somebody to drive them to existing vaccination sites."