Metro Detroit’s Latest COVID-19 Updates: April 17

A quick look at what’s happening locally
Workers at General Motors Co.’s Kokomo, Indiana, facility leave notes for healthcare workers on packages of ventilators, which have started shipping to hospitals in the Chicago area. // Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors Co.

The CDC is now reporting 661,712 COVID-19 cases and 33,049 deaths in the U.S. President Trump unveiled a three-phase plan for reopening the country last night. Following at least a two-week downward trend of COVID-19 cases and assuring hospitals are at capacity and proper testing is in place, phase one would include the opening of venues such as restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms so long as strict social distancing is observed. In phase two, school and youth activities will reopen, and nonessential travel will resume. Gatherings of more than 50 individuals will need to be avoided, and vulnerable individuals will continue to shelter in place. Finally, in phase three, vulnerable populations can begin reentering public spaces and visits to nursing homes can resume. The plan, called Opening Up American Again, can be viewed in their entirety on the White House website. Despite these guidelines, Trump says it is ultimately up to governors and other local officials to decide when and how to reopen their states. Here’s what’s happening in metro Detroit:

The state of Michigan reported 134 new COVID-19 deaths and 760 cases today. In total, the state has seen 30,023 cases and 2,227 deaths. []

In a press conference held in downtown Lansing today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared that Gardner-White Furniture has donated its fleet to COVID-19 relief efforts; Walmart, Salesforce, and State Farm are collectively donating 500,000 masks, 100,000 gloves, and 50,000 shoe covers to the state; and the Government of Taiwan donated 100,000 medical masks. In total, yesterday the state received 274,400 face shields, 6,024 canisters of sanitizing wipes, 417,000 gloves, 1.8 million surgical masks, and 360 boxes of N95 masks yesterday. Watch the entire conference on the Michigan State Police Facebook page. [Facebook: Michigan State Police]

During the conference, Whitmer also shared that she’s partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Headspace, a mediation app, to launch a new mental health website for Michiganders called “Stay Home, Stay MIndful.” The site features a curated collection of guided meditations; sleep “experiences,” such as stories and music; and simple meditations for kids. The programs are available at no cost to users. “While Michiganders are working together to take the necessary steps to safeguard their physical health and safety, it’s also critical that we protect our mental health,” says Rich Pierson, co-founder and CEO of Headspace, in a press release. “We want to be there for the people of Michigan and do our small part in helping them cope with rising levels of stress and anxiety during this public health crisis.” [Stay Home, Stay MIndful]

Mayor Mike Duggan was joined by City Council President Brenda Jones at today’s press conference in Eastern Market. “I just want people to know, because you have tested positive does not mean it’s the end of life for you,” said Jones, who has recovered from COVID-19. “You can test positive and still continue to live life. I’m here. I’m alive, but I’m still saying to everyone: please take it serious.” Duggan shared that the city saw 34 deaths yesterday, bringing its total to 572 in five weeks. Of those deaths, 98 have been from the city’s 26 nursing homes. So far, the city has conducted 650 tests in the facilities, and they’ve come back roughly 30% positive. However, he says that hospitals are reporting that bed and ventilator usage is 5% to 10% down in just the past two days, and TCF Center, which was designed to cater to nearly 1,000 COVID-19 patients, only has 21 patients. Watch the entire conference on the City of Detroit Government Facebook page. [Facebook: City of Detroit Government]

Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and model and actress Kate Upton are donating touchless thermometers and 25,000 masks to the Detroit Police Department. The masks will be distributed to officers, and patrol cars will be stocked with masks so they can be distributed to people in the community. The couple is also partnering with Ford Motor Co. to secure donations for face shields for the police officers as well as Detroit paramedics and fire fighters. Finally, Verlander and Upton are donating to Feed the Frontlines Detroit, an initiative that is supporting local restaurants and providing meals to healthcare workers and first responders. The donations are part of the couple’s ongoing plan to donate each of Verlander’s MLB checks to organizations that are fighting COVID-19. [Instagram: Justin Verlander]

Kybba Innovations, a Farmington Hills-based company that works with startups, is launching weTrace, an app that will track its users COVID-19 symptoms to identify hot spots in the U.S. The app will also feature information about the coronavirus from the government and hospitals, the ability for users to connect with healthcare professionals through text, phone, or video; and instant mapping of test sites. “The app uses technology to connect people with health systems and vice-versa,” says Tel Ganesan, managing director at Kyyba Innovations. “COVID-19 news changes daily and we are all in our own bubble. This app will help us communicate and empower ourselves with safe tools and trusted resources.” Once the app goes through beta testing, it will be available for download for both iOS and Android devices. [Kyyba Innovations]

Henry Ford Health System will begin taking non-emergent time-sensitive surgeries and procedures for non-COVID-19 patients at five of its hospitals next week. Dr. Betty Chu, associate chief clinic officer and chief quality officer at Henry Ford, says the health system has seen a decrease in some of its COVID-19 patients. Therefore, Henry Ford is opening a new patient portal to resume the nearly 8,4000 surgeries and procedures that were put on pause starting March 16. Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO of Henry Ford Medical Group and senior vice president and chief academic officer, adds, “We understand that cancer and transplants and heart disease and so many other afflictions don’t get put on hold during this COVID-related challenge.  As of right now, we can declaratively say that we’re safely in that plateau phase and hopefully in a recovery situation where we can begin to think very specifically about how to reopen some aspects of critical care for patients who need us the most.” [Henry Ford Health System]

The first batch of ventilators produced by General Motors Co. and Ventec Life System are being delivered to hospitals in the Chicago area. The ventilators are being manufactured at the auto company’s Kokomo, Indiana, facility, and GM has a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide 30,000 ventilators by the end of August. [General Motors Co.]

Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is joining nearly 40 labs across the globe in exploring the use of the oral therapy drug selinexor in treating COVID-19 and other related viruses. The drug, currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for cancer patients, was previously studied at the Detroit-based institute in lab experiments and clinical trials. The study will launch within the next five weeks, Dr. Jeffrey Zonder will be the principle investigator at Karmanos. [Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer institute]

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