Metro Detroit’s Latest COVID-19 Updates: Friday, March 27

A quick look at what’s happening locally
general motors co - ventilators covid-19
General Motors Co. and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to convert GM’s Kokomo, Indiana building into a production space for Ventec’s VOCSN ventilators, pictured above. // Photograph courtesy of GM

On March 27, the House voted to approve a $2 trillion stimulus package that, once signed by President Trump, will approve the distribution of payments — ranging from $500 to $2,400 depending on age, income, and marital status — to U.S. citizens, expansion of unemployment coverage, funds for hospitals and healthcare providers, and financial assistance for businesses. The largest emergency aid that has ever passed in the country, the stimulus package is intended to support Americans, 85,356 of whom have now tested positive for COVID-19. In total, there have been 1,246 deaths in the country. Here’s what’s happening in metro Detroit:

Today, 801 new COVID-19 cases and 32 new deaths were reported in the state of Michigan. There are now 3,657 cases reported in the state and 92 deaths. In total, the city of Detroit has seen 1,075 cases and 23 deaths. [Michigan.gov]

In a news conference, Mayor Mike Duggan shared that Detroit’s new COVID-19 testing site at the Michigan State Fairgrounds, which opened today, will start testing up to 400 residents a day starting tomorrow. Those who wish to get tested at the site must receive a prescription from their doctor first. Test results are delivered in about three to four days. The mayor also said that Detroit Police Department Chief James Craig has tested positive for the coronavirus. Craig, who has mild symptoms, has appointed Assistant Chief James White will run the day-to-day operations of the department. In total, 39 officers have tested positive for COVID-19, and 468 are in quarantine. [Facebook: City of Detroit Government]

Doctors who work directly with infections disease experts at Henry Ford Health System, Ascension Michigan, Beaumont Health, Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne State University are coming together to bring COVID-19 drug trials to the area. Once they receive approval from the National Institutes of Health, they plan to bring trials for a COVID-19 vaccine and a treatment that uses plasma from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus to Southeast Michigan. “This viral pandemic has no boundaries,” says Dr. Shukri David, chair of Cardiovascular Services at Ascension Michigan who is one of the doctors working on the collaboration. “By combining the resources of our medical community, we will offer research opportunities that no one institution alone can defeat.” [Henry Ford Health System / Ascension Michigan / Beaumont Health / Detroit Medical Center / Wayne State University]

According to the most recent University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, a monthly panel study that interviews households across the country, consumer sentiment fell 11.9 index points in March. While most who were surveyed believe that the current economic downturn due to the coronavirus will be temporary, most respondents are expecting bad financial times across the country and a continued increase in the unemployment rate. [Surveys of Consumers – University of Michigan]

The state of Michigan is working with utility companies to ensure that customers are protected during this time. DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are among the companies that are delaying service disconnections. They’re also extending flexible payment plans for customers that are considered low income as well as seniors and those who are ill or have lost their job because of the coronavirus. [Michigan.gov]

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. announced today that up to $20 million in grants and loans are now available to small businesses in the state that are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The funds are made possible by the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, and applications are now open through michiganbusiness.org/covid19.  [MEDC]

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which has started converting its first plant to produce face masks that will be donated to first responders and healthcare workers, is expanding its efforts to support coronavirus relief. The Auburn Hills-based auto company is working with nonprofits to help provide more than 1 million meals to school kids in communities near FCA plants in Michigan as well as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The company will eventually expand its meal program across the U.S as well as Canada and Mexico. FCA also plans to expand its face mask production to its other plants. [FCA]

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order that extends the tax filing deadlines in Michigan to July 2020. Tax forms that were due on April 15 are now due July 15, and cities with income taxes due by April 30 now have until July 31. “Michiganders shouldn’t hav eto worry about filing their income taxes in the midst of a global pandemic,” the governor says in a press release. [Michigan Department of Treasury]

General Motors Co. is preparing its Kokomo, Indiana manufacturing facility to produce Washington-based Ventec Life Systems’ VOCSN critical care ventilators. GM will also begin production of surgical masks at its Warren facility next week. Within two weeks, the auto company plans to create up to 50,000 masks a day, with the potential to increase to 1000,000 per day. Both the ventilators and the masks are cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. Despite this, President Trump took to Twitter to slam GM and Ford Motor Co. today. In two tweets, he claimed that GM wasn’t working fast enough and called for the company to open its “stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio” and start making ventilators and for Ford to “get going on ventilators, fast !!!!!!!” GM then posted tweets highlighting its work with Ventec, but did not address Trump’s comments directly. Later in the day, Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum that directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use the Defense Production Act to require GM to prioritize its federal contracts for ventilators. A statement shared on the White House website says, ” GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.” [GM / Twitter: Donald J. Trump / Twitter: General Motors Whitehouse.gov]

On March 27, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released a statement to MLive saying that Whitmer has been a “tenacious fighter” for Michigan. The statement follows an exchange between Whitmer and Trump on the evening of March 26, which was when the president told Fox News that he’s having problems with “the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about, from Michigan.” Whitmer shot back with her own tweet, saying, “I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan – prove it.”  [Twitter: Donald J. Trump / Twitter: Governor Gretchen Whitmer / MLive]

Henry Ford Health System has released a statement after an internal policy was circulated across social media that outlined steps its employees would be required to take if the company’s hospitals do not have access to enough medical resources, such as ventilators, as the coronavirus continues to spread. Among many things, the document said that patients who have terminal cancer; severe trauma or burns; and severe heart, lung, kidney, or liver failure may not be eligible for ICU treatment or a ventilator during this time. Instead, they would be given pain control and comfort measures. In the statement, Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Henry Ford, says, “We were pleased to share our policy with colleagues across Michigan to help others develop similar, compassionate approaches. It is our hope that we never have to apply them and we will always do everything we can to care for our patients, utilizing every resource we have to make that happen.” [Twitter: Henry Ford News]

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