Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Detroit Public TV Now Livestreaming on All Devices
Viewers of Detroit Public TV now can livestream their favorite PBS and DPTV programs free on any internet-connected device within the DPTV broadcast area.
All viewers need to do is visit DPTV.org and click the “Live” button or use the DPTV mobile app.
Detroit Public TV is the only broadcast television station in southeast Michigan offering a continuous livestream of all its programming around the clock.
“In these challenging times – when communication is more critical than ever – we believe that it is important to make our programming and public service universally available,” says Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public TV. “With this innovation, DPTV content can now be viewed in every single device in every single household in southeast Michigan.
“We’re the community’s public television station, and we want to be there whenever and wherever that community needs us.”
The DPTV livestream also is available on Roku by selecting the PBS channel on the Roku home screen. Unless users have already done so, they will need to download the PBS video channel on the device they are using. Then they just follow the simple on-screen instructions.
Detroit Joins Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
The cities of Detroit, Zion, Ill., and Saint-Anicet, Quebec have joined the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a binational coalition of close to 100 U.S. and Canadian mayors and local officials working to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
In addition, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino were named to the initiative’s Board of Directors.
“We look forward to working with these cities to ensure that the voice of local government is always part of the decision-making process for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence,” says Mike Vandersteen, chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. “We are also pleased to have Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino join our Board of Directors.”
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative works to integrate environmental, economic, and social agendas, and sustain a resource that represents approximately 80 percent of North America’s surface freshwater supply, provides drinking water for 40 million people, and is the foundation upon which a strong regional economy is based.
“Investing in water infrastructure is one of the most cost-effective ways to stimulate economic activity,” says Michael Vandersteen, mayor of Sheboygan, Wisc. and chair of the initiative. “Every job added in the water and wastewater industry is projected to create an additional 3.68 jobs in the national economy, and every million dollars in federal funding will generate $2.95 million in economic activity.”
The initiative encourages elected officials in the U.S. and Canada to include water resource priorities in any upcoming economic stimulus programs. In addition to economic stimulus, funding will help safeguard coastal resources and mitigate future damage from erosion, flooding and severe storm events, outdated wastewater infrastructure, exposure to toxic pollutants in the water, agricultural and urban runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms and chronically contaminated beaches, according to officials.
State Launches Streamlined Benefit Renewal Forms During Pandemic
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has streamlined the benefits renewal process for approximately 2 million food, health care, childcare, and cash assistance clients.
Project Re:New, a collaboration between MDHHS and Detroit-based Civilla, restructured the process beginning in 2018 and spans the department’s four largest assistance programs. Like the updated application, the new renewal forms feature human-centered design to emphasize urgent information and outline clear steps, deliver directions in plain language, incorporate feedback from clients and caseworkers on their experiences completing or processing forms.
The changes are designed to help MDHHS serve Michigan residents and families better and faster during the COVID-19 pandemic, and handle more hotline traffic across assistance programs that are a temporary lifeline for many residents.
“Life today is more stressful and complicated than ever,” says Robert Gordon, director of MDHHS. “That’s why it’s as urgent as ever to simplify the way we deliver benefits – to treat people with dignity, meet them where they are, and take as little as possible of their time.”
Rollout began this month by mail, in person, and online. It will continue gradually through next year as clients are due for renewal of benefits. Clients will receive forms and a reminder to renew sooner than usual to give them time to submit forms before their interview with field staff — another change aimed at further reducing processing delays.
Communities Called on to Participate in Michigan Materials Management Initiative
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Environment (EGLE) is launching a new data collection initiative, the Mega Data Project, to provide the baseline data necessary for counties to develop future materials management plans and provide the state with a roadmap for materials management.
“EGLE has never embarked on a data collection initiative of this magnitude,” says Jeff Spencer, manager of EGLE’s Sustainable Materials Management Unit. “Investing in data collection now is necessary to make informed decisions for the future and allow the state to propel forward related to waste and recycling.”
The state is working toward the best-use practices for all materials, including recyclables, organics, solid waste, and other material types rather than focusing on solid waste going into landfills. This shift will allow EGLE to continue minimizing the impacts of the material choices made every day, and establish convenient, inclusive access to recycling, composting, and waste reduction opportunities.
EGLE officials say it needs county and municipal officials responsible for local solid waste programs to report their materials management information. To participate, local officials are encouraged to submit an application here.
The Mega Data project will collect information for this first phase through September using a materials management program analysis and planning tool called the Municipal Measurement Program, developed by Emerge Technologies. EGLE has nicknamed this tool the eMMP. Once the first phase is complete, the data analysis will begin. The final outcomes and deliverables of this project are targeted for completion in Spring 2021.
MDOT’s Long-range Transportation Plan Survey Extended through October
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has extended the public online survey for its state long-range transportation plan (SLRTP) through Saturday, Oct. 31.
The SLRTP, known as Michigan Mobility 2045, establishes a vision and priorities for transportation in Michigan for the next 25 years. MDOT is seeking input from the public on potential strategies to deliver Michigan’s transportation system through 2045.
The online survey is part of MDOT’s planned outreach to a larger and more diverse group of Michigan residents during the SLRTP development phase. This survey presents potential long-term strategies for Michigan’s transportation network to the public in a realistic context.
For more information on the plan or to provide comments, visit here. Public comments also can be sent to MDOT-MichiganMobility@Michigan.gov, shared on MDOT’s social media sites, or mailed to:
Michigan Mobility 2045
Michigan Department of Transportation
Van Wagoner Transportation Building
425 West Ottawa St
P.O. Box 30050
Lansing, MI 48909
MSU Scientists Study Plants to Understand and Treat Human Illnesses
Researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing are studying how pathogens as well as therapeutic properties found in plants can shed light on the health of humans.
Muraleedharan Nair, a professor of horticulture at MSU studies the human health benefits of plants for the treatment of maladies such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, and Type-2 diabetes.
Nair currently is working with the plant Withania somnifera, commonly known as ashwagandha, on a therapeutic treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s. The fruit of this plant produces an antioxidant compound that he named withanamide. This compound and its analogs have been proven in lab tests and in vitro studies to slow the damage caused by the plaque on brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients.
“When we started looking at the biological activity of the disease, we found that these compounds would allow us to create a therapeutic drug that could prevent and slow down the advancement of the disease,” says Nair. “Once we found withanamide is a powerful antioxidant, we discovered that it can be used directly for human health.”
MSU Foundation Professor Brad Day, in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, is bridging the knowledge gap between the immune systems of plants and humans by better understanding the mechanisms by which plants fend off pathogens.
Two of his current projects, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, look at the basic mechanisms of how plants regulate their immune systems.
“We have identified several mechanisms in plant immunity that have known functions in human diseases,” he says. “We can use plants as a model to understand how these mechanisms function and how they’ve evolved. In doing that with plants, we can not only understand immunity, but we can also understand mechanisms that reach out into other neurological diseases. For example, a plant can tell us how the mechanism of Alzheimer’s may function. Even though plants don’t have neurosystems, some of those basic underlying chemical mechanisms are shared.”
Sheng-Yang He is working on understanding the importance of a balanced plant microbiome — microorganisms that are tightly associated with a certain plant species or genotype — and the role it plays in regulating plant health. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and university distinguished professor in plant biology; plant, soil, and microbial sciences and microbiology and molecular genetics.
“Without a balanced microbiome, the plant becomes sick in a way that is very reminiscent of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease in humans,” he says. “IBD is caused by mutations in immune response genes in the human body coupled with something physiological and environmental conditions, like food. In plants, if you affect the immunity response, plus some other environmental factors — such as high humidity — plants will have spontaneous tissue damage, even without pathogen infection, resembling an imbalance of the gut microbiome in humans.”
Finding ways to better equip plants to manage stress could have a big payoff for people suffering from common illnesses, according to Federica Brandizzi, MSU Foundation professor of plant biology and 2020 MSU Innovator of the Year.
One of the mechanisms plants use to respond to stress is the unfolded protein response — a signaling pathway activated when a stressor affects the organelle called endoplasmic reticulum. This organelle, which produces one-third of the proteins that make up plants and humans, can make mistakes when stressed.
Brandizzi is using an NIH grant to compare the unfolded protein response in plants to that of humans.
“Because the pathways between mammals and plants are similar, by understanding which genes participate in the unfolded protein response in plants, we can contribute to human health,” she says. “The unfolded protein response in humans is connected with a number of devastating conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. So, if we can help human health by understanding the processes of plants, we can really make an impact.”