Duggan: Every single Detroiter should have access to COVID-19 test

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan | Ken Coleman

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said on Thursday that 43% of residents who were tested for COVID-19 at a city-sponsored site last week have the virus. He described it as a “pretty troubling number.”

Duggan said that a state official told him that the statewide percentage is closer to 25%.

“It is critical that every single Detroiter have access to the test,” Duggan said during his daily briefing at Eastern Market. He pointed out that one needs to have a prescription to have a test administered. “But there is no place easier in the state of Michigan to get a prescription than in the city of Detroit.”  

Duggan said that 30 sites are now available to residents. He also pointed out that the city is now armed with five high-speed testing devices and will provide screenings for any city employee who requests one. 

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The device provides test results generally within 15 minutes. He said that testing results in the past have taken multiple days, compounding the health and safety risk.

“This is the game-changer that we’ve been waiting for,” Duggan said. 

The city continues to test about 500 to 600 residents a day through a drive-through site at the old state fairgrounds site. Those tests are administered by appointment. He expects to announce as early as Friday that a free transportation component to address people who don’t have automobiles will be introduced. 

On the city employee front, 106 Detroit police officers, 24 members of the Detroit Fire Department, and eight members of the Department of Transportation have tested positive for COVID-19.

He applauded Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on her decision to suspend face-to-face instruction in the state’s K-12 schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 year.

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“The governor did what she had to do,” Duggan said. He pointed out the city will continue to provide free food to families in neighborhoods.

Denise Fair, city of Detroit health department director, reported that the city has confirmed 2,860 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 97 deaths to date, which includes 15 in the last 24 hours or so. Those numbers are slightly lower than what the state released at 3 p.m. Three of those deaths were city of Detroit employees, a bus driver, a police chaplain and Buildings, Safety and Engineering Department employee.

Duggan said he had been in conversation with City Council President Brenda Jones, who announced via tweet on Thursday that she has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“She sounded good when I talked to her,” Duggan said.

City Police Chief James Craig, who also tested positive for COVID-19, has been quarantined for several days now. 

Duggan and Henry Ford Health System officials also announced that the hospital will lead a large-scale study into the effectiveness of an anti-malarial drug in preventing COVID-19 in health care workers and first responders who volunteer to participate.

After a request about 10 days ago to the federal government, the study of hydroxychloroquine used prophylactically could begin as early as next week. Participation in the study will be on a volunteer basis. Both health care workers and first responders will be enrolled at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. 

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Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System, will help to oversee the study.  

“We are glad to see Henry Ford’s lead on this volunteer study that could help protect medical workers and first responders across southeast Michigan,” Duggan said, acknowledging U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn. “I also deeply appreciate Dr. Hahn’s prompt support for this important effort.”

“This is going to be the first major, definitive study in healthcare workers and first responders of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative medication,” said Dr. William W. O’Neill, a world-renowned Henry Ford Health System interventional cardiologist and researcher who has pioneered multiple treatments for heart disease. “There has been a lot of talk about this drug, but only a small, non-blinded study in Europe. We are going to change that in metro Detroit and produce a scientific answer to the question: Does it work?”

Duggan will speak to a U.S. Conference of Mayors tele-conference on Friday to discuss strategies and lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.