Whitmer says COVID-19 testing has increased in underserved areas

State reports 7,146 new cases and 175 deaths 

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer give a COVID-19 update | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday said that her task force focused on studying the impact of COVID-19 on minority communities has helped to mitigate the adverse effects of the deadly virus. As of Nov. 16, Whitmer reports, more than 24,000 tests have been administered in previously underserved communities across 21 neighborhood testing sites.

“Lt. Gov. [Garlin] Gilchrist and the leaders on the Task Force have been crucial in helping us dramatically reduce the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in communities of color by expanding testing and providing crucial support to community organizations. 

“Our work is far from over, and cases and hospitalizations are still rising statewide, but this team remains dedicated to working with medical experts and protecting our communities, frontline workers, and small businesses. Our immediate focus now is holding our progress, flattening the infection curve, and remaining vigilant with mask wearing and social distancing.” 

Formed in April, Whitmer’s Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities released its interim report. It details a number of actions the state has taken to protect communities of color, frontline workers, and small businesses from the spread of COVID-19. During the early months of the pandemic, 40% of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths were Black, even though African Americans make up only 14% of that state’s population. 

Michigan sees decline in racial disparities in COVID-19 cases, deaths

“The coronavirus pandemic has shined a light on the health, economic, and educational challenges that communities of color face daily,” said Gilchrist, Michigan’s first African-American lieutenant governor. “Today’s report shows that significant progress has been made toward our goal to reduce these disparities over the past six months. But as cases continue to rise, we need to recognize that our work is not done because each of us have a role to play to make sure that we defeat this virus. When we successfully make it to the other side of this pandemic, we will hug each other a little tighter, check in on each other a little more, and be proud of the work we did to make each other’s lives better.”

Other task force priorities are to:

  • Close the digital divide in telehealth and virtual learning to ensure equitable access for all Michiganders; 
  • Increase enrollment in health insurance plans by making it easy for Michiganders to find out about their options for affordable care, such as Medicaid and federal marketplace plans
  • Build mobile testing infrastructure that can also be extended for other health services such as vaccine administration 
  • Raise awareness of racial- and ethnic disparities in medical care to ensure that every Michigander, no matter their race, can get safe and quality care in Michigan

On the issue of releasing prisoners because of COVID-19 status, Whitmer said that her administration is concerned about the issue and shares it as a concern. 

‘We are following CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance,” Whitmer said. 

‘There is an end to this pandemic’ 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported Wednesday that a total of 380,343 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 9,580 have died from the virus — an additional 7,146 cases and 175 deaths since Wednesday with 112 confirmed as part a review of vital records.

DHHS also reports that an additional 30,500 Michiganders have been identified as “probable” cases for COVID-19, as well as 455 probable deaths. The department began tracking probable cases on April 5. Combining the state’s confirmed positive cases with probable cases brings the total up to 410,843 statewide cases and 10,035 deaths.

As previously reported by Michigan Advance, Michigan has the seventh-highest hospitalization rate as a percent of total beds. The report states that 18.6% of available beds in Michigan are filled by COVID-19 patients and state trends for hospitalizations for COVID-19 have continued to increase for the last seven weeks. 

The virus has been detected in all of Michigan’s 83 counties. The state’s COVID-19 fatality rate is 2.5%. The case fatality rate has dropped statewide, but is still higher among Black Michiganders. 

The first two cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state on March 10. Whitmer declared a state of emergency that day.

Johns Hopkins University reports that there are more than 64 million confirmed cases worldwide and 1.5 million deaths. The United States makes up a significant portion of those, as more than 14 million confirmed cases and 274,648 deaths have been recorded nationally.

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.