Duggan promises Detroit seeks to ramp up COVID-19 testing

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan said Friday he expects coronavirus testing in the city will ramp up in the coming weeks in bid to slow the inevitable spread of the virus.

The mayor said he plans to meet soon with health care leaders in hopes of setting up  drive-by testing centers and open labs to get residents who have been exposed to the virus tested quickly. The announcement came as President Donald Trump said Friday his administration had formed a private-public partnership that includes setting up more drive-through testing centers.

The virus, Duggan said, is now "embedded in the Michigan community" and he wants testing to be "the most aggressive in the country."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

"There are almost certainly a large number of Michigan residents who have the virus who have not yet been tested," Duggan said in a news conference with Dr. Marcos Zervos, an infectious disease specialist from the Henry Ford Health System, who is advising the city's health department on COVID-19.

Duggan said the goal is to have the number of positive cases "increase as fast as possible" because "we can't treat people until we know who they are."

Zervos said the benefit of more aggressive testing is identifying infected individuals so "not only can we better treat them, we can treat them early and reduce the serious complications, but even more importantly we can implement control measures."

The mayor warned residents to avoid large public gatherings and stay at least 6 feet away from others to avoid being coughed on. 

"I would not go out this weekend to a pub on Michigan Avenue for St. Patrick's Day where I was packed in shoulder to shoulder," said Duggan, who indicated he has not been tested for the coronavirus.

Zervos added that it's fine to go out to dinner and even church.

"There's no reason to overreact, either, but we do need to use common sense types of measures" to limit the spread of the virus, he said.

Duggan also said that his administration "completely support what the governor has done both in limiting the assemblage to 250 people" and shutting down the public schools in Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered that all of Michigan's schools be closed and gatherings of 250 people or more be banned. Duggan backed the measures.

"This is not going to be over in a few weeks, the mayor said. "This is going to be a several-month battle to deal with the coronavirus issue, and it's going to take a very intense strategy."

The city's recreation centers will remain closed through April 5, city officials said, but students will have their meal programs — breakfast and lunches — provided when schools are closed.

Denise Fair, the city's health department director, said she supports the restrictions Whitmer announced to limit access to public gatherings and venues.

"As a community, we have an important job, which is to slow the spread of COVID-19," she said. "And we all have a role to play."


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