Duggan urges residents to stay home during COVID-19 outbreak

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan on Monday urged residents to abide by a new statewide mandate to stay home as the Michigan battles against the coronavirus, noting 14 city employees — including nine police officers — have tested positive for the respiratory illness. 

The mayor stressed during a news conference that people need to do what's necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. As of Monday, Detroit accounted for 414 of the state's 1,200-plus cases. 

"We need to let this virus die out," said Duggan, noting the average person who is infected, infects two to three other people. "We need you to stay home."

The mayor's words of caution come on the heels of a Monday "stay home, stay safe" executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, restricting activity beyond the essentials. Critical services, such as grocery shops, pharmacies and emergency medical centers will remain open and available. 

“COVID-19 is a global pandemic,” Whitmer said Monday. “It’s a novel virus. There is no cure. There is no vaccine.”

Whitmer's order goes into effect at midnight Monday and will stay in place for at least until April 13. 

In less than two weeks, she noted, cases of the virus in Michigan have gone from zero to more than 1,300.

Mayor Mike Duggan and Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair

On Monday, Detroit's Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair said Detroit represents 414 of the state's coronavirus case. That's up from the tally posted on the Detroit's Health Department website Sunday, noting the city accounted for 349 of the state's virus cases and three deaths. 

“The most important thing we can do as a community is to take this serious, especially our young people," Fair said. 

In reference to the city's 9,000-person workforce, the mayor said the city has directed those who can work from home to do so. But police, fire, EMS, water and general service workers must come in daily.

As of Monday, 282 police officers are in quarantine. He expects 26 will be back on the job Monday and 152 others by the close of the week.

"Two weeks ago, when the world was very different, we had some large community meetings that we had officers at. There were people there who were positive," he said. "We expect the (public safety) service to continue without interruption."

Duggan said the city will be adding food distribution sites to ensure service would continue uninterrupted amid uncertainty with sites being manned by the city's public school system. 

Nikolai Vitti, DPSCD superintendent, said Monday that Whitmer's shelter-in-place order has led to more employees "being uncomfortable" and a growing number also are becoming ill. 

Late Monday, the district announced a restructured distribution plan to address continued health concerns and protect employees. Beginning Thursday, families will be offered a bag of four, precooked breakfast meals and lunches. Food distribution will continue every subsequent Monday and Thursday at 17 locations

Monday and Thursday door-to-door delivery will continue for medically fragile DPSCD students.

School food service is considered "critical infrastructure and should continue," Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said. 

"The governor deeply appreciates the vital work that our frontline school employees are doing every day to ensure that our kids have the food they need while the order is in effect," Brown said. 

Duggan also expressed aggravation Monday with a lack of testing supplies and gear for frontline workers in hospitals. But said he's confident things will level out.

"We're going to solve these testing issues. We're going to solve these hospital issues," he said. "But right now, you've got to help us."

The city itself has spent $11 million in the last month on testing services, sanitizer, cleaning equipment for buses and police quarters. The mayor hopes the city will be reimbursed by the federal government but “we didn’t wait around."

The city, he noted, also is losing $600,000 a day while the casinos are closed.

“We’re not under any more pressure than any state or city or business is under right now,” Duggan told reporters. “We’ve got to beat this virus.”

The mayor on Monday also provided a progress report on a new program to help restore water to those living without it due to nonpayment. 

A coalition of water rights advocates is calling on Whitmer to install emergency water stations in Detroit and Flint for vulnerable populations who haven't had access to running water. 

Whitmer and Duggan unveiled an interim policy this month to restore service to customers without water at a discounted rate. Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department said it had identified about 3,600 accounts that had been without water for more than a year.

On Monday, he said 700 accounts have been restored and he expects all water cutoff water accounts will be restored in Detroit by the end of next week. 

Starting Wednesday, the city also intends to scale back its bus service, Duggan said. It will be running its typical Saturday service six days per week.

The mayor said the service will continue to run but less frequently. People will still be able to get to work, he added. 

A driver shortage last Tuesday forced the city’s bus service to temporarily shut down. The service was back online the following day with an interim suspension of fare and added health precautions for drivers and passengers.

Before the outbreak, DDOT averaged 85,000 riders daily with 48 fixed bus routes, 12 24-hour routes and six express routes in the city of Detroit and neighboring communities, including Dearborn, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Harper Woods, Livonia, Redford Township, River Rouge and Southfield.