Health care coalition stops curbside COVID-19 testing as health systems continue

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order prompted a coalition of Metro Detroit health care providers to suspend curbside COVID-19 testing Monday, while hospital systems such as Beaumont Health continued their operations.

Wayne State University, the Wayne State University Physicians Group and the community group ACCESS began testing Friday at the ACCESS health center in Dearborn and the physician group's headquarters on Mack Avenue in Detroit. 

They tested nearly 800 health care workers, police and firefighters before abruptly suspending the service at 6 p.m. Monday, saying they needed time to understand how the governor's order would affect their testing operations. 

People dressed in personal protective equipment talk to motorists at a drive-up COVID-19 testing site at the Wayne State University Physicians Group on Mack Ave. in Detroit, Saturday, March 21, 2020.

The order broadly directs people "to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible" to stem the spread of COVID-19. But there are exemptions for "critical infrastructure workers" and for other tasks deemed necessary for living life.

"This has largely been based on volunteers, and we don't want them to feel conflicted about whether to stay at home," said Dr. Charles Shanley,  president and CEO of the WSU Physicians Group and vice dean for clinical affairs at Wayne State University Medical School.

Shanley stressed that the suspension is temporary. He said the number of people tested dropped off somewhat Monday. Organizers are meeting daily to assess the community's needs and might decide to resume the service, Shanley said. 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Lynn Sutfin said  curbside testing can continue under the governor's edict.

"What I’m being told here at MDHHS is that testing is absolutely appropriate and specifically excluded from the Order," Sutfin said in a late Monday email. 

But Rana Taylor, director of communications at ACCESS, said the organizers have concerns about volunteers involved in the effort, and whether they would be exempted under the governor's order. 

Taylor noted that the suspension is "just temporary" to give the organizers time to better understand Whitmer's order and how it affects everybody involved. 

"There are conversation that need to take place," Taylor said. "It's not just professionals.

"There are volunteers involved in the intake process — it was a pretty sizable operation."  

Asked if Beaumont Health would discontinue its curbside testing service, External Communications and Media Relations Director Mark Geary said its service will continue.

"We are not shutting down the curbside screenings," Geary said. "Curbside screenings are not impacted by the governor’s order." 

Beaumont's curbside service is available at their hospitals in Dearborn, Royal Oak and Troy from  6 a.m. to 2 am; and at their hospitals in Grosse Pointe, Farmington Hills, Taylor, Trenton and Wayne from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Twitter: @kbouffardDN